Category Archives: Generosity

5 Friday Faves – Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar, Letting Go of Expectations, Together at Christmastime, Christmas Memories, and Christmas Words

It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!

1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.

STAR WARS: Rey’s Theme – Classical Guitar Cover (BeyondTheGuitar)

2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity

I’m Dreaming of an Imperfect Christmas – How to Release Holiday Expectations – Clarity With Charity

Be Kind – Ken Sande

3) Together at Christmas –  When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.

At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.

Beyond that sweetness?

Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.

Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.

Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.

4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior.  What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.

Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.

The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.

5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:

Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).

You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence.  Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?

On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke

“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Odd that a festival to celebrate the most austere of births should end up being all about conspicuous consumption.”
Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree

Quotes About Christmas – Good Reads

Bonuses:

Gut Check Podcast – A podcast like no other – with Ted Kluck and Zach Bartles

Life On the Other Side – The Humbled Homemaker – Erin Odom

The Brain Benefits of Your Child’s Dinosaur Obsession – Kate Morgan

5 Friday Faves – Concerning Hobbits, Flag at Half Staff, Relational Shock Absorbers, Leader Smarts, and Making Family Happen

Friday! Tonight, in the Richmond area,  we have our first hard freeze this Fall. That means Dave finishes picking our peppers from the garden. He hopes the greens will survive. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and breezy – with showers of brightly colored leaves covering the grass. Both stained glass windows and patchwork quilts come to mind in this feast for the eyes. Hope your Friday is as lovely. Here are my faves for the week. Enjoy.

1) Concerning Hobbits – The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was a very big deal in our growing-up family. When these films came out, we wanted our kids (then middle-school and high school aged) to read the books first. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. Surprisingly, our kids did, along with their dad re-reading these classics. They were captivated by the stories and the courage and endurance of the characters. The Hobbits were especially endearing as they were tiny folk, carried along by a grand mission. Much beyond their physical abilities but not beyond their great hearts.

This past week, Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, arranged the film theme Concerning Hobbits. Composed by Howard Shore, this melody captures the sweetness and hominess of the Hobbits. There is a rise to crescendo in Mills’ arrangement that also speaks to the willingness of the wee Hobbits to rise to battle when necessary.

I’m reminded of the Hobbit Samwise Gamgee’s role in the novel and film. Two quotes follow – one about him by the author and one by him:

“One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.”J. R. R. Tolkien

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”SamwisePhoto Credit: Pinterest

[Beyond the Guitar is presently posting a video/week. Concerning Hobbits came out last Friday, and today, he published DESTINY 2: Journey – Classical Guitar Cover – check it out!!]

2) Flag at Half Staff – It seems our country’s flag is at half staff too frequently these days. This month we remember our military on Veterans Day and many businesses and private homes will display the American flag in honor of these men and women who served our country.

When a flag is flown at half staff it usually relates to the death of someone significant to all Americans.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This week, again, our flag is at half staff. This time, in our state, it flies in mourning for those victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting.

This tragedy has reminded us again of the brevity of life, the great value of life and community, and how important it is to reach out always to our neighbors. We grieve with our neighbors in Texas.

Yesterday our flags were at half staff for them:

Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Pursuant to President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States flag, I do hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia are to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to honor the victims of the attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017.

I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered until sunset, November 9, 2017.  

Ordered on this, the 6th day of November, 2017. 

Sincerely,

Terence R. McAuliffe

3) Relational Shock Absorbers – I’d like us to consider for a moment the great gift of relational shock absorbers. Those people in our lives who are safe. Those people who sometimes take the brunt of our outbursts or brooding, without returning evil for evil and without inserting their own drama into what we’ve created. I am NOT talking about people who “just take” our bad behavior out of fear or insecurity or their own struggle. That’s codependence and doesn’t help heal either party.

What I am talking about is those in our lives who are rock-solid in their care for us, who recognize that we are not our best selves at that moment, and who refuse to think ill of us. They don’t make whatever issue is going on…about them. Relational shock absorbers are those in our lives who give space and grace, who hug instead of withhold, who listen for the truth behind the tantrum, and who love us forever. No trade-ins. Ever. Our mom was one of those in our lives…I have a long list of others. Give a shout-out to some of yours in the Comments. Photo Credit: Vimeo

Family Systems, Emotions, and Behaviors – Teach Through Love – Lori Petro

4) Leader Smarts – It is so easy for us to become better at our work if we want it badly enough. Pursuing higher education in leadership or business administration is definitely one way. Or searching out leadership mentors online is another way accessible to all of us. Marcel Schwantes is one of my go-to guys, especially related to servant leadership. In a recent piece for Inc., he makes a case for why employees quit, and what leaders can do to keep them.
Photo Credit: USDA
Schwantes makes a bold claim that the “smoking gun” of why too often employees leave their jobs – Employees are simply not valued as human beings.
He lists out 5 ways leaders (and all the rest of us) can demonstrate that we value employees (fellow volunteers, family members, fill-in-the-blank):
  • Invest in employees’ growth and development.
  • Create an environment of psychological safety.
  • Display the leadership strength of humility.
  • Share information.
  • Give them decision-making discretion.

Read more of Schwante’s insightful commentary here.

Want Your Boss to Be a Better Leader? Persuade Them to Try Any of These Top 5 Habits of Smart Leaders – Marcel Schwantes

5) Making Family Happen – Everybody’s busy. I get that. So how do we make family happen without it being an undue burden on our loved ones, either our children or theirs?
I’m trying to figure this out and would love any wisdom from you willing to share (please comment below). Just this past week, we experienced a generous dose of “making family happen”.
Dave and I traveled to Georgia for a family visit, and it was a sweet touch-point with many we loved there. Like our trips to visit our Delaware family, this one brought all sorts of beauty and kindnesses which will sooth our hearts for many months to come.
 In all our married life, we have never lived close to family – sometimes states away, and sometimes countries apart. I have always missed that drop-in nearness with loved ones. Now with both parents gone, my hope is that we next generations will carry on relationships that matter. The traditions may change some, but as long as there are sweet memories…that’s a big part of making family happen. I’m very thankful for a brother and sister-in-law who made family happen for us this past week…and all the younguns who could.
As the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly come, I hope for all of us that we can lean in – to God and each other. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Irish People Try American Thanksgiving Food – Dustin Nelson [Despite brief politicalization, this video was so fun.]

Bonuses

The Instant Pot – Haven’t bought one yet but now I am – thanks to this blogger – family. life. organized.

Favorite quote of the week:  Focus is finding a big “Yes” and saying “No” a thousand times.John R. Bell

Practices From the Inside Out: Taking Off Our Masks – Greg Richardson

Free T-shirt in the mail today – Emory Cares International Service Day

5 Friday Faves – Stranger Things, Fierce Friends, Sarah Harmening, Mother Daughter Bucket List, and Same Kind of Different As Me

The week has wound down to Friday again. I love Fridays not because the week is “finally” over but because it’s a day that gives the week an exclamation point. Or a period, as the case may be. This Friday is an exclamation point around here. Closure to a long and full week; closure with joy. Hope your Friday punctuates such a week as well. Savor the finds of your week…and mine.

1) Stranger Things – Buzz abounds right now as the Netflix sci-fi TV series Stranger Things debuts its Season 2 this weekend. I haven’t seen even the first series because of its spookiness; the latest trailer creeps me out. However, this series is crazy popular with younger folks. The brilliant music sets the tone of the suspenseful nature of the story…set in the 1980s, with the disappearance of a boy and his friends and parents trying to search out what happened.

Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangements of some of the lovely haunting melodies from the series. Watch here.

2) Fierce Friends – How grateful I am for friends who don’t give up on me. You have friends like these, too – those who love us enough to tell us the truth without ripping our hearts out. Friends who will keep loving us no matter the distance or ideologies that could separate us but don’t. These are fierce friends…friends who “stick closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Just this week, I looked around a room full of women who deeply love each other but have some very different stances on issues that matter to all of us. The tension was palpable but the love more so. Our culture today seems peopled with friends when convenient, fair weather friends, and friends with benefits. Friends who politic together, work together, play sports together, or drink together. Take away the activity, and the friendship fades. What a wonder are these fierce friends who stay with us through the worst…those we know have our backs and we have theirs.Photo Credit: Quotesta

Real Spiritual friendship is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.”
Timothy Keller

When connections are real, they simply never die. They can be buried, or ignored or walked away from, but never broken. If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstance… Real connections live on forever.” Victoria Erickson

True friends aren’t the ones who make your problems disappear. They are the ones who won’t disappear when you’re facing problems.” Author Unknown

“If you fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…but if you is lookin’ for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.” ― Ron Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me

Who are some of your fierce friends? Please share in Comments if you want to give a salute to some of them.

3) Sarah Harmening – This past June, a lovely 17-year-old girl from Alabama on her way to love on children in Botswana…died. It was a bus accident in Georgia and we all heard/read about it in the US. Her name is Sarah Harmening. It’s been four months and the wound of her loss is still fresh and painful for those who knew and loved her.

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

So young yet she reflects a walk with God that radiates His goodness and glory…she seemed one glad for the opportunities to serve Him but more glad for the day to see Him.  I look forward to meeting her in Heaven some day. In memorial to her, I’d like to re-post her last journal entry, written while on that fateful bus trip:

“I was just sitting here on the bus feeling a little sad. I guess because I’m going to be gone so long and I was a little uncomfortable. Then I decided to read my Bible. I prayed and opened up to 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1. Pretty much everything I read applied to me now. It talked about watching over the flock entrusted to you which would be my little buddies in Botswana.’”

“I am also called to humble myself which I will need to do and that also means being a little uncomfortable. It talked about the devil prowling about like a lion seeking whom he may devour which he will especially be doing on this mission trip. And now it is our mission trip. And how we will need to be alert and of sober mind. And lastly, how we will get to participate in His Divine Nature! I mean how awesome is that?

So mostly, I was just reminded of why I am here and that God has called me here and His has done this for a reason. So, I know He’s going to do incredible things.”

In a text she sent just before the crash, she quoted 1 Peter 5:23-25 and her thoughts about the text:

 Since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever. – 1 Peter 5:23-25

“‘This is such a great reminder. We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment and this not about us, life is not about us, it’s about God who is eternal. So, I want to dedicate the one moment I am here, completely and entirely to Him’”.

Mother of Teen in Church Bus Accident Shares Her Final Journey Entry – Fox 5 Atlanta

Two Still Hospitalized After Fatal Atlanta Church Bus Crash – Fox 5 Atlanta

4) Mother Daughter Bucket List – I’m not much on bucket lists because really all of life is such an amazing ride, I haven’t thought to add anything that isn’t already happening. Then writer Susan Merrill posted a mother daughter bucket list and linked to various other sweet possibilities (for other combinations of family members). It got me thinking so I asked my daughter what she might like to do together:

Thanksgiving, farmers market, flea market, beach day, apple picking, college campus if we were ever near there, baby pics, movie set, farm, cooking family recipes together, rainy day movies, read your favorite books from childhood, picnic…

Got me thinking and making plans to execute some of the above. Merrill’s lists include other family members, so I’ll be asking.

Photo Credit: Hall of Fame Moms, Pinterest

5) Same Kind of Different As Me – A true story captured by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent, Same Kind of Different As Me is now a film. I loved the book and am looking forward to the movie.

 “I used to spend a lotta time worryin’ that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future. But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”
Denver Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me
After the book made Denver Moore famous, he was invited to speak in many settings, including the White House. How he wanted to be introduced:

“Tell ’em I’m a nobody that is tryin’ to tell everybody about somebody that can save anybody,” Moore told Hall.

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together – Ron Hall & Denver Moore

That’s the wrap on this week’s Friday Faves. Would love for you to share in Comments what has made this week all the more special. I am so grateful you read my blog. Please subscribe if you don’t mind. Blessings until next time, and be kind to yourself and each other. If you read this far, you are among those fiercest of friends, I’m sure.

Bonus

Fall in TennesseePhoto Credit: Lois Martin

Niagara FallsPhoto Credit: Allison Lovejoy

Advent will be here before we turn around. Free this week on Kindle: Give Me the Word: Advent and Other Poems 2000-2015 by Laura M. Fabrycky

What the Most Resilient People Have in Common – Lolly Daskal

8 Things We Need to Stop Doing with Our Phones – Scott Bender

5 Friday Faves – Destiny Meets Classical Guitar, Parenting Hacks, Storms, Waffle House Index, and Country Stores

Friday! For our part of the world, these days bring teasers that Fall is on its way. Cooler temperatures and the brush of color in the trees are lovely signs of change in the seasons.

Hurricane season also peaks this time of year and we’ve seen it in Harvey and Irma – such nice old-fashioned names for such catastrophic events. We are moved to pray for, serve, and give toward the needs of those most affected by these storms.

Today, these are my favorite finds of this week:

1) Destiny Meets Classical Guitar – For video gamers, Destiny 2 just came out. Nostalgia is high for those who grew up with the original Destiny game of battles and heroes. Among those is classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. Photo Credit: Screenshot, YouTube

No nostalgia for me, but Nathan’s arrangement of several of the themes from Destiny is lovely. Catch it here…featured also this week at Bungie.

2) Parenting Hacks – Don’t you love truly helpful parenting advice? The gentle sort that is genius without being judgmental. I found a YouTube channel with just this variety of help – Nurture. Check it out. The video on retrieving something a child put up her nose is “Of course! Why didn’t we think of that?”

Orange Pip | Children's Hospital

Would you know what to do in this situation?

Posted by Nurture on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

3) Storms – I have never endured the path or aftermath of a storm like Harvey or Irma, so I wouldn’t give counsel on how to deal spiritually with such a thing… However, other storms have blown against my heart and that of those much loved in my life. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Leslie Leyland Fields is a fisherwoman and an author. She deals with storms of a physical nature…as well as spiritual. Fields writes fascinating stories about her family’s Alaska fishing business. Especially riveting are the stories of the storms that come up. Read her blog on a recent storm they experienced (her son’s video could give you motion sickness, so be prepared).

We live too much in a too human world, most of us, surrounded by the work of our own hands, cossetted and comforted and cozy most hours of the day and night. We fashion our lives and our prayers around safety, success, We cannot escape ourselves or our own small desires. But enter a storm, climb a mountain, sail the sea, wander an old-growth forest—be afraid—and you will so suddenly and gloriously disappear. You will feel the wind blowing through your clothes and your soul. If you are lucky you’ll be terrified and you may cry like Peter, “Lord, I am a sinful woman, go away from me!” Your little household gods will die, and part of you will die with it.

And you’ll be glad.Leslie Leyland Fields

There is something in the experience of storms (or earthquakes, drought or flood) that forces us to deal with the frailty of both stuff and life itself. We reach out…to God, and to others. We reach out to what is most real.

Check out Fields’ latest book: Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas.

Baptist Global Response – Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief

4) Waffle House Index – I love the Waffle House. We have big family memories of breakfast with my parents and their grands and great-grands. Waffle House never closes…unless…Photo Credit: Flickr; FLickr

Unless a storm is so fierce, Waffle House employees are at risk. Because of this, there is actually a storm measure called the Waffle House Index. If this tiny all-service restaurant closes, then you need to get out of town!Photo Credit: Screenshot, CNBC

5) Country Stores – Another chain of restaurants that offers its own unique comforts is Cracker Barrel. Just last night, we ate there, and our friend accompanying us gave his reasons why he never tires of it. “Cracker Barrel always reminds me of home. As much as I travel, it guarantees a meal that tastes home-cooked.” For me, as great as the food is, it’s the country store of Cracker Barrel that enchants. Fall is fully displayed right now, and Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t far behind. Love that. Always a reminder of the stuff of celebration. Like the porch light is still on, through the storm. I know…a bit sappy…but a sweet respite. 

Hope your weekend is out of harms’ way – far from the storms passing throuagh, but especially I hope you have a sure safe harbor. Until next time…

Bonus

How I Paid Off My $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

How I Paid off my $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

5 Friday Faves – Community Helpers, Leadership Scoreboard, Better Together Cultures, Networks, and Bread

September 1st and it feels like Fall. This time of year always stirs the possibility of new beginnings. It’s my favorite time of the year.

Here are this week’s faves:

1) Community Helpers: We are currently in the long aftermath of flooding in the US and other parts of the world. Photo Credit: JSC Features, NASA

What a wonder to see neighbors helping neighbors…even among the poorest of the poor.  Rachel Stern describes the impact of this beautiful phenomenon below:

Natalie Simpson, chair of the Department of Operations Management and Strategy in the School of Management, says there really is no good evacuation plan when it comes to major disasters in densely populated areas. Simpson, who studies on-the-ground first-response and disaster preparedness, says the reality is that when a disaster gets beyond a certain size, there will never be enough professional help. It will take everybody…

“We’ve already gotten remarkably stronger at channeling people’s individual efforts to support the larger response,” Simpson says. “This is very evident right now as we watch fleets of boats continue to save people in Houston.

“When it comes to disaster preparedness, we are experiencing a dawning of awareness. Everyone must solve large problems together. The key is motivating and empowering everybody to feel confident enough to start solving what little part of this big, messy thing they can on their own.”

Neighbor Helping Neighbor Is Best Practice in Large Disasters – Rachel Stern

YouTube Video – Fred Rogers – Look For the Helpers

2) Leadership Scorecard – If we’re honest, we can be pretty analytical and judgmental when it comes to our leaders’ character and performance. I’m no fan of scorecards, but Frank Sonnenberg has developed one that we would be wise to use. Not just on our leaders – absolutely not – but on ourselves as well.Photo Credit:  Frank Sonnenberg

The only leader I know who could ace this scorecard would be Jesus. However, it shows areas we might have blind spots in and in Sonnenberg’s article he goes into detail about the various components of being an effective emotionally intelligent leader. Worth a look, for sure. Any of these areas you struggle in? Please also share (in the Comments below) any examples of leaders you have experienced who demonstrate this sort of excellence.

Leadership Scorecard – Frank Sonnenberg – Linkedin

3) Better Together Cultures – When we lived in North Africa, I had the privilege of working with a great group of parents who founded a parent-teacher organization for our children’s school. It was a relatively new concept there. Well, in a positive sense. We determined to keep it from being an arena for airing complaints but rather a movement for good in our school. For families, staff, and the community around us. We named our organization Better Together.I think I learned at an early age, and beginning with my mom, that so much more can be accomplished in an environment of inclusion where people genuinely care for and trust each other. Serving goes deeper and celebrating comes naturally. Nurturing a culture of better together at work or in any organization is worth the effort and the risk.

[Search inside DebMillswriter for “Better Together” and you’ll see my fascination and concern/hopefulness in the topic.]

4) Networks – A lot of my faves this week seem wrapped around groups of people. Organizational psychologist, and all-round interesting guy, Adam Grant has posted an encouraging piece on networks – To Build a Great Network You Don’t Have to Be a Great Networker.

Photo Credit: Adam Grant

Here is Grant’s wisdom on the subject:

“…many people view networking as the path to accomplishment, forgetting that accomplishments make it easier to network.

When you create something exciting, you don’t have to rely on charisma or name-drop mutual acquaintances to get your foot in the door. The door opens to you. Sponsors, mentors, investors, and collaborators gravitate toward people who demonstrate potential, and a portfolio is a stronger signal than a promise.

It’s possible to develop a network by becoming the kind of person who never eats alone, who wins friends and influences people. But introverts rejoice: there’s another way. You can become the kind of person who invests time in doing excellent work and sharing your knowledge with others.Adam Grant

He has much more to say on networks along with fascinating stories. Read more here.

5) Bread – Can we just take a minute to sing the praises of bread? There may be some countries in the world where bread isn’t a staple, but I’m glad to have lived places where it is. In fact, everywhere I have ever been, it is a staple. From Southern biscuits (best eaten with gravy) and cornbread, Mexican corn tortillas, Egyptian baladi pocket bread, Ethiopian sour-dough injera, British seeded breads, French croissants and baguettes,  Tunisian flatbread, and Moroccan khboz and msemen…and I could go on. Don’t you just love the pull and chew in bread.

Ironically, bread isn’t a part of my diet currently…BUT it’s a part of every food memory I have associated with happy times with family and friends, here and overseas. So…a new grocery store with a European bakery opened here recently. Lidl‘s bread loveliness is with us. When bread comes back into my diet, it will come from there…or my daughter’s bread machine.

Those are my Friday Faves. How about yours? It’s raining out there in our “neck of the woods”. Be safe and be kind to each other…we never know what is really going on in each other’s lives.

Bonuses:

The Impact of Hurricane Harvey Compared to Your State – Twenty-Two Words

The Largest Religious Groups in Every County Across the U.S. – DidYouKnowFacts?

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar & Malinda Kathleen Reese, Podcasts, the Uncivil War on Racism, the Invisible Yemeni War, and Bonuses Make 5

Friday came faster than usual this week and is ticking fast away itself. When you can take a minute, here are my favorite finds for this week:

  1. Beyond the Guitar and Malinda Kathleen Reese Collaboration – What happens when a YouTube sensation like Malinda Kathleen Reese collaborates with an incredibly gifted guitarist on the rise? Magic. If you’ve been here before, you know what Nathan does with the guitar…and Malinda’s voice? An angel. Full stop.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

Their collaboration on the song “May It Be” from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was other-worldly beautiful. Click on the link and refresh from any hard in your day.

They also collaborated on “Would You Be So Kind?”. See link below.

YouTube Video – dodie – “Would You Be So Kind?” – Malinda Kathleen Reese cover ft. Andrew Huang & Nathan Mills

I hope this is just the beginning of beautiful collaborations between these gifted artists.

Nathan posts guitar arrangements twice monthly. Just in this week, he posted three! The third was his arrangement of the 4 themes of the superhero Netflix shows; now all combined in the show The Defenders. Great characters blended together into a fun series.

Nathan’s crazy impersonations of The Defenders are part of what makes this video so endearing…but again…the music. Wow!

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

2) Podcasts – Who besides me listens to podcasts? They are a great source of inspiration, information, and entertainment (depending on the podcaster). Some of my favorite podcasts are here.

This week the Academy of Podcasters had its award ceremonies. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I’ve linked to some of the favorites below. One of my faves is Knox and Jamie’s The Pop Cast – a funny tongue-in-cheek look at our culture in America.Photo Credit: Knox and Jamie

Knox and Jamie’s The Pop Cast

44 Award-Nominated Podcasts & Their Top Rated Episodes – Sean Baeyens – the Patreon Blog

8 Great Pop Culture Podcasts to Keep You Up to Date on TV, Movies, Music and More – Ma’ayan Plaut

3) The Uncivil War on Racism – We in the US have been in great turmoil for quite some time over the issue of chronic racism. Is it worsening, or is that the deafening cry of mainstream media? I don’t know, but I’ve certainly taken a more serious look at my own heart.Photo Credit: CDN, CLD

We live in a city that was a capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Richmond, Virginia, has sharp racial divides still. Some of this has focused in recent days on the Confederate monuments displayed around our city. Should they come down?Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

[Sidebar: J. E. B. Stuart, V, is a hand surgeon in Richmond, Va. He was my surgeon the last time I broke my wrist. Wonder what he thinks. He is a great-great-grand (?) of the Confederate General above. ]

If the monuments come down, where does the “taking down” stop? A friend of mine today took the issue to its simplest form. “If they hurt people, take them down.”

What frustrates me is that the focus on monuments will change nothing about the problems of “poverty, illiteracy, drugs, crime, and violence.” (Herman Cain). Protests between the alt-right and alt-left groups inflame the situation and divide us even more…along racial lines…

I was asked recently why did I think whites and blacks were so silent on this topic in real conversation. There’s much said in social media, and the news media is loud with hate-filled voices.

For me, I don’t know what to say, but I want to listen…and to participate in action that changes quality of life and the futures of our children.

Will taking down statues help? If so, then so be it. While we’re at it, I wouldn’t mind this one coming down. It’s housed in the Smithsonian Museum. She is Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

Photo Credit: Life Site News

“A statue remains in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution commemorating the one person responsible for the deaths of more African Americans that any other in history: Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

‘More than 19 million black babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in our country,’ according to Michigan Right to Life’s website. ‘On average, 900 black babies are aborted every day in the United States.’ Planned Parenthood is responsible for many of those abortions.

In August 2015, a group of Black pastors gathered in front of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to make known their plea for the removal of Sanger’s bust from the museum.

Their request was rejected and the bust of Planned Parenthood’s founder remains on display today.” – Doug Mainwaring, Life News Site

Herman Cain Just Finally Said What Everyone Has Been Too Afraid To Say!!

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao & Luke Smillie

What I Saw in Charlottesville – Brian McLaren

4) Invisible Yemeni War – I have followed the Syrian conflict  fairly closely over the years since 2011 when it took the international stage. What has happened and continues in Syria in terms of lives lost or displaced is unfathomable. Then there’s Yemen – the poorest country in the Arab world; in its most recent civil war since 2015.Photo Credit: Raw StoryPhoto Credit: Flickr

American news doesn’t quite reach the plight of the Yemeni people. This year has been especially devastating for those still in country, caught in the throes of war. Famine and cholera both taking their toll as well.Photo Credit: World Health Organization

This week, the Yemeni people are now back on my radar. Hopefully, they are on yours as well. We can pray; we can give to reputable charities; we can refuse to forget them.

Yemen Conflict: Who Controls WhatFaisal Edroos, Yarno Ritzen

Yemen Crisis: Who Is Fighting Whom? – BBC News

Yemen Crisis – World Health Organization

Meeting the Houthis and Their Enemies – Safa Alahmad

Ending on a serious note today, but I hope to live life with eyes wide open…and my heart the same. Burying our heads in the sand…or in our phones, etc. diminishes the possibilities for us to truly love our neighbors. It’s a daily battle.

Have a refreshing weekend…be kind to yourselves and each other.

5) Bonuses

This week’s favorite quote: “I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart – for men and women of all generations everywhere who love the Savior until adoration becomes the music of their soul until they don’t have to be fooled with and entertained and amused. Jesus Christ is everything, all-in-all.”A. W. Tozer

Google on Abortion – 3 Fresh Ways to Make the Case for Life – Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – Sounds Every 90s Kid Will Remember

60 Pieces of Survival Wisdom From the Great Depression – The Survival Mom

Monday Morning Moment – Taking the Social Capital Challenge – 5 Steps Forward

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that experience of events converging and what was foggy before becomes crystal clear? I just had that kind of week. A series of non-random things happened that caused a chain reaction of a magnitude that launched me out of my  creative doldrums.

Here’s what happened.

Backtracking a bit, I’ve been thinking solidly for several weeks on social capital – what kind of resource that is and what it takes to have it (or restore it).

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. Simple English Wikipedia

I wrote about social capital twice – here and here. After posting that last blog, the following events had huge impact on how I’ve been doing life.

  1. The right book landed in my hands. Literally.

It was Jeff Goins‘ latest book that was just released. His 5th book and already a best-seller, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age came in the mail.

I tore into it and was so encouraged and empowered by his stories and counsel for artists, like him. No, not like him in the best-selling author part…but like him in the before “possibility-season” of his life.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.Photo Credit: Jeff Goins

Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons From My Latest Launch) – Jeff Goins

2) Significant conversations followed. After posting my last blog, a writer acquaintance suggested we get together. Ann Lovell is a seasoned writer and currently employed as a Communications Director. Not only that, she continues busy with her own writing and is editing the manuscript of another incredible author. We talked about writing, and she offered her help. That was huge for me and right out of Jeff Goins’ book. Then another author friend Kevin Prewett with whom I share workspace some weeks also gifted me with good and thought-provoking questions about my writing. So helpful. Finally, through one more conversation, I realized how my own focus had been more on guiding and encouraging younger  writers and artists around me without noticing my own craft had gone untended. That conversation, with our guitarist son Nathan Mills,   was much illuminating. This time I benefited from a younger artist.

Significant conversations all.

3) A “Come to Jesus Moment” happened with my best friend. The one person in my life who has read all the blogs and has celebrated every high and encouraged me through every low is that husband and friend of mine, Dave. I am sometimes guilty of giving counsel too quickly (ok, advice…really. Unasked for advice. Dang it!). It’s much easier to look in others’ lives and suggest a small tweak than to face full on what totally needs rerouting in our own lives. In the last couple of years, taking early retirement and being too much on the outside looking in, I have time to come up with a prescription for anyone else’s problem. [Yes…guilty.] Not that I’m wrong, necessarily, but the situation is not mine. Most probably, Dave, or Nathan, or whomever it might be knows far more about where he/she is on that trajectory toward next steps than I could possibly conjecture. So here’s the “Come to Jesus Moment”. Over the weekend, Dave and I were talking about this season of life. We resonated together about lost social capital…those strong influencer groups with whom we once were a part and now not so much. In that brief conversation, when I would usually cheer on Dave to rally, the proverbial light bulb went off. Not just for him but for me as well. It is still possible to reclaim ground lost. Now was the time to act.

4) I applied for a job. I’d been toying with this for awhile. Until my dad died, I was making so many trips to help care for him, it seemed impossible for me to work anywhere. I would toss around options with family and friends (teaching ESL, hospice, school nursing), but nothing seemed to fit. Then for several months, I would hear of friends being hired into the coolest jobs and struggled to have unreserved joy for them. It was time for me to either continue with contentment in my current state of not working or take aim in one direction or another and do something. One job caught my eye. One job. I did the hours of updating my resume, pulling together samples of my writing, and crafting a cover letter. If I don’t get that job, I’ll apply for another.

5) I took the Social Capital Challenge.  A couple of months ago, I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on…weeks ago for a month-long challenge…and then did nothing.

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

Until today…

Today I created a written goal and posted it somewhere public.

I joined the Facebook page for The Art of Charm Challenge just now, and here was my first posting.

“Hello, everyone. I signed up for the challenge weeks ago. Even though its email reminders, baby to bigger steps, have been feeding my inbox, I wouldn’t even open them. Until today. Today I am ready. My goal is to have a manuscript with the art work publish-ready by the end of the year. My co-author and I had our first sit-down today, to share story idea and flesh it out some and to do the beginning photographer for the illustrator. Whew! There it is.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Jess_the_VA

I’m taking a deep breath…and we’ll see where this all lands. Whatever lies ahead, I’m so grateful for good counsel, courageous and creative friends and family, and clarity. It’s a very good Monday.

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

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

6 Things You Need to recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

6 Things You Need to Recover From Every Day – Benjamin P. Hardy

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

5 Friday Faves – Seasonal Favorites, Classical Guitar, Scruffy Hospitality, Hilarious Commercial, and Father’s Day

Weeks never seem to drag anymore. Friday has come again with lightning speed, forcing a break in our routine. In Virginia, today marks the last school day of the year for public schools. Summer has officially begun.

It’s not my favorite season of the year (OK…I know I’m in a minority here but heat and bugs come with summer, not just the beach). Having the kids home for the summer was always a joy so I will take that part anytime.

We have a big gathering of family coming up soon which is being made possible through Airbnb. That part of summer which does include the beach and baby snuggles along with late nights of laughter and games and movies with the babies in bed is a delight.

So without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Faves:

1) Seasonal Favorites – I’ve sung the praises of fruit in season once before. Orchard-fresh fruit and vegetables right out of the garden are so good. You just slice up summer squash and zucchini, lightly olive-oil spray it and roast in a hot oven and you can almost forget the cheesy casserole you were going to make out of it. Such sweetness in summer vegetables.

Dave’s favorite Honeycrisp apples are hard to find in the US summer – when found they often taste like last year’s harvest or are prohibitively expensive.

When the apples fade, we have watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries…and peaches!!! Glory!

Finally, I want to celebrate the small family businesses just open for the summer (and sometimes closed on Sundays) that bring all kinds of sweetness our way. Less than an hour away, we find Sno-To-Go. The weighty decision of whether to cool down with a cup of ice cream or a sno-cone is over. Stuffed snoballs are the perfect combo.

What’s your favorite summer to-go place for treats like these?

2) Beyond the Guitar – Classical Guitar Video –
Here’s Nathan Mills‘ latest arrangement posted to YouTube. It is Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda‘s Frog’s Theme from the video game Chrono Trigger. For many of you gamers out there, this will be another musical delight. For us non-gamers, it is also an incredibly lovely melody, especially rendered on classical guitar. Enjoy the video below:

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Chrono Trigger – 600AD – Yearnings of the Wind – Classical Guitar Cover

Beyond the Guitar – Patreon

3) Scruffy Hospitality – [MEN – don’t pass this by – you are part of this.] What a gift to lavish hospitality on those you love or hope to know better. Too often we hesitate because the thought of getting the house ready, putting together just the right menu, and aiming for a “Pinterest-perfect” presentation exhausts us before we even make the invitation. Two articles I found this week gives freedom and empowerment to us all to extend hospitality – and scruffy is so much better than no hospitality. Robin Shreeves wrote a great piece on this, as a woman who threw off her need to have everything perfect.  Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr

Shreeves’ role models in this were an Anglican priest, Jack King, and his wife, Dana. Father King also wrote a very special entitled Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship.

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.Jack King

I’m so glad he wrote about hospitality. Our hesitancy as both women and men can be conquered…especially if we help and encourage each other.

Scruffy Hospitality and an Open Seat at the Table – Sermon Notes – Father Jack King

4) Hilarious Commercial – Commercials are fascinating to me – when they are done well. So many are just silly. In fact, in the days when our kids were small, and we would fast-forward through the commercials on homemade videotapes, our little Daniel would say, “No! I care about that!” Me, too, Daniel.  A young businessman in Colorado Springs, Co., Joe McCloskey, Jr. , is an agent with Farmers Insurance.  I don’t know who advised him or he is this creative, but he has put up several homemade video commercials on YouTube. The one below is the most recent and the most professional. It is hilarious. Don’t just scroll through. You will send your endorphins out the roof. I don’t think you can watch with out laughing out loud. Oh, and notice “Call Me For A Quote – 719-237-9455”. So creative.

YouTube Video – Stinky Fish Challenge – Surstromming – Joe McCloskey, Jr.

5) Father’s Day – We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you fathers. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and good and strong male friends – most of whom were spiritual fathers only…but fathers nonetheless.

YouTube Video – TD Ameritrade – Cat’s in the Cradle – Great Father’s Day video

The Father I Never Knew on Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills Writer

Traveling Man – Somewhere Between Here, There, & Home – Deb Mills Writer

The weekend is here. Celebrate summer and each other. Comment below what this week brought your way to share. Be safe out there and gentle on yourself and each other.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – The Holderness Family – The Beach: Pre-Kids vs Post-Kids

The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles – Gretchen Reynolds

Musician Alexa Wilding Refused to Be Peer Pressured Into Post-Pregnancy Plastic Surgery – Devon Abelman

Amazon Prime – Nuff said. 🙂

Summer Sunsets (this one in California)

Friday Faves – Leadership, Storytelling, Crowd-sourcing, and Clarity

Straight forward into the weekend! Here are my four favorite finds of the week. I usually post five but this has been several days of computer glitchiness and slow internet…so we’ll stick with these four today. Thanks for taking the time to scan them, and please comment below on your finds for the week.

1) Leadership – Bookmark this week’s blog by Brian Dodd on Leadership. Dodd has been live blogging the various speakers at the Rethink Leadership Conference. His quotes from some of these talks are incredibly helpful…making it like we got to be in the audience. There were several great leadership speakers at Rethink. I’ve included Dodd’s notes on three and a link to a fourth.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

  • Carey Nieuwhof’s Opening Thoughts on Leadership: The reason vision falls flat is you don’t have a strategy. Clear strategy provokes deep fear. Ambiguity never provokes fear. Clarity does. Strategy is the execution of your mission and vision. Strategy becomes divisive because it is clear. The last 10% of the change is hardest. The clearer you are on your strategy, the simpler it is, the more it is written down, the easier it is. It’s easy to change something someone else built. It’s much more difficult to change something you built. The temptation to strategize once is very strong and the direct path to irrelevance.
  • Jeff Henderson on Keeping the Main Thing the Main ThingInsideritis – a malady afflicting the vision of an organization resulting in focusing on insiders over outsiders. The role of a leader is raising people to run the business and you be out in the community bringing in new customers. Vision leaks. And so does inspiration. What are we here for? This is a vision inventory question. 4 Rhythms – What do you meet about? What do you talk about? What do you see? What do you celebrate? Everybody likes getting their Instagram photo liked. It reinforces behavior. 999% of Instagram photos from churches are about what’s happening in the church. We need to be about what’s happening in the community. Celebration is something leaders can overlook. One of the best things you can do as a leader is write three Thank You notes a day.
  • Dan Reiland on Essential Elements to Lead Your Staff Well: 5 Categories Of Hiring – Culture. Selection. Development. Performance. Teamwork. Culture is who you are, what you value, and how do you get things done. Culture determines how you see staff. How you see staff determines how you treat staff. Lead with vision, not job descriptions. Trust is the foundation of empowerment. Micromanagement and control kills trust.  What you get people with is how you keep them. When you can’t recruit with vision you have to buy them. Never lower your standards. It’s better to go without than hire the wrong person. You’re not hiring an administrative assistant to make your life easier. You’re hiring an administrative assistant to make you more productive. Chemistry wins the day. Assume competence. Identify competence before the conversation gets serious. Embrace the 2X Factor. Pour twice as much in as you expect out. You do this because you care. You can’t develop people well if you don’t care. Not everybody cares. You can’t fake caring. The secret to being a great coach – Pay Attention. Champion progress, not performance. Don’t apologize for accountability. You have created or allowed your current circumstances. Trust is the core, the epicenter, the bedrock of teamwork.
  • Carey Nieuwhof’s  Closing Thoughts on Pastors and Cynicism: I was the guy who sent people to counseling.  I didn’t get counseling. Cynicism doesn’t happen because you don’t care.  It starts because you did. Cynicism starts because you know too much. Cynicism is a choice.  Life actually doesn’t make you cynical.  You make you cynical. The antidote to cynicism – Cynicism melts under the relentless hope of the Gospel. The best antidote to cynicism is curiosity.  The cynical is never curious.  The curious are never cynical. Curiosity is a discipline.  You can learn it.

37 Leadership Quotes from Les McKeown – Predictable Success – From the Rethink Conference – Brian Dodd on Leadership

2) Storytelling – Don’t you love a good story? Part of the magnificence of a story is its delivery. All Y’All is a podcast out of Louisiana. If any of you are from the South and have transplanted your lives elsewhere, this is a place, you can rest your ears on your mother tongue.  I discovered a sweet-with-Southern-drawl episode on referral of a friend. The guest storyteller was Amy Lynn Treme, a preschool teacher from Shreveport, Louisiana. Her story about a pet store job and supervising a field trip with exotic pets, including a large snake named Monty, is hilarious! Listen here.Photo Credit: All Y’All

5 Great Tips to Help You Tell Better Stories – Robin Camarote

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar

3) CrowdsourcingCrowdsourcing or crowdfunding is a growing process we use today to gather financial support, services or solutions, via the internet, from multiple individuals or groups.

Photo Credit: Startup Daily

We are familiar with GoFundMe and KickStarter, but there are many other platforms, depending on the situation or need. Wikipedia is a much-used and much-beloved crowdsourced venture. My favorite charity is Baptist Global Response; it receives some of its support via crowdsourcing. This avenue of support can benefit non-profits, individuals in crisis, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and artists.

In another era, the great patrons of music supported the composers of their day – musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn among others. We still listen to their brilliant music today, and we have their patrons to thank also. Creative work takes time, but rarely is that work itself rewarded until the album is produced, for instance, and concerts are performed. What if we, the general public, had a voice in which artists we wanted to support, besides just buying albums or concert tickets? Patreon is a crowdsourcing vehicle for artists and the crowds who would support them if they knew there was a way.

I watched a TED Talk this week on crowdsourcing by singer Amanda Palmer. The talk was The Art of Asking. Amanda Palmer lives a very free life and uses language and attitude in her music that is pretty much in-your-face. That’s very appealing for many. For me, her TED Talk was real and winsome and a great testament to crowd-sourcing…that taking your idea, your vision, your gift to the people and letting them be part of growing it.

I do have an artist like that in my life…a gifted musician who is both building his craft and trying to make a living at the same time. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. He has “a crowd” who partner with him in various ways – video production, sound, tech support, social media and messaging, startup advice, and financial investment.

Crowdsourcing isn’t charity. It’s partnership.

None of us can play classical guitar or arrange music like Nathan…none of us in Nathan’s “crowd”. Yet, we get to be a part of his vision and his music. I delight in the rewards of patronage.

4) Clarity – Here’s to clarity…and to those people in our lives who help us navigate through the murkiness of some relationships and situations in life. I experienced some life-defining clarity this past week and wrote about it already here.

Photo Credit: Jon Wiley, Flickr

Clarity is that enlightening aha or “got it” moment when you see that you were right…or wrong…and the relief of it, just the knowing, is electric. No longer entangled by “What is going on here?” or “Am I crazy?” Clarity comes with a path forward, because once you really where you are and the truth of that situation or relationship, you can advance. I didn’t say leave the relationship or bail out of the situation but move forward. There is a big difference there. When confusion and dis-ease clouds our thinking about something, we just want out. It’s uncomfortable. Clarity empowers and emboldens us to act with intentionality and even compassion.

Because of the aforementioned computer/internet woes (where I also need clarity as to what is the problem), I’ll close here. Maybe in the comment section we can talk about clarity. I’ll blog on it again sometime because it’s huge…not for escaping the murk and mire we may find ourselves in sometimes, but to forge a way through.

Have a great weekend out there!

 

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