Category Archives: Critical Thinking

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.

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

I had an Aha moment recently when I discovered something had shifted in this season of my life. Social capital. To be honest, I didn’t even know what that was until a couple of weeks ago. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it and how to develop it…not for what it would benefit me personally but for what matters to me out there.

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. The more money a person or a society has, the easier it is to do things and the better off people are.Simple English Wikipedia

Photo Credit: IResearchNet

There is a significant difference between social capital and human capital. The Difference Between article below gives an excellent contrast. Simply put, human capital is the skillset I bring to a team or organization. Social capital involves networks or groups of people resourcing one another to achieve something they all want.

Difference Between Human Capital and Social Capital

I could be a part of a team that has enormous human capital – brilliant, gifted, visionary people – but our potential for making remarkable change would be hampered if we ignored the social capital we could bring to bear. This is the silo effect in organizations. It’s also the inner circle handicap in other parts of our lives – where we focus on our own benefit and not that of a larger society. I referred to Jeremy Writebol’s article on this here.

My experience throughout life with social capital (before even knowing what it was) has been rich and fruitful. Just a couple of examples follow:

  • Years ago when I worked in a cancer center in East Tennessee, we wanted a vehicle for patient and family support that would endure throughout the experience with cancer (either to cure or death). There were several on our team who brought immense human capital to the table. Fortunately we also brought the resources of many networks alongside – the patients and families themselves, a nearby university, the cancer center’s foundation, the local American Cancer Society, churches and other private benefactors, and volunteer groups. It was an amazing collaborative experience and that support program continues to this day.
  • When we were living in North Africa, and our children were in high school, I was struck by the number of musically gifted young people with no avenue to share their art. In fact, at their school as wonderful as it was, there was no parent group, no booster club of any sort, to drive projects that would benefit neither the school nor the community. This small observation grew into a much larger idea and then, with surprisingly wide-reaching social capital of parents, staff, and the students themselves, a group called Better Together was formed. Out of this group was birthed an annual visual and performing arts festival which continues today. Also out of this group, our group was able to use our social capital (our various social networks) to benefit some of the local charities as well as the overall offerings of the school itself.

Social capital can be a solid foundation for developing a service or product or opportunity that benefits many. However, it can be squandered or diminished if not nurtured over time. Social capital depends on trusting relationships.

Photo Credit: NBS

Because of several factors in my own life – relocating geographically, job changes, and a series of other personal hurdles – I have let some of my social capital go cold. This happened in a season when I’m probably most aware of the enormous potential for deep, broad-reaching networking opportunities.

I just haven’t focused there lately…

Until now.

Recently I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. To be honest, the title did not draw me in, but the content did. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on.

It’s not a fluffy challenge, I can assure you. In fact, it is supposed to be finished in a month, and I’m still stuck on Week 1. However, be assured, I WILL PREVAIL.

The first challenge is settling on a written goal of improving my social capital (and sharing it publicly). Here my personal struggle is deciding which of the many areas of benefiting others I’d like to land. If you are part of my now smaller social networks, you’ll hear more about this in the coming days. I’m going to need your social capital at play…and I’m confident we can accomplish more and Better Together.

What are your experiences with social capital? Your stories? Your thoughts on developing social capital? I would love to hear, in the Comments section below.

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Social Capital – IResearchNet

Measuring Social Capital – A Systematic Review – Prepared by Moses Acquaah, Kwasi Amoako-Gyampah and Nceku Q. Nyathi 

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

Photo Credit: Amazon

Worship Wednesday – Take My Life – Here Am I – Chris Tomlin

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

Don’t you love answered prayer? Even if it’s surprisingly different than what you were thinking. A week ago, in our community group (home group of Movement Church), I shared a struggle during the prayer time. My request was for God to restore a season of influence in my life…that I might influence others for good as had been my experience in times in the past. I was looking back and not forward, and my sense of what a life should be at my age and situation was different than how I saw it at present. Different and lacking?

Sigh…God have mercy…and…He did.

Those dear friends of mine listened, empathized, loved and prayed.

Then Sunday, at our time of corporate worship, there was great singing…and great revelation. The songs included How Wonderful, How Marvelous; Take My Life/Here Am I (which I’ll come back to); and To the Ends of the Earth. These were the kind of songs that call a people to revival…to hearts and lives poured out to God and for the nations.

On Sunday morning, I wasn’t thinking about that longing of my heart to be an influence for good, but God must have been. When our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached, I sensed the movement of God in my heart so strong, it was as if the message was just for me.

Cliff preached out of John 21 where Jesus appeared to His disciples during the days after His resurrection. Sitting around a cook-fire, Jesus ate fish with His friends, fish they had caught in a miraculous fashion (John 21:3-6). In a tender moment, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him…to which Peter answered in the affirmative. Three times Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered. The awful memory of his previous three denials of Jesus must have burned in Peter’s throat. Each time, Peter answered yes that he loved Jesus, and then Jesus told him to feed His sheep. No fanfare, no illusion of Peter’s excellent abilities to do so. Just a simple command, in the end, to follow Him.

In those quiet moments of intimate fellowship between sinner and Savior, Peter had to have felt the love of Jesus. Still in his impetuous, striving nature, he posed a question to Jesus about His will for another disciple (John 21:20-22). Again, Jesus drew Peter’s attention, not to what that disciple would be about, but what Jesus’s call was on Peter’s life. “You follow Me.”

Through Cliff’s sermon and those three words, the answer to my prayer rang from Heaven. It doesn’t matter my season of life or even what others, in my age or situation, are doing or how they are being used by God. I am to be about loving and following Jesus.

Even tonight, a friend reminded me of the story of the Apostle Paul’s incarceration which he entrusted himself into God’s hands. In Paul’s letter from prison to the church at Philippi, he spoke these words:

I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.Philippians 1:12-18

That friend who spoke truth into my heart has also struggled, as have I, with a season where it seems God has put us on some sort of shelf, or on the sideline. Oh, glorious truth, in every season, He calls us to follow Him. Paul, for months, chained to a prison guard, saw the truth. His ministry was not diminished in the least. It was only different…and his focus? Ever on the Lord. That is the key…for me.

Since Sunday’s gathering of our church right through tonight, I have been in revival. That old time revival where God’s Spirit would shake the rafters of a building or the folds of a big tent with the prayers, singing and preaching of His people. Where, of course, we would “sing another verse” until He had finished whatever work He was doing in the lives of every person present.

Photo Credit: Milanoapi

My children do not have revival meetings as part of their heritage. I wish they had…and maybe they will sometime in their future. I am thankful for growing up in the South when protracted revival meetings broke up hot summers into joyous returnings of hearts to follow Jesus.

Hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal wrote the lyrics to Take My Life and Let It Be in 1874. She along with Fanny Crosby and others wrote the hymns that stirred our devotion to God. In fact, these hymn-writers’ lyrics flamed the fires of revival across our world. The deep prayers of the faithful and the strong preaching of the churchmen in the 1800s and 1900s were all part of that.

Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio adapted the lyrics and melody of Take My Life and Let It Be for the worshipers of this generation.

Worship with me.

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee*

*Lyrics to Take My Life/Here Am I – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin & Louis Giglio; adapted from the hymn composed by Frances Ridley Havergal

Hymn Stories: Take My Life and Let it Be – Tim Challies

Songs & Scripture: “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” (Chris Tomlin, Frances Ridley Havergal, Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, Louie Giglio) – Scriptural foundations to hymn lyrics

Photo Credit: Baptist Hymnal, Hymnary

Monday Morning Moment – Servant Leadership – Trending Forward

Photo Credit: Tri Pham, FLickr

The servant-leader is servant first.

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then
conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?Robert K. Greenleaf
“…more likely themselves to become leaders” – Isn’t that how you thought Greenleaf would end that sentence? I read it that way. We don’t naturally think of aspiring to serve – “moving up the ranks” to better position ourselves to serve.
Why write about servant leadership?
So much has been and continues to be written about servant leadership. The terms change and trend a bit differently over time. Of late, relational leadership has gained in popularity. This type of leadership is defined as “as a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good.”
I love that concept and style of leading, but servant leadership goes even farther. Relational leaders can focus on their particular team or tribe, in a mentoring, collaborative role…for the good of those leaders and the organization and client base. Servant leaders aspire to a wide reach. Not just leader to leader, but to permeate the whole of the organization with an ethic that everyone, at every level, matters. This is a huge aspiration but the gains are huge as well.

Marcel Schwantes, founder of Leadership from the Core, has written a piece on the 10 Leadership Habits Found in the World’s Best Leaders. These ten habits are derived by Larry Spears from the Robert Greenleaf‘s pioneer work in servant leadership. Read the article for Schwantes full commentary, but the 10 habits follow:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualization
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Commitment to the Growth of People
  • Building Community

Another list of qualities to consider is posted by business leader Skip Prichard‘s 9 Qualities of the Servant Leader. Both Prichard’s list below and Schwantes’ list above are excellent markers for your own leadership:

  • Values diverse opinions
  • Cultivates a culture of trust
  • Develops other leaders
  • Helps people with life issues
  • Encourages
  • Sells instead of tells
  • Thinks you, not me
  • Thinks long-term
  • Acts with humility

Finish the whole of his article here (and don’t miss the comments – fascinating).

Photo Credit: Virginia Guard Public Affairs, Flickr

Marcel Schwantes has also written 10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science. In this piece Schwantes tackles the misconceptions about servant leadership as well as the many reasons why it’s the best form of leadership. I personally love this article because the evidence of the kind of company that prospers under servant leadership is undeniable. We know these organizations by their service – like Chick-Fil-A, Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, Ritz Carlton, FedEx, UPS, U.S. Marine Corps, and many others. Very persuasive.

Finally, I’d like to share General Stanley McChrystal‘s view of leading “like gardeners”. My husband is a gardener. Even after a long, tiring day at his regular job, he puts in the time necessary to tend the plants he’s growing. Bent over, on his knees sometimes, doing the work of nurturing them to reach their maximum fruitfulness.

“Regular visits by good gardeners are not pro forma gestures of concern—they leave the crop stronger. So it is with leaders.”

Employees and customers know the experience (or lack thereof) of the leader who truly attends to their needs. No drive-by visits here. No sprinkling of some corporate fairy-dust just by the sheer presence of the leader in the room, or the building, or on podcast/commercial.

McChrystal warns against the leader who becomes too important to personally serve his personnel or customers.

“I would tell my staff about the “dinosaur’s tail”: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”

Always in thinking of leadership, we are tempted to look to our own leaders…to measure them by the scale of excellence (seen above). The servant leader is servant first. Don’t get muddled up by checking off what your leader is not. Serve that leader, as you serve other personnel and customers. Serve. Serve by leading. Lead by serving.
“Servant-leadership is more than a concept, it is a fact. Any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.”
[Please don’t miss the links below…especially those not mentioned in this blog. Also please share examples (in Comments section below) of servant leadership you have experienced…or your own personal journey in becoming a servant leader.]
Journey strong. Serve long.

YouTube Video – Servant Leadership – Leadership From the Core – Marcel Schwantes

10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science – Marcel Schwantes

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader – Skip Prichard

The Understanding and Practice of Servant-Leadership – Larry C. Spears

General Stanley McChrystal: We Should All Lead Like Gardeners

Glassdoor’s 2017 Best Places to Work Rankings: The Importance of Common Purpose – Barry Sanders

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – 7 Skills of the Top Leaders of Tomorrow – Whatever Your Age or Stage – With Matt Monge – Deb Mills

Larry C. Spears and Robert K. Greenleaf

The World’s 10 Top CEOs (They Lead in a Totally Unique Way) – Marcel Schwantes

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – 3 Quick Reads on Leadership – to Help You Stay the Course, Not Be a Jerk, While Being Innovative – Deb Mills

Happily Ever After – What Makes Relationships Work – Poster – Frank Sonnenberg

Jesus and Holy Week – Saturday, Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Blog - Holy Week - Black SaturdayPhoto Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

[Adapted from the Archives]

As I write this morning, it is quiet outside. Very quiet. Lonely quiet. This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only One lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible? The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of his poem here.

We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

“Saturday is the “in between” day: in between despair and joy; brokenness and healing; confusion and understanding; death and life.” – John Ortberg

A dear friend of ours, Beth Wayland, shared with us this message by John Ortberg (quote above and passage below) from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again. So what do you think they were doing on Saturday between the tragedy and the promise?

Most of life is Saturday. We`re in a terrible position, but we have a promise from God that we only half believe. It`s after the doctor tells us we have cancer, but before we`re cured or find a new depth of faith to cope with it. It`s after the marriage breaks up, but before God heals the grief. It`s after we`ve been laid off, but before God uses our gifts in a new place. Most of life is Saturday. It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good. Maybe you`re feeling a little unlovable because of something you`ve done or haven`t done. Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

Blog - Garden Tomb from imb.org - Holy Week - Black Saturday

Photo Credit: IMB Resources

Holy Week – Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb

Question: What is Holy Saturday?

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 (starting 5 minutes in)

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend

Story Behind the Song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty