On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.
I had nothing.
After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.
On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.
Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.
Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.
There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.
1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before
2. Map It All Out From the Beginning
3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately
4. Put “Creation Time” On Your Daily Schedule
Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.
Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.
I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.
The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.
Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.
My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.
Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]
Happy Friday! Hope this week was kind to you. Here are my 5 most favorite finds of the week for you.
1)St. Patrick’s Day – Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish. Still love celebrating this day a bit. Photo Credit: Flickr
Also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak recently shared the following with me via email this morning – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):
He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
Patrick was a man brought up on a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
He was kidnapped at 16 (he said he didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned Irish.
As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
Before this, he had ‘sinned’ – something that ‘lasted an hour’ and he believed that God punished him.
God spoke to him in a dream about a ship to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (the ends of the earth at that time).
He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.
What we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?
The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters.
The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.
2) Beauty and the Beast Guitar Arrangement – Yesterday the live action Disney film Beauty and the Beast debuted in the US. Articles abound about the production – its beauty and grand scenes. Other articles raise the question of whether it is as family-friendly as the Disney animated classic by the same name. Everyone will have to decide for themselves about whether to watch this film and how often. One very easy decision would be watching the just-released classical guitar arrangement by Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar).
It is beautiful, even with less-grand scenes, and its own Belle and wee beast. It is definitely family-friendly and the music is lovely. Enjoy!
Tenacity is that characteristic in a person or group that keeps her/them moving forward – persistence, resolve, determination.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Read the article for examples Crowley gives, and here’s his illuminating summary:
Tenacity has many manifestations for founders and their startups. At the beginning, it’s often deeply tied to identity. Giving up one’s idea feels like giving up on oneself. After hitting early milestones, tenacity is confidence. But it’s best tempered with humility, so as to avoid flying too high on early wins. As a company scales, tenacity is focus. There will be accompanying growing pains as customers sign up, headcount grows and the market responds. Anchor and orient yourself by asking: what is this supposed to be when it grows up? When the going gets tough, tenacity is grit. Don’t look externally to others to build what you need — you’ll be waiting longer than you want. Do it yourself. Lastly, tenacity is culture and a private truth. Tenacity at scale will both involve and elude people. What guides the team isn’t always accurately reflected in the public’s perception. An informed, committed team around you is the best way to drown out the noise and to march toward achieving your biggest goals.
“These different facets of tenacity are important insofar as invoking them keeps your legs moving and charging forward. Growing a company is an impossibly hard endeavor — many wouldn’t start if they knew just how difficult it is,” Crowley says. “But the early stories of most successful companies are often those in which no one thought it could be done. In fact, if you asked them, those founders probably didn’t know if they could do it either. But if you can get there — if you stick to what you set out to do — it can put you in an amazingly powerful and defensible position.”
4) Manliness – We should affirm, empower, and let loose women to fulfill their callings, giftings, and places in the world. Not being sexist, the same is true for men, of course. That’s why I appreciate the website/podcast the Art of Manliness. The Art of Manliness aims to encourage our readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, citizens — a new generation of great men (the About page).
I don’t go with everything on this website but some of the content is fascinating and extremely helpful. I hope never to have to jump from a speeding car but knowing it’s possible to walk away from such a situation made me interested in reading about it.
This information isn’t just for men, but some of the entries are male-specific. We women write volumes about how to be “better women”. I’m glad there are men (and women) are writing for men in this way.
5) Embracing the Life You Have – We have all experienced losses. We grieve…and grieve again. As time goes by, the grief changes, but that doesn’t mean it has to change us. At least not in an unhealthy way. John Piper speaks about this so eloquently and tenderly:
I have in mind two kinds of losses: those who had something precious and lost it, and those who hoped for something precious and never had it. It works both ways. Sixty years go by, and forty years on you think, “I’ve come to terms with that,” and then one morning it breaks over you, and you weep about a 40-year old loss, or a 40-year “never have,” and my counsel is, yes, go ahead, embrace that moment. Weep.
But then, say to your weeping after a season, “No. You will not define me, sorrow, because my God has said, ‘No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly’ (Psalm 84:11). Therefore, even though it was good in one sense, and I miss it in one sense, I trust my God, and he has not withheld anything that is good for me.” Yes, let there be weeping in those seasons — feel the losses. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life he’s given you. – John Piper
As one who struggles with waves of grief out of nowhere…thank you, Dr. Piper.
Principal Financial Group has been running a series of commercials with the theme Life Doesn’t Always Go According to Plan. Three of their commercials follow. Sweet messaging…
Be gentle with yourself and each other. Serve somebody, and be safe out there. [Oh, and please share in Comments your favorites of the week. Thanks!]
Who are the Refugees? Which are their Host Countries? Take a Guess.
In his LinkedIn article, Barry Sanders talks about one of the characteristics of what makes a “best place to work”. This characteristic is “common purpose”. He writes:
Common purpose is essential to driving organization-wide adaptability, which is key to succeeding in today’s fast-paced business world. A shared set of values and goals across the organization allows leaders and individual contributors to achieve widespread alignment, manage uncertainty, and guide decisions in times of turmoil and change.
Without establishing common purpose, companies risk a lack of motivation, lower levels of commitment, less loyalty, and decreased alignment amongst their employees—not to mention negative Glassdoor reviews.
He also quotes from his CEO General Stanley McChrystal’s bestseller Team of Teamswhich gives this summary of the importance of common purpose:
“Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose…Individual SEALs have to monitor the entirety of their operation just as soccer players have to keep track of the entire field, not just their own patch of grass. They must be collectively responsible for the team’s success and understand everything that responsibility entails.”
When you can see the entire field, not just your patch of grass, your organization becomes more effective—and a better place to work. – Barry Sanders
I sure hope senior leaders get this message. Just communicating the purpose is not enough. That “patch of grass” must be given to that soccer player. He must own it and own his part of the entire field. Leaders who genuinely believe in and nurture common purpose cultivate a “best place to work” for their personnel.
2) Safeguarding Your Marriage – Infidelity or unfaithfulness in our marriage relationships is not just about sexual betrayal. Infidelity can happen when we allow our hearts to become more bonded to someone or something else more than to our own spouses. Dave Willis defines infidelity as “broken trust or broken loyalty”. He has posted a tremendously helpful article entitled The 9 Forms of Infidelity in Marriage (Hint: 8 of Them Don’t Involve Sex). Willis is a pastor,counselor and founder of Stronger Marriages. Single or married, you will benefit from his article because too often we “fall” into infidelity by letting ourselves be deceived in thinking it’s nothing. Safeguard your relationships!
3) Being Different – Matt Damico has written an excellent piece for Christ-followers. It is The World Needs You to Be Different. If you are reading this and you aren’t keen on the teachings of Jesus, you may already think that Christians are a quirky lot of people. What Damico says in this article is to call us to the rhythms, the routines, the practices of the church that work a peculiarity in us that’s a good thing.
Piano scales make a pianist. Hours behind the wheel make a driver. Weightlifting reps make muscles, and lots of miles make a runner. Routine and repetition aid us in so many ways, yet a lot of us seem allergic to similar habits in our weekly church worship gatherings.
But just as these individual habits do something to us, so it is with our congregational habits: they’re making us into something. God willing, they’re making us the right kind of peculiar.
We’ll bear fruit in this life when our roots are firmly planted in the coming new earth. As C.S. Lewis said, history shows that “the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” One of the main ways this happens is through the rhythms and repetitions worked into our weekly gatherings.
So, as your church gathers for worship this weekend, appreciate anew what’s happening, how the strange rituals — the “rhythms of grace,” as Mike Cosper calls them — are making you more faithful and more fruitful. – Matt Damico
4) Hard Seasons – I’m not going to wax on here about hard seasons – we all know what ours are. I just always want to keep Syrian refugees on my radar so here’s a photo piece that dramatically displays their reality…in a way that has stayed in my mind all week.
Then I also wanted to share a piece by Aaron Brown. I know his family. He grew up in Chad where his father was a physician. His reflects on a very difficult time and its oddly positive impact on his life…renewing his hope after the very difficult year of 2016.
5) Small Beginnings – In the Bible, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the people, “Do not despise small beginnings.” They had the huge task of rebuilding the Temple, and Scripture tells us, this great work began in the mundane but extraordinary act of Zerubbabel picking up the plumb line. Any beginning may seem small and inadequate for the grand vision that stretches in front of us. However, we never know when the small explodes into wonder.
Chip and Joanna Gaines (HGTV stars of Fixer Upper) have an incredible story of small beginnings which grew into a huge, phenomenally successful business. They started out flipping houses as a young couple and often had just the cash in their pockets. Now they have their own TV show, a real estate business, home goods store, and “The Silos” – a refurbished commercial venue in Waco, Texas.
Another example of small beginnings is pastor and author Tim Keller. Just this past week, Keller announced he was stepping down from the senior pastor position of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He pastored there for almost 30 years and it now is a multi-site 5000-member church. [This is a planned succession and he will be teaching in a seminary.] A friend of mine here in Richmond “knew him when”. Years ago, before his NYC church role he was her pastor, in a small church near here – West Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Small beginnings…
Whether you are examining a small beginning as a Christian or from a different worldview, there is excellent counsel to be had…both in Scripture and in articles (such as those linked below).
Just yesterday I was trying to encourage a young man about what he viewed as a small beginning in his career. Not sure I made sense at all. Then today, my husband emailed me this great article – about the exact same subject.
the power of choice (“you stop playing the victim to external circumstances and take responsibility for your life – the private victory“) and
the power of context (“In everything you do, there should be collaborative and synergistic elements. Of course, there is work which is your work. However, that work should be embedded within a group of others and toward something much bigger. – the public victory”)
Hardy’s full article is excellent (even includes components of the assist we get from brain plasticity which I wrote about earlier).
Happy Friday! It’s been one of those weeks that has made Friday a “Whew, got through it!” kind of day. An anticipated freeze tonight draws me outside and to take in all the early forsythia, red bud and tulip magnolia blossoms in their current glory. Such a beautiful time of the year…this mild winter/early spring combination.
For your enjoyment – should you end up inside and snuggled in front of a fire – my favorite finds of the week:
1) Community – Grace abounds in genuine community. Don’t we all hope to have a work team that cares about us, neighbors that watch out for each other, and family that looks past our foibles and loves us anyway? True community happens when our focus is on the other…the friend, the neighbor, the coworker. In our strength, we come alongside the weaker ones and take turn-about in our weak times to lean on those who are strong. I can’t describe community very well but I know what it’s like to be in real-life deep community. Someone who has described it well is Cliff Jordan, teaching pastor of Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia. His message from Romans 15:1-6 inspired and affirmed the reality of community if we are willing to go after it and extend ourselves toward others in this way. Listen here to the message: Grace On Display – Community.Photo Credit: MoveRichmond
2) Zelda on Guitar – For both you videogame and classical guitar music aficionados, you’re in for a real treat. Nintendo has launched a new gaming system (Nintendo Switch) and a new version of The Legend of Zelda (Breath of the Wild). In celebration of this launch for all you gamers who grew up with Zelda, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has arranged a Zelda medley.
Not much of a videogame fan, but I am a classical guitar enthusiast. The soundtracks of these games are rendered beautifully on guitar. Watch here or click on video below.
3) Tim Tebow – In the U.S., most every adult out there knows the name and something of the career and character of Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow. I’m a big fan. In particular, I’m a fan of the winsomeness and determination of the man, more than his athletic prowess. Tebow first came on my radar watching the film, Everything in Between, about how he trained and persevered, culminating in becoming a first round draft pick for NFL football. Then I watched his career in the NFL, and then his detour into baseball, sportscasting and commentary. Tim Tebow is one of the hardest working, determined, disciplined, and persevering athletes out there today.
More than his success in athletics, his determination to make a difference in life stands out the most. He shows up in all kinds of situations, serving and showing love to those who might think they are forgotten. Many celebrities and other wealthy benefactors have foundations, as does Tim. Why he does what he does, he shares below.
“I want to be someone that was known for bringing faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”
Tebow strives for excellence in all he does, and he brings that to bear on the lives of those who may not have the same opportunities as he does. So for people who question his athletic career, walk awhile in these shoes.
4) Podcasting – Like in every other professional field, there is actually a conference for podcasters. I came late to the entertainment/educational medium of podcasting. Now, however, there are some who have won my heart and car-time. Below is a short list of my favorites:
The Popcast– Knox McCoy and Julie Golden post a weekly conversation all about pop culture. I just discovered them this week and find them funny, engaging, and even thought-provoking. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes with her.Photo Credit: The Popcast
5 Leadership Questions or 5LQ – Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper are co-hosts of 5LQ. Their focus is on Christian leaders but it’s not just about church; their guests include business and other professional leaders. The same five questions guide their discussion:
Who are you learning from?
What is the main point of emphasis for your leadership team (or self) right now?
What obstacles are you currently facing in leadership, either in your organization or personally?
What does leadership in your home look like?
What would you tell your 20-year-old self about preparing to lead?
I’m personally kind of a leadership junkie and can tell you I always learn from these guys and their guests.
The Podcast – Carey Nieuwhof – This writer, conference leader, and pastor does a weekly podcast on leadership as well. Nieuwhof tackles some of the hard issues of leadership. Whether you lead in a Christian or other organization, you will learn and enjoy his meaty and sometimes funny content and stories.
5) Creatives – Using the word “creative” as a noun doesn’t come naturally for me, because I believe in the innate creative abilities of all of us. However, some “creatives” stand out. Writer and podcasterJeff Goins defines them best in this way:
“A creative is an artist. Not just a painter or musician or writer. She is someone who sees the world a little differently than others.
A creative is an individual. He is unique, someone who doesn’t quite fit into any box.
A creative is a thought leader. He influences people not necessarily through personality but through his innate gifts and talents.
And what, exactly, does a creative do?
A creative creates art…She sings to sing, for the pure joy of making music. And she paints to paint. (And so on…)
A creative colors outside the lines. On purpose. In so doing, she shows the world a whole new picture they never would have otherwise seen.
A creative breaks the rules. And as a result, he sets a new standard to follow.
Why we need creatives
The truth is that we need more creatives in positions of influence — to color the world with beauty and life. – Jeff Goins
Another favorite creative of mine is Andrew Morgan. His documentary series Untold America is a timely, much-needed look at today’s America…with the potential to bridge a gap between us as a diverse and sometimes polarized people.
"Nothing is louder than love." Andrew shares a few final thoughts on democracy and differences as we wrap up our first month together. New episodes every Thursday as we prepare to start a new month focused on immigration.
Standing outside this morning in the cold, I watched another incredible winter sunrise…and another Friday dawned. Hope you’re finishing your week strong. Either way, we can put this week to rest.
Here’s my list of 5 favorite finds this week (with a few fun bonuses at the end). Enjoy.
1) Civility – More than just polite discourse. In 1997, Burgess and Burgess, of the University of Colorado, wrote a substantive piece on the meaning of civility. They could have been writing about our current political and social culture. Read their piece for particulars in using fair and honoring processes in attacked difficult problems. Watch Senator Marco Rubio’s brief and inspiring challenge to the US Senate recently.
I’m surprised myself at how soothing this music is when showcased in such a different setting…arranged by this guy who plays both guitar and videogames with skill…and heart. Have a listen:
3) Unwanted Heirlooms – As far as stuff goes, we are in an unprecedented time. Two generations, the Boomers and their parents, are both downsizing, and their children and grandchildren aren’t interested in their stuff. It poses an odd and interesting puzzle for all involved. This week, I came across a helpful article by Richard Eisenberg entitled Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff. He talks about the dilemma for our minimalist children who prefer Ikea and Target over the dark and bulky furnishings of the past. Then Eisenberg gives a quick-read list of to-do’s for dealing with unwanted heirlooms.Photo Credit: Pinterest
I’m pretty sentimental about stuff of my parents that has endured through time, but one day we’ll need one of those estate handlers who just carry off everything. NOVA Liquidation is one such enterprise. Susan’s Selections is my local favorite.
There is definitely an entrepreneurial opportunity here for some. Like you craftsmen who repurpose old pieces. Or those who deal with reclaimed wood and vintage furniture – another local favorite being Wellborn Wright. I would love to see some of these old heavy armoires turned into doors or facades for walls or faux fireplaces.
Tea rooms should abound in our country. There are so many beautiful things from another era…and people who love to sit places, with their tablets or laptops open, and drink coffee/tea – not just in minimalist coffeeshops but in places that surround us with beauty….that’s where all those sets of china cups and saucers should go. Wish I had the revenue to open such a place. Just went to one this weekend….lovely!!!
4) Film Spare Parts – For those of us who love science and also long for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who were brought to the US by their parents illegally, this is the film for you. Spare Parts is a 2015 film, starring George Lopez, Marisa Tomei, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s derived from a true story of four high schoolers, all undocumented from Mexico, who try to change the course of their lives…through a science project. It is funny, poignant, and informing. [See trailer here.]Photo Credit: To the Flixes
Whatever our politics, this film makes us think…and possibly reconsider. [See DREAM Act.]
It reminded me of another film that was a favorite of mine last year – McFarland USA (view trailer here).
5) Life Callings – What does this mean…calling? For me, it is the God-given passion and preparation to be the person and do the something for which we were created. Our lives can change course over a lifetime…several times even…but there’s a driving force that we never want to dull by what seems like necessity.
Paul Sohn posted a piece this week with 10 provocative and resonating quotes on calling. Don’t miss it. In fact, here are three of his quotes to get you started:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Frederick Buechner
“Calling means that everyone, everywhere, and in everything fulfills his or her (secondary) callings in response to God’s (primary) calling. For Luther, the peasant and the merchant— for us, the business person, the teacher, the factory worker, and the television anchor—can do God’s work (or fail to do it).” – Os Guinness
“God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Gustaf Wingren
That’s it for this week. Have a safe and refreshing weekend! Please use the Comments to reflect on these finds or share your own.
Buzzfeed Video – Moments Only Arab People Understand – I really loved the video below – so reminded me of our years in the Arab world. Miss the people – their great hospitality and the cultural nuances. [We still have Arab friends here…but being their guests and neighbors in their culture was an amazing experience. Hopefully theirs is the same here.]
❤️ VALENTINE'S DAY LIP SYNC —> Love Songs Of The Decades 🎤Thanks to Costumes By Margie for helping us bring these love songs to life!______________________NEW vid every FRIDAY!Like + Comment + Share 🙂 CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNELhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UChsxlTvqB3T5C1a_AQudB7ALike us on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/kristinanddannyFollow us on Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/kristinanddannyFollow us on Twitterhttps://www.twitter.com/kristinanddanny#KristinAndDanny
What a lovely surprise! Ceremony interrupted by voice from the back, bride turns around and her eyes are full of tears. 🌂🌂🌂 Via: Liquid Media Video Production Youtube ☑ Like IPost, get more awesome videos.
“…Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
Who wouldn’t love a surgeon who calls to check on you himself after you go home from surgery? That was my experience this afternoon. He had just removed 6 lesions (creepy word) from my face. Too much sun exposure in my reckless 20’s. I will know next week whether each is cancer or not (hopefully the non-scary type).
Some doctors are almost too professional – aloof, reserved, choosing words carefully, but this one is excellent at his work and also very human and approachable. Before we went into surgery, he sat down with Dave and me to review my medical history. In a few minutes, he would be doing multiple cuts and wound closures on this old face of mine, leaving me a bit Frankensteinish in appearance. Temporarily.
In that talk, he puzzled out loud at how I got lung cancer not ever having been a smoker. “Just bad luck…” he surmised.
All afternoon, I have thought about that odd observation. He didn’t know the whole of that medical workup which delivered a lung cancer diagnosis and surgery (Stage 1, by the way…sigh of relief). He would have considered it “good luck” then. Another health issue had driven that workup, which turned out to be nothing. The testing, however, had fortuitously revealed the lung nodule. Luck…if you believed in that. I knew it was something much more.
What this latest favorite surgeon of mine casually observed as bad luck, I see as a good God. A good and loving God. Even when the diagnosis isn’t Stage 1…even when our calendars are filled with way too many doctors’ appointments and our hearts full of fear…the character of God shines through all that…if we look for Him.
Whether life is good or not so good, God’s care for us is unaltered.
These last several months have settled that in my heart over and over again. When we go through difficulties, God uses them in our lives in at least three ways.
To show us His love and faithfulness as we cling to Him through the scary unknowns.
To deepen our grasp of and wonder at His purposes for our lives.
To embolden us to extend His love to those around us, as He’s purposed us to do. To be His hands and feet to others, as He’s multiplied grace to us in our own hard places.
Luck doesn’t stir our hearts to take the lives God has given us (and health restored to us) and pour them out in service to Him and for the sake of others. Love does that.
Love unfailing Overtaking my heart You take me in Finding peace again Fear is lost In all you are
And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it
Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*
I go for followup next week to this dear plastic surgeon who took such good care of me. While he takes out all these stitches, I hope to share, even briefly (and not weirdly), the whole “not luck, but love” story of my life. Hopefully all the biopsy results will be nothing or not scary. Whatever happens, God’s love turns my heart to Him…and to those He’s placed in my life – who also walk through hard places but don’t have to walk through them without Him.
We are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3Photo Credit: Kuyamac
Life happens. Whatever our hopes, goals or dreams, we go after them in real time and regular life. The challenge is to not lose sight of them in the course of working your day-job, whatever that might be. Jon Acuff’s book Do Over came out at a very timely place of transition in my life. The recurring theme of his book was to do what it takes to get where you hope to go – not finding yourself at the end of your career realizing you just clocked in and out of “someone else’s job”…for decades. The daily of our lives can snuff out or overshadow where we knew in our hearts we wanted to go…in work, relationships, and vision. Mark that and take positive steps through it.
I’ve read ever so much more about goal-setting than I’ve actually used. In thinking of goals and action plans, I can actually feel an eye twitch coming on…and all I want to do is eat junk food and check Facebook. Alas…goal-setting is a challenge…but a worthy one.
Roadmaps are helpful for me. Not only with finding the destination but also with marking progress, checking for more scenic routes, noting markers which teach us stuff, and pointing to rest stops.
After reading the articles linked below, a roadmap for decision-making has emerged that makes sense to me…and hopefully will be helpful to you. We need goals or we are never fixed on a mark toward which we launch our best efforts. The key, however, is not just in deriving the goal but, setting a course that aligns with our relationships and responsibilities. That way, when setbacks come, they don’t put us off-course. We just deal…and get back on course.
So here we go:
10 Sure Turns Toward Achieving Our Goals
Listen to the Longing – As we get older, our goals change in life. Still at a heart level, we have longings for a life of deep purpose and genuine achievement. Those longings may be as unique as we all are as people. We are never too old or our lives too far-spent to tune into that longing. It’s never too late.
Tell Those Closest to You – Don’t keep to yourself what you would love to pursue. Tell those who care for you so much that they will pour into your vision and your goals. Fear of failure or disappointment won’t diminish your hopes if others share them with you…because they love you and believe in you.
Set Goals and Then Revisit Them With “Why’s?” – This is actually some of the hardest work of moving forward and stymies some of the best of us. Serge Popovic breaks this down in a helpful way by looking at the systems (or commitments) that help us get to goal. The goal is our destination but we daily make decisions and take action toward that goal. These rhythms are part of the discipline of achieving our goals. They also inform our direction as we revisit our goals and ask the necessary “why’s”.Photo Credit: Dreams Procrastinated
Consider the Costs and Work Them into Your Plan – In setting course to meet life goals, there are givens we must consider. Taking care of our family is an obvious one. Managing our time around other responsibilities. Not missing our children as we strive toward that goal that can stretch years ahead. The costs don’t have to alter our course, but we must reckon with them.
Organize Your Life – Why is this important? Organization can have a huge impact on recouping the costs (in #4) and in freeing us up to potentially getting to goal faster. Do be careful what your organize OUT of your life…especially relationships. Make wise decisions here… It’s one thing to get rid of stuff or downsizing time-wasters, and another thing to neglect relationships.Photo Credit: Paul Sohn
Choose and Develop Your Team and Expand Your Network – Speaking of relationships, this is one of those circles that can pay huge dividends for all involved. Rarely do we make goals that don’t include the investment of others. Think through the people you know and who of those would be a great support to your future. They could be idea-generators, mentors, investors, content experts…and some could be family who mostly cheer you on and pray for you in the battles.
Take Action or Execute Your Plan – What? Taking action is point 7 on a 10-point roadmap?! We have clearly taken action in multiple ways already, but those preparatory functions have set the stage for a strong start to execution. Even through Steps 1-6, we may have already reframed what the plan looks like. Being proactive before we set the plan in motion greases the tracks for achievement. The action plan will be revisited often…which actually makes it less stressful for me to develop. Melanie Curtin even writes about journaling our goals and action plans, giving us a daily view of progress.
Deal With the Drag of the Past – This is a preemptive strike against those emotions that form barriers to reaching our goals. That dull sense of foreboding, the failures of the past, the gnawing insecurity, the temptation to blame…. None of these keep us from reaching our goals, unless we empower them to do so. Lighten the load by cutting the ropes on the past. One caveat: the “drag of the past” doesn’t include wisdom we’ve gained – Remember that part of the past always.
Allow for Respites and Setbacks – Again, life happens. I have had to sideline some goals in recent months because of health and family issues. They are not gone from my mind or my habits…but they are sidelined for the moment for real life things of more urgent need. However…these kinds of things can become normative if we aren’t careful. You don’t want to lose momentum …keep moving toward your goal if at all possible…even if it’s ever so slowly. At some point, sooner than later, revisit and reset goals…and rest when that’s the greatest need.Photo Credit: Bloom to Fit
Celebrate and Express Thanks All Along the Way – no explanation needed here. This isn’t just for the finish line but for every step along the way. For every barrier that we turned into a door. For every problem we forged into an opportunity. For every God-orchestrated appointment and “per chance” meeting. Celebrate. Show gratitude. Widen the circle – your achievement is enjoyed by many!Photo Credit: Morning Business Chat
Hopefully, you found this helpful. The resources below informed this piece and are all rapid reads if you want to go deeper in a direction. I hope your main-takeaway is that you can achieve and starting today is not too late…starting is the point. You’ve got this!
When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh
[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]
Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Photo Credit: BPNews
Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.
Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.
Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:
1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]
2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]
3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]
4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]
None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:
In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy. “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”
Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.
[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]
Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.
My husband and I love coffee. We also love to serve coffee to friends who love coffee. Over the years, we’ve collected favorite mugs – pottery mugs from Petra, Jordan; mugs with encouraging verses; favorite cartoon mugs; pretty flowery mugs for moms; mugs with whimsical animals tucked in the bottom, hiding for the coffee-with-cream drinkers. We have other every-day, minimalist mugs but these are the mugs that make us smile.
Then we lost them.
At Christmas, we bring out a box of Christmas mugs for the month of December. Our favorite mugs are then packed in the Christmas mug box until the New Year. Four Christmases ago, that box got misplaced. We looked and looked for it, after Christmas that year – scoured the shed and other less likely storage spots. We never found it.
Over time, we replaced those mugs…but still from time to time, wondered aloud about them.
I was out in a different shed (we had since moved from the house where we lost the mugs)…organizing and preparing to use or get rid of the contents of old boxes. When I got to this box that wasn’t labeled (very odd for me because I’m a great packer and inventory-maker after so many years of traveling).
This box – this Avery label box – was one of many my mom used when she would pack up treasures at her house and store them to be given to us or shared with others at a later date. In her shed, she had stacks of these Avery boxes. When we closed down our parents’ home, many of these Avery boxes came to our houses. I still have a wave of emotion when I see them, even though we’ve also re-used them for storage of our own things.
Opening this particular box, I began unwrapping…it was a mug, just like one of my favorites. I didn’t remember Mom having this mug!?! By the third “favorite” mug unwrapped, I realized this was the lost box. The box that ended up in a corner with Mom’s treasures that we hadn’t yet begun using. This lost box…found!
It was so much fun unwrapping each mug…remembering the stories and people related to them. So much joy in re-discovery.
We have all lost things…my mom used to regularly lose her glasses and we kids would search everywhere until one of us proudly recovered them – from her sewing machine table, or on the Bible by her bed, or in the bathroom… Even though the losing would make us late somewhere, the joy of finding changed “mourning into dancing“.
Finding our mugs, and the pleasure in finding them, reminded me of a series of parables Jesus once told his disciples. In Luke 15, he tells about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Jesus first tells about a shepherd with a hundred sheep. When he discovered one of the sheep was gone, he left the ninety-nine out in the open, while he searched for the one. On finding it, he called his neighbors and friends together to rejoice with him over the sheep found and restored to the herd. Then Jesus tells about a woman who lost a coin in her house and turned the house upside down until she found it. She was so thrilled by recovering the coin, she threw a party for her friends and neighbors (her joy was so great).
In both parables, Jesus compares this joy to that of the angels in Heaven over the sinner who repents and is restored to Father God.
Finally Jesus relates a parable of a lost son. This young son was reckless with his life and his inheritance, ending up in a miserable state, in a far country. He finally came to his senses and returned home. His father saw him coming and ran down the road to meet him. That same joyful father ordered a feast for this wayward son who had found his way home. Photo Credit: Molly Flinkman
This same joy, throughout these three parables, was that great joy of finding a treasure lost…the same as having a relationship restored.
There are a couple of troubling elements in the last parable. The older brother, the only other brother, was angry at his younger brother’s return. No rejoicing there. It doesn’t seem to fit in these parables of joy.
Also…the coin once lost was searched for. The sheep once lost was searched for…but not the son…not that younger brother.
My husband, Dave, loves these parables. He has often used them in his teaching, when appropriate. His conclusions about these two remarkable elements follow.
This older brother that was not joyful at his brother’s return. Why not? Why was the wayward brother not searched for?
Is it possible that the brother who stayed home, faithfully working beside his father…all those years, in the absence of that other brother…was the one missing from the searching?
Think about it. When my mom lost the glasses she needed…it wasn’t like losing a son; it was just glasses. Yet, because we loved her, we all scattered to find those glasses. That father whose foolish young son left him must have grieved terribly. More than farming beside him, that older son was meant to go after that younger one…that foolish one…and bring him home.
It might have been a struggle…but can you imagine, the immense joy of both the father, and the brothers, if the two came walking toward the house together…the lost one found…by his own brother?
I’m glad we have our mugs back. Rejoicing in that.
In thinking also of these parables of Jesus, my hope is that I won’t give up when there is something of much greater value to be found…recovered…restored.What joy!