Category Archives: Volunteering/Serving

Worship Wednesday – Thank God for Vacation Bible School & Those Strong Winsome Women Who Make It Happen

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Parent

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:13

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”Luke 9:47-48

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10

In the summer of my 9-year-old life, I came to faith in Jesus…at Vacation Bible School (VBS). My mom always worked outside the home so someone must have brought my brothers and me each day for 5 days. I have sown parts of that week deep in my heart and memory.

Strong winsome women leading the Bible School. A week of mornings packed with fun. Koolaid & cookies for snack. Pastor doing the Bible lesson for us like he did our parents on Sunday. Big songs I can still remember. Bible verses we memorized. Craft time. Friday night “graduation” service where we performed for our parents.

This was the Vacation Bible School of my childhood. I asked my daughter what she remembered about Bible School. Some similar memories…the songs stay with you. Here are some she remembers from her childhood:

Jumping Up and Down, Shout Hosanna

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind; Love Is Kind

Romans 16:19 – Be Excellent at What Is Good

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

For today’s Worship Wednesday, I just wanted to thank God for Vacation Bible School. Although having received solid Bible teaching as a child through Sunday School, preaching, and my parents, VBS sealed the deal for me that year I was 9.

We have young moms in our lives today who seek out Vacation Bible School for their children through the summer…sometimes more than one. The churches who have made VBS part of their DNA amaze me. It has to be very hard work to pull off that kind of programming (even if it’s shortened time-wise to 2-hour evening sessions).

Earlier today, I talked to one of those strong winsome women who make VBS happen at her church. She talked about how the success of the Vacation Bible School hinges on their volunteers. She is blessed to have workers who really love the children of their church…sounds like they follow how Jesus thinks of children.  I’m thinking this friend models that for her volunteers. VBS has to be led by a woman (or it could be a man) who casts this vision for other adults and gathers them to extend themselves farther than they might usually be inclined. Photo Credit: Midway Community Church

Vacation Bible School makes for an obvious outreach opportunity for kids within the church community, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for an extended and concentrated touch into the lives of the kids in our own churches.

I will spend eternity with the Lord because of a Vacation Bible School…because some strong winsome women did the hard work (including recruiting the pastor and other Godly men) to break up a long, lazy summer with a fun, penetrating, life application of the Word of God.

Every Breath I Take (lyrics & music)

All That Is Good (lyrics & music)

Deep Cries Out (lyrics & music)

God Is For Me (lyrics & music)

VBS in the 1980s: Cookies, Kool-Aid, Songs and Jason – Holly Hollman

10 Myths People Believe About VBS – Part 1 and Part 2 Lori Hatcher

What Jesus Thinks About Children – R. Kent Hughes

YouTube Video – Never Let Go of Me – Songs from Shipwrecked 2018 VBS

YouTube Video – Honest VBS Volunteer – John Crist

Worship Wednesday – O Praise the Name of the Lord Our God – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Church Front

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.” Psalm 30:4

“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

Lost in the moment, it was as if the Heavens opened. We were in a Christian conference surrounded by medical and nursing personnel who want to serve those least served around the world. They would go out as volunteers, leaving their lucrative practices and their comfortable specialties. They would spend several long days in sticky hot makeshift clinics…in obscurity. Tending grateful patients and family members who would never post their experiences to social media. Deep in another world, very different from the US. These will go to serve a needy people and a God who loves that people…and who loves those going.

We were at the mid-point of the conference, reconvening after the supper meal, and a praise team took the stage to gather us together in worship. Maybe this small group of singers and instrumentalists were regulars in a local church. [I missed the introduction.] They did not draw our attention to them (may have been intentional)…and God used them to draw us to Himself.

The “cool factor” of this praise team…and this whole conference actually…was beautifully not the focus.  As we sang, we forgot about those on stage. Just a quiet pointing to God, and the Holy Spirit settled all over the rooms, and especially on our hearts.

Maybe you experience this on a regular basis. It was a sweet reminder of how, even in our best efforts, we can avoid our culture’s trappings of “cool” which add nothing to what God is already about.

Jon Bloom explores this in his article The Cool God Is a Puny God. He warns against bowing to the idol of cool in our worship of God. God just doesn’t do “cool”.

That’s because, in the apt words of the Incredible Hulk in The Avengers, Cool is a “puny god.” Just because Cool is culturally pervasive doesn’t mean it’s big. It just has good marketing.

The true, big God is after our biggest, deepest, widest, longest-lasting joy. That’s why he commands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… [and] love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). He designed us not to find happiness in how others think of us, but in our loving others; not pursuing others’ admiration but in pursuing others’ good. That’s the joy that God has for us in commands like this:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:3–4)*

[Sidebar: I mean no offense. Some of you may be completely cool without seeking it – trendsetters, generally just winsome to those around you. If you’re just being yourself…but if you’re trying to be “cool”, that’s a bondage none of us need. Our dilemma is when people measure themselves and each other by the culture’s “coolness” gauge. Jesus just doesn’t fit anywhere on this scale. He is so far beyond anything we might think is cool. Right?]

Worship with me to the Hillsong‘s O Praise the Name of Jesus. That little praise team led us in singing this song…and we forgot them, forgot ourselves, and gathered together around the throne of God:

I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled and died for me
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet
My Saviour on that cursed tree

His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

And then on the third at break of dawn
The Son of heaven rose again
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

He shall return in robes of white
The blazing sun shall pierce the night
And I will rise among the saints
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God**

Postscript: This world lost a man this week who definitely gave no thought to whether he was cool or not. His name is Robert Wink, and he was welcomed Home by His Savior – the One he made much of his whole life. Bob understood that whatever cool was added nothing to the Person of Jesus. Bob was also moved to action by our need for God’s enduring love. A love that is steadfast despite the changing whims of a self-seeking culture.

Bob loved people and he loved Jesus, and he took every opportunity to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

Obituary – Robert E. “Bob” Wink

The world is diminished without this dear man. May it be true of us that at the end of our days, we chose Jesus over self, in our every endeavor…no matter how uncool that might make us. It doesn’t matter.

Hallelujah!

Song Story – O Praise the Name – Marty Sampson

*The Cool God Is a Puny GodJon Bloom

**Lyrics to O Praise the Name – Songwriters: Dean Ussher, Benjamin Hastings, Marty Sampson

YouTube Video – Hulk vs. Loki – Puny God – The Avengers

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Josh Wilson Music

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.  Luke 16:10

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’  Matthew 25:21

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23

For those who have served well as deacons acquire for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. – 1 Timothy 3:13

Here we go again! Round Two on life in the small.

The Lord has really been speaking to my heart of late in being faithful in the small things. Just a week ago, I posted on this very thing – Days Packed With Ordinary. Today we will go deeper still in this being faithful with the little.

Our hearts can get so entangled with ambition and greed. We as Christ-followers are meant to be dead to all that, but it creeps in if we are not vigilant to keep our eyes on Him. Even in our faithfulness in doing the small things, we must be wary of that tiny thought taking root in our hearts…that thought of doing to please – either God but too often people. One would think that good works done to please God is a good thing…make sense, right? Yet, it takes on a whole other color when we act in hopes of pleasing God more – maybe even to get more from Him. Maybe to please him more than one of our brothers or sisters. Oh this journey!!

Our focus is off here if this is our struggle. It’s “not about us”. When we are faithful in the big and small, it’s not always because we do what we do well. No, it doesn’t always work out that way. The key is that we do, in the small and big, what we do because of Him. Our love for God trumps every other motivation.

Discern What Pleases God Himself – John Piper

As I’ve thought of this taking joy in the small, many different people have come to mind. Here are just a few of them:

  • A member of our church is one of the hardest workers I know. She is there most days taking care of one odd job or another. She does work that most of us wouldn’t volunteer to do but rather be willing to pay a professional to do it. One day, when I commended her on all she does, she told me a story of another woman in a far country who served in her own church in various small ways as her tithe because she had little else to give. This woman at our church works without pay, for God and for us.
  • A single friend of mine works a regular work-week and then gives of herself to the community through various agencies. She’s an introvert and needs decompression time, but she stretches herself in this way. I learn so much from her.
  • Another guy at our church isn’t even a member but he often stands at the door greeting and welcoming folks as if into his own home. We feel like rock stars around him.
  • The stay-at-home moms in my life extend themselves both in the home and out in ways that encourage me and cause me to marvel.
  • That unseen coworker who makes the coffee and washes the cups at the end of the day. We are always impressed when our boss makes and serves us coffee. How about this guy or gal? This small kindness and others like it show a side of people that may not get noticed by the highers up…but God sees.
  • Lastly there’s a family pastor in our lives. He lives states away and has served in a small church for nearly 20 years. With what all his many responsibilities must be, he never forgot our dad. Regularly visiting him and other old ones in their homes or nursing homes.

After my blog of last week was published, a dear friend wrote some very kind words on my Facebook page and pointed me to singer/songwriter Josh Wilson‘s song “Dream Small“. It is so fitting for today’s conversation.

Worship with me…this God who fits us for every good work, big and small, but most importantly, calls us to Himself.

It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord
It’s a daddy spending family time that the world said he cannot afford
These simple moments change the world
It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church
Forty years of loving for the broken and the hurt
These simple moments change the world

Dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Dream small

It’s visiting the widow down the street
Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
These simple moments change the world
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams
Just don’t miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things
‘Cause these simple moments change the world

But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
So dream small

Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers

But dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Yeah, five loaves and two fishes could feed them all
So dream small
Dream small *

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Toby Mac

Faithful With Little, Joyful in Much – How God Meets Us in the Small Things – Adam Cavalier

*Lyrics to Dream Small by Josh Wilson

Worship Wednesday – Days Packed with Ordinary and the Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video – “Dream Small” Inspired by Becca (Josh’s wife)

Josh Wilson Music

Josh Wilson Returns to Christian Radio With New Single Dream Small – Explains Story Behind the Song

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder

Happy Friday! Here are my five favorite finds for this week:

1) Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar – About a month ago, classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted his arrangement of Fortnite Dances. Like the popular game and its celebrity players, this video skyrocketed. 5 million views and Beyond the Guitar YouTube subscriptions doubled over the course of days. Now he has a second video out featuring another set of Fortnite Dances.  Gamer or not, if you love music, this is a fun sampler!Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!

2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer

This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.

3) Habits of Love – Thanks to Andy Crouch (see #4), I have discovered Richmond attorney and thought leader Justin Earley and The Common Rule. So thrilled about this. The funny thing is that I ALMOST heard Justin speak on busyness earlier this month but couldn’t make it work schedule-wise (ironic, huh?). When Andy retweeted this image from Justin’s Twitter page, I was captivated.Photo Credit: The Common Rule, Twitter

From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!

Photo Credit: Common Rule of Life, Facebook

Meaningful Work – a Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul – Shawn Askinosie

4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.

Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame

Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.

The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.

I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.

Sigh…any thoughts? Please.

[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]

The Return of Shame – Andy Crouch

The Shame Culture – David Brooks

The Rise of Shame in America – HonorShame

5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children.  When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…

Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.

Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]

[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]

Bonuses:

Indoor Generation

Save the Storks – Pro-Woman, Pro-Baby, Pro-Family, Pro-Life

CNLP 192: Caleb Kaltenbach on How to Embrace an Outraged and Polarized Culture Most Leaders No Longer Like

Photo Credit: Matt Lieberman, Twitter

Photo Credit: Intelligence Is Sexy, Facebook page

On Being a Millennial Pastor – Leaders Who Don’t Remember the Glory Days – Erik Parker

Monday Morning Moment – Avoiding the Warm Body Mentality in Recruiting and Retention of Volunteers and Quality Employees

Photo Credit: Flickr

[We’re not talking about the 2013 zombie apocalypse romantic comedy Warm Bodies, although I do like this graphic. Read on.]

Yesterday, I participated in a large community event. There must have been 50 or more volunteers making it happen over the course of the day. My volunteering was just across two hours. It was an event that included a large gathering, food for all, and lawn games for all ages afterwards. We observed and experienced the beauty of a “living organism” – a well-planned, well-executed event. Except for three paid staff, all the responsibilities were carried on the capable shoulders of volunteers.

An isolated event is one thing but it can speak to the core values of an organization’s overall care of its people. Is it just about filling a slot or making the organization look good, or is it moving everyone toward a mutually shared vision? Is it just the securing of warm bodies to feed the machine? Or is it a called, capable, and committed community of folks working together for a greater good? [See Matt Orth’s piece below].

How volunteers (and employees) are recruited and retained matters.

What made yesterday’s one-time event so successful and well-executed? This is what I observed:

  • A mix of event-only volunteers and longer-term volunteer leaders on point for the various activities. This made for a win-win all around. Plenty of willing helpers and lead people to guide toward success.
  • Clear organization and preparation allowing the volunteers to easily do what they signed on to do.
  • High enthusiasm – shared ownership and vision related to the event.
  • Multiple teams allowing for most of the volunteers to have a fixed service window of time.
  • Obvious valuing (by staff and leads) of the volunteers’ participation.

Writer, speaker Matt Orth wrote a piece on warm body mentality   (already mentioned above) which bears a read. Orth tells a humorous story of how he fell into being a Vacation Bible School director due to the stealth of a volunteer recruiter. He defines warm body mentality(WBM) as the process whereby “a church decides what needs to happen program-wise in their church life and then they just find the Warm Bodies to make it happen”. This could relate to any organization or company. It is task or program orientation vs. person-orientation.

Orth proposes a system of volunteer recruitment that avoids a warm body mentality:

  1. How long the commitment is for and when will they have an opportunity to step down or renew the commitment. Or if/how they can downgrade or upgrade responsibilities.
  2. What kind of accountability they will have, who they are responsible to report to, and what the evaluation process will be.
  3. What the time commitments are, including not just the start/end times of services/events, but what time they will be expected to be there both before and after the service/event.
  4. All the rest of the duties spelled out whatever they may be (teaching, running sound, getting food ready, etc.) including any intangible expectations.
  5. Give them a gracious way to say “NO.” You’re looking for volunteers who want to be there.

He recognizes the importance of having volunteers demonstrating a sense of calling, commitment, and capability. However, all of these are negotiable depending on the person… Training, casting vision, and appropriate resource equipping can move folks who currently don’t see themselves in a volunteer role toward volunteering…and not just as warm bodies.

To recruit and retain the kind of volunteers (or employees) we want depends more on us in recruiting roles…than it does on them. Showing genuine care for the individual makes such a difference in both execution of programming AND the long-term development and engagement of that person.

Give volunteers a voice and they will help you shepherd them…, and, in the end, you will a community of deeply committed people who care about the vision as much as the leaders do.

Yesterday, in the midst of all the buzz of volunteering, one of the leads announced that this was the last event for one couple to serve because they were moving out-of-state. I didn’t know them very well, but what I did know was that they always stepped up to help in whatever capacity they could. Here on their last day with this organization, they chose to spend it serving…again.

If I’d had more time yesterday, I would have loved to know more of how one comes to be like that. Some of us are natural servers, and all these seem to require is opportunity and just a bit of regard or recognition.

The rest of us may need a bit more to be successful beyond a one-time commitment. Sunday’s event for me was illuminating. How do we take what happened Sunday and grow it into something that yields thriving, committed volunteers and sustainable programming over the long-haul?

Thoughts?

Conquering the Warm Body Mentality – Matt Orth

Overcoming the ‘Hire a Warm Body’ Mentality – Gina Trimarco – Love her quote: “Think of recruiting as marketing.”

How Volunteer Recruitment Works – Warm Body and Targeted Recruitment – Robert Lamb

Warm Bodies, Cold, Hard Facts – Volunteer PlainTalk – Meridian Swift

Volunteer Quality vs. Volunteer Quantity – Amy Fenton

Recruiting Warm Bodies – Ron Edmondson

5 Friday Faves – A Happy Place, Preventing Generosity Burnout, Whistle-blowers, Spotify, and Beautiful Documentaries

Happy Weekend…without further ado, here are my Friday Faves, before it gets too much farther into the weekend. Enjoy.

1) My Happy Place – “My happy place” has usually been a phrase that makes me cringe when I hear it. What does that really mean? Then it came to mind this week as I strolled through a local business. RVA Antiques. This huge space is a showcase for all things 20th Century, upcycled and updated for today’s customer. Artful and lovely. Having just picked up a prescription at the pharmacy next door, I had some time on my hands so popped in…just on a whim. It was a real refreshment for my soul. I like old things…the stuff of my mom’s era makes me think of her…and that makes me happy. Words also just bring smiles …those words worthy of being painted on a canvas or splashed on a piece of wood. Just strolled around the different vendors’ booths. Even met one of the owners, Dean Lewis, who made me feel welcome. Now that my understanding of such “a happy place” has been enlarged, what’s one of your “happy places”?

2) Preventing Generosity Burnout An article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele got me thinking this week about generosity burnout. Beat Generosity Burnout confronts the crucial fine line between effectively helping others and giving so selflessly we lose our joy and capacity. We burn out. If we base our helping on “the need”, we won’t build in safeguards, boundaries if you will, to determine how best to meet that need. Serving our communities is definitely something we need to always consider, but we serve best by applying sustainable, capacity-building planning and practice.

Photo Credit: Adam Grant, Reb Rebele, Craig Ellis – LinkedIn

Think of the ways you serve your various communities across a typical week or month. Are you all-in or holding back out of fear of too great a commitment or fear of burnout? Or what else? We definitely want to rise above the latter but what might “all-in” look like to be sustainable? For you personally and for the sake of the community you serve?

I would love this sort of dialogue with you.  Either in Comments below or via email.

[Sidebar – for those of you who flew through this, already cynical and shut down from demands/needs of your organization or community, please reconsider and lean in. People very close to you may be teetering on generosity burnout and could use your thinking on sustainability.]

Beat Generosity Burnout –  Adam Grant & Reb Rebele

Generosity Burnout – Selflessness Exhaustion – Craig Ellis

The Invisible Costs of Giving: How to Combat Generosity Burnout at WorkNicole Abi-Esber

Harvard Business Review – List of Articles on Generosity Burnout

3) Whistle-blowers – Who are these people? These who bring unethical or illegal practices into the light? These who risk reputation and career…even more at times…to expose wrong? This was a big news week in America. One of those related to Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and a whistle-blower. Wylie revealed an incredible, yet not-surprising abuse of Facebook user data by the political consulting company Cambridge Analytica. This company has probably had influence on presidential elections in the US, Kenya, Argentina, and other countries.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
First, the company secured Facebook user data by claiming it would be for academic research purposes rather than commercial purposes. Then the company used an app (a pop-up quiz on Facebook) to glean more data about the user’s personality. This was multiplied through the users’ friend lists…resulting in millions of Facebook users manipulated by Cambridge Analytica. Based on their findings, CA would then post “fake news” to these users’ pages that would move them to possibly vote in a certain way. This is essentially “weaponizing the internet”.
I’m not sure of Christopher Wylie’s motives in whistle-blowing at this time, but it definitely gives pause to every request we consider in clicking yes to an app having access to our data.
What is also thought-provoking is how this practice goes much farther back than just the 2016 presidential election.
Something to ponder…thanks to Christopher Wylie, previously the perpetrator, now a champion for truth.
4) Spotify – So many of you may already use Spotify, this music service for smartphones and computers. I’m a late adopter but now I’m a happy consumer of this free medium. Especially since Beyond the Guitar has his first album on the site. So nice just to be able to click on, and listen to Nathan’s music while I’m driving or working.
His first published original composition, Evenglow, is also available on Spotify.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar
Be a Patron – Support Beyond the Guitar music creation on Patreon.
5) Beautiful Documentaries – Documentaries are becoming film favorites of late…especially when they focus on documenting the beautiful and redemptive sides of life.

Jay Lyons Productions partnered with Topher Hall to create this amazing piece with current and vintage footage for Prison Fellowship. This documentary tells the story of how people who committed unspeakable crimes found a sustaining and redeeming faith in Christ while in prison.

Prison Fellowship – Video Review

Another of Jay’s documentaries that is coming out soon is The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story. Kara died 3 years ago this week. She was a magnificent woman, full of love and faith.  Watch for this film.

 Have a rich weekend. Every day is a gift, right? Love on those people around you. Love you.
Bonuses: 

The Man That Came After – Michelle E. Steinke

Little Marlana – My Story

Salvation Army Launches Nonprofit Supermarket To Help Low-Income Families Buy Quality Food

Photo Credit: FrankSonnenberg Online

FSO_50-shades-of-waste

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch

Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment

I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.

This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.

Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”.  Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.

Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.

This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah  22:3

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”Isaiah 58:6-9

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.

As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.

God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.

A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.

This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image.Jonathan Storment

Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power.Jonathan Storment

Think back over the people who have made a difference in your life. Chances are they had roles as teachers/parents/mentors/friends. If they helped you flourish in your life, it was because they were acting in some kind of authority, and exposing themselves to some type of vulnerability. They had authority because they had the capacity to make a meaningful difference in your life, and they had vulnerability because they were opening themselves up to someone (you) who could potentially hurt them…Crouch is talking about what the word vulnerability really means…woundable.Jonathan Storment

Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]

Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it.Jonathan Storment

“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]

The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption  process.

I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.

[God help me here.]

Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. Jonathan Storment

Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Strong and Weak: The Hidden Vulnerability of Leadership – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Flesh and Bones – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Crown of Thorns – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Numb to the World – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Drunk on Power – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Up and to the Right – Jonathan Storment

What Is True Worship? – Got Questions

Worship That Pleases God – Isaiah 58:1-14 – Brian Sandifer

Characteristics of Acceptable Worship – Gregory Brown

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 – Writer Jeff Goins, Refugees, Community, Situational Awareness, and a Memorial

Happy Friday. Summer’s coming on hard here with temps into the 90s for the next week. Hope you get to play hard and rest hard over the weekend. Here are my favorite finds for this week. Enjoy!

1) Writer Jeff Goins – I am so excited about Jeff Goins‘ latest book. This is his 5th book – Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. It arrived 2 days ago, and I’m already deep into it.

Pre-ordering this book was an excellent plan, because the Barnes & Noble store near us is having to re-order already just 3 days into the launch. These books are flying off the shelves.

Why? Goins has already proven himself as a fascinating story-teller and wise counselor regarding creative work and turning dreams into reality. This book is a thrilling culmination of all that for those of us who want to put our work out there and make a living at the same time.

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.

I’m so glad I bought this book early. Reading it is like having a successful and kind mentor guiding me through the next steps of my career. Whatever your passions, you will glean so much from Jeff Goin’s own journey and wisdom.

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

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

2) Refugees –  We never want to lose sight of the plight of displaced peoples – of refugees. Photographer Steve Evans and writer Zee Jenkins put together a beautiful and riveting photo essay – Trail of Tears – Refugees in Greece. Take a look and remember this is happening every day.Photo Credit: Steve Evans, Life Force Magazine

3) Community – We need each other. Community is something we experience when we reach out to those around us to help in whatever way we can. Community is also receiving that help when we are the one in need.Photo Credit: Army

How do we teach and model community to our children? How do we raise them to be situationally aware and compassionate to those around them? Please share your experiences (in the Comments below) of what you’re doing to raise up children to be adults who are socially responsible…who genuinely care about those around them.

This little video went viral and you’ll understand why. Beautiful!

4) Situational Awareness – This is a life skill that fascinates me. In fact, I wrote about it in detail here . Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It came to mind this week when I saw this fascinating video below about things we can easily miss if we’re not alert to our surroundings. Watch Evan below.

Hopefully it didn’t just make you uncomfortable. Hopefully it made you think how we might not just be aware of a threat or a crisis, but that we might intervene early enough to change the situation. To get avert the crisis and to get help for that person in trouble.

A friend of mine lost a brother to suicide. His was a terrible impulsive final act and his family will grieve for a long time. What about those who show signs of depression or deep sadness? Maybe we can help there as well. It’s tragic when the family has to fight alone for the life of a loved one. I don’t have answers here, but we all have community agencies who can help us.

5) A Memorial – The news cycle is fast and fickle. We hear news (usually bad news) and then while we’re still coping with the fallout, media moves on. We forget too soon, even when that’s not our desire. Today is my older brother’s 71st birthday. Robert died suddenly 10 years ago. His online memorial is here. Today, I remember him. Also today, I want to remember 17y/o Sarah Harmening.Photo Credit: 11 Alive News

I did not know her at all until a bus accident in Georgia sent many to the hospital, and her life was gone. Still, the little I know of her made me want to pause and remember her with you. Below you will note her journal entry, written on that bus sometime before that accident. As she herself wrote, I believe with her that, in her life and in her passing, “God is going to do incredible things”.

Photo Credit: Facebook – The Alabama Baptist Newspaper

Breaking News: Multiple Huntsville Church Passengers Injured in a Bus Accident Outside of Atlanta

Another terrible incident that was short-lived in the news cycle was the slaughter of 28 Egyptian Coptic Christians last week. Again, in this moment, I want to memorialize them and…remember them.

Gunmen in Egypt Force Coptic Christian Pilgrims Off the Bus and Kill 28 – Declan Walsh and Nour Youssef

Don’t Look Now, But… – this is a hard read about the ambush and killing of these Egyptian Christians. This article found me and I’m glad I read it although it was disturbing. I don’t know if all the details are true, but this is true: 28 lives were taken and bear remembering.

This Friday Faves was not as light-hearted as most are. Still it’s what continues to resonate in my head and heart going into the weekend. Be safe out there, pray for one another, and let’s be kind to those around us…we never know what a difference that can make.

Bonuses

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes – Carey Nieuwhof

Mom: Let’s Stop Drinking the KoolAid – OK…this is a rant on our focus on nutrition for our children – which is a good thing until it becomes an all-consuming thing. Good article wherever you stand on this.

YouTube Video – Real Life Trick Shots – Dude Perfect