Category Archives: Conversations

Monday Morning Moment – Giving Unsolicited Feedback…Or Maybe You Don’t

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Feedback’s a good thing, right? We all want to know how we’re doing…how we’re being received?…maybe. Let’s define the term:

Feedback is a response from the receiver that informs the sender how the communication is being received in general”. – Bizcom_coach

Here’s a scenario: excitement is high at your company with the launch of a new product. The designers and project managers have put long hours and much brain power into getting everything just right. Colleagues and customers alike are riding the wave of enthusiasm at the magnificent capabilities of the product. You’re also caught up in the moment.

In your first test drive of the new product, you find a couple of glitches you didn’t expect. In fact, it’s a little harder to maneuver than you imagined. At first you think, “Well, it’s me. Operator error.” Then you think of how a few adjustments could potentially fix the glitches and smooth out of the bumps of its user unfriendliness.

Do you offer feedback?Photo Credit: Raquel Biem

Beware of the vast wilderness of unsolicited feedback.

It’s not like this product (or program or service) was thrown together without great forethought and brilliant design. If you noted the glitches, it is most probable that others have as well. Others, who are much closer to the product than you are…much closer to its design process than you were.

A wise position to take is: If you are not asked for feedback, your feedback is not wanted. Or, a bit less personal maybe, if you are not in the already established feedback loop, then the presumed right people are already working on it. The it being whatever you’re burning to give feedback on.

Feedback and advice can mean the same thing to the receiver, whether we consider them the same or not. In fact, we may feel it’s irresponsible or indefensible to withhold feedback when it would assuredly help both the company and the customer.

Where we think feedback is warranted, the project manager or design team may have already reached a point in the process where advice is not welcome. Affirmation? Yes…but advice (or feedback), no.

Whatever our position, expertise, or personality, we will, at times, see the need for offering feedback…even when it’s clearly unwanted.

I certainly have had that experience. One has to ask the question: Is my feedback serving my own ego or my company’s outcome? If we truly believe that what we offer to the mix will make a huge difference, then we may risk offering unsolicited feedback.

There was a time…even as recently as last week, when I thought the reward would outweigh the risk. My thinking has changed (especially in seeing that feedback could be construed as a form of negativism and therefore only clouding the issue rather than clarifying it.

I offer 10 steps toward giving unsolicited feedback. Within the 10 steps there are disciplines and delays that help fine-tune both our thinking and our actions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this…your feedback (in the Comments below).

  1. Pretend you are the project manager, the one executing the new program, product line, or service.
  2. Tear into it. Make as exhaustive a list as you can as to both the positive and negatives you observe.
  3. Now…set it aside…for a few minutes, or days, or forever (this is a bit tricky because feedback should be timely…but we’re talking about unsolicited feedback).
  4. Face the reality that your feedback wasn’t requested. Let that settle your itchy finger set to send the email.
  5. If you still can’t rest, thinking your input has merit, then choose wisely what few points of feedback you especially think would add value and warrant the risk. No more than 3.
  6. Don’t do anything…still.
  7. Consider who may already be at the table giving feedback. If you are not one of those people, can you trust that your concerns are already before them?Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
  8. Resist the urge to gossip your feedback if you don’t feel free to give it to those appropriate to receive it.
  9. If you can’t rest, (even while determined to trust other decision-makers and keeping your unsolicited feedback to yourself), then choose one point, one concern. Make sure it is not just style vs. substance. Also confirm that it relates to a process not a person.
  10. Give your feedback to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Succintly, positively, and friendly. If it seemed that crucial to you to share what was not requested, it is done. Hopefully, the outcomes will be positive. If not, you took a risk. You did not stay silent. It could make a difference down the road. More importantly than the result is the relationship. That matters most.Photo Credit: Ken Whytock, Flickr

Again, remember, I would appreciate your feedback.

10 Common Mistakes in Giving FeedbackCenter for Creative Leadership (includes excellent infographic)

Don’t Ask for Feedback, Unless You Want It Ron Ashkenas

Before Providing Feedback, Ask This One QuestionLelia Gowland

Giving Feedback to Your Boss – Like a BossThe Muse

5 Friday Faves – TV Sitcoms, Communications, a Love Story, Intercession, and Recovery

Friday! Yep…here it is again…on a Saturday.  This week’s days have flown. The month of April has already been half-spent. Typical of Virginia Spring weather, we have enjoyed cold windy days and perfect sunny days. Dave has transferred our young vegetable plants into the raised beds outside, and the yellow pollen of the leafing oak trees is beginning to blanket our cars. It is as much a part of the rhythm of life as the five favorites you’ll find here.

1) TV Sitcoms – We all have our favorites. Just to hear the theme music from one of them can stir a flurry of happy TV-driven memories with quotable lines to match. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has posted his arrangement of some of our favorites.

For me, TV sitcom The Office is one of the best. As one of his patrons, we could suggest themes and I suggested the theme from The Andy Griffith Show, but it didn’t make the cut…this time. Enjoy!

Beyond the Guitar’s TV Sitcoms Sheet Music – Music Notes

2) Communications – When we added the “s” to communication, we ramped it up to a science. Communication itself is as old as humanity. We remain ever challenged in it but supremely motivated to get it right. In my career, communications have been a big chunk of my role – either through customer care, customer support, employee engagement, or community development. How about you? Even the most introverted of us, even those in product development or manufacturing working in your own singular workspace…our lives are peopled. We want to make our best efforts in clear and caring communication. You know the experience of finding out just how little a colleague cares by the lack of such communication. Toward the goal of clear and caring communication, I love finding little gems of succinct information. Here’s this one:

This One Question Will Improve How You Communicate to Everyone Marissa Levin

Without your having to click on the link, (which you should; it’s a quick read and excellent resource) here is Levin’s one question:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

By simply asking someone how they prefer to receive their information, and by telling them how you need to receive information, you’ve paved the way for abundantly clear communications and aligned expectations. – Marissa Levin

For a few fascinating years, I worked in the role of communications strategist for a new venture. It was an extraordinary experience to learn how to enhance communications between designers and then our communications with the parent company and our clients. Maybe we can’t always customize our communications…but if we don’t at least establish some variation in our communication streams, we will miss people – their input, their understanding, and their engagement.

Worth the work…people are too valuable to lose, especially if it’s because we use our own preferred communication processes… ignoring the preferences of others in the process.

3) A Love Story – First Lady Barbara Bush died this week. That’s actually too passive a description. Really, she closed the book, finished her race, and loved her God and family until the end. She was ready to go.

Mrs. Bush was the wife of U. S. President George H. W. Bush (72 years married) and mother to U.S. President George W. Bush. She was a tireless champion for literacy and that legacy will follow her.

More than anything else, she loved her husband and she loved her family.Photo Credit: Facebook

Her graciousness, wit, and command of life will be remembered fondly…along with her fierce love. She was a force of nature…and she exercised it for good.

“At the end of life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.“ – Barbara Bush

In her last days, at the age of 92, Mrs. Bush removed herself from the hospital arena of life-extending medical care, and returned home to be in the company of her family. Whatever privilege she knew in life, she lavished it on others. Hers was a beautiful life right to the end… holding hands with her love of 70+ years.

It was a glorious love story…epic.

Ex-Secret Service Agent: Barbara Bush’s Code Name Was Absolutely Perfect – Tranquility – Jonathan Wackrow

Remembering Barbara Bush – CNN Video

4) Intercession – This may be a word unfamiliar to some. Intercession is the deep and longing prayer for someone else. Only God knows fully what His answer means to us who want so desperately for Him to move on behalf of a loved one…or even a country. Only He knows.Photo Credit: Quotes Creator, Facebook

Right now, Dave and I are interceding for a dear church family in another state going through a difficult and dividing trial. We are lifting up a friend who has miscarried multiple times. We are also praying for some in our lives to come to faith in God – some, for decades. Even when our hearts cool over time,  God Himself seems to stoke up the coals, and we feel the anguish again of prayer not yet answered. Knowing He can and He will.

We’ve been praying for almost a year now for the American detainees being held in North Korea. As a meeting looms just ahead between our two countries’ presidents, we sense a hope and a possibility. This could fade…but one thing I know, with every beat of my heart: God is able. He calls us to pray. He loves his children.

When situations arise, and we feel utterly helpless in them, we might casually say: “Well, at the very lease we can pray.” No…at the very most, we can pray. We can call out to God even in seasons he seems silent and immovable. His answer might not always be our preference…but it is in the praying, the interceding…that we find hope, and even promise…and we experience the joy of finding Him in the midst of struggle…whatever way it goes in the end.

Free USA3

Be Heard Project – Praying also for Andrew Brunson, an American detainee in Turkey right now. Please pray with me for him and his family, along with the three detainees in North Korea…and their loved ones who wait for them to come home.

The Great Intercessor – David Brainerd

David Brainerd’s 300th Anniversary – Thomas Kidd

5) Recovery – A hard road stretches before the addicted person and those who love him. At some point, either because of imprisonment or shattered health and finances, the addicted person is forced to examine what is left of life for him…or her. At some point, recovery becomes the goal and returning to real life is the hope. Relapse is a constant risk and is often a detour on the road to recovery.

We feel fortunate to know our friends, Ryan and Ashley, who have come out the other side of drug addiction. Ryan gave me permission to post the pictures below. First is a series of arrest photos of Ryan, all related to consequences of his drug addiction. The second is a picture of his family reunited. Ryan is currently a case manager for Real Life in Richmond, Virginia. What an appropriate name for what is possible post-addiction. It is worth fighting for. Thank you, Ryan, for giving us glimpses of what can happen in a life turned around. We know it wasn’t easy, but so worth it.Photo Credit: Ryan Riggs

So…that’s my Five.

What happened in your week? Any notable mentions of your own? Please share in Comments. Enjoy the weather (whether it’s Spring or Fall, rainy season or dry – depending on your hemisphere or location)…and each other.

Bonuses

Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps Are Better Than Coffee or Naps Alone – Joseph Stromberg

 

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Worship Wednesday – Forgiven – Crowder Music

Photo Credit: Crowder Music, YouTube

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; breaking up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”Hosea 10:12

“You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors.”Hosea 10:13

“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”Hosea 12:6

“You are forgiven.” What a powerful statement…and even more transforming experience! How thankful I am for that forgiveness. Forgiveness from a God who persists in loving us no matter how undeserving we are.

I just finished reading the book of Hosea in the Scripture and marvel at the lessons we have in this prophet’s life and his obedience to God. How strange that God instructed him to marry a woman known for her immorality. God would use Hosea’s love for Gomer as a picture of the Lord’s love for his own wayward people.

Hosea did love Gomer. Even as she continued a destructive and dishonoring lifestyle. Even as she bore children who were not his own. He loved her and forgave her…over and over again.

Forgiveness cost Hosea. He suffered in his love for Gomer. Forgiveness cost God his son…it continues to cost as we, His people, turn to “other lovers”, forgetting the great love we already have in Him. However, God doesn’t forget us. He draws us back to Himself.

Sometimes it is hard for us to to do the same…to forgive those who hurt us…who betray our love. Yet, because we have known God’s forgiveness, we have a way through. We have been forgiven. We can also forgive.

“God can use that forgiving love to melt hardened hearts and change callused lives quicker than anything else in this whole wide world. That is the lesson of Hosea and Gomer, the lesson of forgiveness. God’s love and forgiveness pervade Hosea’s entire prophecy. Please do not misunderstand it. God hates sin; it grieves His heart; He cannot condone it; His perfect righteousness and justice demand that He deal with it. But He still loves sinners and diligently seeks them out and offers them His loving forgiveness.”Richard L. Strauss

“Forgiven”, a worship song written by David Crowder and Ed Cash, reminds us of our part in the crucifixion of Christ. It was for our sin that He gave His life. In the official YouTube video, we see a man and his young son crafting a guitar together. Then the scene shifts to that same man, aging in a prison cell…with pictures of this boy grown into manhood. There is a Bible on his cot. He writes to his son…but his son refuses to read his letters. You must watch the video to see the story to the end.

Maybe what we have done with our lives doesn’t merit a prison sentence. We still desperately need forgiveness. God is ready to receive us and restore us to Himself…in complete forgiveness…as we reckon with and repent of our sin.

Worship with me, please…through this song picturing the love and acceptance we have through the forgiveness of Christ.Photo Credit: PxHere

I’m the one who held the nail
It was cold between my fingertips
I’ve hidden in the garden
I’ve denied You with my very lips

God, I fall down to my knees
with a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

Forgiven, Forgiven
Child, there is freedom
From all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven

I’ve done things I wish I hadn’t done
I’ve seen things I wish I hadn’t seen
Just the thought of Your amazing grace
And I cry, “Jesus, forgive me”

God, I fall down to my knees
With a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

I could’ve been six feet under
I could’ve been lost forever
Yeah, I should be in that fire
But now there’s fire inside of me
Here I am a dead man walking
No grave gonna hold God’s people
All the weight of all our evil
Lifted away, forever free
Who could believe, who could believe?

Forgiven, Forgiven
You love me even when I don’t deserve it
Forgiven, I’m forgiven
Jesus, Your blood makes me innocent
So I will say goodbye to every sin
I am forgiven, I am forgiven*

Praise God for His forgiveness. His call to us is not unlike his call to Hosea. To live in forgiveness a life of forgiveness. If we are honest with ourselves and God, we know the wretched and wandering nature of our own hearts. To withhold forgiveness from those who have sinned against us goes completely contrary to the calling of God. Because we have been so loved and so forgiven, we can also love and forgive in like measure. Not from our own righteousness, but from His.

“Have you offered ‘redemption’ or forgiveness to those in your life who were once under your judgment? Not only does the book of Hosea provide an example of God’s love to a people who have left God behind, but it also shows us what forgiveness and restoration look like in a close relationship. The book of Hosea illustrates that no one is beyond the offer of our forgiveness because no one sits outside God’s offer of forgiveness. Certainly, God brings judgment on those who turn from Him, but Hosea’s powerful act of restoration within his own marriage set the bar high for those of us seeking godliness in our lives.” Chuck Swindoll

*Lyrics to “Forgiven” written by David Crowder and Ed Cash

YouTube Video – Crowder – Official Music Video – Forgiven

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song “Forgiven”

Soul Crescendo – Forgiven – Carolyn Majoran

Undying Love – the Story of Hosea and Gomer – Richard L. Strauss

Hosea – Chuck Swindoll

Song Devotional – Forgiven by Crowder – Devotional by Lindsay Williams

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness by Matthew West – Deb Mills Writer

5 Friday Faves – Great Neighbors, Beyond the Guitar Sheet Music, For the People, Rising Tide Startups, and a Different View on MLK50 Conference

Friday! Let’s jump right in…because Friday flew by this week. Here are my favorite finds:

1) Great Neighbors – Rarely does a day go by that I’m not reminded of what excellent neighbors I have. They treat you like a long-lost friend, home for a holiday, just when you show up for a walk with them on an early morning. [Hopefully that’s not just because I don’t walk enough.] They are quick to celebrate, and even quicker to lend a hand or an ear in a crisis or hard situation. Photo Credit: Jim Casey, QuoteHD

One of our neighbors daily walks another neighbor’s dog for him while he is dealing with chemotherapy. Another regularly surprises us with special treats or whimsical gifts.Photo Credit: Rainbow Symphony Store, QTM Windchimes

The day I had surgery (and cancer would be the doctor’s news), a dear neighbor came to with with Dave for the news. Like I said… great neighbors. Do you have some great neighbors? Please use the Comments below to tell some of your stories. It’s no small thing, is it?

2) Beyond the Guitar Sheet Music – It’s been a crazy week for those of us who follow Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills. Approaching 3 million views and counting on his arrangement of Fortnite Dances on Guitar. This past week, his sheet music is now being sold on Music Notes. I’m sure it will take awhile for all his arrangements to be available, but that’s where you can find it. Check out his latest piece from the video game Monster Hunter World. I still can’t get over the lovely music in the background of video games.Photo Credit: Nathan Mills, YouTube

Music Notes – Beyond the Guitar Sheet Music

YouTube Video – Monster Hunter World – Relaxing Classical Guitar Music (Beyond the Guitar)

Spotify – Beyond the Guitar

3) For the People – I love courtroom drama and For the People is a 2018 ABC series that has exceeded every expectation. It has a great ensemble cast and terrific writing.Photo Credit: KTUL TV

This past week’s episode had to do with mandatory minimum sentencing even for non-violent crimes. When we consider how much we are willing to pay for safety, the law today can overreach to protect that safety. We don’t even seem to mind…until, maybe, we are the ones caught in that overreach. If you aren’t watching this series, just catch this episode. I would love to hear what you think.

For the People – Season 1, Episode 5 Recap

The snippet below is a spoiler. The acting is penetrating. The message has sparked several conversations. I believe TV like this could actually have a much-needed social impact.

4) Rising Tide Startups – My favorite podcast is Kevin Prewett‘s Rising Tide Startups. This week, his guest was criminal attorney turned chocolatier Shawn Askinosie. During the podcast, he talked about his pursuit of a midlife career change. I was fascinated by his determination to go after something meaningful…and what that meant to him. Especially given his prayer for God to just give him something else to do…anything?

Have you ever been in that situation where you know, for your own sake, you need to do something else?

I was captivated by his story and plan to start reading his book this week. You can listen to this podcast here.

Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul Shawn Askinosie

Askinosie Chocolates

5) A Different View on MLK50 Conference – My Friday Faves of the previous week included the MLK50 Conference.  The messages of this conference racial reconciliation and racial unity were transforming for me, as a middle-class white woman. I am very thankful for it and now follow many of the speakers on Twitter. I want to keep learning. Following #MLK50Conference, I discovered one of the participants in the conference, Darrell B. Harrison. He is an African American and a theologian. He did not agree with all the language/messaging used at the conference. I was actually caught off guard by his take on the conference.

In a related situation, two groups of people in my life cannot agree on a direction. It is heartbreaking for me to watch them go through this. They both have good reasons for their thinking. That is how Harrison’s view has affected my thinking this week. I continue to greatly value the content of the MLK50 Conference.  Now, Darrell Harrison, in his writing and podcasting, has brought another argument to the table. Both sides are riveting and thought-provoking. His podcast on this topic is here. In a way, it is not easy to listen to…especially since I’m still so close to the MLK50 Conference. Just a different, studied, and thought-provoking viewpoint. So grateful to know him now, too. I still have a way to go on the journey toward racial reconciliation…and I want to get there…wherever “there” is.

Photo Credit: iTunes

Jupiter Hammon, 1787, An Address to Negroes in the State of New York

Photo Credit:  Relg250, History Is Now Magazine

These are my Friday Faves…on a Sunday. Hope your weekend was a delight!

Bonuses:

14 Ideas for a Cross-Cultural-Stress-Busting Laugh Break – Emily Jackson

Photos taken at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

10 “Secrets” to a Long Marriage

Boundaries, routines and early bedtimes: 13 habits that raise well-adjusted kids

Raising Honest Children

Photo Credit: Kathryn Whitt Visneski

Worship Wednesday – This Is Gonna to Make You Stronger – Mandisa

Photo Credit: GodTube

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. – 1 Peter 5:10

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10b

Some of my sweetest times with the Lord are driving in a dark car with the radio on. Last night I was on my way to a friend’s house and a string of songs came on all meant just for me…we’ve all had this experience, right? They were:

Every one of those songs highlights God’s work of grace in our lives. Mandisa‘s song especially spoke to the transforming nature of suffering. How God takes suffering and brokenness in our lives and perfects us through it. Perfects us in such a way that not only are we made stronger but our ability to comfort others is strengthened.

One of God’s gifts to this distractible daughter of His is how He speaks to my heart in waves to drive His message deep into my heart.

Last night, in a circle of women drinking tea and catching up with each other, the Lord spoke Mandisa’s message again through my friend. She told us a story about how her little daughter had a favorite doll that she always had with her. The mama even kept a second similar doll nearby for when the favorite occasionally went missing. That doll was a poor substitute. Her daughter’s favorite was her constant companion and because of that, this doll was dirty, worn, and well-loved. She had in some measure endured whatever that little girl endured.Photo Credit: Pixabay

…and was made perfect (in this little girl’s eyes) because of their shared experience

Even God’s sinless Son was somehow made perfect through suffering.

For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God–all things exist for Him and through Him–should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. – Hebrews 2:10

Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.Hebrews 5:8

When we suffer and bear up under it, with God’s help, we come out the other side stronger. What that does for us…and for those watching us…is give us a confidence and assurance that we will get through it. Just as we have seen Jesus suffer for our sake…and gloriously endure.

It’s not surprising that the song Stronger comes from Mandisa’s album What If We Were Real. It set me to remembering the childhood story of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. In the story, the Rabbit confronts the reality of what makes things “real”. In short, he discovered that love makes us real…and with that love comes suffering…but the love makes that suffering not matter.Photo Credit: Reddit

Suffering is a part of all our lives. I can understand, especially if your experience of suffering is very raw and current, that this talk of dolls and rabbits will feel frivolous.

What Jesus endured for us, however, is not a trifle. It is, in fact, the most real thing in my life…and hopefully yours, as well. That and His ongoing work in our lives transforming us to become more and more like Him.

Sometimes…that is through suffering.

Worship with me, if you will, through this song brought to us by our dear sister, Mandisa.

Hey, heard you were up all night
Thinking about how your world ain’t right
And you wonder if things will ever get better
And you’re asking why is it always raining on you
When all you want is just a little good news
Instead of standing there stuck out in the weather

Oh, don’t hang your head
It’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even if it’s hard to see Him
I promise you that He still cares

(Chorus)
When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me, this is gonna make you stronger
Gonna make you stronger, stronger, stronger
Believe me, this is gonna make you …

Try and do the best you can
Hold on and let Him hold your hand
And go on and fall into the arms of Jesus
Oh, lift your head it’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even when you just can’t feel Him
I promise you that He still cares

Chorus

‘Cause if He started this work in your life
He will be faithful to complete it
If only you believe it
He knows how much it hurts
And I’m sure that He’s gonna help you get through this

Chorus*

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore you, secure you, strengthen you, and establish you.”1 Peter 5:10

What do you make of this? Please comment below if you have a story of suffering you are willing to share. How did God reveal Himself to you…through you?

Lyrics to Stronger with Mandisa – song written by Christopher Stevens, David Garcia and Ben Glover 

Mandisa’s Album What If We were Real

Mandisa

YouTube Video – The Story Behind Stronger

“Stronger” – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis

5 Friday Faves – True Racial Unity, Commercial Composting, Fortnite Hype, Spring Flowers, and New Year’s Resolutions Revisited

Looking outside on this perfect Spring Friday, I’m having trouble staying focused. Everything feels slowed down, and my internet doesn’t just feel slow…it is dragging. Forgive me if my Friday Five is not as informative or linked up. Just want to get them up and out to you.

1) True Racial Unity – April 4 marked the 50th anniversary of M. L. King Jr’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. In that same city this week, ERLC and The Gospel Coalition held a conference on racial reconciliation/unity.  MLK50 Conference. Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

I watched much of it online. Hearing so many young pastors, educators, musical artists, and even politicians talk on how the church can move us in the direction of racial unity…was both inspiring and empowering.Photo Credit: Black Christian News

If you didn’t know about the conference (I saw it posted on Facebook), you can still catch much of the content by searching online for MLK50 Conference (#MLK50Conference). Below, I will post just a few quotes:

“Talking about race is challenging because people think they are more of an expert than they really are. Personal understanding is often the ceiling to progress. This is problematic when a dominant group is unaware of their own cultural proclivities.”Ray Chang

“When Dr. King was assassinated on the Lorraine Motel balcony, he had a scrap of paper stuffed inside his coat. Notes for an upcoming speech. On it was written the words: ‘Nothing is gained without sacrifice.'” – Matt Smethurst

“Jesus didn’t dip his toe into redemption; he dove in head first. Jesus didn’t follow the crowd. Jesus didn’t have a ‘trendy compassion’. Most people would not have done what Jesus did, but then again Jesus is not ‘most people'”.Trip Lee

“[Parents] your indifference toward diversity will be a norm by which your children’s worldview will be shaped.”Jackie Hill Perry

Growing the Next Generation to Value Biblical Racial Unity – Joy Allmond

Race and the Gospel [Podcast]– Rayshawn Graves – Movement Church

2) Commercial Composting – My mom and dad’s experience growing up poor during the Great Depression set me on a sure course of “reuse, repurpose, recycle”. My gardener husband is quite a gardener and makes excellent use of our compost pile. In fact, I do have to tell you one of my creepiest life experiences was discovering how quickly compost can be made. While we lived in Africa, big shiny black beetles would feast every night on our vegetable and fruit scraps until I just couldn’t take the idea of it anymore.Photo Credit: Nathan Greer, Facebook

This week I read the most intriguing post on Sevier Solid Waste, Inc. in our home state of Tennessee. Writer and photo journalist  Erin L. McCoy took a trip down to see this county composting facility and interviewed Tom Leonard, the director.

I’m not going to give detail here but what is possible using composting as both recycling and waste management is amazing. Photo Credits: Erin L. McCoy, Yes Magazine

Read this fascinating article:  Where Does All the Trash From Dollywood Go? To One of the World’s Best Composting FacilitiesErin L. McCoy

3) Fortnite Hype – I will be brief. In the world of videogaming, the save-the-world battle game Fortnite is becoming a cultural phenomenon. Currently, it could be the most-played game on the internet… millions playing on teams at the same time. Ninja, one of the popular professional gamers, plays regularly and profitably. He has definitely heaped the hype for this free-to-play game. Photo Credit: Fortnite Tube

Players often engage in cosplay (wearing costume for characters in the game)…as did Nathan when he arranged music from the game’s dances and posted the video below. Which is your favorite dance theme?

There is even a dance contest this week you can enter… “if you’ve got the moves”. #BoogieDown is the hashtag. So much hype.

Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) creates beautiful music with classical guitar. Still, the soaring views on this video have to relate to the wildly popular nature of this game. This video will pass half-a-million views today. Crazy!

YouTube Video – Fortnite Dances on Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

[Sidebar:  I’m still very ambivalent about video gaming. The theme music of these games is remarkably beautiful. I do like that many games are now multi-player, and sometimes friends actually play together, like, in the same room. It could be a way to actually spend time with gamers we love. I’m considering it…although unlikely.]

4) Spring Flowers – As I write inside, the bees outside are drawing out all the richness they can out of the Viburnum blossoms. We get about a week of this fragrant-as-Jasmine flowering bush and then the petals fly and settle like snow. One week of glory…then dark leafy beauty in its place. I look forward to this and other Spring flowers – short-lived but intoxicatingly beautiful in their season.

Flowers on a Spring Morning – Viburnum – Reminiscent of the Fresh and Fragrant Jasmine of North Africa – Deb Mills Writer

5) New Year’s Resolutions Revisited – On this past New Year’s Eve, our pastor Cliff challenged us at Movement Church to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. His commitment to help us continue resolved was to remind us 3-4 months into the new year about our resolutions as a personal accountability check on how we’re doing. Many of us wrote down our resolutions during the service and sealed them in self-addressed envelopes and left them with the church staff. My resolutions arrived in the mail yesterday…as promised.

What is that adage? “Slow and steady wins the race.” Some I’m doing well in – renewed habits. Some I still need lots of help in…Photo Credit: David Lose

Unlike Calvin, at least in some areas, I so need to keep resolve and to have good friends to come alongside and help me get there.

Do you still remember your resolutions? How is it going?

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Monday Morning Moment: Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

That’s it for this Friday. Enjoy the rest of your day and this weekend. Don’t forget to comment below. Please subscribe to the blog, if you will. Be gentle with yourself and those around you. We can do this!

Bonuses:

Les Miserables Family-Style – One Day More  – Le Baron Singers

Anyone looking to do Les Miserables for their next show? Better yet…anyone looking for an entire cast? This is "One Day More." For casting, please see below:Valjean: Jayson LeBaronMarius: Jordon LeBaronCosette: Angela Garrett LeBaronEponine: Karina LeBaronEnjolras: Juston LeBaronMadame Thenardier: Heidi LeBaron GarnThenardier: Gerald J LeBaron, Spencer GarnJavert: Landon LeBaronGhost of Fantine: Kaitlyn HipwellI love Sunday nights with the fam!…and we will have more! Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhA_AniwbRQFor more info about us, check out our new website: https://www.lebaronsingers.com/

Posted by Jordon LeBaron on Monday, April 2, 2018

Heroes

Worklife with Adam Grant – Podcast – the Team of Humble Stars

The Silent Killer Among American Retirees – Brian Stoffel [Here It Is: Social Isolation]

50 Mums and Their Children With Down’s Syndrome Make Emotional Carpool Karaoke-Style Video

Infographic: 1 of These Four Strengths Is Your Superpower – Damon Brown

Photo Credit: Docolumide, Twitter

Consider This – Radio Show with Annette Petrick

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted… Isaiah 61:1

You know how to break a kid’s heart? Uproot him from his friends and the familiar, and move him far away to a new and strange place. Then over the course of a childhood, move him/them several more times – not just between cities and states, but countries and continents.

Because of Dave’s work, our children went through these heartbreaks of life. With every move, we would sit by their beds as they cried out their hearts at losing friends and packing up their lives. You can imagine how their tears mimicked my own grownup Photo Credit: Max Pixel

emotions, tucked deep inside. Less visible…but still there. I could feel them more through the sharp ache of our children’s grief.

What was even more profound than their heartbreak (and I sure hope they remember this) was the peace…and even joy…that came after. The grace of God gently rubbed onto their wounded hearts and weary little bodies. Prayers of their parents answered. A loving, all-knowing heavenly Father who came alongside in their sorrow…and ours.

We have all experienced broken hearts…wounds that shape our lives and responses to others…and to God. Men and women, as well as children. We women don’t struggle at least in using words for what breaks our hearts. For men, it seems they bury that sort of pain deep…and move on. Albeit changed.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Having grown up with all brothers and now married over 30 years, mothering sons, I have seen men close to me wrestle with wounded hearts. Disappointment, bewilderment at betrayal, loss. We, as women, want to make it all better…we probably have no idea really how deep hurt goes for our men. They are excellent in disguising and disregarding pain…bearing it too often alone.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Then the women in our lives come to mind. We friends and sisters, mothers and daughters…we get it. Partly because we’ve experienced wounded hearts together. Loneliness. Infertility. Miscarriage. Loss of a child or widowhood. Unfaithfulness in marriage. Betrayal of a friend. Powerlessness at work. Insignificance. We talk together about these things…and yet, it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on in our thoughts alone, and into the night.Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay

When our hearts are wounded or downright broken, we pull away. Who, after all, wants to be around someone grieving?…we figure.

In my own life, and as I’ve watched others regain their equilibrium and return back to life and place, one constant has been clear.

Jesus is the friend of a wounded heart. We can lean in and lean hard on him. Even with small faith. Without any judgment.

The Scripture reminds us of the truth when we see there’s nowhere else to go…once we’ve been with Jesus. During a time of great persecution for Jesus and his disciples, there were those followers who counted the cost and left him. When he asked those closest to him if they would leave, too,

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.John 6:68
Another favorite account for me is that of the woman accused of adultery and facing those who would stone her to death. Jesus intervened with the captivating statement: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  That woman, that day, found mercy…in the presence of Jesus. May it be so for all of us.
Photo Credit: YouTube
Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God; my strong rock, my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. – Psalm 62:5-8
The song that came to mind and birthed this Worship Wednesday was written for an album 30 years ago.It is Wayne Watson‘s Friend of a Wounded Heart.
Photo Credit: Wayne Watson
When Watson talks about Jesus as friend…it is far from the casualness of some in our culture today. This friend Jesus is Savior friend – one who will never leave or forsake us. He knows our deepest pains and greatest joys. He keeps watch over us in dark times and he celebrates without reservation in our joys and victories – no matter how small or large. Jesus will be our constant in this roller coaster of life…if we let him in and lean on him.

Worship with me (lyric video in link):

Smile, make them think you’re happy
Lie, and say that things are fine
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don’t ever show it, just keep your heart concealed

Why are the days so lonely?
I wonder where, where can a heart go free?
And who will dry the tears that no one sees?
There must be someone to share your silent dreams

Caught like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where can you turn?
Whisper the words of a prayer
And you’ll find Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes

CHORUS
Jesus, He meets you where you are
Oh, Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you’re longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

Joy, comes like the the morning
Hope, deepens as you grow
And peace, beyond the reaches of your soul
Comes blowing through you, for love has made you whole*

Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.Psalm 30:5

I pray we can also be hands and feet of Christ for one another in woundedness and brokenness. Watch for these precious hurting ones in your workplace, church, and community…lean in and come alongside. Hopefully, they will see this Jesus in you.

[In the links below you will also find the versions performed by Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir) and by Avalon. Enjoy. I’m thankful we have them on YouTube because this song is little-sung today…although we need the message as much as ever. It’s one of those songs and messages which draws my arms up in praise…every time I hear it. Thank You, Jesus, for being the friend to our wounded hearts.]

*Lyrics to Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Newton

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Avalon

10 Comforting Scripture Verses for the Broken Heart – Aimee Imbeau

YouTube Video – Jesus Christ – Let Him Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Monday Morning Moment – Adam Grant on 3 Traits of the Highly Functional Workplace

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I love Mondays! It’s ripe with possibility…and prospects of new beginnings. The tricky part of the start of any week is not settling into your work station and returning to the “same ol’, same ol'” – whatever that might entail. Even when we are excited, or at least hopeful for what’s next, we can default to usual rhythms and routines. They are familiar and comfortable (at least on the surface). Neuroplasticitythe brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice – can be both our enemy AND our friend.

If you love your work and you see how you fit integrally on your team, and you love your team, that is fantastic! Celebrate that every day! For you, I would just love if you could take a minute and comment below. What do you see at work in your situation? What do you do yourself to nurture that workplace experience?

[Even if you love your job, would you be willing to consider how you could help other teammates to have your experience and move to the top of their professional game?]

Adam Grant is one of those guys who loves his work…and shares generously with all his readers and TED Talk and podcast viewers/listeners.Photo Credit: Flickr

WorkLife with Adam Grant: A TED Original Podcast

Adam (he makes it feel comfortable to refer to him by his first name) is an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton Business School. He’s authored excellent books and is now moving into a new role as pod-caster. He has affirmed much of what I believe about workplace culture and its impact on day-to-day function, employee engagement, and outcomes/product.

Author, entrepreneur Damon Brown interviewed Adam Grant and posted recently on the traits of companies which are the most highly functional. His findings weren’t surprising to me, but I’d like to hear what you think.

Best-Selling Author Adam Grant: The Most Highly Functional Companies Have These 3 TraitsDamon Brown

3 Traits of the Most Highly Functional Companies:

  1. These companies make a high priority of helping their employees discover both their weaknesses and strengths, together with their coworkers. The goals relate to outcomes, sure, but, as part of that, the professional development of each employee, as well as team cohesion and a “best practice” level of collaboration. How refreshing when both department heads and all stake-holders turn a mirror on themselves for the sake of both the individual and the whole. Having this core value could turn a company on its head…in a good way!Photo Credit: Pixabay
  2. Adam Grant has discovered that many high functioning organizations have flexible hierarchies. You might walk into one of these work meetings and not be able to tell who the “big boss” is. Also, when a decision is made, it is not always top-down. Sure, the decision is given authority from the top, but the process clearly demonstrates and validates the employees closest to a decision (and the impact of the decision) to make that decision. Again, please comment below if you work in such an environment. For me, the whole idea of this is so reasonable and wise. By the way, even if your hierarchy is currently rigid, what would it look like, if you began working toward flexibility? What could be your next steps?Photo Credit: Pixabay
  3. Highly functioning organizations use the word “family” in describing themselves. Not in a smarmy, feel good way, but in actual experience of community and belonging and care. We as colleagues can make this happen within a team, whether it is a top-down experience or not. We communicate and demonstrate, in good faith, that we have each other’s back. We show genuine care for each other and don’t allow ambition or personal preference blind us to the needs of the rest of our team. This actually can eventually have a cross-team impact…if we are patient. If you wonder how, just search on-line for Adam Grant – he has both written and spoken volumes on this.

All three of these traits, or patterns, point to a vision that is highly peopled. It is not just driven from the top. Nor is it owned by one work group over another. A shared vision, in the truest sense of its meaning, gives room for all players…with their varying strengths and weaknesses. There is space for leaders and those who prefer to follow (excellent leaders or even those not-so-much), for the persuaders and those willing to consider the persuasion, for the decision-makers and those who want to speak into the decisions. Your over-all vision might be right but engaging all employees in going after that vision makes for highest function (especially for all you efficiency folks out there). Highest function and greatest care for each employee. That is a vision all of us could share or even own.Photo Credit: Flickr

What all this says to me is that people matter. Not just the most brilliant, bombastic, or brand-worthy, but everyone in the organization. Maybe you already work in such a company. if not, you …each of us can move it in the direction of such a company.

After all…it’s Monday. Who knows what could happen by the end of the week?

Best-Selling Author Adam Grant: The Most Highly Functional Companies Have These 3 TraitsDamon Brown

WorkLife with Adam Grant – Podcast – The Problem with All-Stars

Why Our Brains Fall for False Expertise, and How to Stop It – Khalil Smith

Infographic: 1 of These Four Strengths Is Your Superpower – Damon Brown

Self Sacrifice Won’t Get You Ahead. Wise Leaders Do This Instead – Damon Brown

Jesus & Holy Week – Day 8 – He is Risen! Resurrection Sunday

Blog - Easter - Empty TombPhoto Credit: TurnbacktoGod.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1 

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. John 20:18

On this Sunday, this most glorious day in all of history, death gave way to life. The grave could not hold Jesus. Those who loved Jesus most came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 saw him alive. Jesus himself, bearing the wounds of the cross, walked with them, ate with them, taught them again…as he promised.

“He is alive! This man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With the breath of creation, He speaks of peace, faith, and mission.

With lungs full of air, He breathes on His disciples and grants His Spirit. My Jesus – alive!

The eyes that saw the darkness of death now drink in the sunlight of Easter. My Jesus – alive!”* – Trevin Wax

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

Oh the joy…the indescribable joy of that reality. He died and yet he lives. We were dead in our sins, and because of him, we have life.

Take the time to read this amazing story yourself. The Gospel writers all have given detailed accounts of the risen Christ ( Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-29). The Apostle Paul also wrote about Jesus’ resurrection in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15).

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 55-57

Sadly, there are those who think the resurrection of Jesus a myth, or a fairy tale. Even his life is treated casually. Yet, for sure, anyone who does a careful examination of the life and teachings of Jesus would be radically changed.  This certainly was my experience. I know too well how wicked my heart can be…my thoughts and actions. God draws us to Himself, and in the drawing we recognize our desperate need for a savior, a strong arm to pull us out of the muck and mire of our own making. Jesus did that for me.

I know Jesus is alive from the historical accounts and the writing of eye witnesses, and because of his own word. I also know he is alive because of how he has transformed lives through the ages. He has changed my life, and he continues to do so.

For the past 20 years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking. I would like to close with a portion out of his Easter reading.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”John 20:19

“On that dark Sunday morning, Mary could never have guessed the cosmic significance of the empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead the ancient engines of order were fired once more and, in his body on earth, chaos was defeated. And what a wonderful moment for Jesus and his disciples. Neither locks nor fears could withstand the peace and security that the risen Saviour brought, and still brings to his people. It is the peace of knowing that, however rough the road may need to be (and it often is), we shall indeed, in the most real sense, live happily ever after.” – Adrian Plass**

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

Holy Week – Day 8: Resurrection Sunday! – Thank you, Mary Fairfield for writing so well, so thoughtfully, and so thoroughly for Christianity.About.com.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

5 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Rose From the Dead – Adam4d

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

**The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People (1994) by Adrian Plass

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

YouTube video with lyrics – Before the Throne of God Above – sung by Selah

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

YouTube Video – Easter Song (Live) – Keith Green – (song starts 2 minutes in)

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

عيد القيامة يسوع المسيح مبارك وكلّ عام وانت واعئلتك بالف خير! المسيح فام! حقّاً قام!

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration & His Last Supper Before the Cross

IslBGPhoto Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

[Adapted from the Archives]

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

The Thursday before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion was the awaited celebration of Passover. In this day, we have a picture of Jesus, in all his humanity, and in all his deity. All four of the Gospels written about Jesus’ life have an account of this day’s events (Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14; Luke 22:7-65; John 13:1-18:27).

After sunset, the Jewish people would take the Passover meal together – as families usually. They would share the Seder and remember how God protected them during the days of their slavery in Egypt. Photo Credit: Seder Meal, Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr

When Jesus and his disciples gathered around this meal, there was not just looking back, but also a looking forward. The disciples still may not have understood that Jesus was hours away from dying. However, I’m sure they listened carefully to his teaching in those sacred moments together.

This particular Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy means “commanded” and also can refers to the ceremonial washing of feet.  Jesus took upon himself to wash the dusty feet of his disciples, modeling for them his command to love one another (John 13:34-35).

After Jesus and his disciples finished their meal together, he would then enter the garden Gethsemane to pray. They were all with him, except Judas Iscariot, who stole away during the meal. He bring Jesus’ enemies to trap him there in the garden. Jesus prayed long into the night. He wrestled with his heavenly Father over the need for him to die. “Oh my Father, if it is possible, let this cup [of suffering and death] pass from me.” Then, settled in his obedience, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Sometime during that dark night of the soul, he turned his attention toward his disciples and all the rest of us, across the ages, who would follow him. His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17, is exquisitely beautiful, especially in the context of this difficult night. [Take time to read it in full, but I’ve included a part of it below.]

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Then out of the darkness, Judas came to betray Jesus. He was leading a group of the religious leaders, along with a huge company of soldiers. Although Jesus’ disciples wanted to resist his arrest, Jesus refused their intervening and surrendered himself…not to the mob but to the will of the Father.

The betrayal was complete. His disciples fled (although those closest to him would soon follow). He would spend the rest of the night in the tormenting custody of his enemies. The countdown to the cross has begun in earnest. A countdown that actually began at the Fall of humanity, and, under the careful watch of God, our Father…a countdown toward restoring us back to Himself.

One more day…

YouTube video – Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn) by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Holy Week – Day 5: Thursday’s Passover, Last Supper – Mary Fairchild

What Is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday 2015: The History Behind The Holy Thursday Before Easter – Also enjoy the beautiful Lent Meditations Slideshow at end of article.

Jesus Pray for His Disciples…and For Us – Ralph F. Wilson