The week has drawn to a close. It’s Friday evening here…and I’m enjoying the quiet of an unfilled block of time. Hope you’re having a time of refreshing as well. Here are five of my favorite finds this week.
1) Giving – We have beggars in our city. It’s heartbreaking really. Often, they stand at busy intersections holding up cardboard signs. When the traffic light is green, I just buzz through, noting them but not having to confront need or the tension to respond. It’s when the traffic light is red, and I’m idling, essentially within reach of this person who has laid out his need very publicly. I know there is a charity that does more harm than good…so it’s not something I want to do. Don’t want to give wrong. Still I am driven to respond. A few years back, author Frank Sonnenberg wrote a compelling piece on giving. Fortunately, I discovered it via social media this week. It’s entitled: Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life. It’s really a very simple message. Essentially, the message is to have an intention toward giving. We can learn to give well and appropriately…unless our hearts have grown hard from the enormous need around us. Don’t let it happen!
He is touring right now and also has a comedy film out – both entitled More Than Funny. He is just deeply engaged with his audience and with real life. One of the things he talked about in the film (saw it this week) is the whole setup to humor and its punchline. So meaningful how Michael Jr. talks about how life can be setup in order to deliver unexpected joy to other people. It’s our focus…do we operate in such a way that it’s all about us, or do we setup an environment where people can actually help each other intentionally? Odd to have such a meaningful message in the middle of a comedy act! So Michael Jr. [Watch this for the explanation of his “Be the Punchline”.]
You don’t have to be an enthusiast of either show or video game to love these piece. Nathan brings the heat.
4) Painter Karen Garner – Karen Garner is a friend of mine…an old friend. We have known each other since teen-aged Karen caught the eye of a friend of mine at a youth retreat. They married; we went overseas. Most of our friendship we haven’t lived in the same city, but we are friends. She is a friend and an artist. Years ago I commissioned a work from her for a cancer center in Tennessee. Since then she has painted hundreds of pieces. Her art has been on our walls all these many years and through all the countries we’ve lived. She somehow infuses joy in her art; I’ve always loved it.Photo Credit: “For Pat, the Prince of Tides” – Karen Burnette Garner
Karen was interviewed recently and featured in this article. It’s a quick read and introduces you to Karen…and her beautiful work.
5) Fall – This season is my favorite. The colors; the smells; the tastes. It’s the blissful in-between – after the long languishing summer and before the crisp cottaged winter. It’s the season of long walks and short days. Of an early morning fire in the fireplace. Of pink sunsets and fields of pumpkins. Of a myriad of hot beverages and pies we only eat this time of year. It’s Fall…and I love it. How about you?Photo Credit: Humbert Wolfe, AZ Quotes
Happy Weekend! Be gentle with each other…and yourself.
One of the bloggers I follow – Taking Route – has a series on making a home, as an expat, in various countries. These pieces are so fun…taking the needs of the family into account and blending both the beauty of one’s home country and that of one’s host country. The “global home” below is Kenya but there are 31 total homes to peruse – enjoy!
Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?
We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before, “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.
There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.
When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.
But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:7-9
What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.
When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)
How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! – Psalm 32:1
Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. – Romans 4:7
In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.
Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.
Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8
Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.
Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.
TV is on in the background. Watching our government come apart at the seams. Or so it seems. Here are my lightning-speed Friday Faves;
1) Emotional Pixar Themes – Beyond the Guitar posted his arrangement this week of some of the heartbreaking Pixar movie themes. Masterful music – you just don’t expect to feel sad in a children’s animated film. Still the sweetest memories of these nights at the movies. Did you see them all?
2) Relationships – I discovered a few unique articles this week on the precious, life-giving quality of relationships. One of those articles even deals with relationship-shattering divorce (I have dear friends and family who have experienced the hard of divorce. This article is for those who have had divorce thrust on them or they are considering divorce as their only recourse…at least worth the read…).
If you have a resource you have found affirming regarding relationships, please share in Comments.
3) Caring for the Most Vulnerable – What does it take to care for our most vulnerable neighbors? There are so many books out there with warnings about charitable giving, or help that hurts. Giving is a good thing but it’s not a complete thing. Raleigh Sadler wrote a paper that speaks to this so well: Jesus’ Invitation to Care for Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors. He addresses five ideas regarding these we long to help but don’t know how. These ideas are: Identify, Empower, Protect, Include, and Collaborate. [His article is a quick read…let him answer your questions.] Along these very lines, Embrace Richmond does training on Assets-Based Community Development. Wendy McCaig, the trainer and executive director of Embrace Richmond, guides those in the audience in learning how to do community listening.Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig
Those we want to care for are the ones we need to get to know, look them in the eye, and give ear…then we might be able to come alongside them, and together we help make their lives better.
Look for this sort of effort in your own community.
4) The Question – Nope, it’s not “Will you marry me?”
This week marked TV’s Fall Season premiers. Lots of great story-lines and ensemble casts. My favorites are law, medical, and police shows. New Amsterdam is a new program that highlights the patient care in a huge medical center with all the drama of politics and corruption affecting the patients. A new medical director, Dr. Goodwin, comes on the scene, in the first episode, and turns the status quo upside down, for the sake of those most vulnerable. Over and over, he asked the question:
5) Reason –The Supreme Court of the United States has a vacancy. The US President nominates a candidate. The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the heavy and serious work of examining the fitness of the candidate before releasing their name to the Senate for a vote. This is a weeks-long process.
Finally the candidate sits before the Committee to answer their questions. The Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 senators – men and women. Documents and witnesses are presented. It can be a grueling process for everyone.
Our current situation is the accusation of sexual assault by a woman who once knew the nominee. This week, she gave testimony, and the nominee gave his response. She said…he said.
Everyone in the US who cares knows the facts of this proceeding in great detail…our political bias impacts what we believe is true…whether we admit it or not. [Great article below.]
Using reason, or reasoning, can also be described more plainly as providing good, or the best, reasons. For example, when evaluating a moral decision, “morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal [and impartial] weight to the interests of all those affected by what one does.“ – Wikipedia
Watching the proceedings of this confirmation hearing was like nothing I have ever seen before. The vitriole. The partisan divide. The reckless treatment of people. The lying (there must be lying somewhere).
Whoever watched these proceedings would take one side or the other. There is no room for fence-sitting on these issues. How do we reason out what is happening here? How do we reason together when it seems people refuse to hear and try to understand the other side?
Where I would see reason, another person might see something very different…and on the flip side, I also saw something else…so damaging to the individuals interviewed this week…and to our country. God help us.
Friday! A holiday weekend is upon us here in the US. Labor Day on Monday. Where we live that means this is the last weekend before public schools start their Fall session. On this hot, thunder-stormy weekend, the last sweetness of summer will be savored.
Here are my five faves of the week:
1) Tavern Music – My heritage is a mix of Scottish-English. I’m thinking, because of that, tavern music might be part of my family’s DNA. When Nathan Mills arranges and plays a tune reminiscent of Celtic music, he might come by the joy of it quite honestly.
Hearthstone is an online video card game set in a tavern. The theme music has very much a Celtic feel to it. Beyond the Guitar was actually asked by someone on the Hearthstone creative team to do an arrangement. Here it is for your enjoyment.
2) Kindness – Author Peter Economy has written a couple of pieces on kindness – one on kindness quotes and the other on the impact of kindness when expressed by our leaders.
“There is something incredibly appealing about leaders who place themselves on the same level as their employees without losing their authority as leaders. Tapping into kindness and small (and big) acts of showing your appreciation for your team allows those around you to know that you care–leaving them feeling like their work matters, and encouraging their engagement and loyalty.” – Peter Economy
I find my tendency is to think I am kind but that kindness is not necessarily executed in a way others experience. It’s worth a few moments to consider how we think of kindness, what it means and how we could actively and intentionally express kindness at work or wherever else we find ourselves.
“Today is National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people. (more in 2018) These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.” – Jeanne Barney
4) A Film and Its Book – A strangely titled little book continues high on my top 5 books for recreational reading. It is:
This year marked the debut of the film of the same name (aired on Netflix in the US). I’m so thankful Netflix picked it up otherwise we might have missed it altogether. Such a lovely film, true enough to the book, and a feast for the eyes. Several actors from our beloved Downton Abbey are part of the cast. You will love it…trust me.Photo Credit: Battle Royale With Cheese
5) Signs of Fall – This week has been hot and humid, but still there were signs of Fall all around us. Pumpkin spice has entered all of our coffee shop experiences again. Our young ones are back in school. The geese have taken wing for distant places again..
Photo Credit: Max PixelAnd Dave’s garden has the messy, overgrown beauty of late summer. Last blooms pushing out and flowers turned to seed for the birds to eat and scatter. Early brown leaves and surprise buds that couldn’t wait until Spring. Welcome Fall, my favorite season of the year.
Friday has come…and gone. Finishing up this Faves on an early Sunday morning. Summer has wound down. School starts here in a week. Family visits. New babies. Friends back in town. Lots going on. Still…wanted to close the week out with my faves…and you.
1) Pursuing Truth – Deception is a problem of the culture that can become very personal. When something is spoken through public media as if it’s true, or someone we know speaks with confidence and authority, we are tempted to believe it is true…without weighing its validity. This is not always the case…in fact, too often we must sift through motives and spin to get to the meat of the matter.
From the time our children were little, we have tried to teach them how to sort out what is true. In the culture today, celebrities opt out of critical thinking by saying such things as “your truth”.
There is truth. How can it be colored so many individual ways?
I’m very thankful for the opportunity for table talk even today with our adult children. Sitting over dinner discussing faith, politics, and society…along with music, film, babies, and the latest technology.
I’m also grateful for friends who can be worlds apart on some ideologies but are bound together by relationship. They teach me so much. In fact, I have sought out some friendships, in the beginning, for those very differences. These are people whose passion and determination in living their passions. They help me make sure I haven’t pigeon-holed a certain worldview without considering what is winsome about it.
Nothing has changed about my belief in a good God…that deepens as I get older. He will answer for Himself one day, as He chooses. On what may have confused any of us, in our human frailty, about both His justice and mercy. I will also answer one day about my own grasp of that and how it influenced my dealings with others.
I do believe that God has given us a guide for life in the Scriptures. I don’t understand it all, but I would not be so bold as to throw out some parts while I cling to others. Absolutely sure He can protect His own story through the ages…from getting lost in translation.
Anyway, what do you think about pursuing truth? It doesn’t happen without intentionality. We are being blasted with “someone’s truth” most all the time. Growing weary of pursuing truth would not go well for us.
It’s a six-week look at God’s heart for justice and came at just the right time for me. Some of us are deeply engaged with turning stories of injustice into hope and healing. I am not one of those but so want to be.Photo Credit: IF Gathering
“If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, and discernment, they will appreciate you so much.
You could change someone’s life today. You could potentially save someone’s life today. You could also indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of making just one person feel heard and seen.
Send the text to a friend.
Make that call to a loved one.
Apologize to a co-worker or employee.
Wrote William Shakespeare, ‘They do not love that do not show their love.'” – Benjamin P. Hardy
4) Biomedical Treatment for Autism – [This is fascinating to me, but I have some idea how hard this could be to read by parents trying to make decisions about what’s right for their child with autism and the rest of their family. So please bear this in mind, while you read.]
During a conversation this week with a young mom who has a child diagnosed with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder), my concept of food as intervention was rocked. In her determination to rid her child of the ravages of autism, she is following the counsel of a renowned local pediatrician, Dr. Mary Megson. Her approach with autistic children includes intensive testing of biological factors and then applying biomedical measures as appropriate for each child’s findings.
I’m not going into the specifics, but my friend has changed up her child’s diet and has also added a long list of supplements each day. Who would even imagine that giving cod liver oil to a child would have impact on autism? I know her sweet child and the changes I’ve seen just in the last few months are remarkable. The video below captures what another mom did for her son and the difference it made. [Don’t be overwhelmed by all the interventions…every family must decide for themselves what they can believe and manage/afford in the care of their child with autism.]
From my friend’s experience and my wonder at this strange disorder, this type intervention is definitely something to consider…for a season, for the sake of a child. There are just so many diets out there, so I can’t imagine how parents make their decisions. Hopefully the benefits outweigh what can be very isolating and divisive between people who care about each other.
5) An Antique Store Experience – This week I was home visiting my family in Georgia. My sister-in-law is an amazing crafts-person – taking dreary scuffed-up (albeit much loved by someone in the past) old furniture and bringing them to life again. She knows all the best antique shops where others do the same sorts of re-purposing and “up-cycling”.
[Someone took a tv cabinet and made it into a beautiful display piece. Do you see the doors of the cabinet were made into the shelving? And how about an artsy chandelier made from bed springs?!]
[Chenille takes me back to childhood before our comfy modern fabrics…when chenille was the softest bed cover to wrap up in.]
That’s a wrap on this week’s favorite finds. Please favor us with some of yours in the Comments section below. Have a splendid end-of-summer weekend. Be gentle with yourself and with those you meet…you just never know what it will mean.
Unhinged. My choice word to describe how I’ve felt all week culminating in a Friday to which I awoke with my eyes being super swollen. I’m wearing an outfit I’m 99% sure I already wore this week (hey, I blame it on being European for a short season & go ahead and judge me as though you’ve never done the same). I’ve slept horribly all week because of worry and stress waking up around 4.
I decided I was going to redeem Friday, eat a croissant, have good coffee, and read a book. Please note the weird lighting and spilled coffee in the background. Because this is actually my life.
The book I’m reading is about a surgeon who during WW2 lived in China and served the Lord and the people there until his premature death. A friend asked me where and why I find books like this and suggested I read something lighter (sometimes I do). This morning it hit me that I know the answer why.
The gravity of a life lived before the Lord in a selfless, sacrificial way calls into reckoning my frivolity and selfishness. I need gravity because far too often I am unhinged and need to be reminded that who I am in Christ, swollen eyes/outfit/sleepless soul/etc., is enough because it doesn’t depend on me. God takes my unhinged-ness and allows me to cast my burdens on him.
And I’m working on it. Praise God. – Taryn Blocker, with permission
Business thought leader and writer Matt Monge is my go-to guy on company culture. The fact that he also struggles personally with depression tenders my heart to what he has to say. He is a straight-talker. Courageous, transparent, and caring. Monge knows toxic work cultures. He is consulted to help fix them, and through his writing he gives generous help to all who struggle to thrive in a culture that makes that a challenge. Take heart, those of you currently in troubled work cultures. Once you have identified what the murkiness is about, you can then act to clear it out…or, if necessary, you can clear out. You have options.
Your culture is in trouble if your CEO is a toxic leader. Matt Monge delineates this further in his article 10 Traits of Ego-driven Leaders. Employees and teams can experience huge shifts in their own thinking and behavior toward each other and customers, just in response to top-down influence. Beware of mission drift also.
Your culture is in trouble if poor managers are allowed to remain poor managers indefinitely. This is sad for both the manager herself and the team under her. When a company is frantic with reacting to the demands of toxic leadership, the simplest processes of feedback, teaming, and development take a backseat. Everyone suffers.
Your culture is in trouble if humanness and vulnerability are absent. In a troubled work culture, trust deteriorates. The bottom line is the driving force. Keeping one’s job and the perks of that job trumps everything else that might have once mattered in a work culture.
Your culture is in trouble if accountability is misunderstood and only selectively applies. Healthy accountability is meant to be a two-way process. Leaders and subordinates are best-served when they have open communication and transparency is high. An employee is much more open to accountability when he sees that his leaders also submit to the accountability of others.
Your culture is in trouble if people aren’t learning much. Opportunities for training and growth are signs of a healthy environment where employees clearly matter to the organization.
Your culture is in trouble if teams and departments have ongoing problems performing their core functions. This is a glaring sign of trouble. When performance is off and morale matches it, a cry for help is being sounded. When personnel just don’t care, something has to be done to turn that around. What that something is and who is capable to doing it can be sorted out by both managers and employees. Punitive action is not the answer.
Your culture is in trouble if executive team morale is low. This speaks to the ripple effect starting from a toxic CEO, through the organization and then back up the chain-of-command. Morale, as we know, has a huge impact on performance. When the executive team is struggling with low morale, reflecting that of the company, then it’s to the point that someone from the outside must come in to help correct course. This takes enormous vulnerability on the part of the executive team.
Having come through a cancer diagnosis, my experience is that it’s better to know what’s going on than to remain in the dark…or that murkiness of knowing something is wrong but you’re not sure what.
Once we identify what the struggle is with our work culture, we can begin to rectify our situation. Some things we may have little control over, but what we can change, we must.Photo Credit: Venture Lab, Pauline James
Business writer Joanna Zambas has given us examples that mirror Matt Monge’s list on company culture (see links below). One of her lists celebrates companies who have made culture a priority.
Southwest Airlines made Zambas’ list. It is my favorite domestic airline. Mainly because of its customer service. However, that customer service is rooted in a work culture that is very pro-employee. Photo Credit: Business2Community
I know that first-hand because of my contact, over many years, with one Southwest employee. Her kindness, demeanor, and consistent care at every touchpoint have demonstrated to me the very heart of this company.
My hope for all of us is that we can work toward a company culture like this one…bottom-to-top if necessary. For you as company leaders, you may not see this or any such piece…but I hope you can be encouraged or re-energized to grow such a culture. The impact will nothing but positive…you know it somewhere in that leader heart of yours.
1) Women of Influence – I have been extraordinarily blessed all my life with the presence of women of influence. Many I have known personally. The list would be long if I wrote out the names of all those who come to mind right now. You know who you are to me. Women who, in their own ordinary lives, shake foundations and raise up all around them to a higher plane of life. Today, I want to name three women who are very very different from each other. I do not know them personally, nor do I agree with everything they say… but they have caused me to think.
Karen Swallow Prior is an English professor, a writer, and a Christian activist. I feel like I know her through her Facebook and Twitter pages. She is as real to me as a friend would be. As brilliant and articulate as she is, I am sure we could have a conversation on difficult issues without losing each other in the process. Recently, she was hit by a city bus while walking and miraculously lived to write about it. In her forced convalescence at home over the next months, I’m thinking we will learn much from her alone time…with God and through her reflections.
These are very public figures. They use their renown to influence in the positive. We all know other women of influence – working in refugee camps, in the classroom, in research labs, in neighborhoods, and those aging ever so gracefully before us – who make a difference in quieter yet profound ways.
2) Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar – When the film The Incrediblescame out in 2004, our kids were all in high school. The film follows the adventures of a superhero family trying to have a normal life while subduing bad guys. 14 years later and its much-welcome sequel opens this weekend. Note I didn’t say much-anticipated, because the first film appeared to be a stand-alone after all these years.Photo Credit: Gizmodo
[Have you considered being a patron of Nathan’s part of his support community? Creating music takes concentrated time and to do it for a living takes a team of folks who love what he’s doing and want to help keep it happening. Here‘s where you can find out more.]
3) Suicide Prevention – To go to such a dark place mentally that suicide seems the only way out must be a terrifying, deeply lonely experience. There was a time in my own life that the pressures of life mixed with emotions I couldn’t seem to control pulled me in that direction. Fortunately, nothing happened, and with God’s help and that of my family and friends (without them even knowing what was going on), the darkness broke.
We are living in an age of loneliness where social media and superficial gatherings give the facade of community, but not its reality. Truly watching out for each other and touching base, especially, with those who live more solitary lives is life-saving.
Talk Saves Lives. We can’t just assume we know what helps prevent suicide. Let’s get educated and lean in to those most vulnerable.
Resources abound. Each of us can do something to turn the tide.
4) Fathers – This Sunday is Father’s Day in the US. We all have had a dad in some capacity or another. The impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. I’ve written a bunch about fathers and fathering.
5) Hard Redeemed – Anybody in our lives knows I’ve had a couple of hard weeks…those come and go, like for all of us. The ability to weather relational and situational heaviness is galvanized by those who come alongside. Including and especially God Himself who has been there for any and all who walk with Him…through the ages.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Joseph – Genesis 50:20
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! – Romans 8:38-39
The hard of these several days is still with me but so are those who walk alongside. Friends, family, community…God himself.
What an amazing blessing are folks who reach out – like a friend, across the ocean, whom I haven’t seen since 2002. Or the friend who gave me this upbeat life-affirming little song Dream Small.
Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.– Luke 16:10
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’– Matthew 25:21
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. – Colossians 3:23
For those who have served well as deacons acquire for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. – 1 Timothy 3:13
Here we go again! Round Two on life in the small.
The Lord has really been speaking to my heart of late in being faithful in the small things. Just a week ago, I posted on this very thing – Days Packed With Ordinary. Today we will go deeper still in this being faithful with the little.
Our hearts can get so entangled with ambition and greed. We as Christ-followers are meant to be dead to all that, but it creeps in if we are not vigilant to keep our eyes on Him. Even in our faithfulness in doing the small things, we must be wary of that tiny thought taking root in our hearts…that thought of doing to please – either God but too often people. One would think that good works done to please God is a good thing…make sense, right? Yet, it takes on a whole other color when we act in hopes of pleasing God more – maybe even to get more from Him. Maybe to please him more than one of our brothers or sisters. Oh this journey!!
Our focus is off here if this is our struggle. It’s “not about us”. When we are faithful in the big and small, it’s not always because we do what we do well. No, it doesn’t always work out that way. The key is that we do, in the small and big, what we do because of Him. Our love for God trumps every other motivation.
As I’ve thought of this taking joy in the small, many different people have come to mind. Here are just a few of them:
A member of our church is one of the hardest workers I know. She is there most days taking care of one odd job or another. She does work that most of us wouldn’t volunteer to do but rather be willing to pay a professional to do it. One day, when I commended her on all she does, she told me a story of another woman in a far country who served in her own church in various small ways as her tithe because she had little else to give. This woman at our church works without pay, for God and for us.
A single friend of mine works a regular work-week and then gives of herself to the community through various agencies. She’s an introvert and needs decompression time, but she stretches herself in this way. I learn so much from her.
Another guy at our church isn’t even a member but he often stands at the door greeting and welcoming folks as if into his own home. We feel like rock stars around him.
The stay-at-home moms in my life extend themselves both in the home and out in ways that encourage me and cause me to marvel.
That unseen coworker who makes the coffee and washes the cups at the end of the day. We are always impressed when our boss makes and serves us coffee. How about this guy or gal? This small kindness and others like it show a side of people that may not get noticed by the highers up…but God sees.
Lastly there’s a family pastor in our lives. He lives states away and has served in a small church for nearly 20 years. With what all his many responsibilities must be, he never forgot our dad. Regularly visiting him and other old ones in their homes or nursing homes.
After my blog of last week was published, a dear friend wrote some very kind words on my Facebook page and pointed me to singer/songwriter Josh Wilson‘s song “Dream Small“. It is so fitting for today’s conversation.
Worship with me…this God who fits us for every good work, big and small, but most importantly, calls us to Himself.
It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord
It’s a daddy spending family time that the world said he cannot afford
These simple moments change the world
It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church
Forty years of loving for the broken and the hurt
These simple moments change the world
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well Loving God and others as yourself Find little ways where only you can help With His great love A tiny rock can make a giant fall Dream small
It’s visiting the widow down the street
Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
These simple moments change the world
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams
Just don’t miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things
‘Cause these simple moments change the world
But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
So dream small
Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger The God who does all things makes oceans From rivers
But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Loving God and others as yourself Find little ways where only you can help With His great love A tiny rock can make a giant fall Yeah, five loaves and two fishes could feed them all
So dream small
Dream small *
We definitely had a family lexicon – sayings that were part of our family culture that our adult children still remember and may use themselves today.
Ruddy emphasizes the importance of family mottos: “The words we hear repeated as children become our internalized voice as adults,” says Suzi Lula, a parenting expert and the author of The Motherhood Evolution: How Thriving Mothers Raise Thriving Children. “They reaffirm family values and serve as a real compass for kids as they get older. You’re doing your child such a big service to say these things to them now.”
I have racked my brain to think of things we had as family mottos and couldn’t come up with any…which really bummed me out. I am sure we had some… Dave would counsel “Deal with it, or die to it”…when we fretted over what someone said or did to us. I would go to the wisdom vault of Disney films at least for this one:
More than that, we would look to Scripture for our family’s values. One we still quote to ourselves on a regular basis is:
“Do not grow weary in well-doing; you will reap a harvest, if you don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9
When our kids were older, I would remind them of our “Audience of One”…not sure they remember that but it was to call them to mind of not needing to please people but more to honor the God who loves them already and no matter what. [Do you remember that, Kids?]
“Redeem the time” was/is another family value of ours…
2) God of War – One of the perks of being a patron of Beyond the Guitar is to be privy to his creative process through livestreams of his arranging. I know very little about how one can take a grand orchestral piece and recast it for a single classical guitar – retaining its power and beauty. What I do know I learned from Nathan, as he does it time and time again. This week’s video is his arrangement of themes from the God of War video game – God of War 4 Meets Classical Guitar – click and enjoy.
3) Adam Grant Podcasts – Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has a podcast now. Like all his work, it is brilliant. Well-researched, practical, fascinating. This week, I listened again to Work Life: The Problem with All-Stars where he asks the question “How do you make your team better when you’re not the biggest star?”
Photo Credit: TEDAdd Adam’s podcast to your list. His book Give and Take continues to be one of my favorites and go-to wisdom texts.
4) John Newton & Friends on Controversy – John Newton was an 18th century English clergyman who had a dark past (as a slave ship captain and even experiencing slavery himself). He wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. He understood controversy too well.Photo Credit: Flickr
Below are quotes from a longer letter Newton wrote to a minister who had sought him out for advice. This man was preparing to write a scathing article addressing the orthodoxy of another minister.
“I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself.”
“Consider your opponent: As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.”
“Consider the public: There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God….Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit…Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”
“Consider yourself: [Writers of controversy] either grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value…What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made? …if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.” – John Newton
There is something unwholesome in us that loves controversy – the exposing of another’s behavior or character different from ours. I’m not saying that “truth coming out” is not a good thing…it is… However, we must guard against what we do with that. We can stir up controversy, dance all around it, and the world remain unchanged [except for being more divided]. Unimproved. Just a lot of hurtful talk…and then nothing. We can do better…we can be better.
5) Old Books – This past weekend, after several days of heavy rains, our basement took on water. In our storage room, cardboard boxes, filled with treasures from Mom’s estate, were water-damaged and had to be discarded. That didn’t pose a problem to the many pieces of glass (decorative and tableware) Mom had given to each of us.
I peeled off wet cardboard and newspaper, washed them, and will either repack, use, or give away.
The old books packed not well enough were another story.
It made my heart sad…and then glad with memories still of those dear old books. Not saying that I had memories of them…but the sweet memories of the people who held onto them. My Mom and her four brothers (all gone now) grew up in the Great Depression. At least three of them (Mom and her two older brothers) loved to read. I know this because I watched Mom, the hardest worker I ever knew, take breaks not to watch TV, or nap…but to read. My uncles left books behind in our home, their names written inside on the title pages. The dear old book above is the 4th edition of an 1855 publication of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I will keep it still, though terribly damaged from age and this past week’s rains. Why? Inside are bits of paper that my Uncle George kept place with. Bits of paper he wrote quotes on and notes to himself. This old book brings him near to me…this old World War II Navy veteran who married but never had children, this elegant man who I idolized, this kind man who loved his little sister…my mama.
[So Kids…when it’s time, and you find this book, just throw it out. It gave me comfort for a season.]
These were my favorite finds this week. How about you? Any discoveries you would be willing to share? Just respond in Comments below.
This is Memorial Day weekend in the US. Rain is predicted here so not sure if we will grill or not. Hopefully we’ll see the kids and grandkids…we will keep putting our basement back together…and we will remember the great sacrifices of those in our military – living and dead. Thank you for your service.Photo Credit: Military
The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!
2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer
This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.
From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!
4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.
Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame
Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.
The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.
I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.
Sigh…any thoughts? Please.
[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]
5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children. When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…
Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.
Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]
[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]