Category Archives: Friends

Friday Faves – Leadership, Storytelling, Crowd-sourcing, and Clarity

Straight forward into the weekend! Here are my four favorite finds of the week. I usually post five but this has been several days of computer and internet snafus…so we’ll stick with these four today. Thanks for taking the time to scan them, and please comment below on your finds for the week.

1) Leadership – Bookmark this week’s blog by Brian Dodd on Leadership. Dodd has been live blogging the various speakers at the Rethink Leadership Conference. His quotes from some of these talks are incredibly helpful…making it like we got to be in the audience. There were several great leadership speakers at Rethink. I’ve included Dodd’s notes on three and a link to a fourth.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

  • Carey Nieuwhof’s Opening Thoughts on Leadership: The reason vision falls flat is you don’t have a strategy. Clear strategy provokes deep fear. Ambiguity never provokes fear. Clarity does. Strategy is the execution of your mission and vision. Strategy becomes divisive because it is clear. The last 10% of the change is hardest. The clearer you are on your strategy, the simpler it is, the more it is written down, the easier it is. It’s easy to change something someone else built. It’s much more difficult to change something you built. The temptation to strategize once is very strong and the direct path to irrelevance.
  • Jeff Henderson on Keeping the Main Thing the Main ThingInsideritis – a malady afflicting the vision of an organization resulting in focusing on insiders over outsiders. The role of a leader is raising people to run the business and you be out in the community bringing in new customers. Vision leaks. And so does inspiration. What are we here for? This is a vision inventory question. 4 Rhythms – What do you meet about? What do you talk about? What do you see? What do you celebrate? Everybody likes getting their Instagram photo liked. It reinforces behavior. 999% of Instagram photos from churches are about what’s happening in the church. We need to be about what’s happening in the community. Celebration is something leaders can overlook. One of the best things you can do as a leader is write three Thank You notes a day.
  • Dan Reiland on Essential Elements to Lead Your Staff Well: 5 Categories Of Hiring – Culture. Selection. Development. Performance. Teamwork. Culture is who you are, what you value, and how do you get things done. Culture determines how you see staff. How you see staff determines how you treat staff. Lead with vision, not job descriptions. Trust is the foundation of empowerment. Micromanagement and control kills trust.  What you get people with is how you keep them. When you can’t recruit with vision you have to buy them. Never lower your standards. It’s better to go without than hire the wrong person. You’re not hiring an administrative assistant to make your life easier. You’re hiring an administrative assistant to make you more productive. Chemistry wins the day. Assume competence. Identify competence before the conversation gets serious. Embrace the 2X Factor. Pour twice as much in as you expect out. You do this because you care. You can’t develop people well if you don’t care. Not everybody cares. You can’t fake caring. The secret to being a great coach – Pay Attention. Champion progress, not performance. Don’t apologize for accountability. You have created or allowed your current circumstances. Trust is the core, the epicenter, the bedrock of teamwork.
  • Carey Nieuwhof’s  Closing Thoughts on Pastors and Cynicism: I was the guy who sent people to counseling.  I didn’t get counseling. Cynicism doesn’t happen because you don’t care.  It starts because you did. Cynicism starts because you know too much. Cynicism is a choice.  Life actually doesn’t make you cynical.  You make you cynical. The antidote to cynicism – Cynicism melts under the relentless hope of the Gospel. The best antidote to cynicism is curiosity.  The cynical is never curious.  The curious are never cynical. Curiosity is a discipline.  You can learn it.

37 Leadership Quotes from Les McKeown – Predictable Success – From the Rethink Conference – Brian Dodd on Leadership

2) Storytelling – Don’t you love a good story? Part of the magnificence of a story is its delivery. All Y’All is a podcast out of Louisiana. If any of you are from the South and have transplanted your lives elsewhere, this is a place, you can rest your ears on your mother tongue.  I discovered a sweet-with-Southern-drawl episode on referral of a friend. The guest storyteller was Amy Lynn Treme, a preschool teacher from Shreveport, Louisiana. Her story about a pet store job and supervising a field trip with exotic pets, including a large snake named Monty, is hilarious! Listen here.Photo Credit: All Y’All

3) CrowdsourcingCrowdsourcing or crowdfunding is a growing process we use today to gather financial support, services or solutions, via the internet, from multiple individuals or groups.

Photo Credit: Startup Daily

We are familiar with GoFundMe and KickStarter, but there are many other platforms, depending on the situation or need. Wikipedia is a much-used and much-beloved crowdsourced venture. My favorite charity is Baptist Global Response; it receives some of its support via crowdsourcing. This avenue of support can benefit non-profits, individuals in crisis, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and artists.

In another era, the great patrons of music supported the composers of their day – musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn among others. We still listen to their brilliant music today, and we have their patrons to thank also. Creative work takes time, but rarely is that work itself rewarded until the album is produced, for instance, and concerts are performed. What if we, the general public, had a voice in which artists we wanted to support, besides just buying albums or concert tickets? Patreon is a crowdsourcing vehicle for artists and the crowds who would support them if they knew there was a way.

I watched a TED Talk this week on crowdsourcing by singer Amanda Palmer. The talk was The Art of Asking. Amanda Palmer lives a very free life and uses language and attitude in her music that is pretty much in-your-face. That’s very appealing for many. For me, her TED Talk was real and winsome and a great testament to crowd-sourcing…that taking your idea, your vision, your gift to the people and letting them be part of growing it.

I do have an artist like that in my life…a gifted musician who is both building his craft and trying to make a living at the same time. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. He has “a crowd” who partner with him in various ways – video production, sound, tech support, social media and messaging, startup advice, and financial investment.

Crowdsourcing isn’t charity. It’s partnership.

None of us can play classical guitar or arrange music like Nathan…none of us in Nathan’s “crowd”. Yet, we get to be a part of his vision and his music. I delight in the rewards of patronage.

4) Clarity – Here’s to clarity…and to those people in our lives who help us navigate through the murkiness of some relationships and situations in life. I experienced some life-defining clarity this past week and wrote about it already here.

Photo Credit: Jon Wiley, Flickr

Clarity is that enlightening aha or “got it” moment when you see that you were right…or wrong…and the relief of it, just the knowing, is electric. No longer entangled by “What is going on here?” or “Am I crazy?” Clarity comes with a path forward, because once you really where you are and the truth of that situation or relationship, you can advance. I didn’t say leave the relationship or bail out of the situation but move forward. There is a big difference there. When confusion and dis-ease clouds our thinking about something, we just want out. It’s uncomfortable. Clarity empowers and emboldens us to act with intentionality and even compassion.

Because of the aforementioned computer/internet woes (where I also need clarity as to what is the problem), I’ll close here. Maybe in the comment section we can talk about clarity. I’ll blog on it again sometime because it’s huge…not for escaping the murk and mire we may find ourselves in sometimes, but to forge a way through.

Have a great weekend out there!

 

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

5 Friday Faves – The Office, Accents, Resilience, Community, and Long Goodbyes

We’re rolling into the weekend with gorgeous Spring weather to draw us outside. The fact that the grass must be cut before the neighbors organize an intervention also motivates. Beauty surrounds us here as April moves to May and the flowers have popped open.

For your Friday refreshment, here are my five favorite finds for this week:

1) The Office – What a funny TV show! The Office (not to be confused with the British version) ran from 2005-2013 and still has a huge cult following. It is a parody of the American workplace. This mockumentary gives us an opportunity off-the-job to chuckle at the quizzical nature of some of our workplaces and relationships within them. Nathan Mills has done a brilliant guitar arrangement of both the show’s theme as well as musical interludes in several of the episodes.

Watch, enjoy, and remember this show that has humor and an innocence very different from many of today’s TV sitcoms.

YouTube Video – The Office Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

2) Accents – I love languages. Over the course of life, I’ve tackled Spanish, Arabic, and a bit of French. Living in North Africa for many years allowed me to be immersed in languages different from my own mother tongue. Language learning is such a useful discipline for all of us and I’m thrilled when I see parents helping their children become multi-lingual. The younger we are when learning languages the better able we are to naturalize our accents in those languages – substantiated here and here.  Don’t let the fear of a Southern (or other) drawl keep you from learning and speaking in a newly acquired language. Dialect coach Sammi Grant gives some interesting advice in her YouTube video How to Do 12 Different Accents .

3) Resilience – I just started following Jordan Harbinger recently, and here’s his take on resilience – Becoming Resilient – the Art and Science of Grit. Resilience has been intriguing to me for many years, and I wrote some months ago (here) on another author Jon Acuff’s counsel on grit.

Photo Credit: Crystal Coleman, Flickr

Read Harbinger’s piece on resilience.

When I talk about resilience, I’m talking about the ability to stay engaged with a person, project, or circumstance — to stay in the game — through its inevitable ups and downs…we’re talking about our ability to handle life, in all its unpredictable and maddening difficulty, without falling off, going crazy, or hurting ourselves in the process.

Harbinger goes on to talk (podcast and blog) about the journey of becoming resilient, or gritty. We all have life occurrences that input into whether we grow resilience or take on a victim’s worldview. We can’t change the situations maybe but we can change how we respond to them. Having strong, nurturing relationships and choosing to learn as much as we can from adverse experiences are two processes of becoming resilient.

I want to be resilient in the hard places and help those I love to be the same. Hard things happen, but we don’t have to be devastated by them. Learn from these guys, and others, about the resilient life.

4) Community – I write on community a lot (search the blog archives). True community is a rare and wonderful thing. This group (pictured below and others who didn’t make this supper) is like family for me, as we continue to live away from our extended family. In this circle of friends, we share deeply with each other and pray faithfully for each other. We may not always agree on everything, but the disagreements are grace-filled. Definitely no need to force a win here. Relationships matter. So (again) here’s to community. May you always find it where you are or may you have the courage to go after it.

5) Long Goodbyes – When we moved around overseas, we experienced tough long goodbyes. For our local friends in those countries, it wasn’t a sure thing that we would see each other again. That was hard. We would say our goodbyes several times over, and even had last goodbyes at the airport. The reality of those goodbyes (and the goodbyes we experienced leaving family in the US) would only sink in as we settled into our seats on the plane. It was then I was thankful for every exhausting moment of those last visits.

Another place we have long goodbyes is with loved ones who tarry in illness before dying. We question that sometimes. I know with our dad and that long goodbye, I can see the good that came out of the hard. There was so much we learned about him, about God, and about ourselves and each other during those last weeks. I’m very glad we all got through it and Dad’s certainly in a better place now.  What we gained in the stretching and serving of that season can’t be weighed except on a scale of love. I will forever be thankful for the family members who cared most intimately for Dad. The goodbye was longest and probably richest for them.

These days, I’m preparing to say goodbye (for awhile) to a dear friend as she takes a job far from here. Missing her already.Then there was the final walk-through this week of a beloved workspace (left behind over a year ago). The walls still ring with the memory of those impassioned conversations.

Long goodbyes can both wear you out and leave you somehow totally satisfied…you did all you could to honor that passing… whatever it was. That is something that can be counted joy.

Bonuses

Worship Wednesday – Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Forever friends. What a grace of God! These are friends we don’t choose necessarily. They choose us, almost in spite of our own failings at being friends ourselves.

I thank God for the friends who have coursed with us across continents, through births and deaths, and in both the mundane and extraordinary of life. Today we’re settled, for the most part, and there are days, in the solitude of this current life that I wonder if I have friends (I know…silly thoughts…when too much alone).

In truth, this life of mine has been full of friends…lifelong, through all sorts of troubled water, friends.

Some of these friends turned out to be family, while others God Himself brought across our paths and a spark of commonality and community blazed into a fire. A fire that has warmed my heart from days to decades. A fire that snaps me out of my doldrums to be a better friend myself.

Am I having a kumbaya moment? Absolutely.

Friendship is not something to be trifled with in life. I’m learning (thankful for friends who have suffered long with me over the years).

Part of what has stirred this gratefulness today is in reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Each short but full chapter addresses a kind of friendship in our lives. Within each kind of friendship, Sauls points to the kindness and mercy of God within those relationships…and how, in both strength and weakness, we have our place.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Another writer, Dave Zuleger, exposes our cultural bias of casualness with friendships.

We need to begin defining true friendship and brotherly love not by conforming to cultural expectations, but by looking at the face of Jesus and being changed to look and love more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we look at Jesus, we find a friend who loves when we are unlovable, and a brother willing to die for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. We find and experience a love utterly unlike what we normally find in ourselves, in our own hearts.

We can be such fickle friends, distancing ourselves from difficult people and situations. If someone seems too immature, too demanding, or too inconvenient, we bail. We find excuses (legitimate ones of course!) to distance ourselves from these kinds of friends. Yet, Jesus — the perfect, holy Son of God — went and hung out among wicked sinners who were extremely immature, difficult, and even dangerous (they crucified him!). – Dave Zuleger

Zuleger’s words reminded me of a very old song by Sharalee Lucas:

I see Jesus in your eyes, and it makes me love Him

I feel Jesus in your touch, and I know He cares

I hear Jesus in your voice, and it makes me listen

And I trust you with my love, because you’re His.

I see Him…Sharalee Lucas

This is the sort of friendship I’ve known. That friend who came quietly to sit with Dave during my cancer surgery. Those friends whose love for my mama has been lavished on me since her death. The friend from work who refuses to define or disdain me by my different political views. The friend neglected who gives me grace. The friends who see value in me that I don’t see. The friends who include me in their great works. The friends who love in spite of…

A cherished local friend told me recently that she was moving away within the next few months. Thinking of losing her, I was reminded of another old song about friends – the one Michael W. Smith published in 1983. We never have to lose a friend. As our travels over the last 20+ years have shown us, God gives us forever friends, not limited by time or geography. For this mercy, I will always be grateful to Him.

[BTW – for any younger friends who can’t wrap their sensibilities around this old song – I would love to know songs about friends that are super meaningful to you – so please let me know in the Comments.]

Worship with me, please…the God who calls us friend and who gives us the great grace of friends.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter of your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And with the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you live in
Is the strength that now you show

We’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

To live as friends

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

No a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends*

 We need to learn to see every friendship through the lens of the work of Christ on our behalf. To see that at the cross there is more than enough grace to cover a multitude of sins committed against us. To see the cross of Christ as the depth of suffering a perfect Brother was willing to endure. We need to remember a true brother moves closer when times get harder, and never leaves or forsakes a friend, even when the trial lasts a lifetime. – Dave Zuleger
Here’s to friends (images of just a few of the many amazing friends – would put up a lot more and you would get tired of scrolling) that God has given over the years):

*Lyrics to Friends (1983)

Song Facts – Friends – Songwriters: Michael W. & Debbie Smith

The Best Friends Are Born For Adversity – Dave Zuleger

Find a Friend to Wound You – Greg Morse

This Quiet Girl – To Know Her Is To Love Her, and I Know Her Very Well

30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.

“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.

This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.

As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.

Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.

This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.

She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.

When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.

Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. These are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.

When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.

After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.

This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.

Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).

…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.

[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]

I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.

So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

This Quiet Girl – To Know Her Is To Love Her, and I Know Her Very Well

30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.

“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.

This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.

As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.

Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.

This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.

She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.

When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.

Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. They are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.

When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.

After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.

This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.

Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).

…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.

[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]

I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.

So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.

Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh

[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]

Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Blog - Inner Rings 2 - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:

  • In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
  • Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy.  “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]

Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis – Collection of Addresses Including The Inner Ring

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

Why Are We Chasing? – Jeremy Writebol [Followup piece to above article]

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring of Cronyism – Elise Daniel – Institute For Faith, Work, and Economics

C.S. Lewis and the Inner Ring – Nicholas T. Batzig

The Inner Ring and the Moral Question of Our Time – Nozomi Hayase

Monday Morning Moment – Belonging and Going Deep and the Blind Presumptions that It’s Actually Happening When It Isn’t

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams – Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!