Saturday, April 21, 2012

6 Reasons Why to Teach Kids to Be Grateful

1. Better Attitudes:

Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, Emmons, 2008).

2. Better Achieve Personal Goals:

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

3. Closer Relationships, Greater Happiness:

Professor Froh infused middle–school classes with a small dose of gratitude—and found that it made students feel more connected to their friends, family, and their school:

“By the follow–up three weeks later, students who had been instructed to count their blessings showed more gratitude toward people who had helped them, which led to more gratitude in general. Expressing gratitude was not only associated with appreciating close relationships; it was also related to feeling better about life and school. Indeed, compared with students in the hassles and control groups, students who counted blessings reported greater satisfaction with school both immediately after the two–week exercise and at the three–week follow–up.”

4. Better Grades:

Gratitude in children: 6-7th graders who kept a gratitude journal for only three weeks, had an increased grade point average over the course of a year.

5. Greater Energy, Attentiveness, Enthusiasm:

A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).

6. Greater Sensitivity:

Children who kept gratitude journals were more sensitive to situations where they themselves can be helpful, altruistic, generous, compassionate, and less destructive, more positive social behaviors, and less destructive, negative social behaviors…

“Gratitude is good for the giver, and good for the receiver,” Professor Emmons said. “This has been documented in friendships, romantic partners and spouses. One study showed that the mere expression of thanks more than doubled the likelihood that helpers would provide assistance again.”

And if We Don’t Practice Gratitude?

On the other hand, research shows that youth who are ungrateful are “less satisfied with their lives and are more apt to be aggressive and engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as early or frequent promiscuous activities, substance use, poor eating habits, physical inactivity, and poor academic performance.”

Research from: Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier

Thank you Ann Voskamp for this thoughtful post:

The Upstairs Window

I'm sitting in the warm sun in the back corner of my back garden. It affords me a perfect view of the upstairs bedroom window of my next door neighbor's house. Clinton's house. It's vacant and abandoned now. Too much sorrow for any family to absorb.

It was just inside that upstairs window that Clint shot himself in the head last summer. Pain so great he could no longer manage to go on alone. Alone.

And now his teenage daughter, the one who was alone in that house with her dad that day, and teenage son are without their father. His estranged wife, yes they were separated, must deal with the fall out, the aftermath of it all. Tragedy on their doorstep.

We were on a cruise when it happened - celebrating family relationships...milestone birthdays, milestone anniversaries. And he was sinking further and further into despair. Right next door.

We all live too isolated. Too insulated. Too remote from one another.

I wish we could come clean with each other about how much we are really hurting. I wish that all the hurting people knew others who would hold them, cry with them, give them encouragement. I wish our love and compassion could take the guns out of the hands of the hurting.

The house sits posted as abandoned. Vacant.

Friday, April 20, 2012

He is able

when you want to give grace
and extend respect and play nice
…but you’re clumsy and injured and skeptical

you look Grace in the eye and cry help

when you want to spread hope and encourage dreams and fan faith
…but you’re hesitant and weak and suspicious

you touch Hope in the heart and plead please

when you want to show love
and give compassion and meet needs
…but you’re tired and timid and scarred

you stir Love in the Spirit and sing thank you

for your receipt of Grace and your gathering of Hope and your taking in of Love
so you can give Grace out
and spread Hope around
and show Love to all

when you want to
you’ll be enabled to
because He is able to



Thank you Lisa @ for this wonderful post.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Secrets of Simplicty

On my weekend at the Glen Eryrie Castle hearing from Cynthia Heald on simplicity I had the opportunity to hunker down and spend some wonderful time reading. A previous post shared about the first of three books I read- Simplify: 106 Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life - and I got just as much out of the second book: Secrets of Simplicity, Learn to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno.
I loved the book which is broken into seven chapters/tabs: Release, Simplify, Treasure, Focus, Invest, Discover, and Thrive. This is truly a thoughtful workbook with plenty of inspiration and a healthy dose of challenging questions. Case in point from Release. "We must accept that we participate in a self-perpetuating cycle. In that cycle, we add new things to our already packed lives in an attempt to comfort ourselves. But, in adding more, we create imbalance, which leads to the desire to add again. Recognizing our excuses is a crucial step in breaking the cycle."

This was followed by a great list of questions to help you identify the signs of an unhealthy shopping habit, such as:
  • Is most of your free time spent either purchasing or returning items?
  • Do you use shopping to change your mood?
  • Do you have a junk room, junk drawer, or storage unit that has unknown contents?
  • Do you hide your shopping habit from loved ones and friends?
  • Is reorganizing a weekly ritual for you?

On to Simplify. As Thoreau learned at Walden's Pond: "He believed that changing his environment would eventually change something inside of him. In the end, he discovered that a simpler life was only partly a result of surroundings: The secret of simplicity lay within him." This chapter has a terrific life inventory checklist to help you identify where overabundance has leaked into more than just the stuff you buy. And then there are the "tolerances" in our lives:

"So what happens when we're living in an unconscious way, running from one crisis to another? We gradually begin to tolerate an unheathy and unpleasant level of half-completed projects, tasks that need to be taken care of -- in other words, problems you put up with because you don't have time or energy to solve them. These are called 'tolerances,' and they're defined as things that distract you, waste your time, weigh you down, and have a negative effect on your life."

In true is this secret of simplicity: "It is not what you discard, but what you keep." Lots of good questions on evaluating what treasure really is. And there is Focus. "You must have the intention not only to do the best you can but also to stay engaged in the process." I loved the suggestion to start a new list, the "what I have done" list. Then Invest takes on the evaluation of our relationship to stuff. One suggestion is to make a list of all the things you have that money just can't buy. She also recommends keeping a money journal for a week -- then asking questions about your relationship to those items.

Discover was full of some nice encouragement. Basically, 'You Can Do It!' Take at least one leap a day in simplifying schedules and time. A great quote from St. Francis of Assisi, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." Important that we compare and contrast our present day and ideal day scenarios. "This exercise forces a comparison between how you actually live and how you wish to live."

Finally to Thrive. "Anything that is worthwhile takes work, understanding, and action. Understand that transformations require the shedding of old ways in order to make way for the new...Living a simpler, more meaningful life involves a commitment to gradually, persistently changing your habits."

This is a terrific book with so much information to engage with. I highly recommend and believe that the questions in the book are a great resource for doing a solid evaluation of your lifestyle and choices.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Home Sanctuary Eye Candy

I love these. Rachel Anne of Home Sanctuary just launched her store, and I had to share. Enjoy a few of my favorites.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Simplify: 106 Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life

I had a wonderful weekend at Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs. I was at a conference on simplicity and happened to take a few books on the subject -- it is so much easier to read when there is no TV or Internet, even cell connections are sketchy.

My first read on Friday was Simplify: 106 Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life by Paul Borthwick. This book is all about thinking through your life and choices. Learning to be deliberate and intentional.

"Simpler living asks why. Why do I need this product? Why should I believe the promises of a brochure? Why must I attend events that may or may not have significant purpose? Why respond to an opportunity just because it's there?"

Chapter 1 was about over-choice and it's impact on our ability to focus and stop multi-tasking long enough to finish something. I total relate to what Paul had to say, "Lack of focus often manifests itself in multi-tasking that results in unfinished projects. We begin a project, finish about 50 to 75 percent of it, and then lay it aside to pursue a new interest." Oh, and how true is this quote by Haddon Robinson, "Many people don't want to make good decisions; they want to make painless decisions."

The second part of each chapter is a list (part of the 106 Ways...) to help put the principles into practice. I'll share a few that I plan on putting into practice.

Chapter 2 was about discerning want versus need. Paul makes a great biblical case for really paying attention to wants versus needs. Proverbs 30:7-9 is worth spending some time really thinking about...maybe even memorizing for quick recall while shopping. Paul draws on Jerry Bridges' The Pursuit of Holiness to offer his four question formula for deciding right from wrong:
  1. Is it helpful physically, spiritually, mentally?
  2. Does it bring me under its power?
  3. Does it hurt others?
  4. Does it glorify God?
I putting this phrase into practice! "One day while we were looking at some sort of new household gadgets, I asked Christie if she wanted something,"No" she responded, "My house is full." That phrase -- "my house is full" -- has helped us say no to things -- even nice, desireable, on-sale, everybody-has-one things. We say no because left unchecked, our expectations can become our master. Tom Sine succinctly summarized, "Whatever commands our time, energy, and resources, commands us."

So how do you do are some of the "Ways to Simplify..." suggestions:
  • Buy slowly
  • Resist temptation
    • Window shopping in all forms induces buying (isn't that the truth!)
  • Beware the "want-makers"
  • Define your limits
  • Don't buy on impulse
  • Give it away
Chapter 3 was on staying fit. Enough said.  Chapter 4 was on how we spend lesiure time. Pause. Breathe. Move. Take a break. Chapter 5 was about living to the beat of a different drummer. On a day-to-day level, we can evaluate how well we are marching to the beat of God's drum by taking the Micah 6:8 test: 1) Am I acting justly? Do I care about fairness?; 2) Do I love mercy? Am I caring for people in need? Does mercy characterize the way I interact with others?; 3) Am I walking humbly with God? Am I striving to understand His agenda for my life or simply seeking His seal of approval on my own agenda?

Chapter 6 was a challenge to think and live with respect for time and others. "To live a simple lifestyle means to live intentionally beneath your potential standard of livng for the purpose of sharing your excess with others." I got a great tip in this chapter that I'll be putting into practice: "...we tag our clothes hangers once a year and remove the tag when the clothes are worn. If a tag is still there after a year, we know that shirt, skirt, or pair or pants should be given to someone who can use it."

Chapter 7, the final chapter, is on choosing to simplify. Knowing your motivation to simplify is so very important. I'll close with this, "A simpler lifestyle allos us to bujild our primary relationships."

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Loving One,
you are present,
unbound by anything.

Dawning One,
you are in this moment,
not entombed in the past.

Forgiving One,
you are in the freedom of my soul,
not the stones of my surroundings,
not the grave of my deeds.

You whose glory it is to set us free,
deliver me
into the present moment.

You who give life
where there is none,
I live not by surviving
but by being raised
each moment,

with each breath
to have died,
with each breath
to be risen.

Written by
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

25 Life Lessons

Great post by Dr. Frank Lipman at his blog Positively Positive:

...As I get older and hopefully wiser with every year, certain insights become clearer. Here are some of them gleaned from the wisdom I have gained from thirty-two years of marriage to my beautiful wife, Janice; having a wonderful twenty-four-year-old daughter, Alison; and thirty-two years of practicing medicine and being a perpetual student of life.
    • More Real Food, Less Food-like Substances
    • More Fruit and Vegetables, Less Sugar, Gluten and Dairy
    • More Plant Foods, Less Animal Products
    • More Organic, Less Chemicals
    • More Clean Products, Less Toxic Products
    • More Chewing, Less Eating
    • More Water, Less Alcohol
    • More Walking, Less Driving
    • More Exercising, Less Sitting at the Computer
    • More Music, Less Noise
    • More Recycling, Less Waste
    • More Outdoors, Less Indoors
    • More Meditation, Less Worry
    • More Slow, Less Hurry
    • More Smiles, Less Anger
    • More Love, Less Hatred
    • More Fun, Less Serious
    • More Letting Go, Less Holding On
    • More Being, Less Doing
    • More Presence, Less Absence
    • More Generosity, Less Greed
    • More Forgiving, Less Blaming
    • More Inclusion, Less Exclusion
    • More Health Care, Less Disease Care
    • More Ubuntu, Less Me
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says:
“Ubuntu is about the essence of being human, it is part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being able to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. And therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in belonging.”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Be the one to BE the one

Thank you Robin for this great post...

“To live a life alone with God does not mean that we live it apart from everyone else. The connection between godly men and women and those associated with them is continually revealed in the Bible….” ~ Oswald Chambers
Having been plucked out of my comfort zone to land in a place that has taken a while to regain my equilibrium, God has me in a position to listen and learn. I’m thrilling to this experience of new country and culture, but I’m equally thankful to see personal things I’ve been missing for years. God is gently revealing my blindspots; change is unavoidable.

I’m learning to appreciate the women in my life in new ways.

Don’t miss that key wordappreciate. It is much too easy to take for granted those you love; I’m challenged to become more intentional in expressing my appreciation to others.

One of the best ways I can think of to actionize my appreciation (OH YES I just made up a word! Bam!) is by initiating acts of friendship. Don’t we all appreciate it when someone else is the first one to extend a gesture of friendship? So I’m asking you to join me in getting better at being the one to initiate. Especially because that person you’re thinking about doing something for is possibly desperately needing you to reach out.

Are you willing to be the one to BE the one?

Here are a few ideas to get you started; I’d love to hear your suggestions for how we can practically speak friendship and love into the lives of those very real people in our lives!

22 Acts of Friendship

  1. Start with yourself. It isn’t irony that prompts me to encourage self evaluation; discovering more about how and why I’ve related to others the way I do is the first step to me addressing my blind spots and becoming the better friend I’d like to become.
  2. Pray. While I don’t want to over-spiritualize practicality, praying is also first-step friendship initiation. Prayer should be two-fold: asking God to give you a sensitive heart, communion with Him to heal your own wounds, and discernment to pursue healthy friendships; and seeking God to have the eyes to see those who need your friendship and to prepare their hearts to receive it.
  3. Forgive. If you’re holding a grudge or have become embittered towards a friend, you do not have a choice; you must extend forgiveness. With both hands clutched tightly to Christ, believe more than He can heal your shattered pieces; trust that He can redeem and restore what was broken and lost. Dear lovie, there is always something good you can take away from painful circumstance. It will make you a better friend to others if you let it.
  4. Be persistent. When you take the bold step to initiate friendship, rejection can be hard; don’t let it hinder you from trying again. Yes, while you might become “the one who always initiates,” you might be the only person willing to pursue someone who needs pursuing. And sometimes she’s the last person you suspect needs pursuing….
  5. Extend grace. When you consider the incomprehensible sacrifice that God extends to his children through Jesus, it seems reasonable that we should lavish grace on one another. Imagine how your relationships might change if you give the benefit of doubt rather than suspect the worst?
  6. Show up when you know there’s a need. One of the most indelible acts of friendship in my life arrived on my doorstep. With our impending out-of-state move looming, Michelle showed up with cleaning supplies in hand. When I answered her knock, “Put me to work” were the first words out of her mouth. That was so much better than a vague “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
  7. Pick up the phone and call. Never have we been more connected, yet paradoxically, increasingly isolated. Do not email or text or even Skype–just call! You’ll be a rarity among your friends and your voice (i.e. your interest, effort, intention) will register as important to the receiver.
  8. Mail snails. You know how you feel when you receive a pretty “thinking of you” card or note instead of junk mail or bills? Imagine committing to sending one out a week; at the end of the year, 52 people would have been encouraged by your thought. Always act on that prompt! One time I received a letter from someone I hadn’t seen in years, and it was a life-giving answer to prayer.
  9. Shower your friends with surcies or little love gifts. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to give a small but meaningful gift; my favorite example to explain this concept is when my college roommate bought me the good, soft tissues when I had a cold and was using dorm toilet paper to blow my nose. Her thoughtfulness spoke love so deeply I’ve remembered the gesture for decades. Shocking is the beauty in a roadside bouquet of (free) wildflowers! (Thank you, God.) Thoughtfulness is always the gift.
  10. Babysit for free. If you know someone who needs a break, give 2-3 hours so they can run errands, see a movie, walk in the park without wiping noses or behinds or tying shoes!
  11. Be fully present. When you’re together, leave your phone behind. If that isn’t practical (i.e., your children’s school might call), resist the urge to do anything related to social media.
  12. Listen actively. This, in part, goes with #11, but rather than anticipate your response let your friend speak until they’re done. If you pay attention you’ll notice how often people cut one another off mid-sentence.
  13. Double a recipe. Whether your baking cookies, simmering soup or making a casserole, be intentional about making enough to share every once in a while. Then phone a friend, tell them you were thinking about her, and drop it off. We often do a great job of preparing meals in time of need, but why not do so “just because”?
  14. Drop in for a quick visit. Now, before you strike this one off your list, give it a chance (~smile~). If you’re in a friend’s neighborhood, why don’t you throw caution to the wind, knock on her door, hug her neck, and tell her you were just thinking about her. If she invites you in, great; if she doesn’t, her house is probably a disaster zone (which all most of us have experienced before). Assure her you aren’t staying but you wanted to let her know how you felt. It will leave a loving impression.
  15. Trade shoes. When you find yourself making judgments against or frustrated with a friend’s actions, train yourself to consider what prompted her choices. Remember, you only know part of her story, she’s likely a master at hiding her pain.
  16. Tell the truth. Be the friend who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I can receive constructive criticism if it’s shrouded in love and I KNOW the person cares enough about me to say hard things.
  17. Bite your tongue. Stop gossiping about others behind their backs unless it’s to praise their walk, their works or their womanhood. Make your goal to be the person whom it can be said of, “I’ve never heard her talking about anyone else.”
  18. Don’t take it personally. Seek and develop healthy friendships that allow room for dissenting opinions. I recently joined others in a spirited but respectful conversation about a very controversial topic; I left the conversation unmoved in my position but having high regard for those who offered an intelligent, mature discussion on the matter.
  19. Look for middle ground. Wonderful advice offered to me years ago from a pastor’s wife has helped me time and time again: When you find yourself in the center of a “fight,” even if you’re certain you’re “right,” realize there’s your side of the story, there’s her side of the story…and the truth lies somewhere in between.
  20. Sharpen. Be intentional about becoming a Proverbs 27:17 friend.
  21. Set a standard. Goodness–if we all lived Ephesians 4:29-32, we’d all truly be THE BFF!
  22. Support. When my father passed away a few years ago, I was deeply touched by those who traveled hours to attend his funeral, people who never met him but loved me. At my daughter’s high school graduation, I couldn’t believe the friends who came to a party we hosted for her. It taught me to support my friends by attending the important events in their lives…the good and the not so good.
Dare to be the one to BE the one!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Challenge of Habits

I've been thinking a lot about habits lately. After 30 years of a regular schedule -- early to rise, get ready for work, get Matthew off to school, commute, etc. -- I'm realizing that this change of life to consultant and part-time worker has really thrown me a curve. I even feel a little ADD, actually a lot ADD.

I get started on one thing then shift to the next, and some times, too many times, I discover at the end of the day that I've actually missed the important things.

This morning I was exchanging instant message chats on Facebook with a good friend who is also working on establishing some new habits. It made me aware all-of-the-sudden that this is in fact an issue for me as well. It went from the subliminal to the conscious. I'm thinking that actually I was the last one to figure this out.

One of my 2012 goals is crafting a Rule of Life after the fashion of St. Benedict. No doubt this is all part of that process, but this morning in reading (well actually, seriously catching up reading) my lenten devotional ("Simplifying the Soul" - do you see a pattern here?!) I came across this paragraph:

"Benedict devotes a large part of the Rule to developing a framework for daily worship. everything else...must give way to this essential monastic vocation....Obviously, it was okay to make some realistic adjustments to my own schedule of devotions. This was not meant to be an 'all or nothing' project. However, even the most minimal, daily practice required a basic change I'd been unwilling to make before: I needed to take a hard look at the length of my to-do list. If I were to incorporate at least one of the Hours into my daily round, then life had to give way in some measure to the Psalms."

So what does that have to do with all this? It challenged me to think about my time choices. It got me thinking about a framework to ensure that the big rocks were getting in the jar first; that the important and essential things in my life were taking priority over the non-essential; that think about and make sure I even know what the essential things are!

This is important stuff for me. More to follow.

(A couple books I'll be using in my ponderings - because there must always be books! -- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Organize Your Mind Organize Your Life by  Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Reordering my Desires

The title of my latest read, Our Favorite Sins by Todd D. Hunter, may have you running for the delete button on your computer, but hang with me. This one is worth it.

There are several authors that I'll simply read whatever they write. Todd Hunter is one of those authors. I had the privelege of meeting him at a conference in Houston, Texas a few years ago and ever since I've been hooked. He's a thoughtful man, well-schooled in life...and a good writer.

I've read several books on sin - I know, I'm an odd bird. I believe this one is the best of the bunch. Todd lays out a roadmap on how temptation snares us and then plots the path out of the pit. His goal is that "after finishing (the book), you should be equipped to battle the temptations you face with a new, unique, and empowering perspective on sin, temptation, and desire."

Step one is understanding the battle: "Beating temptation requires struggle because it always involves sorting out rightly ordered desires for good and godly things from our disordered desires for wrong things. We often experience these disordered desires as our most powerful and deeply rooted desires." And understanding that, "Temptation does not produce desire. Desire makes temptation possible. To beat temptation, I need to reorder my desires."

The central theme of the book is about inner change the only vehicle to prevail over external issues of temptation and sin. "When it comes to spiritual growth, when it comes to reordering the hidden desires that leads us into temptation, we must turn inward to make an outward difference."

One of the interesting additions to this book is that Todd utilizes exclusive research by the Barna Group to illustrate and inform his book. Based on the Barna research, the top five self-reported temptations in America are: worry and anxiety; procrastination; over eating; overuse of electronics and social media; and laziness. The book is peppered with interesting findings such as that "the top reason 20 percent of Americans identify for falling into sin is to escape or get away from real life for a while." These temptations receive indepth attention in chapters devoted completely to each topic. Each chapter also concludes with "Ancient and Fruitful Practice." These are prayers and meditations often drawn from the Common Book of Prayer or Celtic Daily Prayer.

At the halfway point in the book, Todd switches to examining "seven modern and futile ways of thinking about and dealing with temptation:"
  • Underestimating the power of desire
  • "I'm different, so it won't happen to me"
  • Believing that keeping it real is most valuable
  • Failing to admit we are prone to wander
  • Trying to drink from a dried-up well
  • Forgetting that temptations oversell and underdeliver
  • Not understanding that daily devotions can be futile too
And then the solutions: ancient and fruitful practices like solitude, silence, and seeking first the kingdom. The final chapters are devoted to explanations of the value of liturgical prayers and offices, sacraments and the lectionary as vehicles to drive inward spiritual growth.

I really enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it.


This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an unbiased review.