Category Archives: Conversations

Monday Morning Moment – Eating Together – at Work, at Home, Across Racial Divides

Photo Credit: President’s Choice, YouTube Video

Eating dinner together was just normal when I grew up. Maybe we all couldn’t be there, with differing work schedules, school sports, and the like. Whoever was home, though, got a call to the dinner table. Our family was a rowdy bunch and our conversation could erupt into loud disagreements on any number of things. Still, we were together. We were family. It kept us bonded in many ways.

Eating together…crowding adults and their families around a long table…is still a delightful, much-anticipated tradition…at least for this mama. That delight of eating together spreads also to friends and to the workplace.

This weekend, I caught a YouTube video that really touched my heart. Especially given the events of this weekend in our state where a racist political rally turned deadly. Not that this little video produced by a major food company in Canada could help bring meaning to this violent weekend…but there’s a message.

YouTube Video – #EatTogether – President’s Choice

In a time when we have the capability of being more connected with each other than ever, we can remain disconnected. Not seeing, not hearing, unaware of those around us or how we might engage with each other.

Eating Together as Co-Workers

In the busiest of days, there is nothing more delightful than breaking from work to eat with colleagues…says the extroverted, “loves people” person. Early in my career, working in a huge inner city hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, it was an effort to get off the patient floor down to the cafeteria. My co-workers used to tease me that once we got our trays and settled at a table, I would always sigh…like, out loud. It was just a relief to stop working for a few minutes…with good food to eat and surrounded with people I both liked and respected.Debbie & Grady nurse buddy

Susannah Snider lists three reasons why we should be eating lunch with our co-workers:

  1. It boosts production.
  2. It’s a networking tool.
  3. It makes you happier.

3 Reasons to Eat Lunch with Your Co-workers – Susannah Snider

This was just one of many articles (both scholarly and popular press) related to the benefit of folks who work together eating together.

Eating Together as Family

People are so very busy these days that eating “on the run” is more the usual than not. Or everyone, exhausted, just eating in their various spaces around the house – in front of the TV or other screen. There is something almost magical in the habit of eating around a table. It is the same reason why couples with children need date nights – just getting across a table from each other does wonders for the conversations neglected in the wear and tear of parenting.

Cody Delistraty posts on the broad positive ramifications of families who eat together and what happens when they don’t. Eating together as a family can actually decrease addictive tendencies, enhance academic performance, and build closeness and community – with the family but also beyond the family.

The Importance of Eating Together – Cody Delistraty

Eating Together as a Family Has Multiple Benefits – Timi Gustafson

Eating Together Across Racial Divides

“Have you ever had a person of another race in your home for dinner?” Two US senators, Tim Scott and James Lankford, have been asking this question to constituents for some time now. They were not surprised at how segregated the American dinner table was.

Out of this, they developed something they call Solution Sundays…where they encourage people to invite persons of another race to their homes to share a meal.Photo Credit: CNN

“For me, it’s hard to hate what you know,” Scott said. “And it’s just so simple. It’s hard to hate what you know.”

I want to be successful at this. Sure, I have friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are of a different race, but somehow I’m intimidated to mess with their Sundays. Why is that?!

Even Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about “11:00 on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours if not the most segregated hour in Christian America”. Maybe we could shake up Sunday dinner.

For some of you, this is “so yesterday”. For co-workers and family, we all are going all kinds of different directions. Slowing it down to have a meal together may take work and habit change…so worth it! As for crossing racial divides – maybe that is no issue for you. For example, we have family of “different races” so it’s part of our DNA. Still when something like this past weekend’s violence happens here, I think of where we can start to mend. Protest…sure. Pray…absolutely…and maybe also just lean in, across the table, over some food we both enjoy…and eat together.

Healing Race Relations Over Dinner – CNN –

The Lessons of an Inner City Hospital – God Loves Us All the Same – DebMillsWriter

President’s Choice – #EatTogether Campaign – #150Canada

PC Gets the Country to #EatTogether

TEDx Talk – The Importance of Eating Together – Karen Hickson-Smith

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Underdog Movies, Tim Tebow, Church and Unchurched, and Vacation Food Memories

What a week! The news is full of mostly scary stuff. Thankful we made it to Friday. Below are five of my favorites of this week – mostly light-hearted – hope they make you smile mostly, and think a little, too.

1) Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has done it again. His arrangement of Priscilla’s Song – from the highly acclaimed videogame The Witcher 3 – Wolven Storm – is just beautiful.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

So how convincing was my familiarity with this video game series? I know nothing more than what the website told me and how much-loved it is by those who commented on his YouTube video. Still, the whole world of video game music has become a new love of mine…since Nathan has taken to arranging some of his favorites for classical guitar. The composer of this piece is the brilliant Marcin Przybylowicz. Watch here.

2) Underdog Movies – For a couple of years, while we lived in North Africa, I taught a film class in an international high school. One of my favorite genres of film is the underdog movie. Teachable moments abound in films where an individual or group must battle to the top, on their own or with each other’s help.

Two of my current favorites are McFarland USA and Spare Parts. Photo Credit: McFarland USA, To the Flixs

Photo Credit: Spare Parts, To the Flixes

What are some of your favorites- either recent or from times past? Please share them below in Comments.

Best Movies About Underdogs

The 19 Best Underdog Movies that Fill Us With Hope

21 Underdog Movies You Must Watch

4) Tim Tebow – What comes to mind when you hear the name Tim Tebow? Heisman Trophy winner, football player, baseball player? What else that has to come to mind is unashamed Christian and all-around good guy. I wish I could find the Tweet this morning that pointed to a short and shaky homemade video by a proud mom, Ileanna Bosch. Her son, Seth, is a big fan of Tim Tebow, and he made his way through the fans to get within reach of Tebow just before he batted for the St. Lucie Mets. Tim was warming up but came over to the fence to shake Seth’s hand. Then he went on to hit a three-run homerun. Do NOT miss the video and story here.Photo Credit: NY Daily News

Tim Tebow, professional athlete and author of the book Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms Tim turns 30 this month (August 14) – happy birthday, Tim!

4) Church and the Unchurched – If you don’t love Jesus and aren’t interested in church, you may want to skip this one…but why not at least consider the question of what about church isn’t for you? For those of us who DO love Jesus and want to share that love (in word and deed) with others, we would do well to consider our Canadian pastor friend Carey Nieuwhof‘s words in his piece below.

7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched People

If you didn’t click on the link, here’s what Carey raises as personal preferences of ours that might be turning away our unchurched friends:

  • Music
  • Politics
  • Style
  • Buildings
  • Money
  • Time
  • Our Lives

“When your preferences keep unchurched people from the promise of Christ, it’s time to change your preferences.”Carey Nieuwhof

[Don’t miss the comments section of his piece…good stuff also.]

5) Vacation Food Memories – Popovers at the Jordan Pond House, Acadia, Maine. Mmmmmm. My best friend, Paulette, and I did a road trip from Georgia to Maine one summer, a very long time ago. We camped in Acadia National Park. We drove all through the park and along the coast. The beaches of the Atlantic Ocean were covered with smooth stones. I probably still have some that I collected. It was a rainy, coolish afternoon in June. We pulled into the Jordan Pond House parking lot without knowing what we would find. We sat at a table inside. Little jars of flowers were everywhere – on all the tables and also on the ledges of all the windows of the restaurant. It had the effect of stained glass with all the colors, even on a cloudy day.Photo Credit: NPS

We ordered popovers and coffee. They were brought to our linen-covered table as if a part of a special ceremony – thecoffee service, the tall still-steaming popovers, and dishes of butter and strawberry preserves…Like it was yesterday.Photo Credit: stuart_spivack, Flickr

A day in the life of a popover chef at the Jordan Pond House

Have a sweet weekend. Savor every day. Be gentle with yourself and those around you. We live in troubled times…but God draws near.

Bonuses:

Chocolate Cake –  If you love chocolate cake, you do not want to miss this recipe or the buttered-with-Southern-charm video about this cake by Southern Living. You will be drooling, I promise you.

River City Movers – Don’t you love small businesses that demonstrate a strong work ethic, value customer satisfaction, and hold down the cost of services? If you have a move in your future, River City Movers take a lot of stress and expense out of the experience. They assist with moves all over the US. Jim Bragg (on the left) is both professional and amicable. These are just some of his guys and they were committed to finish the job and finish it well.

Declining Sperm Countsin the Western World and Around the World – Fascinating but not sure how correct all this is – Would love to hear what you think. It is not a fave in the usual way but in the actions men can take to help themselves to father children.

Global Leadership Summit – Missing this summit today – very sad face. I can depend on Brian Dodd to post best quotes from the Summit (watch his blog over the next several days). Here also.

Gray HairYouTube Video – Why My Gray Hairs Make Me Happy – Be That Person – The Stay at Home Chef

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe

Photo Credit: Into Weakness

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – Daniel 3:17-18

Any one of us who grew up in church has heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three young Jewish men exiled to Babylon. Three young men who were tasked to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. Three young men who worshiped the Creator God and Him alone.

In the historical account (Daniel 3), the Babylonian king ordered all in his realm to bow before a golden statue. Anyone who did not bow would be thrown to his death in a fiery furnace. These three would not bow. Their answer to the king (stated above) was a proclamation of their God’s ability to save them from death…and even if he did not save them, it did not matter. He alone would they serve.

What If the Worst Happens? – Desiring God – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

This past Sunday morning after the early service at Movement Church, we drove a few blocks away to attend the worship service of Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.Photo Credit: Patterson Ave. Baptist Church, Bill Nieporte

That day we visited with a congregation who would gather two more Sundays and then disband as an organized church. We sat under the inspired and powerful preaching of Dr. Bill Nieporte. Dr. Nieporte didn’t flinch as he talked about their church “dying…but dying well”. He, nor any of the sweet believers we met that day, had been able to turn around the seeming inevitable. As an older congregation, their numbers continued to fall even in the midst of committed ministry to their community. They knew they would too soon get to the place they wouldn’t be able to manage the expenses of the facility itself.

With what Dr. Nieporte called “courageous faith”, they have given this magnificent old church building to Movement Church. Movement is rapidly growing out of our rented space, and you can imagine what an incredibly generous gift this is.

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

The congregation of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church is essentially passing a torch to our church to continue to be a light of God’s love to the community they have loved for so many years. One dear man we met, in his 70s, had been a part of this church his whole life (since “cradle roll”).

I’ve been so personally overwhelmed by this generous gift of those fellow believers…strangers until this past Sunday. Many shook our hands, some with tears in their eyes…welcoming us to what would become our own church gathering place. How humbling for us and how challenging as well.

As the pastor gently guided his church through their grieving, he talked of how God, throughout history has moved His people. In two Sundays, they would be “moved” from that location. He even soberly spoke of how a time might come, just as it did for them, when Movement Church could also be called by God one day to relinquish that property. The sanctuary was silent in the gravity of his words.

The place where we call home is far less important than the Person with whom we are home.

The most beautiful part of his message was that God moves His people, but He never leaves us. He is always with us wherever we are. Whether a palace or a furnace situation…He is with us.

“The next stage of our journey begins in two weeks. Stay on the path. Remain in the journey. God will walk with you every step of the way.” – Pastor Nieporte

[Your prayers are much appreciated for the dear church family of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church. Also for their pastor, Bill Nieporte, who not only loses his church family, but his work as their pastor, too.]

Now…back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:

When Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, wrote the lyrics to Even If, he had to have been inspired by those young men who went through fire, believing God alone was worthy of their worship. That story is riveting because God did save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in fact, He, in some form, walked with them through the fire). However, God did not save them FROM the fire but THROUGH the fire.Photo Credit: YouTube, MercyMe

Millard’s own life and family experiences have at times been a saving “through the fire”.

“God is worthy long before any of those circumstances even showed up. In fact, what Christ has already done on the cross is probably the only thing we need to get through those circumstances. It’s a foundation that was built long before those difficulties came to be. This song is a declaration to God that even if He went silent and never said another word, He’s still worthy to be praised and that He’s our greatest hope in the midst of the trial.” Bart Millard

Worship with me, please.

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now
Right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage
Night after night
Reminding the broken
It’ll be alright
But right now
Oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Good thing
A little faith is all I have right now

But God when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength
To be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know the sorrow
I know the hurt
Would all go away
If You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful
You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

It is well with my soul*

YouTube Video – Even If – MercyMe – Heart Behind the Song

*Lyrics – Even If

Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising in our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

5 Friday Faves – Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia, Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover, a Low-Carb Surprise, Blindspots, and Taking Responsibility

Friday! This time of year, it’s squeezing out those last vacation days before school starts again (after Labor Day in Virginia). Many of our friends in other states have already shut down their summer as kids  returned to school this week. Can’t you just smell the fragrance of new school supplies? For us here, it’s still making hot August day memories with little guys.

While you finish your cup of coffee or break from work, let’s get down to this week’s Friday Faves.

1) Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia – A woman who has taught me much about living through hardship with grace is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is a writer, speaker, artist and advocate for persons with disabilities. More central than all of that is her deep faith and dependence on God…especially in the 50 years since a diving accident, at 17 years old, put her in a wheelchair for life. I discovered her through an old feature film and her autobiography – Joni: An Unforgettable Story. The testament of her life points always to a God who gave her the grace to “count quadriplegia joy“. She is an amazing woman empowered with His love and that of those by her side, especially her husband, Ken Tada.Photo Credit: Joni and Friends

In Awe of Her God – Joni’s Fifty Years of Counting Quadriplegia Joy

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

2) Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover – One of the feature films with the greatest impact on our family is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The stories are gripping; the heroes are the stuff of legend; the villains are loathsome; the music is spectacular. Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar, has finally given us an arrangement of one of the great themes: Riders of Rohan from The Two Towers (second film of the trilogy). You can hear the theme in context with the story here (music rises after minute 5).

Nathan’s arrangement is here…and all us LOTR fans loved it (126,000 views and counting).

3) A Low-Carb Surprise – Earlier this week, we had a big supper with friends. A regular event where we take turns bringing food to share. This amazing cook in the bunch made loaded mashed potatoes. Having just finished a sugar detox, I have minimized carbs in my diet for over a month. Those mashed potatoes were so yummy. Not really ready to dive into unrestricted carb eating, I’ve been doing something very different (and appalling for me). Substituting cauliflower for potatoes and rice. Here’s the surprise. I’m shocked to confess that cauliflower is actually good…enough. With a lighter carb load and other nutritious qualities as well. Last night I made Shepherd’s Pie with a cauliflower topping. I don’t food-process the cauliflower; just steam it and then either mash it or crush it a bit with a fork (to use as rice).Cauliflower takes on the flavors added to it. Just as with mashed potatoes, butter and a bit of milk completed the substitution. Cheese on top and…hello!

Still…the next time it’s my friend’s turn to cook, that mashed-potato queen, I will not be slow to take my serving. Low carbs, not no carbs.

YouTube Video – This Is Why Eating Healthy Is So Hard (Time Travel Dietician)

4) Blind Spots – Life coach and writer Martha Beck defines blind spots as psychological “aspects of our personality that are obvious to everyone but ourselves“. She even prescribes a way to discover them.

“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.

Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.”Martha Beck

As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.Photo Credit: Vimeo

Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.

For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response reveals a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am totally right in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications.

What do you think?

Seeing Your Emotional Blind Spots – Martha Beck

What’s Your Blind Spot – Jane Taylor

6 Career Derailing Blind Spots and How to Overcome Them

How Successful People Cure Their Blind Spots – Kevin Kruse

How to Watch Out for Blind Spots in Your Leadership – Lolly Daskal

5) Taking Responsibility – You may be starting to expect in pretty much every Friday Faves that you’ll see a guitar arrangement by Beyond the Guitar and a life hack by Benjamin Hardy. You could be right. This week, Hardy posted an article on taking responsibility – What Happens When You Take Full Responsibility of Your LifePhoto Credit: Lakenheath

He talks about the hazards of indecision. Taking responsibility for our lives means to make decisions based on where you are and where you want to be at some future time. Life isn’t meant to happen haphazardly. Yet, because of our fear of failure or insecurity about making good decisions, we default to not making the decision. Then we languish in our current situation, losing ground even…rather than taking hold of our life and moving it in the direction we believe it’s meant to go.

Commitments are important to make and to keep. When we commit to something publicly, we have even more impetus to do what we’ve said we will do. This isn’t shaming or guilting…this is operating as a mature and responsible individual. These kinds of commitments also grease the tracks for success in that expressed decision.

Making a commitment means you’re seeing it through to the end. It means you’re leaving yourself no escape routes. You’re burning any bridges that might lead to lesser paths of distraction. Your decision has been made. There’s no going back. You’ve passed your point of no return.

Where decisions are made in a single moment, commitment is seeing those decisions into the future. Especially when life gets difficult. – Benjamin Hardy

A friend made the statement “You fake it until you make it.” I’ve heard that spoken before but never by her. “Faking it” is something that doesn’t fit this incredibly wise and reasoned woman. What she further explained though brought the meaning. So what if we aren’t sure of ourselves in the decision. What if our desire is to commit to something but we aren’t sure we can actually follow-through. Then we “fake it”, or really, in her further explanation – “You walk the talk until the talk becomes your walk”.  Make the decision; execute the decision.

Make the decision you want to. Eventually, you grow into that decision through your commitment and personal resolve. Your goals are something you grow into.

This isn’t faking anything.

It’s living with intention.

It’s living with definiteness of purpose.

So what’s the challenge?

Publicly commit to something to TODAY.Benjamin Hardy

Thanks again, Benjamin Hardy…and Nathan Mills…and all of you have a safe and restful weekend. Live with intentionality, and be kind to yourselves. That kindness will splash out on others.

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Listening? Or Are You Silencing Voices?

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.

Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.

We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.

At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.

This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.

In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.

Leadership coach Kate Nasser posted a bold article on the workplace scenario of silencing employees.

She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:

  1.  Look unapproachable.
  2.  Have a thin skin and make it about you.
  3.  Do not ask for input.
  4.  Bully and berate others or their ideas.
  5.  Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
  6.  Ignore ones who raise issues.
  7. Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
  8.  Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
  9.  Take credit for others’ ideas.
  10.   Accuse and blame in public.
  11.   Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
  12.   Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
  13.   Pit one person against another.
  14.   Override every decision others make.
  15.   Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.

Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.

YouTube Video – The Power of Listening – William Ury – TEDxSanDiego

We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.

“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.”William Ury

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.

Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.

Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.

We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.

[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]

We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.

Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.

Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.

Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? – Kate Nasser

Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? – James R. Detert & Ethan R. Burris – Harvard Business Review

6 Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work – Glenn Llopis

7 Tips for Wooing Your Employees Into Loving Their Jobs, Again – Matt Straz

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – Reading Wars, Lord of the Rings on Guitar, Walking in America, Boomer Parents, and Susan Boyle

You know the story…how fast this week (this month, this year) is flying by. No time to waste. So let’s get right with it. Five of my favorite finds this week.

  1. Reading Wars – What does that even mean, right? It’s the title of Philip Yancey‘s captivating article on waging battle on the mental clutter that crowds out even the possibility of deep thinking. What is our weapon against the onslaught of shallow that we expose ourselves through social media, email, and texting communication? Reading. Reading for learning. So simple and yet how many minutes a week do we commit to it?

“A commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush [which also happens with distracted media scanning] while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish.” (Philip Yancey)

Photo Credit: Envision Experience

Sure, we can learn from what we find on social media. My friend Ann Lovell pointed us to this article through her Facebook page. If I just scan the article then I continue to “not” learn from it…as happens with most of the content that shows up in my various newsfeeds. This time…I’m taking it to heart. Yancey points out several cultural powerhouses who commit to a mininum of 5 hours of reading a week. I am joining them. Thanks, Mr. Yancey. Thanks, Ann.

[Sidebar: Whole cultures in the world prefer oral vs. written information delivery. Deep, detail-rich, reproducible storying. I wonder how these cultures are changing because of the same short-cut habits of sharing information we have developed here in the West. What do you think?

2) Lord of the Rings on Guitar – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted another of his arrangements this week. This one is from the legend Lord of the Rings Trilogy. You who love LOTR as much as I do will recognize The Riders of Rohan. It is another great orchestral piece translated by Nathan to classical guitar (like Beyond the Guitar‘s recent Game of Thrones arrangement). Just beautiful. Takes us back to the glorious battles of Lord of the Rings.

3) Walking in America – I feel so fortunate to have neighbors who walk. They make it so easy for me to join in even 6 days a week. It’s amazing how such a simple exercise wakes up the brain and loosens up the body. Whether we can afford a gym or whatever our health situation, walking is something we can do for ourselves. [Winter pic, I know, but it shows these neighbors of mine are out walking in all kinds of weather.]

After seeing the video below comparing “Walking in America & Walking in South Korea” I am glad for an easy neighborhood to walk in. However, it’s also clear how those in huge cities make do, with walking and staying healthier.

We should walk as much as they do in South Korea.

Posted by ATTN: Life on Friday, July 14, 2017

Here’s How Much the Average American Walks Every Day – Laura Donovan

Here’s How People in 8 Other Countries Stay Healthy – Slideshow – Anna Medaris Miller

What Steps Data Tells Us About Country Lifestyles – Angela Chieh

4) Boomer Parents & Their Stuff – What are we going to do with all this stuff? Our parents’ stuff and our own. The kids just aren’t interested in it. Samantha Bronkar’s article on the subject is thought-provoking. What do we do with all the collections? All the unique, hand-worked furniture? All the china and glassware? When we start down-sizing, we may have to think creatively what we do to dispose of these treasures of years past. Any thoughts?Photo Credit: Pinterest

I wonder, if our civilization is around for another 100 years, what will be in our natural and civil history museums? There could be a gap with all the “stuff” that will go eventually into today’s landfills. Would love to hear your thinking on this…as one of the many with unwanted treasures.

5) Susan Boyle – Just a few years ago, a middle-aged Scottish woman walked on the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and shocked the world with her singing. On that night and the days that followed, everyone in the English-speaking world had heard of Susan Boyle. Here’s the performance that brought her celebrity and a place in our hearts:

Just this week, I heard her sing Unchained Melody. Still magical. Her lovely simplicity in demeanor and her mesmerizing voice are a powerful combo. Do you know what happened to her? She’s still out there and is now a wealthy woman still living in her small family home in West Lothian, Scotland. She had a dream…and it came true. Her life inspires us all.

Happy Weekend. Be safe and be inspired…so much to enjoy in this life and to take joy in…even in the hard.

Worship Wednesday – I’m Just Unfinished – Mandisa

Photo Credit: CBN

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6

So Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:67-69

Why are we so hard on ourselves and each other? Intuitively, we know in our core, that we can be better…and that others should be. We mark behavior. We analyze successes and failures. We self-reference. Am I measuring up? Are you measuring up? To what?

All this judging should completely wear us out. Yet…we become unaware we are even doing it. In fact, our bent toward judging is probably one of the reasons we (Christians and those who don’t follow Christ) struggle with addictions…to turn off that part of our brain. Unfortunately, the safeguard of judging (that of critical and logical thinking) is also impacted here.

This whole lifestyle of having opinions and being sometimes critical spills over into our faith. We judge God.

We judge God. Listen to that. How strange for the Created to question the mind of the Creator! Yet, we struggle with what we don’t understand. We shake our heads and raise our “why” to Heaven. Or worse…some precious ones walk away from God…disappointed.

Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud – Philip Yancey

Christian artist Mandisa went through a very dark time spiritually and emotionally as she lost her best friend to cancer. Take the time to read her story, please. Her album Out of the Dark came out of her journey back to God after this terrible loss.

The song “Unfinished” (from that album) speaks so beautifully to our experience of not being where we want to be…hoped to be…and the truth of God’s work in us…and for us.

Worship with me.

Not scared to say it
I used to be the one
Preaching it to you
That you could overcome
I still believe it
But it ain’t easy

‘Cause that world I painted
Where things just all work out
It started changing
And I started having doubts
And it got me so down

But I picked myself back up
And I started telling me
No, my God’s not done
Making me a masterpiece
He’s still working on me

He started something good
And I’m gonna believe it
He started something good
And He’s gonna complete it
So I’ll celebrate the truth
His work in me ain’t through
I’m just unfinished

I know His history
And the kind of God He is
He might make it a mystery
But He’s proven I can trust in Him
And yeah, I believe it

Still working
Still, still working on me
He’s still working
Still, still working on me*

Mandisa’s Unfinished reminded me of an old praise chorus  sung by Steve Green.  Taken straight from Scripture, we are reminded that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it”.

With all our travels, we’ve been to some of the world’s great museums. In them, often there’s a painting by one of the Masters…unfinished. The artwork still shows off the fine hand of the painter…but it is incomplete…without detail. Stopped abruptly.

For us, God has promised we won’t forever be unfinished. He will complete what He’s started in our lives. For this reason alone, we are called to be gentle with ourselves and with each other. Reminding ourselves that we all are works in progress.

As for our judging God, in the crush of disappointment or confusion? I always go back to Peter’s words to Jesus (John 6:67-69) – “To whom would we go?” No one…nothing…is like Him.

We don’t yet know how it all comes out…but we know God. He will finish what He has begun.

*Lyrics to Unfinished – Songwriters: Ben Glover and Colby Wedgeworth

Why Are People So Judgmental? – Quora

Why Are Christians So Judgmental? – Jason Malec

5 Friday Faves – Journaling, What Ends All Marriages, Cell Phone Addiction, Trauma Healing, and Neighborhood Gelato

Happy Friday! Cutting quickly to the chase here, with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Journaling – Writing is a favorite outlet of mine. When I write, it’s like talking to a trusted friend. Everything is clearer after. Less frightening, too, sometimes. that’s what reflection does for you. Journaling has been a life-long habit of mine. In fact, I’ve told my kids that when the time comes and they go through all the stuff in the attic, they might want to read some of the journals. Although, I also warned that anything shocking they read, I’ve probably long since worked through (hopefully).

Productivity coach Benjamin P. Hardy strongly encourages journaling as a daily early morning habit.

Do you write or journal? It’s worth a try. You never know what you might discover through writing out what is bouncing around inside your head.

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

2) What Ends All Marriages –
Meg Marie Wallace writes a chilling piece on the one thing guaranteed to end all marriages. In her article, she talks about marriages that survived adultery and other betrayals, as well as marriages that didn’t survive. Then she gave what she saw as the difference.Photo Credit: Edvard Munch, Wikipedia

Those whose marriages didn’t survive were those who allowed their hearts to grow cold and hard toward their spouse.

“In order for marriages to thrive BOTH people need to guard with all diligence against hardness of heart. It has no place in marriage, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, hatred and bitterness.” Meg Marie Wallace

Left. Unchecked. We must guard our hearts if we want our relationships (marriage and otherwise) to thrive in hard places.

Read Wallace’s piece. We can take hope and take charge of those hearts of ours.

3) Cell Phone Addiction – Jesse Lyn Stoner posted a powerful article, by Victor Prince, on the intrusion of cell phone technology in the workplace. The piece is Want Your Team More Engaged? Remove the Weapons of Mass Distraction . If we were honest, many of us struggle with this. I know I do. Take a minute to read Prince’s take on how to shake-up the workplace by confronting the distraction of our phones. I’m motivated. On both personal and professional fronts.Photo Credit: Andres Rodriguez, Flickr

4) Trauma Healing – After studying about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I’ve become more interested in trauma healing. Wanting to be equipped, I went to a training this week. The American Bible Society offers a course especially geared toward those who want to serve people who’ve come through terrible lossPhoto Credit: BPNews

or trauma (refugees, anyone with PTSD, persons with addictions, fill-in-the-blank). The training is designed to help meet the needs of all people no matter the religion or background. Only one section is specific toward Christians.

Through role-play experiences, storying, dialog, writing and art exercises, the course facilitators guide participants how to recognize and lovingly intervene with those who have come through trauma. I was surprised myself how helpful the exercises were in helping me with some losses I’m still recovering from.

The written guide is an excellent tool for anyone and can be purchased online.

Healing the Wounds of Trauma – Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill, Richard Baggé, Pat Miersma

5) Neighborhood Gelato – Don’t you love those shops tucked into your neighborhood where you know the people behind the counter and the products are always amazing? One of those around here is The 21Hundred, named for its location on John Rolfe Parkway, in Richmond’s West End. It’s a cozy, friendly place where neighbors gather and others drive over to join them. Payton and Robyn Wilson, the proprietors, serve up espresso, gelato, and other yummy treats every day of the week but Sunday. They treat all of us like return customers, even when it’s the first visit. Check it out if you’re a Richmonder. If you’re not, tell us of a neighborhood favorite of your own.

Have a great weekend and be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through.