Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Monday Morning Moment – the Power of Reflection and Journaling

Photo Credit: JimileeK, Flickr

My mom was an intuitively reflective person. All of life was full of meaning for her. People mattered – what they said, what they did…what they didn’t say or do. She noticed how things played out, and she made decisions based on outcomes. Her decision-making was tempered by her faith and her understanding of the constancy of God. She was intentional in all she did.[a magnet always on Mom’s refrigerator]

She wasn’t perfect, of course. Reflection can spiral down to worry or fretting, and Mom struggled with that. Reflection can also err in over-thinking or over-analyzing. Mom could fall into “meddling”, giving instructions, or offering advice not asked for, but this was a most rare occasion. Even when she did it, I knew and appreciated her heart. She was right on the mark much of the time.

My whole life I have strived to learn from her and to be like her.

Reflection as a life habit is difficult for me. I like to fill time…even if it’s only with purposeless activity. Screens are my nemesis, be they computer, phone, or TV. Also over-committing or over-scheduling also hamper reflection. There seems a perverse and mythical work ethic that requires our days be full of meetings. If we don’t have our weekends similarly filled, we vigorously look for ways to fill them.

To our peril.

Reflection is to look back – over our day, or an event, or a conversation – and to pause and think deeply about it. What did we learn? How do we adapt our thinking and actions related to what we experienced? How do we go forward?

Photo Credit: Loppear, Flickr

We can have reflective practices in our work and personal lives, even built into our days. These include alone thinking time, “sharing thoughts” conversations, and journaling/writing. My husband comes home from work and, in good weather, changes clothes and heads to work in his garden. After awhile, he settles into a lawn chair and just sits, watching and thinking. At some point in those moments, reflection blossoms.

[I benefit because he shares those reflections with me…and others later sometimes.]

Benjamin P. Hardy, my favorite writer on productivity right now,  doesn’t talk about reflection so much, but he preaches it without saying the word. He recommends the deep work that happens outside of work. He also strongly promotes journaling as a “keystone habit”. In his article Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life, he is so thorough in his support of journaling that I can’t imagine anyone NOT journaling after hearing him list out the many life benefits.

I have journaled all my life, but it hasn’t always been as focused as it could be. My journals have sometimes just been reporting tools, emotion-processing devices, rant writing, and the like.

However, like my Mom, I discovered that writing is a way to bring reason to my irrationality and resolution to conflict. After writing awhile, I can come back to life, refreshed and better equipped to do what’s next…whatever that might be.

Forbes writer and executive coach, Henna Inam (author of Wired for Authenticity) counsels leaders to keep a journal.

The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “ Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”

Photo Credit: Slideshare

Inam provides a kickstart to journaling with these questions and writing prompts:

  • What’s present for me now?
  • What’s going well? What’s creating that?
  • What’s challenging? What’s creating that?
  • What needs my attention?
  • What’s meaningful? What am I grateful for?
  • What strengths do I notice in myself?
  • What strengths and contributions do I notice in others?
  • What am I learning?
  • What is an action I’m committing to?

Inam’s questions are helpful. They can bring focus to our ramblings. You might choose a different approach to how you use journaling in your reflections. Please share in Comments. Also, journaling may not be your preferred vehicle for reflection. I love, for instance, when workplace leaders encourage reflection over the course of a work day. Isn’t it lovely when a training or conference has reflection time built into the program…so it’s not just an “information dump” with no time to process. If you have experiences, either negative or positive, about your own use of reflection in the workplace, please share with us. We’re not just talking about productivity here, but personal growth and community building.

Talk a few minutes and reflect on the possibilities.

To Be an Effective Leader Keep a Leadership Journal – Henna Inam

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

Reflecting On Work Improves Job Performance – Carmen Nobel

YouTube Video – The Power of Reflection at Work – HEC Paris Professor Giada Di Stefano

Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind – Learning Through Reflection – Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick

Teaching/Learning Critical Thinking Using Reflective Journaling – Dr. Mara Kaufmann – Slideshare

Monday Morning Moment – Workplace Wisdom – From the Shallows Back Out Into the Rapids – 5 Resources

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The river of work is often a fast current – the movers and shakers are in the rushing waters. If you find yourself in the shallows how did that happen? Illness (yours or someone in your family), underemployment, qualifications issue, somehow just not the “flavor of the month”? Any or all of these situations could have prompted a detour out of the faster waters of your work.

Some of us thrive in the shallows. I want to learn how, now that I’m semi-retired. Still, the rapids call me  back…for many reasons.

If you, like me, are in the shallows and you are bewildered rather than refreshed by them, think why that might be.

The rushing waters are where the action is. They’re here and gone, but they carry along whatever is happening in the river.

Occasionally something interesting and important will pop out for you from the current – and you tackle it with excitement – and when you finish it, then it’s gone. Taken back up by the river as if it never visited the shallows, as if you never touched it.

The shallows are a lovely place to visit…especially when you’re exhausted from the rapids. Especially when you need a new vantage point…a new view of your work. The shallows provide that. Being long in the shallows is a strange experience…if you’re used to the rapids.

How does one push back out into the current?

OK…enough metaphor. Here are 5 super useful resources to help us push back into the running river of work…if that’s where we want to be. Choose which fits the most right now, and dig into the article:

1) Achieving Stadium Status – Why not have a colossal goal, right? Leadership consultant Skip Prichard posted a piece recently on How to Achieve Stadium Status. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

He gives a hardy review of John Brubaker‘s book Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time. From the book, Prichard covers such topics as how to use affirmations, dealing with critics, rising above the noise, leaving our comfort zones, avoiding comparing, and not repeating others’ mistakes. Until you can read the book, catch Prichard’s article to get started toward the main stage.

Stadium Status: Taking Your Business to the Big Time – John Brubaker

2) Bouncing Forward After a Big Fail – One of my favorite writers on leadership and the workplace is  Adam Grant . He takes a very different view of failure at work in his article When You Get Fired Or Fail Big, This Is How You Bounce Forward. Photo Credit: Pexels

Quoting Grant here:

“Most of the time, when someone fails, it’s not because there’s a bad apple spoiling the barrel. It’s because the barrel is a bad relationship.

In other words: It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s us.

That doesn’t mean shirking responsibility or failing to hold others accountable. It means realizing that in many of our struggles, the biggest problem lies not in individuals but in relationships.

It helps to remember that in most failures, relationships are a major factor. We just have to make sure we don’t pull the wool over our own eyes.” – Adam Grant

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

3) Addressing Team Alignment – Leadership trainer Jesse Lyn Stoner looked at how team alignment influences team performance. In her piece, Team Alignment is for the Birds, she had this to say:

 

Team alignment is often “leader dependent. Followers depend on the leader to make decisions on direction and tell them what to do.

Team members [in this scenario]. . .

. . . should not act independently.

. . . have little need to communicate with each other.

. . . are following the leader, with no idea where they are going.

We need teams composed of individuals who are able to make quick decisions on how to respond to what comes their way, who are able to use their good judgment to solve problems, who coordinate their efforts with each other, and who come up with fresh new ideas.

A compelling vision (that includes common purpose and shared values) is a more powerful way of unifying your team than trying to align them through structure, policies and procedures.

When a team is organized around a unifying vision, the vision becomes the glue that holds your team together.” – Jesse Lyn Stoner

6 Benchmarks of High Performance Teams – Jesse Lyn Stoner

4) Excellence in Execution – Strategy thinker Robin Speculand writes on what it takes to effectively implement change. In his blog (guest post on Skip Prichard’s website), Speculand talks about the role of the leader in driving strategy forward. To effectively execute change, leaders must demonstrate their own commitment to the strategy. How visible they are to the rest of the company’s employees attests to how valuable the execution of that change is to them personally. Speculand talks about how to carve out time and energy from a busy schedule in order to be fully available to those most impacted by the strategy change. Photo Credit: All Hands

Intriguing ideas, especially for any of you in the shallows. To be a person who executes well is a valuable employee. Don’t lose sight of that.

A Leader’s Role in Achieving Excellence in Execution – Robin Speculand

Excellence in Execution: How to Implement Your Strategy – Robin Speculand

Robin Speculand Presentations – Slideshares

5) Becoming More Likable – Work is not a popularity contest. However, likable people are just a whole lot more fun to work with than folks who insist on being controlling or contrarian. Marcel Schwantes lays out 6 qualities of folks we would all like on our teams…

  • Be curious and ask interesting questions.
  • Describe other people in the positive.
  • Make an immediate good first impression with your face.
  • Listen. Really listen.
  • Choose every opportunity to experience joy.
  • Don’t pass judgment.Photo Credit: Flickr

6 Qualities of Extremely Likable People, According to Science – Marcel Schwantes

Bonus: a Critical People Skill with Kate Nasser

A Critical People Skills Moment to Handle With Ease – Kate Nasser

When others ask you to change a behavior that rubs them the wrong way, what is your response? They will remember how you reply to this critical people skills moment.

Do you …

  1. Give a list of reasons why you do it?
  2. Ask them to explain why it bothers them?
  3. Suggest that they are being demanding, irrational, unprofessional, or childish for asking?
  4. Take offense and avoid these people whenever possible?
  5. Stop doing it?

Check out Kate Nasser‘s lightning fast read on looking seriously at the 5th response above. We want our preferences…we want things done our way. We want “me” to win, not “we” to win. Something to think about.

Let’s push out into the fast water of our workplace…we’ve had enough time in the shallows.

Worship Wednesday – the Church Segregated – Black & White – Erskin

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 – Galatians 3:28

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.Ephesians 2:14

Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?

We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.

My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.

Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music

He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.

“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.”Erskin Anavitarte

After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?

As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).

Today, I want to make it a priority to discover the black church in the same neighborhood as our white church. To find those who love God as I do…and this city in a way that can stretch my own love…and maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.

[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

YouTube Video – Erskin – Black & White – Official Lyric Video

A Shift in Demographics at a Church in Harlem – Samuel G. Freedman

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

They’re Playing Our Song – The Secret Multiracial Churches Know About Music – Michael O. Emerson

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]

YouTube Video – Gary Owen – My First Time at a Black Church

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

Monday Morning Moment – Community in the Workplace – We Need It

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Working on teams made for some of the highest performance years of my career. I used to think it was a weakness of mine that I didn’t thrive professionally if I wasn’t on a team. Looking back at seasons of life where my work required solitary focus as well as the times when collaborative effort was the expectation, the difference in quality of life and product was astounding.

We need each other. Author C. S. Lewis even observed that we are all “one vast need”. This thinking goes counter to our culture’s bias toward self-sufficiency and independence. In the workplace, our brilliance does not have to be defined as always being the lone ranger or the self-starter. How we work with others, and what we draw out of each other, in terms of value, creativity, and resource could be the difference in both performance and morale.

“When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable,” wrote Basil (an early Church father). When we live our lives independently, other people are poorer because they cannot benefit from our gifts: “what we have is unavailable.” Also, when we isolate ourselves, we are poorer because the benefits of others’ gifts are lost to us, so what we lack, we cannot get. There are good things in others that are “unprocurable” unless we interact with them…You are “one vast need” and must avoid the extremes of saying, “I am not needed,” or, “I don’t need you.”Art Lindsley

Community – and Why We Need It – Art Lindsley, C. S. Lewis Institute

Early in my career, people invested in my professional development and in me as a person. I had rich opportunities to work alongside both leaders and practitioners who shaped what I had to offer in the workplace. You have read about some of the teams I’ve had the privilege to be a part (here and here)… The work of those teams continues to thrive.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What we do together far surpasses what we can do individually.

Individualism is a fine idea. It provides incentive, promotes leadership, and encourages development—but not on its own. We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves. This is what is meant by “community”—the social glue that binds us together for the greater good. Community means caring about our work, our colleagues, and our place in the world, geographic and otherwise, and in turn being inspired by this caring. Tellingly, some of the companies we admire most—Toyota, Semco (Brazil), Mondragon (a Basque federation of cooperatives), Pixar, and so on—typically have this strong sense of community…Somehow, in our hectic, individualist world, the sense of community has been lost in too many companies and other organizations. – Henry Mintzberg

I agree with these authors and many others on the importance of community in the workplace. Right now my work is done in a very solitary environment. Thankfully, I have friends and colleagues who fill some of the void where I miss team. In times when our workplace lacks community, we shouldn’t wait on outside forces to alter our situation. We must take steps to create community. Brook Manville has written an excellent step-by-step process to embolden us in this effort. Missing community at work is just wrong, especially because we can do something about it.

Can major transformation really begin…almost spontaneously, with small acts by people who are not part of the senior leadership?…In his recent book Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block, an authority on workplace learning and performance, wrote, “Most sustainable improvements in community occur when citizens discover their own power to act…when citizens stop waiting for professionals or elected leadership to do something, and decide they can reclaim what they have delegated to others.”Henry Mintzberg

Rebuilding Companies as Communities – Henry Mintzberg, Harvard Business Review

Can we have community on every work team? Maybe not. Can we have community at work? Absolutely. Whether it is a core value of a company or not, we can create and cultivate community whatever our role is and wherever we find ourselves in the workplace.

Let’s get after it!Photo Credit: Vimeo, Belbin

Wisdom for the Teaming Masses – Brook Manville, Forbes

Saturday Short – a Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills

Belbin Improving Teams 2017 – Vimeo

Monday Morning Moment – Grit – the Role of Personal Resolve and a Team Alongside

[Adapted from the Archives]

Diligence is a word that defined my many years in learning Arabic while we lived overseas. Keeping at it, even when I wanted to quit, helped immensely. The joy of living life in a second language is worth all the work. Diligence is a great assist to staying on course, but it is not “grit”.

Once on a beach weekend, I saw grit at work in a group of servicemen, in Virginia Beach, doing their morning exercise. [Not the picture above but that image has its own neat story of grit]. Walking on the boardwalk early in the morning, my husband and I encountered this small group of airmen from the nearby Naval Base, doing a group jog. We saw them starting the run and saw them again coming back – 6 miles total. Most of them were young, thin, and fit.

What caught our eye, in particular, were two men in mid-life, carrying a bit of weight, bringing up the rear. Approaching the end of that run, they looked like they were hurting, but they definitely weren’t quitting. I’m sure to stay as fit as the rest of the group was, a certain measure of grit was at play…but these two, in this snapshot of life, showed the grit that brought me to write today.

Wikipedia.org defines grit as a character trait  of applying passion and perseverance over time toward a goal, end state or objective. Grit goes beyond ability and can withstand failure, keeping the end goal in sight, and pushing through to it.Blog - Grit - Definition 2

Bill Hybels, at the Global Leadership Summit 2015*, talked about grit as “one of the greatest indicators of success”. Gritty people, he said, are the ones who “play hurt” and rarely ever give up. “They expect progress to be difficult, but believe with their whole being that they can be successful if they don’t quit.” It’s “The Little Engine That Could”. Abraham Lincoln. Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Martin Luther King. Hybels also encouraged the audience that grit can be developed. From childhood through adulthood.

Jon Acuff (author of Do Over) defines grit as “stubbornness in the face of fear“.  In his book, he gives a short list of what’s needed in making gritty decisions (in the “hustle” of work):

  • Time – we think the world “hustle” has to mean fast, but it can also mean focus, intention, pace.
  • Counsel – Lean on your relationships. Some of the worst decisions are made alone. Who are your advocates? Have you given them time to reflect on it or are you rushing right by the wisdom they have to offer? Let them speak into it. A year from now, looking back on the decision, you’ll be glad you made it as a team.
  • Questions – Always ask awesome opportunities, awesome questions. We skimp on due diligence. “What am I not seeing right now?”
  • Kindness – Give yourself permission to make the wrong decision, because…you’re going to. Break the tension of feeling like you’re going to be perfect by giving yourself some kindness from the outset.
  • Honesty – When you look back on a decision, remember that you made that decision with the best information you had at the time.

As we saw those two older heavyset men running just behind their younger airmen colleagues, we saw men with a goal in mind. There was also something more – the cadence to the group’s run that seemed to work to keep them all together. Whether at work or in family relationships, we want to do all we can to help those gritty ones be successful. Their resolve may get them to the goal anyway, but we all benefit when we are able to “stay on course” together.

Have you “grown gritty” over your lifetime? Are there gritty folks in your life who you love to champion? Please share in the Comments below so that we can all learn.

*Session 1: Bill Hybels Opening Session – Global Leadership Summit

Wikipedia Article on Grit

The Truth About Grit

The Grit Test

Jon Acuff on the Role of Hustle in Taking Hold of Career Opportunities – Notes & Quotes – Part 5 of Do Over Series

How to Make Grit Decisions and Built a Grit List by Jon Acuff

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff

Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?

5 Friday Faves – Writer Jeff Goins, Refugees, Community, Situational Awareness, and a Memorial

Happy Friday. Summer’s coming on hard here with temps into the 90s for the next week. Hope you get to play hard and rest hard over the weekend. Here are my favorite finds for this week. Enjoy!

1) Writer Jeff Goins – I am so excited about Jeff Goins‘ latest book. This is his 5th book – Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. It arrived 2 days ago, and I’m already deep into it.

Pre-ordering this book was an excellent plan, because the Barnes & Noble store near us is having to re-order already just 3 days into the launch. These books are flying off the shelves.

Why? Goins has already proven himself as a fascinating story-teller and wise counselor regarding creative work and turning dreams into reality. This book is a thrilling culmination of all that for those of us who want to put our work out there and make a living at the same time.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.

I’m so glad I bought this book early. Reading it is like having a successful and kind mentor guiding me through the next steps of my career. Whatever your passions, you will glean so much from Jeff Goin’s own journey and wisdom.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

2) Refugees –  We never want to lose sight of the plight of displaced peoples – of refugees. Photographer Steve Evans and writer Zee Jenkins put together a beautiful and riveting photo essay – Trail of Tears – Refugees in Greece. Take a look and remember this is happening every day.Photo Credit: Steve Evans, Life Force Magazine

3) Community – We need each other. Community is something we experience when we reach out to those around us to help in whatever way we can. Community is also receiving that help when we are the one in need.Photo Credit: Army

How do we teach and model community to our children? How do we raise them to be situationally aware and compassionate to those around them? Please share your experiences (in the Comments below) of what you’re doing to raise up children to be adults who are socially responsible…who genuinely care about those around them.

This little video went viral and you’ll understand why. Beautiful!

4) Situational Awareness – This is a life skill that fascinates me. In fact, I wrote about it in detail here . Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It came to mind this week when I saw this fascinating video below about things we can easily miss if we’re not alert to our surroundings. Watch Evan below.

Hopefully it didn’t just make you uncomfortable. Hopefully it made you think how we might not just be aware of a threat or a crisis, but that we might intervene early enough to change the situation. To get avert the crisis and to get help for that person in trouble.

A friend of mine lost a brother to suicide. His was a terrible impulsive final act and his family will grieve for a long time. What about those who show signs of depression or deep sadness? Maybe we can help there as well. It’s tragic when the family has to fight alone for the life of a loved one. I don’t have answers here, but we all have community agencies who can help us.

5) A Memorial – The news cycle is fast and fickle. We hear news (usually bad news) and then while we’re still coping with the fallout, media moves on. We forget too soon, even when that’s not our desire. Today is my older brother’s 71st birthday. Robert died suddenly 10 years ago. His online memorial is here. Today, I remember him. Also today, I want to remember 17y/o Sarah Harmening.Photo Credit: 11 Alive News

I did not know her at all until a bus accident in Georgia sent many to the hospital, and her life was gone. Still, the little I know of her made me want to pause and remember her with you. Below you will note her journal entry, written on that bus sometime before that accident. As she herself wrote, I believe with her that, in her life and in her passing, “God is going to do incredible things”.

Photo Credit: Facebook – The Alabama Baptist Newspaper

Breaking News: Multiple Huntsville Church Passengers Injured in a Bus Accident Outside of Atlanta

Another terrible incident that was short-lived in the news cycle was the slaughter of 28 Egyptian Coptic Christians last week. Again, in this moment, I want to memorialize them and…remember them.

Gunmen in Egypt Force Coptic Christian Pilgrims Off the Bus and Kill 28 – Declan Walsh and Nour Youssef

Don’t Look Now, But… – this is a hard read about the ambush and killing of these Egyptian Christians. This article found me and I’m glad I read it although it was disturbing. I don’t know if all the details are true, but this is true: 28 lives were taken and bear remembering.

This Friday Faves was not as light-hearted as most are. Still it’s what continues to resonate in my head and heart going into the weekend. Be safe out there, pray for one another, and let’s be kind to those around us…we never know what a difference that can make.

Bonuses

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes – Carey Nieuwhof

Mom: Let’s Stop Drinking the KoolAid – OK…this is a rant on our focus on nutrition for our children – which is a good thing until it becomes an all-consuming thing. Good article wherever you stand on this.

YouTube Video – Real Life Trick Shots – Dude Perfect

5 Friday Faves – A Pirate and a Prophet, Eric Metaxas, First Responders, Silverado, and Darci Lynne Farmer – Ventriloquist

Happy Friday! We, in Richmond, are entering those early summer days of counting down the school year, indulging our international palates at all sorts of food festivals, and changing into our summer wardrobes wondering how clothes shrink in storage. Life every day is a gift. As I write that there are those with much harder weeks than I have at present. For you, my hope is that these Friday Faves can lighten your heart and lift the burden for a bit.

1) A Pirate and a Prophet – Our family is a music-loving bunch, albeit with very diverse tastes. Music is such a amazing medium of communication that can touch our hearts, refresh our memories, and set our feet to moving. One musician we all love, as a family, is that guy at Beyond the Guitar. A classical guitarist, he has taken to arranging music from videogames, films, and TV shows. All his music has a strong emotional component because, as a fan put it one time, he connects to the heart in a transcendent way. His music of late is also tinged with nostalgia either because of a shared film/TV experience or the strong memories of childhood, playing games with friends. His most recent arrangement of He’s a Pirate (from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series is beautiful, lighthearted and playful. 

Along with this pirate, I wanted to highlight a prophet musician, Bono of the Irish band U2. He and the band appeared recently on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and performed “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for” in memorial for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing on May 22, 2017. The YouTube video below includes that performance as U2 is joined by a Gospel choir from the audience. The choir interjects the redemptive death of Christ for us to take away our sin and shame. Both the band and the choir closed in a grand harmonic hallelujah on the title sentence of the song. The brokenness of this world is a constant reminder that we will not find all we’re looking for this side of Heaven.

U2 Takes Jimmy Kimmel Audience to Church 

I previously wrote about Bono’s faith here. As for Beyond the Guitar? Pretty much every week (search it….and I’m not embarrassed).

2) Eric Metaxas – Eric Metaxas is a prolific writer, political commentator, and talk show host. He is the author of Bonhoeffer and If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Whether you agree with him or not, he will make you think.Photo Credit: YouTube

YouTube – Eric Metaxas – White Chair Film – I Am Second 

Well…speaking of Metaxas…and funny thing happened. This week, I picked up a book from the floor in our kiddie reading area at home. It was a Veggie Tales book entitled God Made You Special (2002, Zonderkidz publication). My wee granddaughter and I plowed through the pages, and closing the book I discovered the author.

It was Eric Metaxas. I loved that! Children’s books written by deep thinkers. Love that. God made YOU special, Eric Metaxas.

3) First Responders – Yesterday I took apple pie and ice cream to the crew of Henrico County’s Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad. After my last brush with these guys in action, I am so grateful and wanted to use Friday Faves to give them another shout-out. Their cooperation together is so seamless in caring for people in crisis that I didn’t know who really to thank. So men and women of Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Rescue Squad, thanks again!Photo Credit: Lakeside Rescue

It’s possible I’m late in the practice of expressing gratitude to first responders. It’s definitely warranted in my situation, but it’s a great idea to get to know our first responders and to introduce them to our children and grandchildren…as allowed by their schedule. That day they were out on a call and returned to pie and ice cream from a grateful recipient of their care.

4) Silverado – in 1985, a great American Western was released. Written, directed, and produced by Lawrence Kasdan, this film is incredibly special and is still highly watchable over 30 years later.Photo Credit: Great Western Movies

Dave and I watched it one evening this week and still laughed at the lines from the movie that have become part of our family’s lexicon.

The dialogue is so rich. Two lines, in particular, resonate with Dave and me (both spoken by Danny Glover):

“It’s working out real good.” – Danny Glover responding to a question of how he was; bloody, beaten, and unscathed by it, in his resolve to get the bad guys.

“That ain’t right and I’ve had enough of what ain’t right.” – again, Glover

YouTube – Silverado – Film Clip – Ready for Revenge

If you could use a good long drink of Western good guys prevailing against bad guys, watch this great film. The soundtrack is musical candy. Just gorgeous.

5) Darci Lynne Farmer – Ventriloquist – This season of NBC show America’s Got Talent premiered this week. I don’t watch it usually but got a glimpse afterward thanks to social media. 12-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer was one of the performers in this first round of auditions.Photo Credit: YouTube

You may not be drawn to cute little girls with a puppet on their arm, but you want to watch this. Oh my goodness! Won’t spoil any of the details or the outcome. Watch below.

So those are my favorite finds. Would love to hear about some of yours. Did you watch Darci? Have you seen Silverado? Do you subscribe to Beyond the Guitar’s YouTube channel?

Have a safe and restful weekend…see you on Monday.

Bonuses

NIH Director Francis Collins song to SMU students

Here's the video in case you missed the song that Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sang to graduating SMU students during his Commencement address last Saturday.

Posted by SMU on Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday Morning Moment – That Thing That Doesn’t Need to Be Said – and If It Does

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Being an extrovert is a bit of a curse, isn’t it? Verbally-processing introverts struggle as well. That need…that compulsion…to get words out of our heads and in the open. We who suffer with this understand the wild nature of words. For those who don’t have this same impulse, you may also suffer under the weight of our words.

This is a public confession and redress of this particular conundrum.

[For those of you, like me, who feel sometimes your head might fairly explode if you don’t voice your thoughts so you can find resonance with a hearer, you are free to read the last two paragraphs first.]

I grew up with good teaching from an introverted mom who knew the power of words…and the importance of using them wisely.

This adapted from a past blog posting of mine:

My Mom raised us up with lessons on our speech from Scripture backed up by the cultural message of an old Walt Disney film, Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel. Only problem is the continuing conversation in our heads that color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions. These we still must wrestle down and be done with.*

First, this is not a guilting of any sort. For myself or anyone else. We who restrain words understand the risk we take in speaking… especially those things we feel almost an obligation to say. Those words we think will somehow right a tilting world. Those words we feel entitled to. The words that state our case or that of another.

Second, we know, often too late, that words not spoken are rarely misunderstood. Of course, silence can be deafening as well, but we have to put our own meaning into someone else’s silence. With spoken words, it’s clear what a person is thinking. So it needs to be worth speaking. The hearer may have a very different take on the matter. Thus the risk and wariness that must accompany speaking boldly.

Third, does what we think need to be said? Will it make a difference in the positive to what’s going on in our heads? Or will what we say only add to a problem, rather than bringing it closer to resolution?

There’s a pithy and true saying floating around the internet about thinking before you speak. Here is a visual of it.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Jo Quinlan

Along with this, these days, is Think Before You Post. How many times have we deleted a Facebook or Twitter post put up in haste, hoping it came down before being read by those significant in our lives who would be hurt or offended by it? Sigh…Photo Credit: Flickr

Is our opinion so valuable as to cause pain to those who matter to us? Not. At. All.

Photo Credit: Hannah W. Potter

All that being said, finally, what do we do with the words building in our heads about massive concerns, witnessed injustices, shifts in worldview or mission drifts? There are words, as I see it, that have to be expressed almost to understand the whole picture of a thing going on. These words, raw and impassioned, we don’t speak randomly or post publicly (except in the rare occasion of stopping harm). These words if expressed may only yield spiritual reprimands, or hurt silences, or long tirades from disagreeing hearers/readers. The words that must be said, words that you know may have disastrous consequence, might need the hearing only of a trusted friend…at least at first. This sort of friend will hopefully help guide you to sort out that which does not need to be said and what does – to whom, in what manner, and on what occasion.

Oh the wisdom in thinking before we speak. How thankful I am for those trusted friends who refuse to think ill of me when words spill over! Friends, and family, who know my heart is not meant to wound, who help me sort out my words and what to do with them. Friends who know I take no joy or satisfaction in anything bordering on gossip or slander. Friends who listen, and may agree and resonate, but counsel with me – about what must be shared and what is best left unsaid. Friends who pray with me and remind me to pray. In my book, that is never spiritualizing…prayer is as real a thing as all those thoughts that can rob me of sleep…but so much better.Photo Credit: Flickr, J. D. Hancock

Anybody out there have the same struggle? Or a different struggle with words? Any helps you want to share? Shoot us some of your words in Comments below.

*Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills Writer

Speech, Power and Significance of

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Recognizing Doublespeak, On Distraction, Uncelebrated Moms, and Colored Glass

On this quiet, rainy Friday morning, I’ve looked back on another week of days. Days that can transform our thinking as we brush shoulders with people like us and not so much. Days that introduce different ways of thinking that require us to check our own. Days that arrest us with their beauty and days that move us to note beauty where it seems lacking…but it isn’t. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. Your thoughts, please? In the Comments below.

1) Beyond the Guitar – Over the last few months, I have discovered a strange dichotomy in my experience of video games and beautiful music. In my mind, those two things did not exist together. I was wrong. Not a big fan of video games, I am now drawn to the music of many. Thanks to the arrangements of classical guitarist Nathan Mills.  His most recent arrangement and YouTube posting of Yearnings of the Wind composed by Yasunori Mitsuda is hauntingly beautiful. This song is from the music score of popular video game Chrono Trigger: 600 AD. Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Patreon

His arrangement begins almost like a melody you would find opening a turn-of-the-century music box. Pure and lovely. Then it moves to a romantic rendering of Mitsuda’s piece, such that you might hear in the background of a small café in Italy.  Just wow!

Funny thing: I love this piece and have not one bit of sweet nostalgia from playing this game…as so many will have growing up with this game.

Listen here.

YouTube Video – Stop Waiting For Things To Be Perfect – #NathanTalks – Beyond the Guitar

2) Recognizing Doublespeak – From the time our children were small, we tried to teach them how to cut through messages that seemed true but were not. We wanted them to be critical thinkers and not take the things they heard as fact just because they were spoken with authority from authorities. We wanted them to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion.

Photo Credit: Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal

Doublespeak is defined as language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.Wikipedia

“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it, and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.”Edward S. Herman

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Whether there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.” – George Orwell in Politics and the English Language

When we gather around the dinner table these days, our children are adults and have their own ideas and tolerances about doublespeak. We still talk about current events under the microscope of discerning the doublespeak, what the intention of the speaker is, and what bias I bring to the interpretation.

A high-ranking government official in the US was sacked this week. For weeks prior to his dismissal, his firing was insisted upon by one political party. Immediately after his firing, the action was deemed suspicious by the same party. Whatever was warranted in that action, we struggle with determining what is true and noteworthy in our present political climate.

What we believe about something can be affected by cleverly crafted messaging. I really loved The Oatmeal comic You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You . It’s a graphic illustration of how we might be made to change our mind on something. The key here is the compelling nature of the message and our core values. Our core values inform our worldview. Our worldview can change as we absorb a changing culture’s views. That is why revisiting such things with people you trust, whether they share your worldview or not, is important. Otherwise, we begin to believe the messages – the doublespeak – without thinking critically what we are really buying, and giving up, in believing/accepting the message. Something to consider…

You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You – Classroom VersionThe Oatmeal – Comics

The Psychology Behind That Popular New Comic From ‘The Oatmeal’ – by Austin Cross and A Martínez with Lori Galarreta

Good Leaders Persuade. They Don’t Manipulate. – Harrison Monarth

3) On Distraction – I struggle with distractions, always have. Long before the various diversions found online became my struggle. Photo Credit: Flickr

This week, David Mathis posted a great piece entitled You Can Defeat Distraction. He talked about the importance of “setting our minds” on what matters. Where our mind is “at home” is also a factor. I want my own thoughts to return to God and the things of God. Just this week, an ancient Scripture verse has been on my mind: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) This consideration follows Mathis’ take on defeating distraction. If I can truly say “I love God” with how I spend my time and who and what I invest my time in, then the issue becomes a non sequitur – Distraction is checked.

What do you think?

If you prefer a less-spiritual take on this, check out Marcel Schwante’s article Neuroscience Says Doing These Activities Will Help Keep Your Brain More Focusedhe prescribes such helps as power naps, scheduled downtime, gratitude, and end-of-the-day wind-down rituals.

4) Uncelebrated Moms – Mother’s Day is a holiday celebrated around the world (not on the same date but remembered still). As Mother’s Day looms here, we prepare in the US to celebrate and be celebrated – fueled by TV commercials, social media blasts, and sometimes wild expectations of our own.

It got me thinking this week about the moms who aren’t celebrated. Let’s celebrate these moms here. I want to celebrate my youngest son’s birth mother who could have aborted him in a culture where she would have been shamed if her pregnancy became public. I celebrate the foster mother who loved him for 14 months until he came home to us (see pic).

Let’s celebrate the moms who aren’t in positions of being celebrated this week – those moms who miscarried; those moms who lost children to accidents, wars, or other calamity; those moms who care for children unable, by physical or mental challenge, to celebrate them; those moms whose children have walked away from them…for reasons they don’t understand.Photo Credit: Soldiers Magazine

Not all of us have moms who are easy to love. I did and still do in my mom-in-law. Still for our own sakes, and that of the next generation, finding something to celebrate in these moms can be so redeeming…for them…and for us.

Remembering, Honouring Our Unsung and Uncelebrated Mothers

YouTube Video – Mom Crush

5) Colored Glass – To close, I want to tell you about a joy from my childhood. My mom grew up just after the Great Depression. She knew a level of poverty I can’t begin to understand. Because of it, and maybe because of her own inclination, she surrounded us with beauty growing up. In the small house where she raised four children, she and my step-dad built open shelves across the windows in the kitchen and dining room. On this shelves she displayed mid-century whiskey decanters which she filled with colored water. I wish I had a picture from those days…it was so beautiful to my little-girl eyes. Walking into those rooms, on waking from sleep, with the early morning sun streaming in, seeing those decanters was like looking through stained glass windows.

Because of this, because of my mama, I have always loved colored glass.

My kitchen window

Tiara Exclusives Glassware – In the 70’s and 80’s, Mom became a sales agent for this glass. She sold a lot of it, and bought (or was awarded) lots which she passed on to all of us. Beautiful colored glass.

Welcome to the weekend y’all. If you’ve had some favorites this week, please comment on them below.

Bonuses: A Quote on The Love of God/the Like of God, and Ducklings

When you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. While Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is busy trying to be like Jesus, Mary spends her energy being with him. And in being with him, Mary becomes like him.

It was at Jesus’ feet that Mary learned she was deeply and dearly loved. But she also learned something more. At Jesus’ feet, Mary learned that Jesus liked her. And when you know that you are liked…it changes everything…in Christ we are the apple of God’s eye, he takes great delight in us, he rejoices over us with singing… – Scott Sauls, Befriend – Create Belonging in An Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear

Photo Credit: Amazon

Video – Family of Ducks Jump Into Water – Jukin Media

 

Monday Morning Moment – Leading When You’re In Over Your Head – Cultivating a Thick Skin and Tender Heart

Photo Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

First, a leader has to recognize he/she is in over their heads. This often doesn’t happen because it’s incredibly threatening to a person’s ego as well as the ability to execute responsibilities. If a leader can wrestle with the actuality that her/his job is beyond her ability today, then there is great hope both for the leader and those under their authority.

Carey Nieuwhof and Eric Geiger are two leaders I follow on Twitter. They write extensively on leadership and have that platform because they are life-long learners and savvy watchers of life. They have “skin in the game” and have learned how to lead and continue to do so. No finished product here which gives them even more credibility to be heard.

I want to briefly summarize a couple of their articles and then point you to read the rest. If you are the leader in over your head, you will find help here. The same goes for those under the lead of a struggling leader.

Some time ago, I bookmarked Carey Nieuwhof’s piece How To Lead When You’re In Over Your Head. He lists out 5 steps to dealing with that reality and I have posted them below. If they seem simplistic to you, they are simple but not easy.

  1. Stay humble.
  2. Get a great team around you who are smarter than you.
  3. Become an avid learner.
  4. Grow comfortable saying “I don’t know”.
  5. Trust God.

There is no shame in finding yourself in over your head if you face it and push through it. No shame.

We often default to focusing on our strengths, and lead out of them instead of dealing with the weaknesses taking us down…to our detriment and that of the organization. You know that adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, the leader in over her head can flip that on its head by breaking what’s not broken.

Read Nieuwhof’s coaching on his 5 steps. What will help any of us to be successful in dealing with a situation where we’re in over our heads is to do heart and skin checks. I say this after reading Eric Geiger’s article Thick Skin, Tender Hearts, and Four Types of Leaders.

Photo Credit: Eric Geiger

Every one of us in leadership can work through Geiger’s diagnostic and check the tenderness of our hearts and the thickness of our skin.

For those dealing with the ripple effect of the leader reeking unchecked havoc in the workplace – either because she seemingly doesn’t really care or cares more about her own ego, identity, or position than she does her employees or customers. This is a sometime reality in the workplace. Don’t be pulled down or disqualified yourself by this. It could change at any time.

You may think there’s nothing you can do about such a situation and you may be right, to a degree. However, you are completely empowered to check your own heart and skin. Has your heart grown calloused in a difficult work situation? Has your skin grown thin where you take things too personally?

Geiger, as with Nieuwhof, gives great counsel on how to cultivate that tender heart and thick skin. You may not agree with all of what both writers say (they speak from a Christian worldview). However, they have wisdom for anyone who wants to grow professionally and lead well in whatever situation you find yourself.