Category Archives: Service

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Ready For Your Workday? – Lessons From Cintas

Photo Credit: Food & Beverage Magazine

Next time you head to the restroom, take a look around. Unless it has just been stormed by a tour group that needed more than the usual service, you can get a sense of readiness. Not the readiness of the restroom, but of the person or agency servicing it…and you as a customer. I wrote about this level of customer service once before  here. Why I wrote about clean restrooms then is why it begins my topic today. Clean restrooms demonstrate a sense of pride and caring. We want restrooms to be ready for the workday. How about our own readiness?

Readiness is defined as being fully prepared and willing to execute.
It is not just about being prepared for one’s workday. It’s also a ready-set-go willingness to be on our toes, stepping up, taking the ball, and scanning both the horizon and the lines drawn on our playing field.

When a Cintas truck rolls into the parking lot, I can almost smell the clean linens and uniforms inside. Their branding includes this mantra: Ready for the Workday: A confident image, clean facility and safe workplace start here. Here’s their commercial that I just saw this weekend, It got me thinking about the broad reach of readiness in the workplace.

My husband walks out of the house ahead of me every morning with his computer bag and a thermos of coffee. He has his schedule on his phone and he keeps a journal. He has thought about the day. He is prepared…the willingness to execute then comes into play as he goes out our door and enters his company’s door…and all the rest of the doors of his day. Both are disciplines – the preparedness of readiness and the willingness to execute.

Readiness keeps momentum going and momentum has huge impact on business and workplace excellence.

After watching the Cintas commercial, I went to their website. What a feast for anyone wanting to learn about leadership and a healthy workplace culture. Check out their Code of Conduct and Business Ethics page. Nothing on their agenda about Business Casual – and everything about dressing and performing aims at positive impact, and helping their customers do the same.

The website’s drop-down menu displays a variety of helps and services. Honestly, it’s hard to believe this company is for-profit based on the generous sharing of information for helping others (their customers and competitors) be “ready for the workday”.

I want to close with some of the quotes from the Cintas website – both from their own founder and from writers who speak for and to their own leadership. Enjoy.

Corporate culture is the single most important distinguishing factor between greatness and mediocrity. It is a major reason Cintas is different from our competitors and other companies. It is our ultimate competitive advantage.” Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

A key to our success has been a culture that encourages meaningful, respectful relationships between the company and our employee-partners and the commitment to always do what’s right. This spirit of teamwork, camaraderie and trust has become our most important competitive advantage and is a cornerstone of the Cintas culture.” – Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

“Those who rise to senior leadership levels in almost any organization have one critical attribute in common — they’ve embraced soft leadership skills. This includes having the ability to build relationships with the people you work with. There’s never been a leader in this world without people who wanted to follow them — and the first step to getting people to want to support you is to get them to like you. Take the time to get to know the people you work with, and learn what’s important to them.”Karlyn Borysenko

Be transparent. Insincerity and evasion chip away at trust, so whenever you can, be transparent about what’s happening with the business. Of course, there will be confidential data you can’t disclose. Carolyn O’Hara of the Harvard Business Review notes, ‘regularly distributing other information—like financial results, performance metrics, and notes from board meetings—shows that you trust your employees, which in turns helps them have greater faith in you.’”Lee Polevoi

Don’t micromanage or give step-by-step instructions. Instead, provide guardrails while giving [employees] the freedom to find smart and creative solutions.Chuck Leddy

Photo Credit: LinedIn – Cintas

Hope you enter your workplace ready for the day today! The best part of Monday is its own possibility of a new beginning. Of course, that sort of “Monday” can come any day of the week.

On ready!

6 Essential Leadership Skills That Will Advance Your Career – Karlyn Borysenko

Building Trust in the Workplace – What Business Leaders Can Do – Lee Polevoi

Agile Process Management: An Approach For Business Success – Chuck Leddy

16 Things You Should Do at the Start of Every Workday – Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes

6 Tips For Building Momentum  During Change – Sallie Sherman

Why Preparation Is Better Than Planning – Craig Jarrow

Being Ready For Your Workday Feels Great! – Advance Preparation Is the Key to a Successful Day – Craig Jarrow

What Does Casual Dress Really Mean Today? – 6 Wardrobe Tips For Career Success – Lynn Taylor

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

Happy Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

Blog - Friday Faves 006 (2)

It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You?- by Ghost Ship

blog-where-were-you-tumblrPhoto Credit: i-love-to-love.tumblr

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” – God (Job 38:4)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”…and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.Job 42:1-6, 9b

I don’t cry easily. Maybe it’s all the years of cancer nursing where my tears were spent. Or having already lost loves of our own has drained them. Or this broken world has finished off my tears.

Or so I thought. This morning has brought tears as my sister-in-law texts with me about Dad. He is in his last weeks…days…we don’t know. This funny, intelligent, extraordinary and simple farmer’s son…this man who took in four more children when he married my mom…this man who has always been strong as an ox even in his 90s…this man who fiercely loves his family and friends…this man is winding down in this life.Dad and Debbie - July 2016

I don’t ask God “Why?” about Dad’s dying…he’s lived a full and amazing life. My prayer has been that he can enter the healing of Heaven without the terror of late Alzheimer’s or the pain of cancer spreading. So far, he still knows us all and has sweet moments of reflection…when he wakes from his long naps. The pain, like the cancer, is growing, but so far, with medication and the close care of family and hospice, he is managing to be comfortable most of the time…and we’re thankful.img_9067

The part of life, for any of us, when suffering looms large does cause us to ask “Why?” sometimes. This past Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang Where Were You. We are in an Explore God sermon series along with several other churches in the Richmond area. This Sunday the topic was “Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?” [You can listen to that podcast here.]

The issue of suffering is a very personal one. It’s really a wonder, in such a fallen world, that there is not more suffering. God has always been intimately present with us in times of loss and suffering, and I hope to be able to trust Him in future hard places.

The song Where Were You? is taken directly from the book of Job. He suffered enormous loss and physical pain which could have entirely shaken his faith in God. The book describes his wrestling with the “why’s” with the help of three not-so-helpful friends. Beginning in Job 31, Job makes one last appeal to God to satisfy his questions. Before God speaks, another friend, Elihu, shows up and offers a glorious defense of God’s character. He speaks through 5 chapters of Job on God’s behalf. Then, God Himself, makes the closing statement to Job (Job 38-41). It is thrilling to read. God is the answer to all our questions…if we will listen.

Worship with me to the words from Job by the Christian band Ghost Ship.

I said God I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but suffering

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?

He said where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?

Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show

Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth

Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

We are not alone in our suffering. There is plenty of great teaching on suffering elsewhere (including John Piper’s article linked below). For me, for today, thinking about and praying for my dad…this song was a just-right reminder of God’s power and His goodness. He can do all things and His purposes are not thwarted. Hallelujah!

[If you’re reading this just after it’s been posted, we would appreciate your prayers for our dad and for those most closely caring for him. Thank you.]

*Lyrics to Where Were You?

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – with Lyrics – Ghost Ship – Mars Hill Music

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – Lyrics without Images – Ghost Ship

Video Collection – Why Does god Allow Pain and Suffering? – Explore God

Job: Rebuked in Suffering – Job 32:1-37:24 – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – Finishing Strong with Amazing Grace

Blog - Finishing Strong 2 - Tim MilburnPhoto Credit: Tim Milburn

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2

Finishing strong is something we all want for our lives, right? To see it happen in the life of another spurs us on to that same possibility.

Yesterday, I attended a celebration of a man’s life – 40+ years of faithful service in the same organization. 40+ years. As we heard the many accolades of his work and character, he sat quietly, listening, too. In years we’ve known him, he never aspired to that center stage spotlight…and yet, for these moments, grateful friends and colleagues shined that light on him.

He was compared to a son of Issachar (understanding the times, discerning) with the wisdom of Solomon, the passion of Paul, and the meekness of Moses. As different ones spoke of his impact and influence on their lives, he was described as a strong leader, faithful servant, friend and mentor.

This is certainly my experience of him – even in a leader role much of his career, he sought to work in the background doing what he could to make others successful. When I read the Hebrews passage above, it usually makes me think of how each of us has our own race, our individual course…but maybe we’re meant to think of it as a relay sometimes.

With our friend, he has, many times over, handed off his baton to another. Planting that baton squarely into the next runner’s hand. Giving way to another’s time to run. Selflessly releasing his hold…for the sake of the finish…for the winner’s crown, in a relay, doesn’t go to one, but to all on the team who run. This is how our friend leads and lives his life.Blog - Finishing Strong - Tim MilburnPhoto Credit: Tim Milburn

What does it take to finish strong like this? It takes proven character infused by amazing grace.

I have seen the mighty hand of God at work in this friend’s life. An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives. This is certainly evident in this faithful, humble man.

Another example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about their relationship:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Like with our friend celebrated yesterday, and like Newton and Wilberforce, we all have the opportunity to finish strong through the amazing grace of God. I want, with all my heart, to reflect the magnificent glory of God by not only breaking the tape at the finish of my own race, but handing off the baton entrusted to me for others to finish what God started in their lives.

Worship with me to Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone):

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Blog - Finishing strong - Amazing Grace - johnnewtonPhoto Credit: JohnNewton.org

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Amazing Grace film (2007)

YouTube video of Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace with clips from film

Brief & thrilling summary of the life of John Newton who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace

Film Clip from the Film Amazing Grace – 2006 drama of political & spiritual life of William Wilberforce and his battle against slavery

Blog - Finishing Strong - John Newton - fministryPhoto Credit: Fministry

5 Friday Faves – Parental Pressures, Global Leadership Summit Highlights, Tim Ferriss, NCAA Championship Highlights, & American Idol Finale

Blog - Friday Faves

Friday, again. Hope you had a wonderful week or, at least, now maybe you can recover from it. These are my 5 favorite finds this week – very different from each other. Enjoy the rest of your day and sweet weekend.

1) Parental Pressures –  Bunmi Laditan is the author of The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting. In a piece for Huffington Post, she declares “I’m done making my kids’ childhood magical.” I loved it because the pressure parents feel today to make their children’s lives magical is so unnecessary. The pressures from Pinterest and other social media seep into our family cultures and place undue expectations on us to escalate birthday parties, vacations, after-school activities to “better and better, more and more”.  To what end? Fortunately for me as a mom, our oldest was extraordinarly creative and led in our children all playing well together as children. They performed plays with little figures which they drew and cut out. When it was too hot for outside play, living in Cairo, Egypt, they roller-skated in apartment hallways . OK, so we did get to live in extraordinary places. They have gotten to experience 5 of the 11 Epcot Center countries without going to Disney World yet. So they have had an advantage in that. Magical, however, was never a goal of ours for their childhood. Like Laditan says, “Childhood is inherently magical” already.  So I say hats-off to you parents who give your children occasions for great whimsy and delight, and hats-off to you who can also keep it simple. Hands in the dirt. Fishing with grandpa. Learning a second language. P.S. Laditan’s article How to Put a Toddler to Bed in 100 Easy Steps is hysterical (even for that weary parent).Blog - Parenting in EgyptBlog - Christie, Nathan, & Daniel in Turkey

2) Global Leadership Summit Highlight – Best money we have spent for a conference in recent years. Bill Hybels brings together great leaders to speak on a wide range of topics suited for any of us in positions of authority/influence – on business, community, service, relationships, and the world. You can register right here for the 2016 summit. We attended at a satellite location less than 30 minutes from home.Blog - Global Leadership Summit - 2016Photo Credit: Willowcreek

Brian Dodd’s 150 Leadership Quotes from Bill Hybels from the Global Leadership Summit (2013-2015 Leadership Summits)

Also: Slideshare by Maruay Songtanin entitled The 100 Greatest Leadership Principles of All Time

3) Tim Ferriss on becoming an effective CEO – Well, Tim Ferriss didn’t write this one, although he teaches us tons of fascinating stuff through his Four Hour Work Week blog. This topic was covered by a guest on his blog – Chip Conley, author of Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success. Conley entered the hospitality industry in his 20’s and developed a strong ideology of valuing the intangible. He even became known as Chief Emotions Officer. [I can hear the eyes rolling.] Still, for those of you in leadership who are willing to learn something out of your comfort zone, learn from Chip Conley. Not necessarily about Buddhism or Maslow, but about employee engagement, work culture, and customer service.Blog - Child Conley - Emotional equationsPhoto Credit: True North Leadership

Leaders who don’t at least have processes in place to address such matters for their employees and customers have blinders on. Just sayin’. I wrote on another innovative and excellent hotelier, Horst Schulze, on a similar topic – world-class customer service.

TED Talk – Chip Conley on Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile

How to Become an Effective CEO: Chief Emotions Officer

4) NCAA Championship Highlights – This year’s March Madness ended with basketball greatness with the game between Villanova and North Carolina. Both tremendous teams and a battle to the end for the NCAA Championship. Such an incredible game! Villanova pulled out the victory in the last seconds. Blog - NCAA Championship - Basketball - woodtvPhoto Credit: WoodTV

If you didn’t see the game or want to just replay the great moments of the game, here are the highlights:

5) American Idol Finale – American Idol is over and I will miss it. I wasn’t a forever fan, but this farewell season has been fascinating from first to finish. On the final show, there were two hours of past winners, contestants, and judges showcased with lots of Hollywood hoopla. Also, the winner of this, the final season was revealed. This year’s American Idol is La’Porsha…..nope. It is Trent. I was surprised, although he is a completely amazing singer. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising as the culture of American Idol is driven by the voting of social-media savvy young people (I’m thinking) – possibly more girls (again, a guess). Handsome Dalton Rapattoni‘s fans, after his elimination, may have rolled their votes over to handsome Trent Harmon. Or, as the mic picked up one of them saying to the other as they hugged after the announcement: “It was God’s will.” La’Porsha Renae had to be a bit disappointed not to win. She is magnificent, and the only place she is going is up in the music world. She and Trent both got record contracts, so good news!AMERICAN IDOL: Host Ryan Seacrest, Contestant La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon during the AMERICAN IDOL Finale airing Thursday, April 7 (8:00-10:06 PM ET Live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Here’s a sample of La’Porsha’s gift. Don’t miss her, because she is a rising star, destined for wherever God and that voice will take her.

Then there’s Trent…also incredibly gifted and ready for the music industry. Don’t miss his interpretation of Sia‘s Chandelier.

lastly, here, quite poignantly is the announcement of the winner, the last song, and the last goodbye…for now.

Trent Harmon Wins Last American Idol Ever – TV Guide piece by Liam Mathews with Finale Highlights

‘American idol’ Names Harmon its Final Winner – Bill Keveney, USA Today

5 Friday Faves – Compassionate Baristas, a Foster Child, Joey Feek’s Legacy, a Daredevil Guitar Arrangement, and a John Piper Sermon Jam

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How is it that Friday arrives every week with lightening speed?! Okay, maybe not for everyone…but be glad about that. I am left wondering again: where did the week go? Fortunately it did not pass by without leaving me with some treasures I’ll share with you.

1) Compassionate Baristas – You may have seen the story this week of Dutch Bros. Coffee baristas Pierce Dunn and Evan Freeman. They discovered that a woman in the car line waiting for her order was crying [her husband had died the night before]. They quickly reached out to her, and in a moment of grace-filled spontaneity prayed for her at the window. Her coffee was on the house. Sweet story and video.Blog - Friday Faves - Dutch Brothers pray for customer - March 2016Photo Credit: Daily Mail

2) A Foster Child – The circumstances that force children into foster care can be devastating and tragic. Nathaniel Matanick produced a magnificent short film,  entitled “ReMoved“, about the journey of a foster child (through her eyes). I watched it on Facebook this week and was so moved by the story – the heart-break and the hope. You can watch it here. Also, I just discovered Matanick has finished “ReMoved – Part 2“.Blog - Foster Child - childadvocatesPhoto Credit: Child Advocates

3) Joey Feek’s Legacy – When country singer Joey Feek died, she left behind her husband, Rory, and a darling 2 y/o daughter named Indy (Indiana). Indy has Down’s Syndrome…although the fact seemed irrelevant to their story. Last Fall, Joey realized she probably wouldn’t not survive the cancer and she quite deliberately began a self-less, loving process for Indy’s sake. This little girl who wanted to be with her all the time. This little girl who Joey loved more than anything. Joey began the painful process of intentionally becoming less in Indy’s life and opened up opportunity for Indy’s daddy, Rory, to become more to her. He writes magnificently about it in his blog. What a picture of great love! What a loss! What a legacy!Blog - Joey Feek - legacy - todayPhoto Credit: Today

4)  A Daredevil Guitar Arrangement – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar just posted a new guitar arrangement of the theme from the Netflix TV show Daredevil. It is beautiful.

5) John Piper Sermon Jam – 3 minutes of powerful preaching about the perfect love of God for us and the deep cost of that love. Don’t miss it.

Hope you have a weekend ahead full of friends, family, and fun (which could mean just a few hours all by yourself). For those of you who celebrate Eastern/Orthodox Easter this weekend, Happy Easter!

“He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

P.S. I know a few men who have a man cave and are still wise (and possibly even great), but I loved this graphic all the same.Blog - Man CavePhoto Credit: Facebook

Would love to hear about your favorite finds of this week. In Comments. Thanks!

Monday Morning Moment – Kindness Over Cleverness – Work Culture Where Employee Satisfaction Impacts Marketing

Blog - Kind over Clever - Jeff Bezos - scoopnestPhoto Credit: Scoopnest

Quite remarkably, I recently came across several articles on kindness, of all things, in the Harvard Business Review. It was thrilling for me to see it commended as a business process in such a prestigious journal. I have loved the idea of kindness since early childhood. It seemed such a reasonable choice in dealing with others, much more pleasing than cleverness. [Now, if I were more clever, then it might have proved a harder choice.]

Although we were not in church as young children, my mom taught us the Disney form of kindness: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” – from the film Bambi.

When we, later in my childhood, became involved in a church community, I discovered the great teachings of God about kindness, which further stoked my resolve. Whenever possible, acting in kindness was the right choice…in personal relationships and in the workplace.

These days, in tight-knit tribal leadership and competitive companies, kindness is too often sacrificed for the bottom-line. You can imagine how refreshing it is for me to see that business thinkers and strategists are taking note of the profitability of kindness as a process – both internally (organizational human relations) and externally (marketing). A work culture of strategic, intentional kindness – just think of that!

If you go to Harvard Business Review’s website and search the word kindness, all sorts of articles pop up. I was most intrigued by Bill Taylor’s pieces on “kindness over cleverness”. He is the founder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical. He tells stories of companies who have been successful in practicing kindness strategically. He is inspired by Jeff Bezos’ experience growing up with a wise grandfather who taught him to choose kindness over cleverness. That story is told by Bezos himself in the TED Talk (linked below).Blog - Kind Over Clever - Jeff Bezzos - nepc.colorado.eduPhoto Credit: National Education Policy Center

Ted Talk Video – Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon – Princeton Commencement Address on What Matters More Than Talents – Gifts vs. Choices

If we wanted to take individual (and corporate) kindness up several notches in our workplace and workforce, what would those processes be? What would we have to give up  in order to raise employee satisfaction to such a level that it extends to product excellence and customer service? For leadership, it might be giving up some control and extending a kinder and wiser empowerment, For employees, it might be giving up a timid fatalism and risking a kinder boldness (less of “the great Oz” scenario). I would love to hear what business processes you have in place that celebrate kindness over cleverness. What kind of work culture does your leadership model and cultivate? What can you do yourself, whatever your leadership culture is? See Matt Monge’s article on leading without a title.  [Please share in Comments section below.]

We have a choice, after all.

I hope to write more about this because it is intriguing to me how our own delight in our work and product can pour over into our profitability and success.

For today, I close with some of my favorite quotes from these Harvard Business Review articles:Blog - What Can I Do Right Now - Heres-the-question-Id-q57pgs - larry ferlazzoPhoto Credit: Larry Ferlazzo

“Kindness has a strategic role to play, especially when it comes to winning over customers in an intensely competitive and slowly recovering economy.”Jeffrey F. Rayport

Success today is about so much more than just price, quality, reliability – pure economic value. It is about passion, emotion, identity – sharing your values.”Bill Taylor

Success is not just about marketing differently from other companies…It is also, and perhaps more important, about caring more than other companies — about customers, about colleagues, about how the organization conducts itself in a world with endless opportunities to cut corners and compromise on values…You can’t be special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace. How does your brand shape your culture? How does your culture bring your brand to life? – Bill Taylor

What is it about business that makes it so hard to be kind?” I asked at the time. And what kind of businesspeople have we become when small acts of kindness feel so rare? …By all means, encourage your people to embrace technology, get great at business analytics, and otherwise ramp up the efficiency of everything they do. But just make sure all their efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of their humanity. Small gestures can send big signals about who we are, what we care about, and why people should want to affiliate with us. It’s harder (and more important) to be kind than clever.”Bill Taylor

Compassion is a great equalizer. When you approach others with genuine concern for their well-being, your standing in the organizational hierarchy is less of a barrier to a productive conversation…Kindness, in other words, is rarely inappropriate.Allison Rimm

Is Kindness a Strategy? – Jeffrey F. Rayport

Brand Is Culture, Culture is Brand – William C. Taylor

It’s More Important to Be Kind Than Clever – William C. Taylor

Why Is It So Hard to Be Kind? – William C. Taylor

10 Ways You Can Show Leadership Without a Title – Matt Monge – The Mojo Company

To Guide Difficult Conversations, Try Using Compassion – Allison Rimm

Blog - Relationships vs. Resistance - Leadership - Larry FerlazzoPhoto Credit: Larry Ferlazzo

5 Friday Faves – Video Games, NFL Man of the Year, Hospitality, Writing, and Animal Courage

Blog - Friday Faves

It’s that glorious Friday again. Here are my favorite finds of the week:

1) Video Games – What is the appeal of video games for our boys and men? It is a mystery to me. I do understand the gaming camaraderie between players – some friends, some strangers who become friends, kinda sorta. The cutting-edge graphics designed mostly for the eyes of our guys are clearly appealing. And levels…oh, the levels keep our boys and men coming back for the challenge – the competition on an even playing field – without judging from outsiders. Well, except for the occasional run-ins with wife or mother. Lastly, it’s the welcome mindlessness, I’m thinking. The momentary escape from organic chemistry, or frustrating job, or Master’s thesis, or [fill in the blank].

We all have indulgent time-wasters, and I battled with my boys over video games more than I should have. My regret over that transformed into joy this week, as the guitarist son of mine actually turned a video game theme into a lovely work on classical guitar. Who would have thought it? To see Nathan smile (at minute 1:40 in video) makes me wonder at the sweet memory he has of that game’s music. Hello again, Legend of Zelda. Don’t remember you like this.

2) NFL Man of the Year – I’m not a big football fan, but when we came across the NFL Honors program the night before the Superbowl I was intrigued. Football seems all about leaving it on the field. This was a salute to a band of brothers and the stand-outs among them, both on the field and off. There were three nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for 2015 – Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Benjamin Watson. Each man’s character and philanthropic work were highlighted in video vignettes. With all the tabloid coverage of the antics of some of our professional athletes, it was inspiring to see how others spend their off-season time. Anquan Boldin, the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, received this year’s award from the Payton family. Read more about Anquan’s work in the global community here.Blog - NFL Man of the Year 2016 - Anquan Boldin (2)Photo Credit: Mercury News

Another highlight of the Man of the Year NFL Honors focus was a welcome reminder of Benjamin Watson and his redemptive statement on Facebook (regarding the 2014 Ferguson Decision). In this profession of moneyed celebrity, it was refreshing to see upclose the caliber of such men as Boldin, Manning, and Watson.

3) Hospitality – Hospitality is defined at Google as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” We live in a culture today of “come as you are; just hanging out with friends; bring your own food/beverage”. I love the comfortable sound and easy experience of that. However, I hope we don’t lose the great global habit of extending generous hospitality – where nothing is expected but the welcome presence of the guest. We lived for many years in North Africa where they expect hospitality of themselves and they lavish it on their guests. Even in the poorest of homes, the cookies and fruit are beautifully presented, and the tea is poured with great ceremony. I learned so much from my Arab and Berber friends and neighbors…and don’t want to forget ever to extend hospitality. There is a difference between service and hospitality – described in TED Talks and distinctive in industry. [I wrote about this here.]

“Hospitality is about looking out instead of looking in…I can look outward and help someone else.”Bobby Stuckey.  The Bible is full of examples of hospitality and encouragements toward it. We are to extend blessing even as far as to our enemies. Benjamin Corey writes eloquently about this Biblical hospitality. Finally, Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert says this: “Hospitality means bringing the stranger in…you have to meet and respect people where they are…I believe strongly that hospitality is just the ground zero of the Christian life, and of evangelism, and of everything else that we do, apart from the formal worship of God.” Blog - Hospitality - The Secret THoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria ButterfieldPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

It’s good to remember that we can extend hospitality in a less-than-perfect house, where toys are still scattered and books a bit piled. It’s more the attitude of the heart in celebrating the other. Also, by definition, hospitality doesn’t have to be based in the home. I will never forget spotting a friend, whose husband was also in graduate school, walking up my driveway, with a pot of coffee and favorite mugs. It turned my morning of home-schooling littles in something altogether other. Extending hospitality…mobile and on-the-fly.Blog - Hospitality

4) Writing – I am always grateful for help in this skill of writing. Finding Chris Bailey’s blog (A Life of Productivity) and book (The Productivity Project) was a great boon to organizing my life and writing (my notes here). Daniel Darling’s blog this past week was another huge encouragement. He writes on how to be a prolific writer.

Darling gives 6 helps in writing: 1) I don’t wait for inspiration, for a cabin next to a mountain stream, or a light bulb. I just write; 2) I write from my passions on topics that interest me; 3) Always be cultivating and chronicling ideas; 4) I try to be curious and always learning; 5) I write in short bursts, in the margins of life; and 6) I try not to be a jerk. Don’t miss how he fills out the story on these points on his blog.Blog - Writing & Journaling - Joy List

5) Animal Courage – When our kids were small and we were living overseas, we took with us this wildlife video entitled The Bear. Like other children’s videos (a lot from Disney), there were story bits that needed processing with a loving adult (like how often the mom dies in these stories…sigh). The Bear was filmed with an intentionality of demonstrating the real life struggle of life in the wild for these animals. Also depicted was the almost-human qualities of care and courage in these animals. I have used one scene of this movie in talks over the years on how gracious it is to have an advocate. One stronger or more influential than we are who stands with us, sometimes out of sight, against an adversary. The plot story involves a bear cub, orphaned when his mother dies (again?!) and an older adult male, beleaguered himself by hunters and the sheer strain of survival sometimes, who becomes the cub’s protector. Here’s the scene (fast-forward to minute 2:30 for time’s sake if needed).

I love this scene. It actually reminds me of us sometimes…and God. We stand as tall as we can and roar (like a wee cub) against the wrongs of this world – wrongs against us sometimes. We are not always aware, but the LORD (I believe from experience and His Word) issues a God-sized roar against those same wrongs. Our adversaries will be reckoned with.

YouTube Video – Scene from the film The Bear, 1988 (Cub & Cougar at 2:30 into scene)

Film The Bear

Top Ten Most Courageous Animals

Happy Friday! Have a weekend full of extending and receiving hospitality, quiet times of refreshment, and reflection on the God who watches over us. Also, hug those video-gaming men of yours…when they take a break (don’t want them to lose a level in the midst of wrestling them down to the floor), right? Right.

Any favorites you want to share? Or memories…or words of wisdom. Would love to hear them (Comment below).

Traveling Buddies – A Few Quotes, Some Old Pictures, and a Whole Lot of Sentimental

Blog - Traveling Buddy - Sammo - Feeling Sentimental

Sammo, a little plush monkey, has traveled the world. He has been retired, of late, on the made bed of this couple who have quite surprisingly settled in a Richmond suburb. At least for now. Let me tell you his story and a bit of ours.

When I was much younger and still single, the call to other lands was strong in my heart. I studied nursing for the very reason of taking a useful skillset overseas. New Guinea was my decided destination. Due to some unforeseen bumps in the road, instead of New Guinea, I ended up in New Haven…Connecticut.

Preparing for that move meant saying goodbye to friends, for the first of many times in years to come. My friend, Paulette, who I would miss terribly, gave me Sammo. Mom and Dad helped me move my stuff from Atlanta to New Haven. I drove my car and Dad drove the rental truck. Mom was his copilot. Every time we were stuck in traffic, with more than a second to make eye contact, I’d look back and wave. Mom grabbed Sammo off the dashboard and waved one of his long arms back at me. It’s a memory that ever comforts me and has given Sammo traveling buddy status ever since.

Teaching at Yale University and joining in with a church plant there(Trinity Baptist Church), I discovered a very different and diverse culture. That move would be a stepping stone to adapting to cross-cultural living. Meeting Dave, the first week there, was also the sweetest part of that move, away from New Guinea…but not from the world.

2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys
We would eventually move overseas, taking three other traveling buddies with us, who would all leave home, in turn, from a foreign airport. I will be forever grateful we had these experiences overseas together.
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Kiddos
Over these years, we have had wonderful traveling buddies – those from whom we learned volumes about living and loving across cultures. Others who graciously allowed us to come along to help as we could. Still others, in recent years, who don’t travel so much as they might like but are a strong support to those who do. This morning, many of these dear friends are on my mind.
I unfortunately don’t have words for how I feel about those we’ve walked alongside over the last twenty years, but others more wise and clever will fill in my lacking.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
 The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. – G. K. Chesterton
Blog - Traveling Buddies - CairoCairo, Egypt – Nile River
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Tim CahillPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
Blog - Traveling BuddiesPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Scotland
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Friends ForeverPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
In those early days overseas, when Dave traveled internationally for work, I would tuck Sammo secretly in his bag. I wanted him to remember that he always had traveling buddies – with him and at home. Today…thinking about other traveling buddies through the years, I am grateful. Our Sammo isn’t forgotten. These traveling buddies with skin on will never be. Fare well and God speed, Dear Ones…to all the coming adventures.
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Gerry V retirement
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1-2