When You’re Anxious about Praying – Book Review of “Flee, Be Silent, Pray”

Be-Present-for-God

How’s your spiritual life going?

Do you think you don’t do enough? Don’t read your Bible enough? Don’t even pray enough?

And if you get in the quantity, is your quality good enough?

These issues can haunt us as Christians.

  • When a church near my house put “Centering Prayer—Wednesday Mornings” on their front billboard, I wondered if it would be a good thing for me to join or too weird?
  • When a local monastery offered a Silent Prayer Retreat, I wondered if I could do that or would it drive me crazy?
  • And when I read about mindfulness practices, I wondered if it was possible to do that 20 minutes a day with my Christian faith without being a Buddhist?

Ed Cyzewski addresses those kinds of questions in his latest book, Flee, Be Silent, Pray: An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer, based on Henri Nouwen’s three actions in The Way of the Heart.

Flee-Be-Silent-Pray_Ed-Cyzewski

Ed pulls from a variety of sources (inspiring me to read more Thomas Merton books).

But he also shares very personally, drawing from his own background after a grudge (he resolves) with a restrictive Catholic Church and then a fight (he resolves this too) against an evangelical angst of doing things “right.”

While he doesn’t intend this book to be a how-to guide for prayer—he doesn’t want to add to a to-do list—he does offer many tangible suggestions on how we can pray more by praying differently.

“Evangelical anxiety focuses on results and progress, but God is more concerned about loving presence.”

Get Out of Your Own Way

Here are just a few of Ed’s suggestions on praying more contemplatively taken from his book.

  1. Let go of your own words

We don’t always have to use our own words. We can still convey our own thoughts through the words of others. Too often we think God only wants our “freestyle” prayers, but he can be just as pleased when we pray a Psalm, for example.

  • Pray with scripture.
  • Use words Jesus prayed.
  • Pray through others’ words written through the years.

We have nothing to prove, to defend, or to fight for when we pray with the scriptures. We are only devoting ourselves to God. We aren’t in charge of producing results.”

~ * ~

“We don’t read the Bible in order to know ‘the Bible’ or to improve ourselves spiritually. We read the Bible in order to be present with God.”

~ * ~

“[Enter] into prayer with the foundational truth that God loves us. Prayer is the practice of becoming present for that love. We cannot impress God with our many words or few words.”

  1. Examine your thoughts

Ed highly recommends using the Examen, a spiritual practice from St. Ignatius in the 1500’s.

  • 1-Become aware of God’s presence.
  • 2-Review the day with gratitude.
  • 3-Pay attention to your emotions.
  • 4-Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  • 5-Look toward tomorrow.

Because of Ed’s passion  for practicing the Examen (after three months it “completely blew his mind”), I reloaded on my phone the Examine app that he recommends.

https://examineapp.wordpress.com/

I also bookmarked the Divine Hours online after he suggested it. (See it here at Vineyard Church Ann Arbor.)

Divine-Hours

Praying through the Examen and the Divine Hours are ways to be present to God that Protestants don’t often use. But they are valuable, especially when they help us release our expectations of getting “results” from prayer.

  1. Go quiet altogether

Try silence. Contemplative prayer invites us to let go of our words altogether. Our own words are often one of our biggest distractions.

“I have learned that while silence is something we can learn to value and even crave, it doesn’t happen by accident. It calls for intention and discipline supported by simple spiritual practices.”

Centering Prayer is one form of silent prayer that Ed explains as a “simple way to be lovingly present for God.”

Why Contemplative Prayer?

It realigns our expectations of what prayer can be.

“God’s Spirit is already in us, and we can’t improve on God’s presence. We can only improve on being present for God, turning away from our distractions.”

It’s not meant to necessarily replace other disciplines or forms of prayer, but as an addition to any spiritual practice.

“One evangelical generation after another earnestly studies the scriptures in search of Jesus, trying to get past the fact that Jesus said studying the scriptures is not the same thing as pursuing him.  Contemplative prayer gives us that path to pursue Jesus and Jesus alone.”

And my wonderings about the Centering Prayer group, the retreat at Sacred Heart Monastery, and the meditation practice?

I gave them all a try. And loved each one.

None were a slippery slope to anywhere except into more awareness of the presence of God.

A greater awareness of God is where I want to end up anyway.

“Each time I pause to become aware of God, face my thoughts, and look for the ways that God has been at work in my day, I open myself to God’s power and presence.”

I’m looking forward next to more mindfulness practice beginning Monday with my in-person book club. We’ll begin discussing The Power of Now, one of my favorites.

By trusting God with the present moment we’re in, we become more peaceful. We receive his grace more freely. We worry less about the past or about the future.

And that’s what I hear Ed affirming to us in his book about contemplative prayer.

“We have to train our minds to sit still and learn how to be fully present for God in the now. We won’t find God by dwelling on the regrets of the past or worrying about the future. If we want to find God, we must train ourselves to be in the present moment.”

Rest in the presence of God—there we find peace, transformation, and love.

* * *

Have you wondered about contemplative prayer also? Have you experimented with it? Please share in the comments.

You can connect with Ed at edcyzewski.com.

Read some of Ed’s blog posts about contemplative prayer:

Ed’s other books are also great faith resources. I’ve benefited by all I’ve read. Here are just a few that I’ve shared about.


Is Your Phone Changing You?

12-Ways-Your-Phone-Is-Changing-You_video

After my blog post “Where’s Your Phone Right Now?” your comments made me feel better.

I’m not the only one who struggles with finding a balance with my phone.

We want to use our phones for good things only, but even at best, they can become time-drainers. And at worst, they are tools to say mean things, watch ugly things, and steal our hearts from God.

One suggestion you gave in the comments that day (thanks, Lynn Morrissey) was to read the new book by Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.

12-Ways-Your-Phone-Is-Changing-You

I read it. I’m glad I did.

Here are quotes from 4 of the 12 ways our phones are changing us.

  1. Addicted to Distraction

If you’re a typical American, you check your smartphone an average of every 4.3 minutes. That’s 81,500 times a year.

Facebook? 70% of people check it daily (over one billion others around the world do the same!). On Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram alone, we spend at least 50 minutes a day.

Why are we so addicted? Reinke suggests we use digital distractions to keep work away, keep people away, or keep thoughts of eternity away.

  1. Ignore Flesh and Blood

While I often use my phone to connect with flesh and blood people, I don’t want it to replace in-person encounters. Given the choice, face-to-face beats digital.

“We become content to ‘LOL’ with our thumbs or to cry emoticon tears to express our sorrow because we cannot (and will not) take the time to genuinely invest ourselves in real tears of sorrow. We use our phones to multitask our emotions.”

And in the car? Let’s please stop checking our phones while driving. It’s killing us.

“Talking on the phone while driving a vehicle makes you four times more likely to get into an accident, but texting while driving makes your chance of a crash twenty-three times more likely.”

  1. Lose Our Literacy

Reinke points out that a few people actually read more books as a result of online interactions. (He is also the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, one of my favorite books I read in 2012.)

But more commonly, smartphone users read fewer books now.

“It can be said that literacy has fallen to such a degree that, for many Christians today (perhaps most Christians today), the Bible stands as the oldest, longest, and most complicated book we will ever try to read on our own.”

Plus, reading digitally teaches us to scan at fast speeds. Can we train ourselves to read online text slower?

  1. Fear of Missing Out

Do you know what nomophobia is? No-mobile-phone phobia. FOMO (fear of missing out) hits us on two sides: anxiety that we’re not staying updated on information if we’re not checking our phone, and insecurity of not getting the affirmation we want if we’re offline.

“This desire for personal affirmation is perhaps the smartphone’s strongest lure, and it is only amplified when we feel the sting of loneliness or suffering in our lives. At the first hint of discomfort, we instinctively grab our phones to medicate the pain with affirmation. This habit could not be more damaging.”

Suggestions

Along with the bad news, Reinke also gives lots of suggestions in the book for ways to live smarter with our smartphones. (He doesn’t say get rid of them altogether; he’s no technophobe.)

These include:

1. Turn off all nonessential push notifications.

2. Delete expired, nonessential, and time-wasting apps.

3. Use a real alarm clock, not your phone alarm, to keep the phone out of your hands in the morning.

4. Guard your morning disciplines and evening sleep patterns by using phone settings to mute notifications between one hour before bedtime to a time when you can reasonably expect to be finished with personal disciplines in the morning (9 p.m. to 7 a.m., for example).

5. Recognize that much of what you respond to quickly can wait. Respond at a later, more convenient time.

Ask Your Family

Are you brave enough to take this suggestion?

“Invite your spouse, your friends, and your family members to offer feedback on your phone habits (more than 70 percent of Christians in my survey said nobody else knew how much time they spent online).”

Our phone use affects others in more ways than we realize.

“If I’m a social-media junkie, my lack of self-control feeds the social-media addiction in you. And the more I text and tweet and Snapchat, the more I drag you and others into the digital vortex of reciprocating obligation. . . .

Even something as simple as pulling out your smartphone in a crowd is ‘the new yawn’—everyone else around you will feel the immediate pull and lure to check their own phones.”

I highly recommend this book. We all can benefit by periodically evaluating why we are using our phones.

“Apps can help me stay focused on my Bible reading plans and help me organize my prayer life, but no app can breathe life into my communion with God. . . .

What shall it profit a man if he gains all the latest digital devices and all of the techniques of touch-screen mastery but loses his own soul?”

* * *

How do you use your phone the most? Calls? Texts? Apps? Please share your thoughts here.

Read the preface and introduction here of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.

Related:

My thanks to Crossway
for the review copy of this book

sharing with CarmenDebbieKristinShari


Don’t Take This Personally

Don't-Take-It-Personally-not-about-you

Too Sensitive

I know this about myself: I can be too sensitive. It’s a detriment to me. And a detriment to others.

When I got a phone call about the dishwasher, I was bothered. I was in my 20s. I had recently sold my home to an elderly gentleman. The following week, he was calling to yell at me that the dishwasher in the home had overflowed. The kitchen floor was soaked. And it was all my fault.

He was rude.
I was offended.

As we talked, I learned he had put dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher instead of dishwasher detergent. It had bubbled to overflowing. Of course it would.

How was this my fault?

Don’t Believe Everything

We suffer unnecessarily when we take things too personally. That’s why I love my third “Agreement with God” of the four I’ve compiled for myself (See #1, Give the Benefit of the Doubt, and #2, Let Go of Being Right).

# 3. Don’t take it personally.

me center of world

When we assume someone is being rude to us, we often react badly, defensively. It causes conflict and creates mountains out of molehills.

  • How can they do this to me?
  • Why don’t they like me?
  • Why are they so mean?

And when we get too much praise? We can hold compliments too closely as well, believing every word that is said. We grow proud and haughty and entitled.

When we think everything is about us—good or bad—we’re actually being selfish.

And unrealistic.

The stories we make up in our head are usually just that: stories.

Whose Movie Is This?

We each cast ourselves as the star (and director and producer) in our own movie. All our life’s plots revolve around us. And all the people in our relationships are supporting actors.

But here’s the catch:

The supporting actors in our movies are actually busy starring in their own movies.

We all make ourselves the center of our universes.

So when our plots intersect, there’s always more going on than we realize.

It’s Not Personal

So don’t take it personally.

Dont-take-it-personally_LisaNotes

The way someone treats us reveals less about us and more about them. Less about our life and more about theirs.

Knowing that others aren’t centered around us keeps us humble.

  • It frees us from arrogance.
  • It reduces conflicts.
  • It stabilizes our relationships.

We are more free to love others with no strings attached when we are less dependent on their approval for our self-worth and when we’re less disturbed by their disapproval.

Emptying ourselves of taking everything personally helps us live like Christ. With more peace, joy, and love. And definitely more grace.

What God Thinks

Jesus depended more on what God thought of him instead of what man thought of him.

Can we believe it for ourselves, too?

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:17

When God’s thoughts about us are the ones that matter the most, we feel safer, valued, and beloved. His thoughts are true. His thoughts are reality.

He loves us because he is love.

The motivations we attach to others’ thoughts may have portions of truth in them, but they also contain large doses of our imagination. (Don’t take your own thoughts too personally either—you may just be tired or hungry or stressed.)

I later learned more truth about the gentleman and the dishwasher and his soap suds. I met one of his daughters. She told me how concerned they were about him. His dementia was getting worse. They weren’t sure he should even be living alone.

Dementia? I hadn’t known that.

Now it made sense. His rant to me wasn’t about me at all. It was about him.

I didn’t need to take it personally.

I rarely should.

It’s not about me as much as I think it is.

* * *

When have you been too sensitive? Do you ever take things too personally? Please share your thoughts here.

We sung this song, Abba, with our church yesterday. It moved me. It fits here.

Abba_Arms-of-a-Father-video

Join me next Monday for the last agreement (and my favorite!), #4 “Just show up.”

Previous Agreements and Infographics

# 1 – Give the benefit of the doubt

Give-the-benefit-of-the-doubt_5-Ways

~ * ~ * ~

# 2 – Let go of being right

Let-go-of-being-right_3-Dangers

~ * ~ * ~

# 4 – Just show up
(coming Monday, June 26)

sharing with BrendaCrystalHolleyJenniferKelly,
CarolBarbie, Lori, Terri


When You’re Spiritually Thirsty, Where Do You Drink?

Back in ancient Israel, communities gathered around wells, natural places to come at the beginning or end of the day to load up on the precious commodity of water.

But nowadays we only walk to our kitchen sink for a glass of water.

Where do we go when we’re thirsty for community?

Where are our modern wells?

Thirsty-4-Ways-to-Quench-Thirst_DoNotDepart

Read it all here

* * *

I’m writing today at Do Not Depart for our series, Water in the Word.

Will you join me there?

sharing with Charlotte, LyliLaura,
DebCrystal, Debbie, Brenda


Let Go of Being Right – When Being Right Is Wrong (and Dangerous)

Let Go of Being Right

“Yes, the mind is very useful, but when it does not recognize its own finite viewpoint, it is also useless.”
– Richard Rohr

When We Think We Know

It was mid-day on Friday. Jeff and I finished touring inside the Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, looking at the pottery and drums and Native artwork by Blackbear Bosin.

Now we’d walk the grounds of the Outdoor Learning Center to sit in the tipi and look at the gardens. The afternoon was pleasant. We kept walking.

We left the Center’s property, walked beyond the gate to nearby Keeper Plaza to see Bosin’s famous Keeper of the Plains statue. Time slipped away.

It was now after 4:00, the Center’s closing time.

Behind us, a Center employee was about to lock the gate behind us. We quickly slipped back inside the Center grounds so we could return to Jeff’s truck.

But which way now? With the Center closed, and the grounds gate now locked, how could we get back to the parking lot?

Oh, I knew. Jeff didn’t agree, but he didn’t argue (he’s good like that). Let’s just go to the right, I said.

But I was wrong.

I just don’t aways know I’m wrong right away.

Thinking we’re always right can be dangerous. I know. It’s gotten me in trouble many times.

“We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are. Take that as nearly certain.”
– Richard Rohr

All month I’m sharing four statements that I live by. I keep them posted on my bedroom mirror. They aren’t necessarily rules for life, but more agreements with God.

Today I’m sharing #2 of the four:

#2. Let go of being right.

(See #1 here, Give the Benefit of the Doubt, “Do You Assume the Best or Worst? And a Barking Lady.” I’ll share Agreements #3 and #4 on Mondays, June 17 and 24.)

 

Let-go-of-being-right_Lisa-notes

Three Dangers of Always Being Right

Danger #1: Losing Friends

Nobody likes a know-it-all. Insisting that we’re right is obnoxious.

Being overconfident in our knowledge is dangerous to our character. And to our relationships.

We incorrectly assume we’ll gain prestige and authority if we are all-knowing. But the opposite usually happens. Pride destroys. It causes us to see ourselves as right and judge others as wrong, which is not just off-putting; it is wrong.

Solution: Practice humility.

Be aware of your ability to get things wrong, even when you think you’re right. Worry less about protecting your reputation and more about being humble. Instead of being combative, listen to others’ opinions and find common ground. If it matters, discuss it graciously. If it doesn’t matter, let it go.

Danger #2: Losing Faith

Thinking we’re always right is also dangerous to our relationship with God. When we think we have to be right in our knowledge for God to love us or to be saved, we live in fear. And God didn’t give us a spirit of fear.

Nor a spirit of self-dependence. Relying on self-knowledge leads us away from depending on our Creator. We can’t depend only on our senses or our memory or our rightness.

Solution: Trust in Jesus’s righteousness.

Not your own righteousness. Only he has perfect knowledge. Remember that there are mysteries you’ll never understand in your own capacities. Trust God to show you what you need to know when you need to know it, and be content with the unknowns he has yet to reveal.

Danger #3: Losing Maturity

While in the moment it feels good to be proven right, the quest to be omniscient can rob us of growth in the long term.

A taste of knowing it all can leave us greedy to be right all the time. And once we think we’ve arrived at perfect knowledge, we lose our ability to learn more.

Solution: Know what you don’t know.

The best way to know more is to realize you know less. Even if you already know a lot, there is always more to learn. But only if you’re teachable. Learn more by listening more, reading more, loving more. Stay open.

Remember, Jesus never said, ‘This is my commandment: thou shalt be right.’ . . . It is an amazing arrogance that allows Christians to so readily believe that their mental understanding of things is anywhere close to that of Jesus.

Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). I think the intended effect of that often misused line is this: If Jesus is the Truth, then you probably aren’t!”
– Richard Rohr

Benefits of Not Being Right

Not only do we not like pride in others, neither does God like it in us. Instead, God promises to lift up the humble (James 4:10) and give them grace.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

When we let go of our need to be right, we honor God, and receive his blessings in return.

  • He grows our relationships,
  • he grows our faith,
  • and he grows our knowledge.

God wants to send more grace into the world through us.

It’s better to be more loving than always right.

How did we find our way back to our truck at the Indian Center?

We asked someone who knew.

Thankfully, an outside employee gratefully showed us an unlocked door back into the building. We walked through, out the front door, and straight to the parking lot.

Being “right” had gotten me lost.
But being humble set me free. 

* * *

Related Reading:

We all like to be right. But sometimes we don’t do it well. Below are ten articles on how to be right and wrong in healthy ways.

Being-right-bring-out-worst_Kathryn-Schulz

Join me next Monday for Agreement #3, “Don’t take it personally.

Do you like to be right, too? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

sharing with Susan, DawnHolleyJenniferKatie, Holly,
CarolBarbie, Lori, Terri


Being Right – Table of Contents

Being-right-bring-out-worst_Kathryn-Schulz

We all like to be right. But sometimes we don’t do it well.

Below are ten articles on how to be right and wrong in healthy ways.

1.  Being Wrong

Four things to do with our insatiable certainty to be right. Including excerpts from Kathryn Schulz’s excellent book, Being Wrong.

2. How Little We Know – More Compassion, Please

Are we more kind when we admit we don’t know? Three exercises to make peace with not knowing everything.

3. I Thought I Understood

Why I thought we were right and everyone else was wrong. And why my theory cracked.

4. I’m Afraid of Being Stupid

I’m afraid I’ll miss the easy fix if I’m not smart enough. But fearing stupidity distracts me from my true purpose of depending on God.

5. Know-It-All Faith?

Talk yourself down from your arrogance. The more we know grace, the more we grow in humility. Review of Josh Harris’s book, Humble Orthodoxy.

6. Let Go of Being Right

Sometimes being right is wrong. And dangerous. Three dangers in always being right, and three solutions to combat pride.

7. Unity? But We Believe Differently

Can we still be united when we don’t think alike? Yes, if we remove obstacles we set up against unity. Suggestions from Ed Cyzewski’s book, Divided We Unite.

8. When “I Don’t Know” Is Good

We’ll never have all the answers. Is this ever good? Should we make peace with uncertainty and “I don’t know”? See the good side of uncertainty.

9. When We Eat Our Own

Stop eating your own, church. Nobody knows it all. Don’t confuse being biblical with being right.

10. You’re Not Sure? That’s OK

If in doubt, err on the side of grace. Don’t be so scared of being wrong that you do nothing. Even if you make a poor decision, God can redeem it.


Color Blind? Us vs Them

life-in-color-than-color-blind

Us Versus Them

It was time for a stack of pancakes. My friend goes to another church now. IHOP has become our new sanctuary. Every few months we meet to eat and catch up with each other’s lives.

She’s a brave woman. Beautiful. Strong.

And black.

We’re not color blind with each other. I know her color has influenced who she is, just like she knows my color has influenced who I am. It’s inescapable.

During our last conversation, she made a comment about how the black people at her church traditionally dress very nice.

That’s when I made my blunder. I still feel bad about it.

I told her, “Yes, y’all always look so sharp, and we look like slouches.” (Myself included.)

Ugh. It was the classic duality I don’t like to make.

As if we are on two separate teams. As if we can categories whole races of people into two little words: us versus them. Whites versus blacks.

Awkward Conversations

Those goofs are why we sometimes avoid having conversations.

  • We don’t want to offend anyone.
  • We don’t like feeling awkward.
  • We don’t know how to handle our white guilt.

Above all, we don’t want to appear racist. Because we don’t want to believe we are racist.

But here’s the biggest misstep:

When we’re too afraid of saying the wrong thing, we too often say no thing. . .

. . . which is the wrong thing.

Mess Up Anyway

What can we do about it?

  • Speak scared
  • Have awkward conversations
  • Ask if we’re offensive
  • Listen
  • Listen
  • Listen

(If you like to read novels, I highly recommend Small Great Things, a powerful story that speaks directly to discrimination. The title is taken from Martin Luther King Jr’s famous quote: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.“)

We are going to mess up when we talk to each other. We do that at some point with everyone we talk to, regardless of the sameness or difference of our color or gender or religion or political preference.

But if we don’t talk about touchy subjects, we mess up even more.

Talking is one way to be the change that needs to happen. Grow closer. Get smarter. Bring more peace and love and joy into the world.

God is happy when his colorful kids play together. He made us different on purpose, not by accident.

Intentionally celebrate his intentionality.

My friend let my blunder slide that day. We just kept talking. Maybe she thought nothing about my vocabulary of “us vs them”. Maybe she did. Next time I’ll bring it up and find out.

But love is like that: It covers a multitude of sins. I know my friend loves me. And she knows I love her.

Live in Color

Later that week she sent me an affirming text, a prophetic word related to a spiritual decision we had discussed that day.

She ended her text with this: “I love you to life.”

Love.
Life.
Together.

We’re not in a race against each other. Life isn’t scored like a ballgame.

It’s not: If I win, you lose. Nor is it: If you win, I lose.

It’s both/and. Not either/or.

Seeing life in color is more beautiful than being color blind.

* * *

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Related Reading:

sharing with Laura, Susan,
Crystal, Salt & Light


Do You Assume the Best or the Worst? And a Barking Lady

Do You Assume Best or Worst?

I double-checked my notes. The call number for the library book was correct. But where was the book? I’d check the next row of books in case it had been shelved wrong by mistake.

That’s when I heard the noise. A loud bark. Right in my ear.

I jerked around . . . to find a woman brush past me, not a dog. In the middle of the library on the second floor.

She smirked after barking. Then walked away.  

A different woman and man came rushing up to me. They asked, “Did that woman just bark at you, too?” They were clearly disturbed.

I knew I had options for my response.

We almost always have options, even when we’re not aware of them.

The Agreements

In 2014, I read a small book of Toltec wisdom by Don Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements. (I recommend it.)

Ruiz shares four statements he lives by. They are virtuous and consistent with Jesus’s teachings. (Read his four agreements here.)

After I finished the book, I tweaked them to fit my own relationship with God. I created my own four agreements between me and God.

I wrote them on a sticky note and have had them on my bedroom mirror ever since. I don’t live them as well as I’d like, but I’m not finished yet.

My first agreement is this:

# 1. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

(I’ll share the other three agreements each Monday of June.)

But how? How can we practically give others the benefit of the doubt?

5-Ways-to-Assume-the-Best

5 Ways to Give the Benefit of the Doubt

1. Create a Better Story

It’s not easy. We’re wired to distrust uncertainty.

So when we don’t know the whole story (which we rarely do), our mind fills in the gaps. And we don’t naturally assume innocent until proven guilty.

Instead of assuming the best, we think:

  • My husband must hate my new haircut because he said nothing about it.
  • My friend just wants to justify her sin because she interprets a scripture differently than I do.
  • The world is against me because we had a flat tire as we were leaving for a trip.

But if we really don’t know, why not create a good story instead of a bad one?

If God really is working for our best, can’t we assume a positive what-if scenario instead of a negative one?

2. Use the Golden Rule

Would we want others assuming the worst motives about us when we do something they don’t understand? No.

We think they should know us better than that.

Can’t we treat others’ motives the same way we want ours to be treated?

3. Let Go of Self-Protection

Often our cynicism arises because we don’t want to be hurt. We want to protect ourselves by staying on the defensive, not risking pain through naiveté or being caught off guard. (I have a fear of being stupid.)

But is skeptical the best way to live?

Sure, we sometimes will get hurt by giving others the benefit of the doubt, but more often we’ll create a brighter world, bringing light into darkness instead of throwing shade.

Safety is an illusion. Take chances with love. And when we get hurt, let’s trust God for ultimate healing.

4. Forget Revenge

When we’ve been treated unfairly, we can grow stingy with doling out forgiveness.

But who among us hasn’t received far more grace than we’ve deserved?

By tuning into the massive doses of grace that God gives us, we can be more open to give more grace to others.

Err on the side of grace instead of judgment. It makes for healthier relationships. And happier ones, too.

5. Do It for You

Lastly, we often show the least grace to ourselves.

Even when we assume the best in others, we may place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. If our bodies get tired or our tongue gets edgy or a relationship turns sour, we blame our laziness or moodiness or stupidity.

Granted, we do need to take responsibility for our actions.

But we also need to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt as well, that we tried, that we wanted the best for everyone. Even though we fail often, God doesn’t abandon us because we tripped up; we shouldn’t abandon ourselves either.

Choose Your Response

I chose to laugh it off in the library, hoping the upset couple would also overcome any fears that the homeless woman would be outside waiting for them.

Although the woman obviously had mental problems, she seemed harmless. She was just getting through life as best she could.

While some people in the world may be out to get us—and yes, let’s be cautious with those!—most of the people in our circles are not.

Like us, most people do the best they can with what they have. God fills in the gaps with his grace.

And the library barker?

I’m agreeing to assume the best, not the worst, about her.

I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

* * *

Join me next Monday for Agreement #2, “Let go of being right.

Are you more naturally trusting or skeptical? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Related Reading:

sharing with Deb, Dawn, LyliDebbie,
BrendaHolleyJenniferHolly, Kelly,
Anita, Terri, Lori, Barbie


Links, Books, and Things I Love – June 2017

Here are favorites from May and what I’m looking forward to in June. We share once a month at Leigh’s.

1 Second Everyday

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

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Around the Web

• Why Stay-at-Home Moms Don’t Need to Be Embarrassed
by Courtney Reissig at Crossway

“In a Christian subculture it might be easier, but in some parts of our society it feels like we’re letting down the team or we’re not doing something of value by staying at home.”

why-stay-at-home-moms-dont-need-to-be-embarrassed

~ * ~

• Removing Confederate Monuments in New Orleans

If you haven’t heard or read this speech yet, it’s worth your time. Read here the full text from New Orleans’ Mayor Mitch Landrieu about removing Confederate monuments.

“Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?”

~ * ~

How to Organize Digital Photos

I’ve been attempting to organize my photos for a couple of years now. Ugh. Still not finished. Here’s a helpful article by Caroline Guntur: “Photo Funnels: How a Professional Organizer Manages All Her Photographs.”

Photo Funnels- How a Professional Organizer Manages All Her Photographs

via Caroline Guntur

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Senior Discounts for People Over 50
by Steve Herman, shared on Mogul

If you or parents or friends are 50+, check out this list. I’ve yet to qualify for most of these, but I’m getting closer, for better or for worse. Includes restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, and more.

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Homeless in Huntsville

A former Navy SEAL and his CEO friend in my nearby city of Huntsville, AL, made this excellent documentary. They became homeless for four days to see how our city would treat them. Watch the 40-second trailer here or the whole video 40-minute below.

Homeless-in-Huntsville

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Favorite Podcast Episodes and Books

Bryan Stevenson on why the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, but justice
on The Ezra Klein Show

“We also talk about his argument that the question is not whether a criminal deserves to die but whether the state deserves to kill. . . . We talk about what it’s like to be a black man in the South, driving down highways named for Robert E. Lee and attending high schools named for Jefferson Davis.”

Bryan Stevenson on why the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, but justice

~ * ~

10 things every white teacher should know when talking about race
on Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers Podcast

“I want every white teacher, particularly those who teach black and brown students, to understand some fundamental truths….We cannot be ignorant about race or avoid talking about it.”

talking about race square

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• Who Needs God, Part Three – The Bible Told Me So
on Your Move with Andy Stanley Podcast

This whole series is a good one to increase your faith in God.

“In this episode, Andy explains that Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate.”

who-needs-god-andy-stanley

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A Way with Words

I’ve only recently discovered this podcast. It’s light-hearted and fun and informative for word nerds.

“A Way with Words is a fun and funny public radio program about language examined through history, culture, and family. Its mission is to change the way you think about language.”

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6 Books I Recommend
Here are 6 books I enjoyed this month, including The New Jim Crow about mass incarceration and The Power of Off about digital detoxing.

6-Books-I-Recommend-May-2017-LisaNotes

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Books I’m Currently Reading

  1. Small Great Things: A Novel
    by Jodi Picoult
  2. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
    by Tony Reinke
  3. The Joy of Living
    Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness
    by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
  4. Flee, Be Silent, Pray
    An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer
    by Ed Cyzewski

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Things I Love

Freedom Conference

The grand finale to the weekly Freedom group I participated in this semester was to attend a Freedom conference together at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham. We had a great time worshiping together and laughing and crying. And of course eating.

freedom ladies

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Peoria Zoo

Our kids are too big to take to the zoo. And we don’t have grandkids yet. But we love zoos. So while we were in Peoria, IL, last weekend, Jeff and I went to the zoo anyway without a child (yes, we were among the few). And it was still fun!

emu

giraffe

turtle

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Oldest Daughter

We drove to Morgan’s house on Mother’s Day. She and Fuller cooked/grilled a wonderful dinner for us and her in-laws. I wish they lived closer, but I’m thankful they’re within a day’s drive there and back.

lisa-morgan-may-2017

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Youngest Grandpup

Jenna and Trey adopted a new dog. That makes three dogs for them. Three dogs for Morgan and Fuller. And zero for Jeff and me.

beagle

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On the Blog

• Why Don’t You Ask? And Why You Probably Should
We have our reasons for not asking each other more questions. What are they? And why should we ask anyway?

• Just Get Moving
Often we don’t know which way to go next. But sometimes the best move is just to make one. Do the next thing. God is honored when we move forward in faith

• Is Christian Meditation Okay?
I used to think meditation was bad. But this changed my mind.

• Where’s Your Phone Right Now?
Is your phone near you right now? Probably so. Are you more attentive to it or to the people right beside you?

* * *

What was one of your highlights from May? What are you looking forward to in June? Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books

sharing with CharlotteSusan, Laura, Deb, Lyli,
DawnDebbie, CarmenBrenda, Dawn


6 Books I Recommend – May 2017

6 Books I Recommend May 2017_LisaNotes

Here are six books I recommend from what I finished reading in May. Each month we share what we’ve been reading at Jennifer’s.

Books I Recommend

1. The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander

The-New-Jim-Crow

This book is eye-opening. Read it. You’ll learn things you didn’t know. Such as, “more African American adults are under correctional control today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

If we truly believe we’re all made in the image of God, we need to understand how we’re treating all segments of our population, not just some. Did you know that the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, but three-fourths of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been black or Latino?

“We should hope not for a colorblind society but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, and do what we can to respond to each other with love.”

2. The Power of Off
The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World
by Nancy Colier

The-Power-of-Off

Another very good book. Most of us  constantly check our phones or computers. Yet we’d rather not. This book shows more mindful ways to engage with technology. It includes a 30-day digital detox program as well as spiritual practices to stay connected with life.

More here, “Where’s Your Phone Right Now?

3. When Everything Changed
The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present
by Gail Collins

When-Everything-Changed

There’s so much I didn’t know. Even though I lived through these past five decades, this research and compilation of stories about women in America during this time period was enlightening. We truly have come a long way in a short time, and let’s not slow down yet.

4. A More Beautiful Question
The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
by Warren Berger

A-More-Beautiful-Question_Gladwell

It’s a simple tool we all have: questions. Yet one we underutilize in most aspects of our lives. This book encourages you to stay inquisitive and ask better questions.

More here, “Why Don’t You Ask? And Why You Probably Should

5. The Undoing Project
A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
Lewis, Michael

The-Undoing-Project

Michael Lewis writes such interesting stories about real life events, such as The Blind Side, Moneyball, and The Big Short. This is another good story, about the friendship and work between two Israeli psychologists (Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman) on how we make decisions.

6. What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures
by Malcolm Gladwell

What-the-Dog-Saw

A hodgepodge of interesting topics, this is a wonderful compilation of Malcolm Gladwell’s articles previously published in The New Yorker. Stories include why we have more brands of mustard than ketchup, Cesar Milan as the dog whisperer, and the difference between our choking versus panicking in important moments.

Reading Now

  • Small Great Things: A Novel
    by Jodi Picoult
  • 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
    by Tony Reinke
  • The Joy of Living
    Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness
    by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

I finished the novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, but it didn’t live up to its hype for me. Although I liked the storyline of refugees on the run, I wanted more emotional undertones.

I started the novel The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, but oh my. I had to stop. The constant flipping between 3 different versions of the same story was mentally taxing and not enjoyable.

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What good book have you read lately? Please share in the comments.

Whats-on-Your-Nightstand-at-_5-minut

My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

sharing with Rosilind, Holley,
JenniferBookdate, Kelly, Holly


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