Category Archives: new beginning

Monday Morning Moment – A Word of Wisdom for the New Year – Holding Onto Good Employees

Photo Credit: Forbes

It’s the end of the year…anyone who is able is grabbing those vacation days and running with them. Probably few people are reading leadership posts this week, but even on end-of-year time off, I still think about the workplace. Occupational hazard (so to speak).

Thinking about the coming year always sets momentum for change for me. Not just wishful New Year’s resolutions…but actually taking strategic steps toward some change or another. When I came across Ron Carucci‘s post this week on leadership, he got me thinking about what keeps us on our jobs…and what causes us to pull away.

Thinking about work, we gravitate to what challenges us more than what satisfies us. Having interesting work, close colleagues, and a good boss would be a wonderful way to start the new year. If that’s your situation, then you should be off sipping hot cider, head in that new book, or playing games with your grandchildren.

If the challenges of your job are causing you to rethink whether to stay or look for other work, take some time to evaluate what is it that would put you on such a course of action. Having a job at all is no small thing. Go slowly in changing course and know, for sure, why you would make such a change.

There’s a cliché that surfaces in leadership articles (like the ones linked below) which speaks to the reasons why employees quit. It goes something like this: “People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.”Photo Credit: Pinterest

Bosses have their own struggles – balancing the bottom line with keeping their employees equipped and engaged. It can be complicated to keep the customers, employees, and investors all pleased with their efforts and the product/service provided. Still…it is those in leadership that have the onus of keeping the best employees on the job.

So much has been written about this, because losing good people is hard on everyone in the workplace. Carucci talks about the three types of power that bosses wield: positional, relational, and informational. Using their power, managers can do much to assure fair treatment throughout divisions, to invest personally in individuals and teams, and to keep information pathways open and multi-directional. Read more of Carucci’s advice here…and here.

I’ve had some great bosses across my career – bosses that made me want to stay even when the work had become too hard or too same and colleagues had become too wearisome (or maybe it was me). There were times I stayed because of my relationship with that boss.

One of those bosses was Mary Florence Woody. In my first job after graduate school, she was the director of nursing of an 1100-bed inner-city teaching hospital. I interviewed with her for the oncology clinical specialist job. In my mid-20s, full of youth and confidence with little understanding of how much I didn’t know, I presented myself to this great lady. She was a giant in nursing in those days, and for all of her career actually. She asked me big questions that day and listened deeply, and somehow I got that job. It was a tremendous launch into a profession that was very kind to me.

Photo Credit: WHSC

Ms. Woody gave me some great counsel that day. She told me not to let my youth or inexperience define me. “If you determine to get to know and revere the people and their work, at all levels, then respect and regard will be returned to you.” Over the whole of my seven years working there, in the role of educator and practitioner, I did as she had advised. Mopping up spills, delivering food trays, making beds, troubleshooting equipment, rounding with physicians, nurses, dietitians, and chaplains. In whatever capacity the patients were served, I tried my hand at it. Not always well…but with persistence. That’s how I learned how valuable each person was on the team…and it helped me have perspective on the piece of care I provided as well.Photo Credit: Massey

Mary Woody helped me from that first day. Did we hang out together? Absolutely not. She had enormous responsibilities and time constraints, but she communicated what mattered.  Ms. Woody cared about her employees and it was obvious to all of us. She also let us find our own way, but not without applying her position and influence on our behalf.

Was I a “keeper”? Not sure…but I never had to guess whether Ms. Woody had confidence in me. She did…and the strength of that kept me out of the ditch for months into that new role. In fact, opportunities came my way that I could never have imagined. Thanks to Ms. Woody and other colleagues like her, I left that job to teach at Yale University…having so much more to offer than before.

All that to say what? When we look to the future as to whether we stay in a job or leave for another one, we must reckon with what matters most to us. There is no guarantee we won’t find a similar set of circumstances in the next job, so there’s that…

I hope you’ll read the Carucci, Bradberry and Myatt articles below. They all resonate with the same message, just different aspects of it. What can make a difference in keeping quality personnel on the job? Care and control are the critical components – more caring and less controlling. Something we can all consider in the new year…whatever our position…

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Hold onto that resignation letter for a bit.  What would compel you to stay? When the right next job presents itself, take it…absolutely …but know for sure why you’re leaving this job. Then leave burning as few bridges as possible…like Jon Acuff advises, “Make sure you leave with one finger raised high: your thumb. As in, ‘Thumbs‑up guys. Thanks for letting me work here. I’m off to a different adventure, but you guys are awesome.'”

If you stay, maybe you can influence others by genuinely caring for them and by letting go of some control yourself. If your boss struggles in these areas, she could learn from you. Who knows?

Happy New Year…done with thinking about work for today… Bring on the apple cider.Photo Credit: Foodie Misadventures

Bad Mistakes That Make Good Employees Leave – Travis Bradberry

9 Things That Make Good Employees Quit – Travis Bradberry

10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You – Mike Myatt

Addicted to Distraction and the Possibility of Restoring a Longer Attention Span

Blog - Addicted to distraction - diygeniusPhoto Credit: DIY Genius

Recently I was at a training event in a remote area where I had no cell phone service and limited internet. It meant I went through stressful training and at the same time experienced a forced exile from screen time. I don’t even have to tell you which was more challenging.

Growing up in my generation was very different than now – playing outside until dark, talking for hours on the phone with friends, falling asleep to the comforting drone of Mom and Dad talking and laughing in their bedroom down the hall. If you’ve ever seen the 1999 film October Sky, it makes me think of Dave’s growing up also – playing in the woods, biking everywhere, building rockets, hunting and fishing.Blog - Playing Outside - jeffs60sPhoto Credit: Jeffs60s

We are enjoying different advantages now for sure…I wonder how our grandchildren will one day describe their childhood. Having computers and the internet have been amazing assets to our lives. The dilemma is when our screen life becomes more engaging that our real life. When “Facetime” replaces face-to-face time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunity to see people via phone. For instance, friends of ours who got married recently had a small wedding, BUT they had a friend live-stream the wedding and all the rest of us got to “be there” via Periscope. Saw the kiss and everything. 2016 March 5 - Megan & Brian Wedding Kiss

There is something to be said about all the electronic capabilities we have today. For sure.BLog - Addicted to Distraction - littleredfrenchPhoto Credit: LittleRedFrench

The problem is when objects take command of our lives. These screens (phones, TV, computers) eat up so much of our day. Also, what about when we start exchanging real time relationships with the barest minimum associations via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? When a friend decided to go off Facebook, I was bummed… At that time, she lived 6 minutes from me. Not like my friends in Morocco or Egypt where I depend most on Facebook to keep up with them. She lives right here in town. We can have real coffee’s and real talks on the phone. Sigh… I had pretty much relegated keeping up with her to social media. Now we’re back affiliated only in real life where I might need to call her. Imagine.

I’ve written about this before (here) and want to manage my life better in this area. Multi-tasking was always something I thought was a strength, but now, getting older, it hasn’t helped me develop much of an attention span (see Charlie Munger’s thoughts on this here). It makes sense that thinking long and hard on something would have a powerful impact on our success or decision-making. Focus. Concentration. These are the things that have suffered in my life with all the distractions.

Kyle Pearce wrote a small piece on being distracted and introduced me to the work of Nicholas Carr (who wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us). The 4-minute YouTube video below describes some of what he writes about:

Besides managing the distractedness in thinking, memory, and processing information, I want to nurture a habit of deep conversation. Sherry Turkle (author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age) writes about this and gives me hope.

Blog - Distracted - conversations - quotesgramPhoto Credit: QuotesGram

Turkle admits she loves computers because they have helped her make tremendous strides in writing, but they are not people. She writes as if she’s reading my heart. This disconnected connection we experience with one another is so illusory.

“Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed—and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing.” – Sherry Turkle
Here’s my hope and vision – to re-learn how to really be connected with people, including myself. To practice solitude. To quit living the excuse of being distractible. To learn how to think and work deeply, and to remember how to have deep, thoughtful conversations again.
I’m not prepared to stop using my phone for information, nor am I able to quit using the internet as a resource for work and life, but it’s entirely possible to restrict connection time.  Also, it’s exciting to think of how I might use that time I waste on the internet to actually be with friends and loved ones…to read more books…to rediscover what is right in front of me in real life…to know what it’s like to have (and enjoy) a quiet mind.

The good news is that the process of withdrawal is simple and the healing is spontaneous; because it is only the continuous high volume consumption of mass media that is keeping us sick. So, at root, the detox programme is merely a matter of Just. Say. No.” – Bruce G. Charlton

What might the next generation be like if our grandchildren are nurtured in this way? How can we help them have such mental muscle and true sociability that they could avoid being addicted to distraction?

It’s something to think about…off-line. Gone to find a real face and give that face my full attention.

Distracted? This is How the Internet is Changing Your Brain by Kyle Pearce

Multitasking – Giving the World an Advantage It Shouldn’t Have – Farnam Street Blog

Are We Addicted to Distraction? by Sophie at LittleRedFrench

The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – originally written in 1985, brilliantly prophetic of the future (updated in 2015)

Bosna Market & Deli – Great Food and a Flashback to Old Friends and a Distant War

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We have all had those days…when a bite of food can take you back and sometimes a far off. Here’s my flight of memories from today.

I am intrigued by all the international restaurants in our city. When a new one opens, it’s always appealing to try it, at least once. Bosna Market & Deli has been open a few months, and finally our son, Daniel, and I pulled in to check it out for lunch.

We loved it right from the front door. A sign was posted on the door different than any restaurant sign I had ever seen:

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Right there we wanted to be customers.

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This being our first time, the sole attendant (may have been the owner; wish now I had asked) helped us make our selection. We chose a cheese burek and a spinach burek.

Blog - Friday Faves - Bosna Market Deli (2)

The cheese burek took me back to our sweet years in Cairo, Egypt. It reminded me so much of the filo pastry filled with cheese (or meat and cheese). There it is called goulash (picture below).Egyptian Goulash - pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

As I ate that Bosnian savory, my mind linked this experience with a taxi ride in Cairo, years ago. It was during a time that the US had made some unpopular political decisions in the Middle East, and being American could lead to lots of awkward conversations. We still felt very safe but having learned Arabic we were often drawn into conversations where we were asked to explain our government’s decisions…as if we could.

In that taxi, that day, riding with two young Egyptian friends, the taxi driver launched into conversation with them first, and then, when he saw I was understanding, he included me. World politics rose to the top of the conversation, and, seeing I was very definitely foreign, he asked where I was from.

Before I could answer, one of my friends whispered to me in English, “Tell him you’re from Bosnia!” What?! I knew he was very animated and didn’t like America so much right then…but why Bosnia? She answered for me. Later, they told me that everyone was sympathetic toward Bosnia because of the war and that I wouldn’t have to talk about America to an unsympathetic Egyptian man.Blog - Sherine, Debbie, Heba

Other than seeing news reports on TV and online, that was my first occasion to confront what it was like for the Bosnians. It was the first time I even thought about them, to be honest, I am ashamed to say. The war was over by then, and it was confusing what really happened [I have since read much more about it].

Using the Bosnian nationality was to give me a break from being judged as the rich American that day…how strange was that?!

Then a few years later, when we were living in Casablanca, Morocco, I had the great blessing of meeting and becoming friends with this captivating Bosnian woman. She and her husband immigrated to Morocco after the war. We met through an international English class which I facilitated. All us women had so much fun together, swapping stories in English, Arabic, and French sometimes.2007 - June -- Amal, Meryem, Semsa, Fatima, Terri & Lizzy

Our Bosnian friend also had fun stories…but when the conversation turned to her experiences of the war, we listened quietly…to unbelievable acts of hatred from one people toward another. The Bosnian Muslims were victims of a severe ethnic cleansing, and the losses they experienced were beyond imagination.

[Sidebar – enjoying the Bosnian lunch back home with my memories stirred, I wanted to refresh my memory of the war, so read online awhile about those terrible atrocities…and the stories of kindness from strangers.]

Mallory Merda wrote a series of articles on a Bosnian family for The Sentinel, the local newspaper of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After the war, Bosnian refugees settled in Europe and around the Mediterranean Sea. Some however came all the way to the US. One couple, Semsa & Zehrid Alic, with two small boys, settled many years ago in Carlisle.

You can read some of their story in Merda’s articles (link below)…the accounts are fascinating and thought-provoking. The Alic boys are now young men, and the family is American. There is still the horror of war in their memory…and the cost of it lingers. There stories are like so many others – people displaced from their countries, their families, the lives they had before. How glad I am that they had sponsors in the US, just regular people like you and me, who helped them, loved them toward a new life here…a different life and a new beginning.Blog - Bosna - Semsa Alic & Family - SentinelPhoto Credit: The Sentinel

So this is how my mind works…distractable at best. Where it takes me in a day is sometimes where this blog goes.

If you have a Bosnian restaurant near you, you are in for a treat. Our food today was magnificent, and we will be back. I am hoping the next time to hear something of that Bosnian family who own the restaurant, here in Richmond, and of their journey to this hopefully peaceful place.IMG_4327

As we enjoyed their savory “made fresh every morning” food, I hoped they have experienced love from their neighbors here. I also hope they know that, now that we know what happened, we won’t forget either.

Bosna Market and Deli

Semsa Alic Finds Her Peace After Surviving Bosnian War

Farewell to Bosnia – See entire series of blogs on Bosnia – Genocide Prevention

Mostar - Dont forget - Alan GrantPhoto Credit: Alan Grant

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Monday Morning Moment – Change at Work – Moving Forward and Letting Go of the Past

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For two years, I had the extraordinary experience of writing for a work team put together by the president of a company to develop something really new. It was a phenomenal and humbling experience for me to observe a small and capable team taking a vision and fleshing it out for the broadest application possible.

The conference room had whiteboard walls where big ideas and wild possibilities were sketched out. Then the conversations expanded, adaptations were made, others (both inside the company and out) added ideas, and a process was born that could have tremendous impact on the company’s overall mission.IMG_3140

However…things can change. The budget tightens; the team breaks up; the company gets sold. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right time. Sometimes, a work has to be put on hold or transferred to the hands of another team or… fill in the blank.

One by one, the members of the team take other jobs, retire, or move into other assignments within the company. It happens.

The white boards go white again. The cubicles are cleaned out. The name cards are removed. The phones ring elsewhere. The mail is diverted to other places. IMG_3122IMG_3120IMG_3121IMG_3138

Is it as if this great creative thing never happened? Absolutely not!

One day, it will be the next right time, with the next adequate resources, and with the next trusted team. Never having to start at ground zero again…because of this team…and this time…and the work brilliantly accomplished together.

Moving Forward (2)

Somebody will always be the last person out, but each takes their memories with them…their experience…the wisdom gained…the relationships. Those are not left behind or placed in boxes. Those intangibles are the most real gains of our work lives.IMG_3128

In the long-running TV comedy series, The Office, Dwight Schrute watered the plant. No one noticed until he left the job, and the plant began to die. In the finale of the show’s last season, his office mates replanted it outside.IMG_3117 What a great metaphor in thinking about the varying gifts each of us brings to our jobs. At times, in our workday world, we don’t realize all that our colleagues bring to the team or company…until they are gone (re-assigned or in a job/situation elsewhere). It’s a good thing to remember and celebrate…and then…there comes a time when moving forward is the order of the day.

[Sidebar: To that precious one who did keep the plants alive for this team, all the others are still living and relatively healthy. Sorry about this one. Thanks for all the beauty you brought to this office.]

While going through this process of chronic transition, a friend has recommended a great book by William Bridges: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Bridges talks the reader through the three different phases of transition and gives practical strategies for dealing with these sometimes confusing and painful times.

“We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed.”   – William Bridges

I have a little desk toy that when you press it, a nasal electronic voice sounds “Moving Forward!” It is exactly what we needed to do, and we’re doing it.Moving Forward

You can only look back for so long. At some point you have to move forward. Moving forward is a good thing… Besides getting on with our life and work, it gives impetus to let go of whatever would hold us back whether good or bad. We learn from both and take both with us moving forward…hopefully in such a way that we celebrate what was good and we take heart in and wisdom from whatever the hard experience we leave behind. We move on.

In this last day of packing up and moving out, two little team-building signs from a by-gone era surfaced in the bottom of a drawer. The irony wasn’t lost. IMG_3137For you who were on this team and any who find themselves in a similar situation, I’m cheering for you. You, indeed, are great! Of course, no team today can ever really claim to be creators of a ground zero innovation or body of work. For sure, we all stand on the shoulders of giants

I wrote a series of articles on Jon Acuff’s book Do Over – Rescue Monday, reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck. [Two pieces are referenced below.] Acuff gives great counsel to anyone struggling in the process of moving forward. I’d like to close with a couple of his quotes on moving forward.

“Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude. – Jon Acuff

“Is living with the chaos of a decision easy? Not really… I try to create [chaos] sometimes as a way to hide from something else I’m afraid of. When real chaos comes…don’t fight it. If anything, lean into it. ‘Easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.” – Jon Acuff

What has helped/is helping you to deal with a current (or past)  disappointing work situation? Please share your story in comments below.

Jon Acuff on Character at Work – 9 Quotes & a Challenge – Part 4 of the Do Over Series

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

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

Transition: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges

The Challenge of the Prolonged Neutral Zone Era – (Insight from William Bridges, Managing Transitions) – Really good synopsis on this troublesome prolonged transition

Blog - Look Back, Look forward - Nourish the dream

Worship Wednesday – That Was Then, This Is Now – Josh Wilson’s Song of Jubilation

Blog - Josh Wilson - That Was Then 2Photo Credit: 95.1 SHINE FM

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.2 Corinthians 5:17

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.Ezekiel 36:26

Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. – Isaiah 43:18

To be truly forgiven is like no other experience. To know you have wronged someone and that person doesn’t just minimize it, repress it, or sweep it under some proverbial rug…but truly forgives you. To be the recipient of such complete, grace-filled forgiveness transforms a person.

God transforms us through taking all our wrongs against Him and, through His Son and by the Holy Spirit, He makes us right. Transformed into children of the One True God. We are no longer the same persons, even, that we were then. Not now, and not anymore.Blog - Josh Wilson - That Was ThenPhoto Credit: Pinterest

Do we struggle with sin still? Yes. While we live, we struggle, but with a heart and mind changed by a loving, righteous, all-wise God. We don’t live in perfection (yet) but we live in the strength of the Lord.

Thank God we never have to go back to the way it used to be.

Josh Wilson wrote a song that describes this so well – the then and the now. Worship and celebrate with me, singing or meditating on his song. Hmmm…this is more a song of jubilation than contemplation…so sing it out, if you know that forgiveness. If not, it’s still available to you. God draws us to Himself…hear His voice.

We used to hide from the light
We made friends with the night
We were headed the wrong way on a one way track
Going nowhere fast

We got used to the dark
We thought this is who we are
And we figured that we were just too far gone
But we were wrong

‘Cause love came running like a river
And we got washed in the water
Then He said you’re forgiven
Your sins are gone

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then and this is now

We’ve been remade by grace
We’ve all got new names
And nothing we do could ever change
What He did that day

When love came running like a river
We got washed in the water
Then He said you’re forgiven
And you belong

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then

If we turn and confess every unrighteousness
He is faithful and just to forgive
Oh, so turn and confess every wrong and regret
And see what it means to live

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then and this is now
‘Cause that was then and this is now*

*Lyrics to That Was Then, This Is Now by Josh Wilson

YouTube Video – Josh Wilson – That Was Then, This Is Now

YouTube Video – Story Behind That Was Then, This Is Now

Story Songs – New Release Today’s Review of album That Was Then, This Is Now

That Was Then, This Is Now – Audio CD – Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson Website

YouTube Video – This Is Now by Casting Crowns (Thrive CD) – following the story of the Apostle Peter

Monday Morning Moment – Last Monday of 2015 – Begin Again

Blog - Mondays with Garfield - Jim DavisPhoto Credit: Garfieldh8sMondays

Here we are on the last Monday of 2015. The last Monday of the year. For some of us, there’s a collective deep sigh! We made it through this year of tough Mondays. Celebrating…quietly.

Over coffee this morning, we talked about the huge build-up to Christmas, and how today, in comparison, is almost a let-down. I don’t feel that way at all. On the Monday after Christmas, I feel satisfied and hopeful. Christmas was wonderful…even with the heart hurt of not having all our children with us and my dad states away in assisted living. Hard things are always strewn across even the best of holidays.

We rejoice in what was good and hope for what can be in the year ahead.

That’s how I also feel about this last Monday of the year. We didn’t deal with a terrifying diagnosis but we have friends who did. We didn’t have to grieve the loss of a family member but we grieve still the great loss of dear friends this year. We went through extraordinary change (in work and community) but thankfully kept those relationships. We did not suffer joblessness and do not take for granted the great blessing of gratifying work.

Work this year was oddly harder than any year I can remember. Some situations in life we expect to be hard – like the adjustments we made living cross-culturally, and like the year my mom died. This year was an unexpected hard.

In a season of chronic financial leanness and a year of organizational change, including planned and necessary downsizing, we still have a job. Months of “just keep doing what you’ve been doing” may now be winding down to make way for new direction and engagement. We breathe deeply the air of new possibilities in the days ahead.

Although there is nothing innately powerful in a last Monday of the year or the coming first Monday of 2016, the idea of a fresh start energizes us with hope and anticipation. This ending and beginning do stir our hearts and minds to begin again…

In 1970, a film was released entitled Scrooge. It was a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The old curmudgeon Scrooge was very well-played by a 30-something Albert Finney. As I look to this Monday and the next, his song “Begin Again” came to mind. If you have never seen it, watch the YouTube clip:

In thinking of finishing out this year at work, and looking to 2016, I hope you also can celebrate whatever victories and mercies you experienced this year. In looking to 2016, I pray you have anticipation of what comes. If you’ve had a hard year, too, then you are even more equipped to take hold of whatever comes.

Scrooge, in his song above, thanked “the world” (1:42) that he was able to begin again. Odd line really. I thank God for another opportunity to begin again – this day and all the days given to us ahead.

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”Psalm 34:8

Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney – available on Amazon.com

YouTube Video – Scrooge with Albert Finney (1970)

Monday Morning Quarterback – What a Sunday of Football!

Monday Morning Moment – Marking Lives Well-Lived, Work Well Done

2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 004Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross

There are no ordinary days, nor are there ordinary lives. This morning, Monday, November 2, is a day I want to mark as an opportunity to celebrate extraordinary lives. Yet, how is that even possible? People who live for grand causes and for God Himself don’t look for celebrations or accolades. What do we do then when we want to stand in ovation and clap them back out onto the stage for an encore?

Celebrating retiring colleagues is best done by those who know them well – who have watched them through the most difficult times, seen them push through seemingly insurmountable circumstances, resonated with their joy in the simplest triumphs.

How do we mark lives well-lived and work well-done? I don’t have that answer yet…except to express personal gratitude and to live and work in the shadow of these who went before…to steward well their example.

For today, I will enter into that process of puzzling over how properly to celebrate the lives and work of those “finishers” who have done well to fix their eyes on the goal…right through. It doesn’t feel enough, but for today, I join a great cloud of witnesses, so grateful to see how it is to finish well.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

As I sort this all out, I would be grateful for any stories you have of celebrating work well done and lives well lived. Following  are some quotes of those who finished strong or who, living still, are living well.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” – C. S. Lewis

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” – Jonas Salk*

“When we are at the worst times of our lives, when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be, when we are at our highest point as well, when things are going really well, we want somebody to comfort us and be there for us and to say, ‘Well done.’ That’s Jesus!” – Russell Wilson*

“Well done is better than well said.” – Benjamin Franklin*
“The pinnacle of the fulfillment I can ever experience for my spirit and soul is to hear from the Lord, when I see Him face to face, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.'” – Nick Vujicic* Blog - Well Done - Nick Vujicic
The Apostle Paul, in an encounter with Jesus, was completely transformed from a life of murderous, religious zeal to a life of complete surrender to God (something altogether different). He speaks of living life, and finishing well – likened to fighting a good fight or running a race to the finish.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:6-8
2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 002Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross
For us all…there is still a race to be run.
“My legacy doesn’t matter. It isn’t important that I be remembered. It’s important that when I stand before the Lord, He says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. I want to finish strong.” – James Dobson*
“It is finished.” – Jesus, from the cross (John 19:30)
Blog - Well Done - Parables of the Cross - Lilias Trotter

Worship Wednesday – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Debbie - self-portrait

“I will restore to you the years of the locusts…” – Joel 2:25

If ever a song spoke to my deepest heart hurts, it’s this one. Laura Story’s Til I Met You. In my younger years, even after coming to faith in God as a child, I strayed far from Him. If you were a casual friend, you might not have noticed. I was in church, and fairly religious. That was the problem…I spent years tuning my affections toward the cheap shininess of the world, and missed a joy-filled intimacy with God…all at that same time.

He wasn’t the One who moved. I had walked away…deceiving myself that I was still following Him, serving Him, devoted to Him.

Then, like the Prodigal Son, I woke up to the darkness in my own heart and remembered where I belonged. By God’s grace, I crawled out of the pit dug with my own poor choices. Laura Story’s song Til I Met You could be my testament of a life restored – not by my own resolve or a force of nature but – a genuine encounter with God Himself.

I first met God as a nine-year-old. Unchurched until two years before, I was not schooled in the person of God. Even as a child, I became an eager student of Him. The Truth of God’s Word was so freeing for my little heavy heart. Even then, I knew the weight of sin – the wanting to be good and kind and helpful and the chronic tripping over myself in failure.

When I heard it was possible to be forgiven of that sin and to experience the power of God in my life, enabling me to become more and more like Jesus, I was completely captivated and drawn to Him.

Three different occasions I lost touch with God and my place as His child. Brief but significant periods in my mid-teens, mid-20s, and mid-30s. Sin and self-justification had wormed their way into my heart. For a season, even in the midst of being involved with church, I went my own way. The joy and peace that were mine in following Christ drained out of me as if I were a cracked vessel.

Then, like in Laura Story’s song, the darkness of my sin and deception was illuminated by the Spirit of God, and I saw what mattered. What really mattered. My relationship with the Lord.

It’s been many years now, and the Prodigal is home for good. I understand so well Peter’s response to Jesus, when Jesus asked His disciples if they would leave Him:

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”John 6:67-69

When we have an encounter with God, and receive Him in saving faith, He begins a transformation in us that trumps anything the world holds out there for us. He adopts us into His family; we are His. What happened before…the terrible choices, the regret, the brokenness – are carried away by His perfect love for His children.

Worship with me. If you are still struggling in some dark pit of your own choosing, He will set you free from that. I know. He did it for me.

I’ve known pain and deep regret
I’ve known the weight of my mistakes like the back of my hand
I’ve known deception and all its games
I’ve known the way it feels to drown in my own shame

But I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You.

I’ve known rejections
I’ve bought the lie that I could never overcome the hurt inside
With arms of mercy You reach for me
Tore the veil away and gave me eyes to see
You’re all I need

And I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (I’m accepting I was hopeless)
Till I met You (I was stumbling in the darkness)

I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release; You’re the one Who brought me through.
And I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You

Do You Know Jesus? – The Gospel in Four Minutes

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus – Spoken Word – Jefferson Bethke

Lyrics to Til I Met You

YoUTube Video – Official Lyric Video – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Story Behind the Song – Til I Met You

Laura Story Music

Worship Wednesday – You Are Everything – by Matthew West with an Amen from Priscilla Shirer

Blog - You Are Everything

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.1 Corinthians 8:6

Don’t you love those nights when you fall into bed, snuggle into sheets, and, close your eyes, satisfied with your day? Then as seems right, sleep comes immediately. That is usually my experience, with a bit of roll-call prayer to God.

Last night was my other nighttime experience. Eyes wide open. Mind on alert. Whether I needed sleep or not, it would not come until so many people, situations, concerns, and fears rolled through my consciousness. My Mom would tell me of many nights like this…she was a worrier. She also taught me how to pray for such times. So I did.

For that dear friend whose cancer is raging. For parents with health issues. For children with job issues. For Muslim friends in Ramadan. For leaders at work. For my country, and this strange culture. For myself. Oh, God, am I tracking with You or off doing my own silly thing?

Somewhere between sleeplessness and morning, God’s peace fell on me. On waking, the few hours of sleep seemed enough, and I woke with Him on my mind.

I heard a long time ago that “if you can’t sleep, pray. The devil would rather stop disturbing your thoughts than have you find God there.” Whatever happens in those nights when sleep doesn’t come, I have found something extraordinary can follow. The situations that keep me awake are still real in the morning, but God is even more real. His presence is the sweetest thing I have ever known.

He is everything to me. It doesn’t always seem so, as I busy myself with the activities of the day. It may not feel so as self-centered thoughts push to the forefront. Still…a moment of quiet. A Bible verse remembered. A friend’s speaking truth to my heart. God draws near.

Missing a little sleep is nothing compared with His presence in those moments. His love in the battle.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

Priscilla Shirer knows:

Worship with me through this song by Matthew West:

I am the one with two left feet
Standing on a lonely street
I can’t even walk a straight line
And every time you look at me
I’m spinning like an autumn leaf
Bound to hit bottom sometime

Where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won’t let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
‘Cause You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart

I am the one with big mistakes
Big regrets and bigger breaks
Than I ever care to confess
Oh but, You’re the one who looks at me
And sees what I was meant to be
More than just a beautiful mess

Oh, where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won’t let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
‘Cause You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again

Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart
You’re everything good in my life
Everything honest and true
And all of those stars hanging up in the sky
Could never shine brighter than

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart
You are
Oh, You are
Jesus, You are
You are everything

Lyrics to You Are Everything – Writers: Linda Creed, Matthew West, Thom Bell, Sam Mizell

YouTube Video – Who’s Your Daddy? He Is. – Priscilla Shirer

YouTube Video – That’s My King – Dr. S. M. Lockridge [Official]

YouTube Video – You Are Everything – Matthew West (with Lyrics)

YouTube Video – Matthew West’s Testimony and Acoustic Rendition of You Are Everything

Matthew West

Priscilla Shirer

Photo Credit: Sparrow Records, en.wikipedia.org