Is This Fun to You?

Of all animal species, humans are the biggest players of all.

The Guilt of Play

Sometimes we feel guilty that we play too much.

We think we are selfish if we play. We’re not being productive. Not efficient. Not contributing anything to society.

Other times we feel guilty that we aren’t playing enough.

Too much work leads to irritability and exhaustion and, eventually, ineffectiveness.

But there’s a third possibility for guilt concerning play. Sometimes we feel guilty if what we enjoy is different from what others enjoy.

Is This Fun?

On a sight-seeing drive through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Jeff and I climbed higher. We were leaving behind dry ground, and encountering more snow. And more snow. And even more.

Yes, it was beautiful. But as the roads became more narrow and more covered, I became more anxious.

Finally, I heard myself saying my thoughts out loud, “This isn’t fun anymore.”

Now if we had an object at the top of a mountain that we had to reach—a sick child or an important meeting—that would be one thing. Perhaps push on. Do the hard thing.

But if the only goal was pleasure, and it felt like torture, can we stop now?

Welcome Play, Your Way

In my year of Welcome, my July goal has been:

“Welcome Rest and Play” and “Let Go of Exhaustion and Productivity.”

I’m thinking I may need a repeat. I’m not sure I’ve done it.

Unless . . . I change my definition of rest and play.

How do you play? If you have a day to yourself, what do you do? Is it the same thing that your partner would do? Or your kids?

Gretchin Rubin uses these three tests for fun:

  1. I look forward to it.
  2. I find it energizing, not draining.
  3. I don’t feel guilty about it later.

What if, instead of measuring play by what others enjoy, we give ourselves permission to frame play as uniquely as we each are?

“Only recently had I grasped one of my most important Secrets of Adulthood: just because something was fun for someone else didn’t mean it was fun for me—and vice versa. There are many things that other people enjoy that I don’t.”
– Gretchin Rubin

God made us with individual pleasure points.

“When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality.”
– Stuart Brown, M.D.

When we rest and play in our own ways, we come away more relaxed. More grateful. More worshipful.

And actually more productive, not less, when we do begin our work again.

“Play is a catalyst. The beneficial effects of getting just a little true play can spread through our lives, actually making us more productive and happier in everything we do.”
– Stuart Brown, M.D.

Back on the mountain, Jeff saw my tension. He knew my lack of fun on the mountain would soon outweigh his enjoyment of it.

He found a place to safely turn around and head back down the mountain instead of up. My mood lifted immediately.

Now I was ready to play again.

And eventually fly home on Southwest Airlines. Part of their mission statement is: “People rarely succeed at anything unless they are having fun doing it.”

Enjoy this clip of how a Southwest Airlines employee makes flying fun.

[click here if you can’t see the video]

* * *

How do you play? In what ways is it different or similar to others? (Does it include Pokémon GO? That’s a “no” for me.) Please share in the comments.


sharing at Spiritual Sundays,
Faith ‘n Friends,
 Thought-Provoking Thursday,
 Thankful Thursdays

Five Books I Recommend – July 2016

Below are five books I recommend from books I read this month. Also included are short paragraphs from each.

A strong education theme runs through many of them. May it be an encouragement to all of us:

  • to continue learning,
  • continue growing,
  • and continue loving each other stronger and better.

Five Books I Recommend-July-2016-Lisanotes


1. Warriors Don’t Cry
The Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High
by Melba Pattillo Beals


My review here of Warriors Don’t Cry

This book will likely make my Top 10 list of favorite books I read this year. It’s the story of the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to integrate into a previously all-white school, told by one of those students. Written several years ago, I just now am discovering it for myself.

Black folks aren’t born expecting segregation, prepared from day one to follow its confining rules. Nobody presents you with a handbook when you’re teething and says, “Here’s how you must behave as a second-class citizen.” Instead, the humiliating expectations and traditions of segregation creep over you, slowly stealing a teaspoonful of your self-esteem each day.

2. I Am Malala
The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai


Another 5-star book. Because of the person. In Pakistan in 2012, 15-yr-old Malala refused to be silent about the closing doors of educational opportunities for girls. She was shot in the head by the Taliban. She survived and now tells her story. She is the youngest Nobel Prize recipient ever.

“Are you scared now?” I asked my father.

“At night our fear is strong, Jani,” he told me, “but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.” And this is true for my family. We were scared, but our fear was not as strong as our courage.

3. Success Through Stillness
Meditation Made Simple
by Russell Simmons


This book helps you see that anyone can meditate: just sit still and be quiet. I like this snow globe analogy:

“Think of your mind as like one of those snow globes you used to play with as a kid. When you’d shake them up, the snow would be everywhere and it would kind of obscure what was inside the globe. But when you just let the globe be still, eventually all the snow would settle down to the bottom and you could easily see what was inside it.”

4. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
by Frederick Douglass


This autobiography by former slave Frederick Douglass in the 1800s is short but compelling. It’s another book that will make you cry. But that’s okay. We need to remember these things actually happened. And continue to work toward a more equitable future.

But, alas! This kind heart had but a short time to remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.


5. Paperboy
by Vince Vawter


This novel (Newbery Medal Honor winner, 2014) is about 11-year-old Victor in Memphis in the summer of 1959. He takes over his friend’s paper route for July. But because he stutters, he runs into problems. This (somewhat) autobiographical book moves quickly and keeps you engaged.

I used to have my own secret trick but I used a thumbtack instead of a safety pin. If I knew I was going to have to read or recite in class I would keep a thumbtack in my hand and push it into my palm when I started to talk. I kept hoping the pain would make me forget about stuttering but it never did. I decided it didn’t make much sense to keep sticking myself and I got tired of always having a bloody hand when class was over. You can’t replace one hurt with another one. You just end up with double hurts.

Reading Now

  • Running Scared
    Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest
    by Edward T. Welch
  • The Language of Flowers
    by Vanessa Diffenbaught
  • The Jesus Creed
    Loving God, Loving Others
    by Scot McKnight
  • 10 Things Jesus Never Said
    And Why You Should Stop Believing Them
    by Will Davis Jr.
  • The Happiness Dare
    by Jennifer Dukes Lee

* * *

What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

Are We Separating or Attaching?

It’s almost time for school to begin again.

Last week my daughter Jenna let me help get her kindergarten classroom ready. We cut, sorted, and glued. And prayed.

She wants these babies to step into her room feeling loved from the first day on.


Is This Integration?

Her school is about 93% black and brown children, with most of the families lacking in resources most of us take for granted.

We may have come a long way with integration in our Alabama city. In 1963 little Sonnie Hereford IV went first. After initially being turned away when trying to enter first grade, six days later they let him in. His father, Dr. Sonnie Hereford IV, died just weeks ago at a great loss to our community. He won’t get to see the opening of Sonny Hereford Elementary later this year.

But we still have a long way to go.

Stories about segregation and discrimination in our schools continue to fill our our local news each week.

Are we still more separate than we are together?

Know Your History

I just finished reading Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, a book originally published in 1995.

I could hardly take it.


I wish everyone would read it.

Melba was one of the Little Rock Nine. They were nine African-American high school students who agreed to be the first to integrate the previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in September 1957.


Elizabeth Eckford walks from Little Rock’s Central High after Guardsmen barred her from school. Photo Credit:


Arkansas National Guard stand on duty during the integration of Little Rock Central High School, 1957. Photo Credit:

[click here if you can’t see the 3½ minute video on the Little Rock Nine]

I doubt they knew exactly what they were stepping into.

“Besides, we had been told students of Little Rock’s richest and most important white families attended there. They were also probably very smart. As soon as those students got to know us, I had total faith they would realize how wrong they had been about our people.”

What a price they paid to go first. In attempting to bridge a gap between two separate groups of people, they sacrificed in many ways.

“‘Look,’ Mother said, ‘there’s a price to be paid for freedom; we pay it now or we’re in ‘ball and chain’ forever.’”

In her book Melba describes the horrible treatment they received from the white students and the faculty. Not only were racial slurs thrown at them every day, but they were physically hurt as well, while most of the faculty just watched passively.

  • Can you imagine being in a stall in the girls’ bathroom only to look up at pieces of flaming paper being dropped over the top on your head?
  • Or have acid thrown into your eyes when you opened your locker?
  • Or have someone step on the back of your heels every day when you walked down the halls?

Who Would You Be?

Melba learned she had to become like a warrior to survive.

“A new voice in my head spoke to me with military-like discipline: Discover ink sprayed on the contents of your locker—don’t fret about it, deal with it. Get another locker assigned, find new books, get going—don’t waste time brooding or taking the hurt so deep inside. Kicked in the shin, tripped on the marble floor—assess the damage and do whatever is necessary to remain mobile. Move out! Warriors keep moving. They don’t stop to lick their wounds or cry.”

01_Little Rock Nine-Soldiers

Arkansas National Guardsmen prevent African-American students from entering Little Rock Central High School, September 1957. Photo Credit:

Would I have had their courage?

I don’t know. Not likely.


African-American students escorted by federal troops, Little Rock Central High School, 1957. Photo Credit:

But those doing the abuse?

Would I have behaved so cruelly?

I don’t know that either, sadly. If I had been a white student at Central High in 1957, raised in an environment of ignorance and bigotry, perhaps I would have succumbed to the mob mentality, too.

I pray to God not.

But I’m wary of self-righteousness to claim I’d have behaved better.

The lesson is clear: Discrimination is poisonous. From every angle. Whether you’re being abused or are the one doing the abusing, it’s bad for the soul.

“If my Central High School experience taught me one lesson, it is that we are not separate. The effort to separate ourselves whether by race, creed, color, religion, or status is as costly to the separator as to those who would be separated.”

Despite the intolerance shown them, the Little Rock Nine went on to lead successful and productive lives in our country and around the world.

But those white teenagers? I wonder what happened to them. As they aged, did they regret their actions and attitudes? Or did they stay steeped in prejudice?

Here’s an interesting 4-minute clip of three of those now-grown teenagers, coming face to face with seven of the Little Rock Nine on an Oprah show in 1996.


And Now

As I watched snippets of the RNC last week, I noticed few black faces in the crowd. Out of 2,472 national delegates in Cleveland, how many were black? 18. Only double the number of the Little Rock Nine. (Draw your own conclusions about why.)

And in Jenna’s new class this year? It will be mainly one color too.

We’re not where we need to be. We must keep growing together, not apart.

We must keep attaching to each other, not separating.

We must keep loving our neighbors. All our neighbors.

Warriors Don’t Cry ends appropriately with this:

(the God in me sees and honors the God in you)

Let it be so, Lord.

* * *

Have you read Warriors Don’t Cry? I highly recommend it.

What are your experiences with school integrations? Church integrations? Please share in the comments.


sharing at Women with Intention,
Coffee for Heart, Little R&R, Tell His Story,
Testimony Tuesday, Purposeful Faith,
Inspire Me MondaysSmall Wonder,
Good Morning MondaysMoments of Hope

4 Ways to Keep A Fresh Prayer Life

Don't have the same conversation with God every day

Let’s say you’re going to have 30 minutes this afternoon to chat with your best friend.

You look forward to it it. You think about things you want to tell her. You are happy when it finally happens.

The next day, you’re given another 30 minutes with her—with one caveat: Repeat the same conversation.

Okay. You can do that. You probably missed a few things the first time anyway.

The next day, same instructions.
And again.
And again.

And now you dread your conversation time. You long to escape it. Instead of pleasure, it brings pain.

Is this how we approach our conversations with God? 

“I have 30 minutes (or less) to talk with God today. Will I repeat the same requests as yesterday? Exact same thanks? Same confessions?”

When this is how we pray, no wonder we don’t look forward to it.

It’s boring.

Granted, some things need repeating every day. Those things don’t get old.

But let’s not allow our prayers to become so repetitious that we recite them with no thought.

4 Ways to Pray a Fresh Prayer

1. Rotate the focus
For example, some people pray for a different group each day. Monday: Immediate family. Tuesday: Church family. Wednesday: Neighborhood. Etc.

2. Pray through scripture
Use scripture prayer books for help. My favorites are the Face to Face books by Kenneth Boa, “Volume 1: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship,” and “Volume 2: Praying the Scriptures for Spiritual Growth.” Bible passages are phrased in the first person so you’re praying as you read.

3. Update your list
Are many of the requests on your list outdated? Follow up and see whats changed. Maybe your friend’s surgery two months ago ended well. It’s okay to cross off requests as “answered.”

4. Pray through time
 Be specific in thanking God for grace in  your past 24 hours. Confess areas you messed up yesterday, and thank him for his perpetual forgiving spirit.

Present: What are you thankful for in this day? What do you need help with right now? Praise God in this moment just for who he is.

Future: Ask for his blessings on tonight’s events and tomorrow’s situations. Requesting his guidance for your future can improve your attitude about what’s ahead.

Just as our circumstances change a little (or a lot) every day, so should our conversations with God.

Our intimate time with God won’t be boring if we’ll intentionally keep our conversations fresh!

* * *

What tips do you have for praying? Please share in the comments.

revised from the archives

sharing at Let Us Grow,
Faith ‘n Friends, Faith-Filled Friday,
100 Happy DaysThankful Thursdays,
Thought-Provoking Thursday,
 Wednesday Wisdom, Coffee For Your Heart,
A Little R&R, Women with Intention

We Don’t Just Give; We Receive

God loves to bless us around every corner. He just can't help himself.

When you approach Cherry’s home, it’s like walking up to a garden of Eden.

Although she lives in a city apartment, her green thumb outgrows her small space.

I love plants, too. We share that.

So when Kay and I visit with Cherry for a few minutes each Wednesday, we marvel at the beauty of her plants.

Last Wednesday night after we handed Cherry her supper, she said she had something to give me.

It was this!


Cherry started this coleus cutting for me. I love it. Now my responsibility is to keep it growing.

It will be my living reminder that relationships are always give and take.

We don’t just give; we receive.
We don’t just receive; we give.

No matter how limited our resources, our hearts can outgrow their bounds.

It’s how God designs it. He’s at the root of every good gift (James 1:17). He loves to bless us around every corner. He just can’t help himself.

God gives; we receive; we pass it along to others.

Around and around it goes.

Although Cherry thanks us for blessing her with a meal each week, she blesses us, too. She’s always kind, always grateful, always looking out for others.

Including me.

I have the plant to prove it.

* * *

What have you received unexpectedly, when you thought you were the one giving? Please share in the comments.


sharing at Give Me Grace, Tell His Story,
Small Wonder, Testimony Tuesday,
Purposeful Faith, Moments of Hope,
 Good Morning Mondays

How to Be a Modern-Day Priest

Is there any point in trying to make a difference?

Or should we all just sleep in?

When times seek darkest light shines brightest

We have been strategically positioned to answer the world’s call for help.

If we’re called to be modern-day priests, how do we do it?

Read the rest at You’ve Been Called – Light Up as a Priest

* * *

We’re talking about it at Do Not Depart as we study through Hebrews 5.

Will you join me there?

Jesus as High Priests - new series on Hebrews 4:14-5:14

He Said/She Said – Stop Assuming

Our roof had hail damage. Our contractor was calling our insurance agent to report it. I listened in as he talked to her.

She: How do you spell that last name?

He: B-U-R-G-E-S-S.

She: You gave me B-U-G-E-S-S.

He: No. B-U-R-G-E-S-S.

She: Okay. You gave me . . .

Over and over. After each of his responses, she’d answer with “You gave me . . .”

It troubled me.

What she heard wasn’t necessarily what he gave.

She was mistaken.


Assuming Too Much?

How many times do we do this to each other? You said. No, that’s not what I said.

When we don’t hear what others are saying—but think we do!—everyone gets frustrated.

Miscommunications cause unnecessary conflict.

  • Feelings get hurt.
  • People are offended.
  • Relationships are damaged.

What if instead of saying,You said . . .”, we asked, Did I hear you say . . . ?

It leaves room for dialogue, for confirmation, or for correction as needed. With no walls coming up. No defensive posturing. No confrontational feelings aroused.

What we hear isn’t always what was said.
And what we say isn’t always what is received.

Let’s stop assuming we hear each other right, and instead dialogue about it.

  • With a humble spirit.
  • A teachable spirit.
  • A gentle spirit.

Our contractor finally convinced our insurance agent how to spell our name and policy number and date of the roof damage. But it took a long time and made us all uncomfortable.

How quicker and more pleasant it could have been if she had just asked if she had it right each time instead of incorrectly accusing him of giving her false data.

Listening to each other with humility is a gift.

May we each grow in it giving it more and more.

* * *

Do you assume you heard it right the first time? Or is listening a skill you’re still growing in? Please share in the comments.


Spiritual Optimism

When times are troubled, we can think they’re the worst. Has it ever been this bad before? And it’s only going downhill, we say.

But history might claim differently. And future begs no.

Because we have the present of today. Now.

In this present, where God lives, we can find . . .

  • Reasons to hope.
  • Reasons to do good.
  • Reasons to move forward.

Because when things look their worst, we most see the need for change.

Seeing the need for change brings opportunity.

We need to change.


Unfairness has existed in America since her first days as a united nation. She claimed unity early on, but it wasn’t true. There were people in power and people not in power (and certainly many in between).

Those in power may have claimed unity, but those not in power would have disagreed.

They knew better. They’ve always known. Others haven’t.

Some still don’t.

Things aren’t worse. The ugly parts have always been here.

They’re just still being uncovered. Becoming more visible.

And because of their visibility, we ask God:

  • To change our ugly into lovely.
  • To shift our hate into grace.
  • To turn our wrong into right.

He wants to. If we’ll want to.
He can. If we’ll allow him.
And he will, eventually. Whether we will or not.

Participate or not. Now or later. Therein lies our choice.

May we . . .

  • Choose wisely.
  • Choose grace.
  • Choose love.


* * *

Where do you see hope in these days? Please share in the comments.


The More of Less – Book Review on Decluttering

The beauty of minimalism isn’t in what it takes away.

Yet another book on decluttering?

Well, sort of.

Why? Because . . .

“On average, at least in my own country, we see five thousand ads every day telling us to buy more. I want to be a voice urging us to buy less, because the potential benefits for our world are incalculable when hundreds, thousands, millions of lives are transformed by minimalism.”

That’s a lot of voices talking to us every day. To buy more. Keep more. Use more.

Joshua Becker of is also using his voice. But he’s not trying to just sell us on decluttering. He wants us to see the joy in adopting a minimalistic lifestyle in The More of Less.

He starts by debunking two myths of minimalism:

Myth 1

Minimalism is about giving up everything.

Wrong, he says. “Minimalism is about living with less . . . less is not the same as none.” There are things we are meant to enjoy. And keep. Don’t get rid of everything.

Myth 2

Minimalism is about organizing your stuff.

You’ve probably heard before that you can’t organize clutter. True. Rearranging our stuff is only a temporary fix at best. “Organizing is better than nothing. But minimizing is better by far.”

Remember Becker’s goal for minimalism: It is “not just to own less stuff. The goal of minimalism is to unburden our lives so we can accomplish more.”

He suggests you start with not touching a thing. But asking yourself why you want to minimize. Then go from there.

Start decluttering the easy stuff. A specific closet. Or even one drawer.

We use 20 percent of our stuff 80 percent of the time, and we use the other 80 percent of our stuff only 20 percent of the time. So within that 80 percent of your stuff that mostly just lies around, there should be plenty of easy pickings when you start to minimize.”

The book then progresses into traditional advice: make three piles (things to keep, to relocate, to remove). You know the drill.


  • Wash dishes right away.
  • Keep flat surfaces clear.
  • Complete one- to two-minute jobs immediately.
  • Take pictures of it before you get rid of it.
  • Give stuff away to create new memories for others.

Other advice isn’t necessarily as conventional:

  • Try keeping half for now.
  • Always leave empty space in your coat closet.
  • Experiment first by living without ___ (whatever) for 29 days.
  • Watch less television. (So you’ll want less stuff.)

Becker also reminds us what happens when we don’t minimize. We’re still giving something away: Our freedom to fully live the life we want.

But with relationships?

Here Becker says do not be minimalistic. He says, “Choosing to invest only in the relationships that benefit us isn’t love — it’s selfishness.”

“The goal is not to remove every person from my life who does not serve me. The goal is to bring greater intentionality into each of my relationships. I want to find people who will lead me, mentor me, and love me, but I also want to keep in my life people whom I serve and love and pour my life into. Because both are required for a balanced life.”

The bottom line in becoming minimalistic isn’t to live without. It’s to live intentionally. Having less doesn’t mean settling for less.

“ . . . maybe the greatest benefit of generosity is this: generous people realize that they already have enough.”

* * *

What areas do you most like to keep clutter-free? Which areas are the hardest? Please share in the comments.

More book reviews on decluttering:

Thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of this book

Remember What You Read—Choose One Thing per Book

You read a book. You like it. You might even love it!

But a year from now, if someone asks you about it, all you can remember is: It was so good! Why? I can’t remember.

I know because this happens to me sometimes. And I don’t like it.

We Are What We Read

If I read something that is amazing—even life-changing—I don’t want to forget it. I don’t want to be a hearer and not a doer (James 1:23-24). I’d rather be the blessed person who does what she hears (James 1:25), incorporating the words into who I am.

We are somewhat influenced by everything we read. Just this weekend I was feeling icky the more I read in a novel I’d started on vacation. In a rare move, I decided to delete it off my Kindle unfinished, an act I should do more often when a book is boring, bad, or a total time-waster.

So if we want to be influenced in a good way from beneficial books we read, here’s something I just read in a book that I hope I WILL remember and do:



Choose the one thing you’ve read from this book that will make the most difference in your life and do it. No matter what. Then, naturally, you will start to incorporate others. And, with time, you’ll find that your life moves in a purposeful direction.

Because the moments add up to days, the days add up to years, and the years add up to your life. Making sure that your days and moments are guided by what you want to accomplish with your years means each moment will reflect the life you choose to live. So you’ll know you’re getting the right things done.

It all starts with your one thing.” 
Peter Bregman, 18 Minutes

What if we actually did this? Each time we read a book, take one thing—just one thing!—and apply it.

Take One Thing


  1. Look for one thing

Pray for open eyes. Ask God to keep you aware of his message through the author’s words (or perhaps in spite of them, whichever the case may be). Pay attention to words and thoughts that move you.

  1. Write down your one thing

As you read, highlight any important passages, take notes, turn down pages, flag with post-it notes—whatever it is you do. Then after you’re finished the book, take an extra five minutes and choose one thing that you want to take from the book. Create a word document on your computer of One Things or write them in a notebook.

  1. Do that one thing

Just do it. Try. Experiment. Fail. Succeed. Fail again. Try again.

  1. Review your list of one things

Every six months or so, pull out your list of book titles and one things. Pray through them for any action steps you’d like to take.

Watch for More

Of course not every book has the same value. But in most books we can find at least one valuable truth (or hopefully multiple truths), whether fiction or non-fiction. Some things may be small; some may be large.

  • Tim Hawkin’s Diary of a Jackwagon reminded me how good it feels to laugh out loud while reading a book and to do that more often.
  • The Happiness Effect steered me to keep my friends on Facebook, but to pay more attention when we’re face-to-face.
  • The Blessing of Humility from Jerry Bridges cautioned me (again) that I need to judge less and be humble more.

We see more when we look more.

And we’ll gain more from our reading when we intentionally seek to benefit from it. God is eager to enlighten us if we’ll invite and allow him to (2 Timothy 2:7).

The more often and more accurately we see God—through reading or any other avenue—the more we’ll love God. And the more we love God, the more we’ll love each other.

That’s what I want to remember—and do—because of reading.

* * *

What’s your ‘one thing’ from a favorite book? Please share in the comments.

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