Category Archives: Service

5 Friday Faves – Financially Fit, Beyond the Guitar, Addiction Recovery, Parenting, and One-Anothering

Happy Friday! I hope you’re ending your week on a high note. If not, you might find some help right here. So pick your Friday Fave, and dig in.

1) Financially Fit – One of my absolute favorite blog writers and thought leaders today is Benjamin P. Hardy. Unless I didn’t notice it before, he has been ending his blogs lately with a free Going Big Checklist. The checklist speaks to a person’s desire for financial freedom and heightened productivity. I got it and it’s really good! He also recommends a financial coaching firm by the name of Financially Fit. Hardy is actually one of their clients and has been for over a year. As incentive to do a phone appointment with one of their consultants, I could receive Hardy’s upcoming book The Proximity Effect. Sold!Photo Credit: Financially Fit

Before my appointment, I poured over their website. It was informative, user-friendly, and convincing. My conversation with Chris Patton, a client consultant, was even more compelling.

The focus of this company is to educate, motivate, and provide accountability to their clients toward debt elimination and wealth creation. I’ve never pursued wealth, myself, but after talking to Chris, the idea of creating greater cashflow was intriguing. Just think, to have the money to fulfill big dreams and life aspirations (not just for yourself but to help others) is something to consider.

Anyway, I’m also considering signing on for financial coaching with Financially Fit. The price is incredibly reasonable and there are no entangling strings attached. Check out their website, read some of the stories of people who have eliminated their debt and created wealth, and educate yourself. I’ll check back in with an update on my own financial fitness.

Financially Fit

The 13-Minute Definitive Guide to Living Your Dreams – Benjamin P. Hardy

2) Beyond the GuitarNathan Mills, classical guitarist, continues to create beautiful musical content. Currently he is posting Daily Shorts – arrangements on request – on his Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. They are tasty morsels of favorite themes that he arranges for classical guitar. Follow him and you won’t miss these dailies.

This past week, he also posted an arrangement of “The Forgotten City” from RiME. Photo Credit: Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar

Inspired by violinist Lindsey Stirling‘s piece on YouTube. Both are gorgeous using different instruments. Here’s Nathan’s version:

3) Addiction Recovery – I’m not talking about street or prescription drug addiction but one that can cause some of the same struggle. Recently, I wrote about a sugar detox. Today I’m a week into dealing with my dependence on sugar. About three years ago, the articles written on sugar intake’s negative impact on the brain (especially memory) were beginning to pile up in my social media streams.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Memory especially is something I’d really like to retain. After watching my dad’s spiral downward with Alzheimer’s, it’s been cause for daily reflection – both on how much he loved sweets, and how much I love them.

One-month Sugar Detox: a Nutritionist Explains How and Why– Lisa Drayer

Too Much Sugar Linked to reduced Memory, Brain Volume – Alice G. Walton

7 Best Foods For Improving Your Memory – Russell Lundstrom

Low Carb Vegetables – The Best and the Worst – Diet Doctor

I’ve successfully gone off sugar in the past, and I’m hoping to do it again…at least detoxing, and then strongly curbing my dependence on sugar. The first days of “no sugar” were not that hard. Then yesterday, I hit a wall of sorts. Depression is a struggle sometimes, and my ready remedy historically is a carb load (some sort of sugary or fatty carb-filled treat to sedate my troubled brain). An emotional cloud settled around me yesterday, and sugar wouldn’t be my go-to to pierce the cloud.

I have found that certain activities can effectively help with bouts of depression. They are:

  • Prayer – I prayed. It did help.
  • Exercise – Walked with the neighbors. Also helped.
  • Serving others – Helped a refugee family with paperwork and shopping. Also helped.

Still, the darkness didn’t lift altogether. Then something amazing happened. I texted the parents of our little grandson a longing sort of message (that not many adult children love receiving). My daughter-in-law wrote back quickly and proposed dropping by after an errand.

Added immediately to my list of depression aids and dealing with sugar withdrawal and addiction recovery – GRANDCHILDREN.

In very close proximity. If you struggle as I do, this is something I highly recommend. Even if you don’t have any in your family, find some! We have two grandchildren who are a complete delight to the heart and a brightening of any burden. OK…enough. Doing better today and still off sugar. Whew….

4) Parenting – Anyone who is a parent and wants to do right by our children have already read much of what’s out there. Victoria Prooday, an occupational therapist, writes a piece that won’t necessarily give you new information. However, The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – and What to Do About It does succinctly propose direction for weary parents of over-stimulated, emotionally distant children. Prooday posts provocative statistics which may not be wholly verifiable, but her statement of problems of children today is spot-on. Technology addiction, sedentary lifestyle, and emotional disconnectedness are three areas that parents must address to help children grow into healthy adulthood.

Photo Credit: Flick

[If you check out the article, which is a fast read, don’t finish without reading the comments. Fascinating mix of parents/educators who agree with her and others who offer other helpful views.]

Kids on Drugs…I Mean Screens – Deb Mills Writer

5) Infographic on One-AnotheringJeffrey Kranz

Being a visual learner, I love infographics. Here’s one on caring for “one another”. The teaching of Jesus focused on this as second only to our love for God. We all long for community. No matter our religion, the wisdom of “one-anothering” can transform our relationships. What do you think?Photo Credit: Overview Bible

All the “One Another” Commands in the NT – Infographic – Jeffrey Kranz

Have a restful weekend. Please comment below on your favorite finds this week…either of the ones I’ve posted or ones you’ve discovered yourselves. Appreciate you.

Monday Morning Moment – When Connections Are Lost – a Rant, a Resolve, and a Request

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Here written is a cautionary tale…one with a happy ending to follow.

Across my professional and personal life, I’ve experienced a great wealth of teams, affinity groups, communities and networks. Real flesh-and-blood people gathered passionately around products or services. People who trusted and enjoyed each other, who used their influence to do good. People who expanded both their influence and ability to do good by holding doors open to others with like vision.

…and I got to be a part of all that. It was an incredible life…and I want it back.

This is not to say that my life is lacking. That’s the rub. Life is amazingly good right where I am…wait for it…but, (such a small word that screams discontent, right?). There is something that has faded, and it can for you as well, if you’re not aware and nurturing it. Don’t let it happen because it’s too valuable.

What I have discovered over the last year is that the wide-reaching, lively connections in my work and personal life have been lost…or, for sure, diminished. This is what I’m determined to correct.

You know that odd experience when you lose a phone conversation (either because of passing through a cell service dead zone or you hit the disconnect button). You or the other person continues talking for a bit not realizing the other person is not listening…has left the conversation (intentionally or not intentionally)…and once re-connected, if you’re able, you have to awkwardly figure out where you left off.

Lost connections are jarring because they interrupt a process of communicating, collaborating or cooperating together on something of value.

Human capital is when you are connected to different individuals who have the capacity and desire to do good together (in creating or innovating – a product or service). Social capital – that of teams, agencies, or other communities working together – is an even larger, richer commodity than individual human capital.

I wrote about social capital previously here.

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. The more money a person or a society has, the easier it is to do things and the better off people are.Simple English Wikipedia

Photo Credit: IResearchNet

Through a variety of circumstances in recent years, I have lost some social capital. Reflecting on this real situation has been very helpful and motivating for me personally.

Jon Acuff, in his book Do Over, talks about the importance of not burning bridges when we leave a job or affiliation. I’m a bridge-builder not burner, but bridges can break down, through neglect or vision change and resource realignment.

At times, the sheer force of too much change can cause connections to be lost. Repeated change can lead to chronic states of transition, and we, in those situations, can find ourselves floundering, not sure really what or whom we call team or community.

There’s the regret and the resolve.

After years of living in many countries and working in various roles, we seem settled here in Virginia, at least for now. Still, in the past few years, we have experienced many changes here in work and community affiliations. Change can be so exhausting. It can either galvanize relationships or cause trust to sag a bit…and tempt us to circle the wagons.

I’m resolved to find my way out of this…even at my “old age” and in my semi-retired status…In other words, I have the opportunity AND the resolve.

Just now I’m reading a somewhat dated but still fascinating book on social capital. Written by Tara Hunt it has a curious title: The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Hunt took that title from a commodity in Cory Doctorow‘s sci-fi novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. In Doctorow’s futuristic setting, “whuffie” was the currency and it was gained by being “nice, networked, and/or notable”. A little simplistic, but I do appreciate Hunt’s 5 principles of building social capital (this in the work world, but it can be applied in other situations as well):

  1. Stop talking and start listening.
  2. Become part of the community you serve and figure out who it is you are serving. [It isn’t everyone.]
  3. Be notable and create amazing experiences/remarkable products for your customers.
  4. Embrace the chaos. Don’t overplan. Learn to be agile. Recognize everyday magic.
  5. Find your higher purpose. Social capital only gains in value as you give it away. Figure out how you are going to give back to the community and do it…often.         – Tara HuntPhoto Credit: Pixabay

7 Ways to Increase Your Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt – Fast Company

As I keep reflecting on re-building connections,  social capital is now a goal. It may look very different these days than before, but what’s most important is getting back in the game.

Jordan Harbinger, blogger and podcaster for a website called The Art of Charm, has issued a challenge that intrigues me. This social capital challenge is what I need right now. Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

The challenge itself is designed to take a month, and I’ve been sitting on it a month already. Reading books and articles on the topic and avoiding the first challenge – settling on a written goal of improving my social capital (and sharing it publicly).

Next time I write about social capital, it will be with the challenge ON! Here’s my request: it would be so helpful for me (and others) if you shared your experiences or thoughts in this area (via Comments below or in a private email). Don’t let the phrase social capital put you off. Remember it just means working/networking with groups toward something that benefits others. I’ve known the great value of that and want to figure out how to invest like that again.

Let’s shake up the world…for good…together. Game on!

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – An Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Deep Connections Like These Will Make You Very Influential – Ron Carucci

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

I had an Aha moment recently when I discovered something had shifted in this season of my life. Social capital. To be honest, I didn’t even know what that was until a couple of weeks ago. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it and how to develop it…not for what it would benefit me personally but for what matters to me out there.

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. The more money a person or a society has, the easier it is to do things and the better off people are.Simple English Wikipedia

Photo Credit: IResearchNet

There is a significant difference between social capital and human capital. The Difference Between article below gives an excellent contrast. Simply put, human capital is the skillset I bring to a team or organization. Social capital involves networks or groups of people resourcing one another to achieve something they all want.

Difference Between Human Capital and Social Capital

I could be a part of a team that has enormous human capital – brilliant, gifted, visionary people – but our potential for making remarkable change would be hampered if we ignored the social capital we could bring to bear. This is the silo effect in organizations. It’s also the inner circle handicap in other parts of our lives – where we focus on our own benefit and not that of a larger society. I referred to Jeremy Writebol’s article on this here.

My experience throughout life with social capital (before even knowing what it was) has been rich and fruitful. Just a couple of examples follow:

  • Years ago when I worked in a cancer center in East Tennessee, we wanted a vehicle for patient and family support that would endure throughout the experience with cancer (either to cure or death). There were several on our team who brought immense human capital to the table. Fortunately we also brought the resources of many networks alongside – the patients and families themselves, a nearby university, the cancer center’s foundation, the local American Cancer Society, churches and other private benefactors, and volunteer groups. It was an amazing collaborative experience and that support program continues to this day.
  • When we were living in North Africa, and our children were in high school, I was struck by the number of musically gifted young people with no avenue to share their art. In fact, at their school as wonderful as it was, there was no parent group, no booster club of any sort, to drive projects that would benefit neither the school nor the community. This small observation grew into a much larger idea and then, with surprisingly wide-reaching social capital of parents, staff, and the students themselves, a group called Better Together was formed. Out of this group was birthed an annual visual and performing arts festival which continues today. Also out of this group, our group was able to use our social capital (our various social networks) to benefit some of the local charities as well as the overall offerings of the school itself.

Social capital can be a solid foundation for developing a service or product or opportunity that benefits many. However, it can be squandered or diminished if not nurtured over time. Social capital depends on trusting relationships.

Photo Credit: NBS

Because of several factors in my own life – relocating geographically, job changes, and a series of other personal hurdles – I have let some of my social capital go cold. This happened in a season when I’m probably most aware of the enormous potential for deep, broad-reaching networking opportunities.

I just haven’t focused there lately…

Until now.

Recently I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. To be honest, the title did not draw me in, but the content did. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on.

It’s not a fluffy challenge, I can assure you. In fact, it is supposed to be finished in a month, and I’m still stuck on Week 1. However, be assured, I WILL PREVAIL.

The first challenge is settling on a written goal of improving my social capital (and sharing it publicly). Here my personal struggle is deciding which of the many areas of benefiting others I’d like to land. If you are part of my now smaller social networks, you’ll hear more about this in the coming days. I’m going to need your social capital at play…and I’m confident we can accomplish more and Better Together.

What are your experiences with social capital? Your stories? Your thoughts on developing social capital? I would love to hear, in the Comments section below.

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Social Capital – IResearchNet

Measuring Social Capital – A Systematic Review – Prepared by Moses Acquaah, Kwasi Amoako-Gyampah and Nceku Q. Nyathi 

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

Photo Credit: Amazon

Monday Morning Moment – Servant Leadership – Trending Forward

Photo Credit: Tri Pham, FLickr

The servant-leader is servant first.

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then
conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?Robert K. Greenleaf
“…more likely themselves to become leaders” – Isn’t that how you thought Greenleaf would end that sentence? I read it that way. We don’t naturally think of aspiring to serve – “moving up the ranks” to better position ourselves to serve.
Why write about servant leadership?
So much has been and continues to be written about servant leadership. The terms change and trend a bit differently over time. Of late, relational leadership has gained in popularity. This type of leadership is defined as “as a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good.”
I love that concept and style of leading, but servant leadership goes even farther. Relational leaders can focus on their particular team or tribe, in a mentoring, collaborative role…for the good of those leaders and the organization and client base. Servant leaders aspire to a wide reach. Not just leader to leader, but to permeate the whole of the organization with an ethic that everyone, at every level, matters. This is a huge aspiration but the gains are huge as well.

Marcel Schwantes, founder of Leadership from the Core, has written a piece on the 10 Leadership Habits Found in the World’s Best Leaders. These ten habits are derived by Larry Spears from the Robert Greenleaf‘s pioneer work in servant leadership. Read the article for Schwantes full commentary, but the 10 habits follow:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualization
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Commitment to the Growth of People
  • Building Community

Another list of qualities to consider is posted by business leader Skip Prichard‘s 9 Qualities of the Servant Leader. Both Prichard’s list below and Schwantes’ list above are excellent markers for your own leadership:

  • Values diverse opinions
  • Cultivates a culture of trust
  • Develops other leaders
  • Helps people with life issues
  • Encourages
  • Sells instead of tells
  • Thinks you, not me
  • Thinks long-term
  • Acts with humility

Finish the whole of his article here (and don’t miss the comments – fascinating).

Photo Credit: Virginia Guard Public Affairs, Flickr

Marcel Schwantes has also written 10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science. In this piece Schwantes tackles the misconceptions about servant leadership as well as the many reasons why it’s the best form of leadership. I personally love this article because the evidence of the kind of company that prospers under servant leadership is undeniable. We know these organizations by their service – like Chick-Fil-A, Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, Ritz Carlton, FedEx, UPS, U.S. Marine Corps, and many others. Very persuasive.

Finally, I’d like to share General Stanley McChrystal‘s view of leading “like gardeners”. My husband is a gardener. Even after a long, tiring day at his regular job, he puts in the time necessary to tend the plants he’s growing. Bent over, on his knees sometimes, doing the work of nurturing them to reach their maximum fruitfulness.

“Regular visits by good gardeners are not pro forma gestures of concern—they leave the crop stronger. So it is with leaders.”

Employees and customers know the experience (or lack thereof) of the leader who truly attends to their needs. No drive-by visits here. No sprinkling of some corporate fairy-dust just by the sheer presence of the leader in the room, or the building, or on podcast/commercial.

McChrystal warns against the leader who becomes too important to personally serve his personnel or customers.

“I would tell my staff about the “dinosaur’s tail”: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”

Always in thinking of leadership, we are tempted to look to our own leaders…to measure them by the scale of excellence (seen above). The servant leader is servant first. Don’t get muddled up by checking off what your leader is not. Serve that leader, as you serve other personnel and customers. Serve. Serve by leading. Lead by serving.
“Servant-leadership is more than a concept, it is a fact. Any great leader, by which I also mean an ethical leader of any group, will see herself or himself as a servant of that group and will act accordingly.”
[Please don’t miss the links below…especially those not mentioned in this blog. Also please share examples (in Comments section below) of servant leadership you have experienced…or your own personal journey in becoming a servant leader.]
Journey strong. Serve long.

YouTube Video – Servant Leadership – Leadership From the Core – Marcel Schwantes

10 Compelling Reasons Servant Leadership May Be the Best, Says Science – Marcel Schwantes

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader – Skip Prichard

The Understanding and Practice of Servant-Leadership – Larry C. Spears

General Stanley McChrystal: We Should All Lead Like Gardeners

Glassdoor’s 2017 Best Places to Work Rankings: The Importance of Common Purpose – Barry Sanders

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – 7 Skills of the Top Leaders of Tomorrow – Whatever Your Age or Stage – With Matt Monge – Deb Mills

Larry C. Spears and Robert K. Greenleaf

The World’s 10 Top CEOs (They Lead in a Totally Unique Way) – Marcel Schwantes

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – 3 Quick Reads on Leadership – to Help You Stay the Course, Not Be a Jerk, While Being Innovative – Deb Mills

Happily Ever After – What Makes Relationships Work – Poster – Frank Sonnenberg

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