“The Best Explanation of Addiction I’ve Ever Heard” – Dr. Gabor Maté

Thankful to have someone suggest I listen to wisdom from Dr. Gabor Mate’

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A Friend recommended I watch the TEDx talk “How not to take things personally?” by Frederik Imbro

If you were to meet me, you would quickly learn that I have a pension to take most anything personally. As I develop better self-awareness, I am beginning to understand that for almost every instance of me taking things; personally, the negative thought is in my head, not the person’s behavior in question. This Ted talk by Frederik Imbo helped me in my journey to not take what someone says to me personally.

Another TEDx talk I found helpful. “Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication, Louise Evans | TEDxGenova

And another TEDx talk “Increase your self-awareness with one simple fix.” Tasha Eurich | TEDxMileHigh. And an article in Harvard Business Review by Tasha Eurich including helpful info graphics.

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Emotionally Healthy Relationships by Pete Scazzero

I am close to completing my second 8-week journey through the Emotionally Healthy Relationships material. The material is helpful and convicting.

My problem, turning the valuable EHR tools into a habit, tools like “climbing the ladder of integrity.” I climbed the ladder of integrity a few times, learning how I often create negative feelings about situations in my head, and actually, they are only in my head.

The devotional I read last week (from the 40-day devotional book that’s part of the EHR resources) encouraged me to; seeing how “saint makers” in my life are indeed a blessing for my spiritual growth.

My action item: Send this post to my friends and ask them to ask me how I’m doing in my commitment to change, adding EMF tools to my daily life, and in the process, increasing my spiritual maturity.

Blog post from Emotionally Healthy Relationships


How can this be true? The answer is simple: If I pray and spend large amounts of time and energy meditating on Scripture, fasting, silence, solitude, along with other spiritual disciplines, but do not love my enemies, it is not worth much. I think I am finally connecting the dots that the degree to which I love my enemies really does indicate the measure of my spiritual maturity. I have some growth to do! I attempted to summarize my learnings on this in my sermon last Sunday on Isaiah 58 called “Love Your Enemies, the ‘Saint Makers.”   I began by asking: “Who is your enemy today (someone who drives you crazy, irritates you, you avoid or resent, or simply have a hard time loving)? The following are a few of the themes I continue to meditate on this week as I ask God to help me connect what I so often disconnect:

1. Nothing is more important than learning not to despise others, i.e. harden our hearts against people, deciding they are not worthy of love.  (Note: “despise” is a synonym for “judge.”)

2. The whole of the Christian life can be summarized as the refusal to judge and despise others.

3. A spiritual person hides the faults of others rather than expose them. “Interior freedom is not yet possessed by anyone who cannot close his eyes to the fault of a friend, whether real or apparent” (Maximus the Confessor, theologian 600’s).

4. A person can be so right they are wrong (i.e., if it comes out of a hard, despising heart).

5. Nothing is more important than learning that your enemy is a ‘saint-maker.’ The place to get connected to God is with your “enemy.” They are not interruptions but gifts sent from Him.

6. The more we draw close to God in love, the more we are united to our neighbor in love. Our solitude with God is meant to connect us to people, not separate us from them (Dorotheus of Gaza, 6th century).  The place to get connected to your “enemy” is with God. Thus we so desperately need silence and solitude with Him.

7.  When you despise someone, you despise Christ. When you harden your heart to someone, you harden your heart to Christ . As Jesus said, “Whatever you did to the least of them, you did to me” (Matt. 25). And why do  you think it is so easy for us to have such a wide and deep disconnect between our love for God and our love for our enemy?

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God’s Faithfulness in Mom’s Special Life

Psalm 23 tribute to Mom – read during Mom’s funeral (click here to watch funeral)

My Brother, Sister and I want to thank you all for being with us in this room and on the livestream today March 1, 2021) celebrating Sherry Christenson’s life.

I once heard a speaker (Dananjaya Hettiarachchi) who asked the audience if anyone had a cool dad. He then said, take all of your cool dads, put them all together, and you have my cool dad. As I think of Sherry Christenson (Mom), I think of a special person. Does anyone here have/had a special Mom? Well, take all of your special Moms, put them all together, and you have our special Mom.

Answering the question of what made Mom special is complex. My Brother, Sister, and I, and maybe everyone here, knew Mom as a special mother, a special teacher and a special assistant to Dad’s ministry. When we kids moved away from home, she was still our special Mom, but Mom changed her focus, and became more special. Mom was hurting without kids around; she replaced this hurt with increased reliance on Jesus, and Mom and Dad started working on their marriage which had been a corporation previously (Dad’s definition) where he had his duties and Mom had hers. Their relationship developed into a beautiful and evolving partnership. They would regularly be seen holding hands.

Fast forward, in 2012, Mom almost died after being struck by a car, then, later that same year, Dad unexpectedly died. During this low valley, Mom started to become extra special, increasing day by day until February 21, 2021, when she went to be with Jesus.

I will speak more today about the special Mom since Dad passed. You see, Mom found herself without a soul mate and without the purpose she had in supporting Dad’s ministry and their farm business. Mom had faith in God, but she was incredibly empty without Dad. Through Mom’s brokenness, she learned how to rely on God in new ways.

Psalm 23, Verse 1,2 & 3 (KJ)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23 had deep and special meaning to Mom. Verse one reminds us that with God; we lack nothing. Mom began to transform as a person, where she had comfort in the security Dad brought to her life; she began to replace this security in a Deeping relationship with God, reminding herself in Psalm 23:1 that with God, she lacks nothing. Mom had a post it note by her computer screen. Zephaniah 3:17. “He takes great delight in you.”

One Christmas soon after Dad died, we gathered at my sisters in Omaha. On a whim, we decided to look at homes for Mom in Omaha. We were not too serious about it as Mom had told us she intended to stay in O’Neill until she was at least 80. Psalm 23:3 explains how God guides us on the right paths. The first home we saw, we all knew was the place for Mom. Close to my sister, backing up to a small lake, this home would give Mom joy and comfort for the rest of her life. 

Psalm 23:2 speaks of leading us to quiet waters. Once settled in her knew home, Mom’s next-door neighbor invited her to a bible study. After a few years, Mom ended up hosting the Flatland Bible Study group. Mom found quiet waters, learning about Jesus and building new relationships. Mom also cherished the Lite Care Group at Westside church, water aerobics, and a book club. Mom also enjoyed lunch most Sundays with one of her Grandson. Mom was amazed by the love and care she received from her new Omaha family. Mom was even on the board of the community she lived in. Something that came as a welcome surprise to us.

She continued to keep her ties to O’Neill friends as well, lots and lots of phone calls, also to her sister and brothers, and to Dads, sister, and brothers. After I spoke with Pastor Paul Harder last week, among many stories he shared, this one stood out to me. He said, Allen was a key part of the leadership of Faith Community Church from it’s very beginning, so Sherry was intimately involved as well.  One of the big emphases at FCC was and is prayer – so right away in the early days, we started a prayer chain, and Sherry helped lead that ministry.  We didn’t have computers and cell phones back in that day, so everything had to be handled personally through phone calls.  So folks would call Sherry, and then she would be careful to write everything down precisely, and then she had to call 5 other households and communicate the exact information, and they in turn would start it down their chains.  Sherry spent hours faithfully carrying out that responsibility. Mom was a leader in her faith, and was truly special in her devotion and dedication to God and Faith Community Church.

Psalm 23: 4,5 and 6 (KJ).

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23:4 speaks of dark valleys, but not being alone, but with God for support and comfort. Mom reminded herself regular to rest in Jesus. I mentioned how Mom is special. Here reliance on God was growing beautifully through this time. Mom had plenty of reasons to be angry at God, to be bitter, to complain, to seek self-pity. She didn’t. She increased the time she invested in others. For Reed, Shelly and me, she was still our special Mom, but she was now additionally a special friend.

Psalm 23:5 talks about taking care of us in spite of our enemies. Pulmonary fibrosis was her primary enemy. This disease was relentless, but this didn’t slow down, Mom. Mom went to her water aerobics class, tethered to an oxygen tank – scuba diving this was not. COVID-19 became her enemy, too, as it grounded her from attending church, going for walks in Hobby Lobby, going to concerts, or flying back east to my family and my brother. Mom referred to John 15:2 frequently. This verse speaks to how God prunes us, trimming off branches, making us more Christ-like. Mom would say, looks like I must have more pruning to go, or how can I have any branches left. Mom wasn’t complaining but affirming her faith in Jesus, becoming a little more special.

Finally, and the best part. Psalm 23:6, we have confidence God will be with us through the ups and downs in life and eternity in Heaven, forever. In the last few weeks of life, Mom was in significant discomfort, not being able to breathe. As she recited this Psalm before she went to sleep every night, she almost shouted…forever, forever, forever, forever, I’ll be in the house of the Lord.

Mom, we will miss you every day, but we have confidence you are in eternity with God, forever. Thank you, Jesus, for making Mom special.

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Why Do I Get Defensive?

If you have spent time with me, you have seen me get defensive over both the trivial and the significant. It has only been the last few years that I have started to have self-awareness of my defensive nature, and for this, I am thankful. In a men’s group, I participated in, each week, we held each other accountable using a “commitment to change” Pure Desire tool, and I would work on not being defensive; with little progress.

Thankfully, along the way, I have started to see my defensiveness as part of who I am, acknowledge it as a sin, and that it may not go away. A talk (Christ’s Power is Made Perfect in Weakness) by John Piper, where he spoke about the Apostle Paul’s ‘thorn in his flesh,’ helped me understand that my weaknesses are a blessing. The talk from piper talks about how to pray during struggles and much, much more.

I have learned that my defensive nature mostly only hurts others when I open my mouth. This understanding has been a tremendous help as all I have to do is keep my mouth shut. Invariably, my pride shows up, and I say something I regret. When this happens, I need to be better, apologize, explain my struggle with being defensive, and ask people to please let me know when they see me being defensive.

So why do I get defensive? I have a sinful nature. I find comfort in learning about myself and knowing that God is renewing my mind, little by little, His perfect timing, not mine.

Romans 12:2 (ESV) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

PS: I just reread a couple other posts on building relationships, good reminders for myself.

Daily Temperature Reading (DTR) by Eric Moore, adapted from @PAIRSFOUNDATION

Restoring Broken Fellowship: Getting Along with One Another by @RickWarren
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Wearing a Mask Helps Me Rely on God

My decision to wear a mask indoors and outside, except when with my family, began earlier this year when my father-in-law and mother-in-law were hospitalized with COVID 19; they both ultimately passed. I have even learned things from wearing a mask. For example, I have discovered that I am very prone to touching my face. Wearing a mask is a constant practical reminder not to touch my face. Lastly, I have discovered that wearing a mask helps me stay in the present, the face cover reminding me that I need to rely on God, not myself.

I do not wear a mask because I believe a face covering will protect me. I wear a mask because there is evidence it may protect others by reducing the transmission of COVID from exhaled air droplets (Nature article). I hope that wearing a mask sends a positive message that I care about others more than myself. I do not want to communicate to others that by wearing a mask I pass judgment on people who do not wear a mask.

I have highlighted several articles in this blog post that I have read over the last several months, from the CDC, universities, from Christian organizations and several newspapers. It is interesting for me to learn about various reasons people have to wear a mask.

Sometimes, I feel fear as I put on my mask, other times anxiety, yet other times I feel a sense of peace and gratitude. These feelings are a constant reminder that “old controlling Todd” is not in charge, but rather God is in control. Wearing a mask not only helps remind me to pray, but to also rely on God a little more than the previous day.

John 16:33 (ESV) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

I find peace within the words of John 16:33, as I continue to desire to get closure to our God.

* * *

“In 1910, 10,000 hunters rushed into a region in northeast China that sits on the border with Russia. They were searching for an animal called a tarbagan marmot that made its home in underground burrows there and was valued for its pelts.

Fur was high fashion in Europe. German tradesmen had recently devised a way to dye cheaper marmot pelts to look like more expensive mink and sable.  Prices for marmot quadrupled, sending throngs of foreigners to scour the forests of Manchuria for the shrieking, toaster-sized rodents, which are relatives of squirrels.

These hunters are the reason we are all wearing face masks today.”

The Forgotten Science Behind Face Masks, August 26, 2020, By Brenda Goodman, MA, Web MD

* * *

“New research suggests that face coverings help reduce the transmission of droplets, though some masks are more protective than others”

Face Masks Really Do Matter. The Scientific Evidence Is Growing. – July 27, 2020 – Wall Street Journal

* * *

“CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings – Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 – Updated July 16, 2020 – Centers for Design Control and Prevention

* * *

“The latest forecast from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that 33,000 deaths could be avoided by October 1 if 95 percent of people wore masks in public.”

Still Confused About Masks? Here’s the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus – June 26, 2020 – Nina Bai – University of California – San Francisco (This story was updated on July 11 to include information on why valved masks do not block exhaled droplets)

* * *

Scientists say we should wear masks to control the spread of COVID-19. Stanford experts share the evidence that informed the World Health Organization’s recommendations.

5 Questions: Stanford scientists on COVID-19 mask guidelines – June 19, 2020 – Stanford Medicine

* * *

“The mask as a social nuge. Some argue that ubiquitous mask wearing, as a very visual reminder of the dangers of the virus, could actually act as a “behavioural nudge” to you and others for overall better personal hygiene.

Putting on a mask every day before you go out is like a ritual, like putting on a uniform, and in ritual behaviour you feel you have to live up to what the uniform stands for, which is more hygienic behaviour like not touching your face or avoiding crowded places and social distancing,” said Donald Low, a behavioural economist and professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.”

Coronavirus: Why some countries wear face masks and others don’t – Tessa Wong – BBC News Singapore

* * *

“There’s a lot at stake for Christian witness during COVID-19. Do we want the non-believing world to look at Christians as reckless virus super-spreaders who put their own freedoms (to gather in person as soon as possible, to not wear masks unless absolutely mandated) ahead of the health of their larger community? Or do we want them to look at Christians as “servants to all,” willing to forego their freedoms out of Christlike neighbor love? 

If the small annoyance of wearing masks can help not only save lives but also souls, winning more to the gospel, isn’t it worth it?”

4 Reasons to Wear a Mask, Even if You Hate It – July 1, 2020 – Brett McCracken – The Gospel Coalition

* * *

“One of the other things that informed our decision is that first in April and May, we surveyed our churches. We also surveyed other churches in the Atlanta area. We wanted to discover what it would take for people to come back. Then two weeks ago, we surveyed again. Here’s the interesting thing: about 15% fewer people in the second survey said they were ready to come back. There was less inclination to come back, not more. That helped us make the decision to focus 100% of our time and energy on creating community online. We are going to have some on-campus gatherings, but they’re going to be smaller. They’re going to be focused. So the church is not closed. We are just reallocating assets to actually impact the maximum number of people during this crazy time.”

Andy Stanley Explains Why His Megachurch Won’t Gather on Sundays Until 2021 – July 15, 2020 – Ed Stetlzer, Executive Director, Wheaton College Billy Graham Center – Christianity Today

* * *

“If you are undecided about whether or not to wear a mask these days, here’s another piece of data to consider: Jesus would wear a face mask. If you aren’t a Christian, I understand that is irrelevant information. But for those of us who claim to be followers of Christ and are still on the fence, it ought to be the deciding factor.”

NC pastor: Jesus would wear a mask – May 24, 2020 – Kate Murphy – The Charlotte Observer

* * *

“I also want to encourage you to wear your masks in public,” the Wichita pastor said, standing at his pulpit and holding up a blue face mask.

“This is an act of loving our neighbor. This is an act of faith. It’s something we do as followers of Jesus.

“And please, do not fall prey to the persons who say this is a political statement. It is not,” Gannon continued. “It’s a Christian statement, and thank you for bearing witness to the love of neighbor in this way.”

What would Jesus do? Wear a mask, says Wichita pastor – June 23, 2020 – Suzanne Perez Tobias – The Wichita Eagle

* * *

“Wearing a mask is not about protecting ourselves from the virus; it’s about protecting others from us. It is well documented that COVID-19 is contagious even when we are not symptomatic. It is also believed that a majority of people who are infected may never be symptomatic. Scientists do not yet understand why some people never develop symptoms and other people do. So we are being asked to wear masks in public not just to slow the spread of the disease, but just in case we have COVID-19 and come into close contact with one of those people who might contract the virus and die as a result.”

To mask or not to mask during COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t even be a question – May 11, 2020 – Rev. Tim Reynolds – The Knoxville News

* * *

“Others are in denial about their susceptibility to infection or risk of being a carrier, and some folks just aren’t willing to comply with anything Big Brother suggests, even wearing a mask.”

Why doesn’t everyone wear a mask? – May 21, 2020 – Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church Wilmington – News Journal, Wilmington, OH

* * *

“In his first interview since Westmore Church of God became the focus of a regional outbreak of COVID-19, the church’s lead pastor Kelvin Page said the church should have taken masks more seriously as a precaution and that the church is no longer tracking the number of confirmed cases in the congregation.”

Cleveland pastor says he got COVID-19, gave up counting Church of God members infected – July 12, 2020 – Chattanooga Times Free Press, Inc.

* * *

Two congregations in Garfield County have COVID-19 spread among members. Contact tracing investigations are underway into these houses of worship in an effort to stop further potential spread of the virus.

COVID-19 OUTBREAKS ARISE IN LOCAL FAITH-BASED GROUPS – July 31, 2020 – City of Garfield Country, Colorado website
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Decreasing for His Purpose by Oswald Chambers

Several years ago, a friend explained to me his desire to increase God in his life and to decrease himself. My friend quoted John 3:30 (ESV) “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I posted this verse on this blog, mentioning my friend, in November 2015.

Recently, while attending a men’s bible study, one of the men, more than once, mentioned how he found the devotionals from Oswald Chambers helpful. I began reading the Chambers devotionals daily, myself. John 3:30 was quoted in the Oswald Changers devotional, “Decreasing for His Purpose” earlier this week. This devotional rekindles in me the need to remind myself many times every day to be increasing God and decreasing myself, in particular when I find myself in a mindset that the good I do is from my own doing, rather than from God. The good I think I am doing, hurtful, rather than helpful for myself and others. 


Decreasing for His Purpose (Click to read on Utmost.org  website)

By Oswald Chambers

If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way. One day that person will say to us, “You are a thief; you stole my desire to follow Jesus, and because of you I lost sight of Him.”

Beware of rejoicing with someone over the wrong thing, but always look to rejoice over the right thing. “…the friend of the bridegroom…rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). This was spoken with joy, not with sadness— at last they were to see the Bridegroom! And John said this was his joy. It represents a stepping aside, an absolute removal of the servant, never to be thought of again.

Listen intently with your entire being until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another person. And never give any thought to what devastation, difficulties, or sickness it will bring. Just rejoice with godly excitement that His voice has been heard. You may often have to watch Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it (see Matthew 10:34).


Here is a link to this devotional about “Decreasing for His Purpose,” or to subscribe to the Oswald Chambers daily devotional.



It is perilously possible to make our conceptions of God like molten lead poured into a specially designed mold, and when it is cold and hard we fling it at the heads of the religious people who don’t agree with us.
Disciples Indeed

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Genesis 2:18, 22 & 25; 3:7-8

Recently, someone suggested that I read these five verses from Genesis, together. I am glad I did.

Genesis 2:18, 22 & 25; 3:7-8

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Genesis 2:22(ESV)
22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

Genesis 2:25 (ESV)
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 3:7-8 (ESV)
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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“The Emotionally Healthy Relationships Course” by Peter & Geri Scazzero #GCTOGOD

For the last several weeks; when speaking to a friend, he kept mentioning how helpful he was finding “The Emotionally Healthy Relationship Course” in his relationships.  He and his wife were attending a small group using the material detailed below which includes a workbook/study guide and a devotional book.

Last week; I ordered the workbook and devotional, my wife and I started reading the devotionals together, two per day, morning and evening. They didn’t take long to read. The devotional includes a brief medication before and after, they really speak to us. Enough so that we’ve found a couple or two interested in going through the material together, sorting that out now.

I’m looking forward to this new journey to develop emotionally healthy relationships; in community, with others with the same objective.

One more thing. I noticed on the Emotionally Healthy Relationships website a emotionally healthy relationships online assessment tool. I tried it, its spot on. Here’s a link to the assessment if you want to try it.


Deeply Changing Your Relationships with Others

The Emotionally Healthy Relationships Course Participants Pack

This powerful 8-week Course will equip you with practical tools to really love people in difficult situations and mature into an adult follower of Jesus.

Eight Powerful Relationship Changing Skills:


  • Take Your Community Temperature Reading
  • Stop Mind Reading and Clarify Expectations
  • Genogram Your Family
  • Explore the Iceberg
  • Listen Incarnationally
  • Climb the Ladder of Integrity
  • Fight Cleanly
  • Develop a “Rule of Life” to Implement Your New Learnings

The EH Relationships Course Participants Pack includes:

  • an 8-session workbook/biblical study-guide with reading, questions and practical discussion to reinforce each of the 8 skills
  • an EH Relationships Day by Day 40-day devotional with daily readings that align with the core theme of each session

This course is not for self-study and must be done in groups to get the full impact of each “learning to love others” skill.

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Everyone Has A Story by @BreneBrown

The facilitator of a men’s group I attend gave everyone a copy of this blog post by Brené Brown, “Everyone Has A Story.”  The post is a  response to the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

The post starts out and I quote:

“Everyone has a story or a struggle that will break your heart. And, if we’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring us to our knees.”

The meeting facilitator ask each of us to tell part of our stories, a part that would “bring us to our knees.”  It was powerful evening, breakthroughs to understanding our hurt and shame. It was a challenge for me to be learning about others and their story and be open about mine.

PS: In writing this blog post; which, like most of my posts, are book marks to help me to refer back to content I appreciate, I found Brené Brown’s Ted2012 Talk “Listen to Shame.”  After listening to this Ted talk, I had to listen to her first Ted Talk “The Power of Vulnerability.”


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