Category Archives: Volunteering/Serving

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

5 Friday Faves – A Pirate and a Prophet, Eric Metaxas, First Responders, Silverado, and Darci Lynne Farmer – Ventriloquist

Happy Friday! We, in Richmond, are entering those early summer days of counting down the school year, indulging our international palates at all sorts of food festivals, and changing into our summer wardrobes wondering how clothes shrink in storage. Life every day is a gift. As I write that there are those with much harder weeks than I have at present. For you, my hope is that these Friday Faves can lighten your heart and lift the burden for a bit.

1) A Pirate and a Prophet – Our family is a music-loving bunch, albeit with very diverse tastes. Music is such a amazing medium of communication that can touch our hearts, refresh our memories, and set our feet to moving. One musician we all love, as a family, is that guy at Beyond the Guitar. A classical guitarist, he has taken to arranging music from videogames, films, and TV shows. All his music has a strong emotional component because, as a fan put it one time, he connects to the heart in a transcendent way. His music of late is also tinged with nostalgia either because of a shared film/TV experience or the strong memories of childhood, playing games with friends. His most recent arrangement of He’s a Pirate (from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series is beautiful, lighthearted and playful. 

Along with this pirate, I wanted to highlight a prophet musician, Bono of the Irish band U2. He and the band appeared recently on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and performed “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for” in memorial for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing on May 22, 2017. The YouTube video below includes that performance as U2 is joined by a Gospel choir from the audience. The choir interjects the redemptive death of Christ for us to take away our sin and shame. Both the band and the choir closed in a grand harmonic hallelujah on the title sentence of the song. The brokenness of this world is a constant reminder that we will not find all we’re looking for this side of Heaven.

U2 Takes Jimmy Kimmel Audience to Church 

I previously wrote about Bono’s faith here. As for Beyond the Guitar? Pretty much every week (search it….and I’m not embarrassed).

2) Eric Metaxas – Eric Metaxas is a prolific writer, political commentator, and talk show host. He is the author of Bonhoeffer and If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Whether you agree with him or not, he will make you think.Photo Credit: YouTube

YouTube – Eric Metaxas – White Chair Film – I Am Second 

Well…speaking of Metaxas…and funny thing happened. This week, I picked up a book from the floor in our kiddie reading area at home. It was a Veggie Tales book entitled God Made You Special (2002, Zonderkidz publication). My wee granddaughter and I plowed through the pages, and closing the book I discovered the author.

It was Eric Metaxas. I loved that! Children’s books written by deep thinkers. Love that. God made YOU special, Eric Metaxas.

3) First Responders – Yesterday I took apple pie and ice cream to the crew of Henrico County’s Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad. After my last brush with these guys in action, I am so grateful and wanted to use Friday Faves to give them another shout-out. Their cooperation together is so seamless in caring for people in crisis that I didn’t know who really to thank. So men and women of Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Rescue Squad, thanks again!Photo Credit: Lakeside Rescue

It’s possible I’m late in the practice of expressing gratitude to first responders. It’s definitely warranted in my situation, but it’s a great idea to get to know our first responders and to introduce them to our children and grandchildren…as allowed by their schedule. That day they were out on a call and returned to pie and ice cream from a grateful recipient of their care.

4) Silverado – in 1985, a great American Western was released. Written, directed, and produced by Lawrence Kasdan, this film is incredibly special and is still highly watchable over 30 years later.Photo Credit: Great Western Movies

Dave and I watched it one evening this week and still laughed at the lines from the movie that have become part of our family’s lexicon.

The dialogue is so rich. Two lines, in particular, resonate with Dave and me (both spoken by Danny Glover):

“It’s working out real good.” – Danny Glover responding to a question of how he was; bloody, beaten, and unscathed by it, in his resolve to get the bad guys.

“That ain’t right and I’ve had enough of what ain’t right.” – again, Glover

YouTube – Silverado – Film Clip – Ready for Revenge

If you could use a good long drink of Western good guys prevailing against bad guys, watch this great film. The soundtrack is musical candy. Just gorgeous.

5) Darci Lynne Farmer – Ventriloquist – This season of NBC show America’s Got Talent premiered this week. I don’t watch it usually but got a glimpse afterward thanks to social media. 12-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer was one of the performers in this first round of auditions.Photo Credit: YouTube

You may not be drawn to cute little girls with a puppet on their arm, but you want to watch this. Oh my goodness! Won’t spoil any of the details or the outcome. Watch below.

So those are my favorite finds. Would love to hear about some of yours. Did you watch Darci? Have you seen Silverado? Do you subscribe to Beyond the Guitar’s YouTube channel?

Have a safe and restful weekend…see you on Monday.

Bonuses

NIH Director Francis Collins song to SMU students

Here's the video in case you missed the song that Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sang to graduating SMU students during his Commencement address last Saturday.

Posted by SMU on Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday Morning Moment – Remembering – Memorial Day

Photo Credit: Hanscom Air Force Base

Happy Memorial Day doesn’t really fit this day, does it? Our commemoration of this day in America is a bit complex. I get the parades, and the setting flags on tombstones, and the sepia portraits of our military heroes past displayed on Facebook pages. Grandfathers, fathers, husbands, brothers…and, these days, their female counterparts.

The grilling and road races and t-shirt giveaways at baseball games? I don’t get so much. Yet, like our fellow Americans, we will grill and we will celebrate a day off…and through all that we will remember. We will remember the sacrifices of those who died to preserve our freedom.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Normandy Landings

I actually began writing this blog 3 years ago to help me remember. The many lessons of life, the travels, all the people we’ve known along the way, and the great provisions of God. It has helped me to write them down.

Memorial Day is a somber remembrance. The soldiers I’ve known personally who fought in wars survived them. Still, I have friends who lost loved ones serving in hard situations. I stand alongside to remember. To remember those of our own who died and to remember those families who also lost their loved ones on the other side of battle. There’s always the other side of war…the family side.

How ever you spend your Memorial Day…whether with a burger or fasting or at work or play, stopping and remembering is the first order of the day. We have much to be grateful for. On this day and every day.Photo Credit: Paul Davis On Crime

If someone you loved died in one of these wars or in any service to our nation or community, please comment below with their names and any details you choose to include. I would be pleased to help honor them in this small way.

Independence Day in the USA – Remembering that Freedom Is Not Free – Deb Mills Writer

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2 – Deb Mills Writer

5 Friday Faves – Eurovision, Expertise, Food Festivals, Anti-Aging, and Blue Bloods

What a week! How about for you? I’m on the other side of a medical emergency and thankful for timely and excellent care and for a rapid return to health. The weekend around here promises to be a sweet one with beautiful weather, outings with a son whose birthday we’re celebrating, a family gathering, and a long-awaited visit with an old friend. Oh…and rest, of course. Don’t want to overreach my recovery. Hope you have a weekend that fills you with anticipation as well…even if it’s just much-deserved rest and solitude.

Here are my favorite finds for this week.

1) Eurovision Song Contest – Since 1956, a European song contest has been held annually, much to the delight of all the countries participating. I never heard of it until a Portuguese friend of ours introduced us to it this season. [We know Tiago thanks to his friendship with Nathan on Krue.TV and Patreon].

In the Eurovision contest, each participant country puts forward an original song sung by person(s) from that country.

Photo Credit: The Independent

In the final TV extravaganza, the songs are performed and then judges vote on which should win the prized Eurovision title for that year. Along with the judges, citizens of all those countries can cast votes as well (only not for their own country; they vote for their favorite of any of the other countries). The process is fascinating and suspenseful as the votes are counted and the various songs rise or fall on the leaderboard as votes are announced.Photo Credit: SBS

Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won with the song Amar Pelos Dois, written by his sister. It is a lovely but sad love song reportedly reminiscent of Portugal’s folk tradition.

A YouTube video with the lyrics posted in Portuguese and English can be viewed here.

During the televised competition, our friend, Tiago, did a livestream of it on Krue.TV so we could enjoy watching. When Portugal won, his joy was uncontainable…reminded me of watching friends whose favorite team won the World Cup. So congratulations, Portugal, on the long-awaited first Eurovision win!

Portugal Wins Eurovision With a Song That Meant Something – Salvador Sobral, Amar Pelos Dois, Review

2) Expertise – I grew up at the end of the Vietnam War during the era of Hippie politics. Free speech was a really big deal, and we had opinions about everything…really not so dissimilar as today. A popular adage of those days was “Don’t trust anyone over 30”.  Today, all of us of that era have been “over 30” for decades. We find ourselves faced with much the same thinking in a younger generation. [Maybe we modeled too well.] Let’s consider the concept and actuality of expertise.

Are there those in our lives who have, by deep study and long experience, become expert in their fields and worthy of a hearing and a following? Expertise is  defined as “basis of credibility of a person who is perceived to be knowledgeable in an area or topic due to his or her study, training, or experience in the subject matter”.

With the wide use of internet searches and the palpable power of social media, we can all be self-proclaimed “experts”. Those with more knowledge and more experience are just “extra voices” in the conversation. In my younger years and too often since then, my own thinking has bent toward valuing my own generation’s thinking above those “over 30” (or 40, or 50, or 60).  Of course, those younger sometimes get the same treatment (just search the enormous commentary on millennials on the web). That view of trusting my own generation has softened, over the years, as I’ve experienced the wise leadership of many. I regret thinking so highly of my own view and have tuned myself toward becoming a life-long learner (using my writing as a way to curate wisdom gained from others, as an example).

Kevin DeYoung has written a captivating book review on Thomas M. NicholsThe Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.

Photo Credit: Amazon

I haven’t read the book but DeYoung’s review opened the door to Nichols’ belief that our culture has a growing distaste for expertise (as derived from knowledge and experience).

DeYoung lists Nichols’ prescriptives in brief and they follow:

For experts: don’t drive outside your lane. Stick to what you know. By the same token, stop making predictions.

For the rest of us: Be ecumenical—don’t get all your information from the one source that magically you always agree with. Be less cynical—most people are not out to get you. Be more discriminating—consider whether the source you’re reading has editors, is tied to a reputable institution, is transparent about its sources, and present facts that are testable and checkable.

For everyone: Be humble. This goes for experts and laypeople. If you are an expert, use your knowledge as a servant not as a master. If you know stuff, use it to help others, not yourselves. At the same time, all of us have good reason to assume we don’t know as much as we think we know. Let’s be humble enough to learn from others.

YouTube Video – Tom Nichols, “The Death of Expertise”

YouTube Video – The Problem With Thinking You Know More Than the Experts – Tom Nichols – PBS

3) – Food Festivals – Food festivals abound in the spring of the year. We’re headed to one this weekend – the Lebanese Food Festival. Like many national food specialties, Lebanese food is very time-intensive and ingredient-rich. I’m very thankful for the folks at Saint Anthony’s Maronite Church – for the food, the music, the conversations, and the occasional brush with our local dignitaries.

Next Food Festival Coming – Broad Appétit 

4) Anti-Aging – There is so much written these days on staying young and staving off aging – it’s enough to make you old trying to keep up with the latest on keeping from getting old. When you have a life-threatening event in your life, you realize all over again the gift of life. I wouldn’t mind growing old. However, I can’t deal with the myriads of tips on how to live young old.

Photo Credit: Providence

There are two articles I found this week that were helpful, and I share them here:

Providence Health & Services posted 5 Tips to Help You Stay Youthful and Healthy as You Age. Click on the link for commentary, but in brief they are:

  1. Stay positive.
  2. Stay active.
  3. Stay connected. [This was new for me, and I so see the need.]
  4. Eat the right foods.
  5. Try something new.

Photo Credit: The Senior Source

Benjamin P. Hardy, one of my latest favorite writer/researchers, posted a fascinating piece this week entitled How to Reverse Aging and Become Whoever You Want To Be. He gives research findings (in very engaging, almost story-telling, ways) that are riveting in their support of his prescriptions. One study he shared was about a group of men in their 70s who were to share a living space for five days. It was designed and outfitted as a dwelling set in 1959. They were only to talk about their lives, careers, interests, as they would have in 1959. The impact on their thinking, and even their physical agility and capacity, was amazing. My sense from this and my own experience is we think ourselves old, and too often believe ourselves old by the behavior of those younger than we are. No harm, no foul. Just how we probably trip ourselves up.

Hardy’s prescriptions have to do with making goals for our present lives:

1. Determine your goal.

2. Commit to your goal by leaping into situations that require you to live up to your goal.

3. Determine the roles you will need to play in the various situations you create.

4. Act the part until you become the part.

5. Develop relationships with people who have your back and can help you achieve your goals.

6. Repeat — but at higher levels, with more strenuous leaps.

What Is Your Goal?

“This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.” — Ryan Holiday

Most people are wandering through life like they wander on the internet, reactively scrolling their news feed and landing on the random pages that appear. They haven’t determined what they want, and thus they haven’t consciously designed their environments. Rather, they adapt to and become the product of whatever environments they wander into.

However, when you decide what you want, the universe conspires to make it happen.

[I love this young Benjamin P. Hardy. He has given me such rich fuel for living, of late. Read his blogs and follow him on Twitter.]

The Primary Barrier Stopping You From Everything You Want In Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

5) Blue Bloods – As much as I like to watch TV, I don’t watch that often…usually using it as a nap-generator. However, this week, I saw one of my favorite shows – Blue Bloods in its season finale (Season 7, Episode 22, The Thin Blue Line). It was so so good.

Photo Credit: Memorable TV

Blue Bloods is about a family that makes its living in public service – either in law enforcement, the court system, or nursing. Their Sunday family dinner gathering scenes are so appealing to me.Photo Credit: Huffington Post

On this season finale episode, son Danny, a NYPD detective, confronts a Mexican drug cartel and acts against it in a bold and risky (and unsupported) way. He was successful but the cost was huge. The cartel ordered his home to be bombed. Danny, arriving as his house is blazing, he searches for his family, and, relieved, finds them shocked…but OK.

He blames himself for their loss, and when the family gathers on that Sunday (his family now staying with his father and grandfather), he didn’t want to come down for dinner. He was persuaded and asked to pray over the meal. That scene (not on YouTube yet) was just beautiful. Here is a bit of it:

Wife Linda: It’s just a house, Danny.

Danny: It’s our home.

Linda: We made it a home. Without us, it’s just a house.

Danny’s youngest son: And we’re still that us.

Danny’s Father: When we have everyone we love, we have everything. For that we should be grateful. No matter the hardship or the loss, this family does not stand down…ever.

Danny then prayed…with his family.

Goosebumps!

Loved it so much. This family does not stand down…ever.

Watch the full episode here.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend and hold on to what matters…lightly, if necessary, but always. I am learning every day how not to stand down about what matters. Happy Friday!

Bonus: What We Can Learn About Life From a Potato, an Egg, and Coffee Beans

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

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

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

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

Photo Credit: IResearchNet

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

Difference Between Human Capital and Social Capital

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: NBS

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

I just haven’t focused there lately…

Until now.

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

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

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

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

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Social Capital – IResearchNet

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

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

Photo Credit: Amazon

5 Friday Faves – Awards Speeches, Castle Theme, Prayer Breakfast, Harmony, and a Comedian

Hello, Friday! You know those kind of days when you work really, really hard, and you come home too tired to eat, much less cook….but it’s a good tired. You sink down in the closest chair…and 10 minutes later, wake up from a nap that felt longer…and…on with finishing the week… Hope your tired is a good tired. Here are five of my favorite finds…just for you!

1) Awards Speeches – We are in that season of awards shows – the Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, among others. Those of us who watch these shows do so to catch all the gorgeous or peculiar actors in the audience and stage. The fashions are a draw as well. For me, I love to hear what the award recipients say when they receive their award…their prepared words/speech. What they choose to showcase in their few minutes before their peers and the watching world. On the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards show, my favorite speech of the year was by Taraji P. Henson. She spoke for all the actors of Hidden Figures which won the award of Outstanding Performance By A Cast in a Motion Picture.

#sagawards

“We stand here as proud actors." – Taraji P. Henson on behalf of the cast of Hidden Figures.

Posted by Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, January 29, 2017

Watch her speech in the clip, or read it here. Part of it follows: “This story is of unity,” she concluded. “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time.”

No political posturing. No pitting of one group against another. Lovely. Hopeful. True.

2) The Castle ThemeNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has done it again. He has taken the background music of a favorite videogame and demonstrated the incredible beauty to be found there. Castle Theme from Super Mario World is his latest arrangement for classical guitar. I honestly don’t know how he plays as fast as he does. Check it out here.

3) Prayer Breakfast – These days you never know what to expect in public observances. Protests, boycotts, and marches. A quieter but significant  event is the National Prayer Breakfast observed in February each year since 1953, in Washington, D.C. Keynote speakers in the past have included Mother Teresa, Bono, and Tony Blair. This year retired Rear Admiral Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain, delivered the message.  So powerful! He spoke on Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven.  If you can’t watch all incredible 25 minutes, at least watch from minute 22:16. Wow!

4) Harmony – Don’t you love when music and life flow with harmony? Jay Lyons is a filmmaker whose work I follow. In response to the dissonance of voices in this week’s newstream, he and his family wrote and performed together a song about harmony. Watch it here: Our House – Harmony – Jay Lyons & Family. Photo Credit: Music Early Childhood Presenter

5) A Comedian –  While Facebook friends of mine are deactivating left and right because of all the political wrangling going on right now, I had the biggest chuckle when a video featuring comedian John Crist showed up on my newsfeed. It’s about trying to find a parking place at a mega-church. He is new to me and so funny. Several of his videos are posted on his website. Enjoy.Photo Credit: YouTube

So that’s all I’ve got…jumping into my pajamas to fall asleep in front of the TV…don’t even care what’s on. Before I sign off though, I’d like to give a shout-out to Mike Sheley, owner/operator of the brand-new Chick-Fil-A at Smith Crossroads, Lenoir, North Carolina. This restaurant just opened this week. If you know about Chick-Fil-A, you know it’s all about a great-tasting chicken sandwich…and much more. Mike and team have a huge commitment to the community. Even before their grand opening, the restaurant team sponsored a book drive for local elementary schools and filled food boxes for Feeding Children Everywhere (over 10,000 meals total).Photo Credit: Facebook, Chick-Fil-A

Hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re anywhere near Lenoir, North Carolina, say hi to Mike & Jessica Sheley…and “eat mor chikin'”.

 

The US Presidential Election: What Drives Me to the Polls

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Photo Credit: Thunderclap

I will vote. I will vote for the issues, more than for the candidates.

Fear does not drive me. Responsibility drives me. There’s a certain measure of remorse that I have done so little for our country – paid taxes, yes, obeyed the laws, prayed sometimes for those in leadership. We have this opportunity in voting for our country’s highest leaders…not just for our generation, but for the next. This one thing I can do…add my vote to the American many.

No matter the outcome, I will pray for the President. The icky, divisive arguments for various candidates that have darkly colored this election year…will fade. Friendships will continue. After the election, everyone will get back on social media. There will be a handful of congratulatory “told you so” blogs and articles alongside the somber doomsday pieces. Then life will go back to normal…and our country and culture will continue to lean further right…or further left.

What drives me to the polls? Primarily 3 issues.

  1. Life – In graduate school years ago, I took a required statistics course. There was only one textbook – a tiny primer entitled How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. This set me on a worldview to question all statistics. They, like the political polls of late, can be manipulated to suit the researcher. Having said that, even on the issue of abortion, statistics are complicated because not all states report in the same way. Since the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1973, there have been 59,456,623 documented abortions in the US so far (check out the live abortion counter). blog-abortionPhoto Credit: LifeNews

Planned Parenthood just had its 100th birthday. The largest abortion provider in the US, they have reported 7,220,011 abortions, since 1973. Being pro-life doesn’t mean just being pro-baby; it means being pro-human all across the lifespan. I get that, and embrace that. Too bad there aren’t statistics about the life-long impact of abortion on the women and men who conceived. Their choice is protected; the baby’s right to live is not.

Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Abortion Argument: ‘No More Euphemisms’ by Amanda Prestigiacomo

The Most Important Question About Abortion – Video

2. Supreme Court Justices – and all the Federal judges who will be appointed in the next 4-8 years. When the US Supreme Court began their Fall session, I wondered if Chief Justice Scalia’s empty chair was still shrouded. This election is a fight for the right to appoint these incredibly influential men and women.The Courtroom of the Supreme Court showing Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s Bench Chair and the Bench in front of his seat draped in black following his death on February 13, 2016. Credit: Franz Jantzen/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.Photo Credit: National Law Journal

A Scalia replacement would be instrumental in deciding the fate of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, in determining the boundaries of religious freedom, the extent of LGBT and abortion rights, the nature of political speech and campaign finance, the strength of labor unions, the extent of congressional delegation to executive bureaucracies that regulate the environment, the workplace, private property, the schools, and much more…With so much at stake, it seems reasonable to conclude that his replacement will take the bench only under conditions of unified government. Ironic: Throughout his career Justice Scalia warned against an overreaching judiciary that replaced democratic judgments with its own. Because his warnings were not heeded, the Court grew into a leviathan that touches all aspects of American life, determines where self-government ends and rule by bureaucrats begins.” Matthew Continetti, The Washington Free Beacon

3) National Debt – I’m no expert on economy. However, our family has always tried to live within our means. It is a strong value for us. With the debt where it is now – $19.7 Trillion and counting (watch the numbers fly on the debt clock) – it seems not to even be an issue anymore. It’s just too great…too impossible to bring down… Not meaning to be a downer here…I just can’t fathom the numbers. Maybe one of our candidates can become the president who will bring us into fiscal integrity and still find ways to serve our nation well. blog-national-debt-culture-warPhoto Credit: Culture-War

US Day of Reckoning? – United States Government Debt to GDP (1940-2016) – even I could understand our economic situation and peril. Also listed is our economic standing related to other nations.

Finally…

This year I have probably studied more about the candidates than any year before. The mainstream media, even with its clear candidate preference, has been motivating in turning me into a fact-checker, on all candidates. I am grateful for the few out there who write and podcast that think somewhat like I do…it has kept me from occasionally questioning my own sanity, truly. The two major political platforms are also helpful, whether the candidates line up completely with their platforms or not – it’s not clear (here is a brief summary of both).

[Sidebar: Although this image is from a WSJ/NBC poll – and you can surmise that polls are suspect for me – it is a quick look at some of the platform issues and values of voters – that is, if it’s correct. Sigh..]

blog-party-platforms-vote-wsjPhoto Credit: Wall Street Journal

There are seven other issues that matter to me. Neither of the major party candidates have defined plans that would compel me to vote for either of them.

  • Refugees/Immigration
  • A President for All Americans
  • Poverty/Joblessness/Racial Divide
  • Religious Freedom
  • Economy/Smaller Government
  • Health Care
  • National Security

However, I will vote. It will be a vote that counts, whether it makes a single vote’s difference or not. It will not be about a lesser or greater evil. I will not be distracted by sensationalism or corruption. I completely get that candidates promise things they can’t deliver (in some situations, I’m counting on that actually). I will not risk or withhold my vote – either by voting for one who has little chance of winning or, by not going to the polls, respectively. Nor will I be put off by those who don’t agree with me and vote differently (or not vote at all). This could be a year when not voting, for some, is the only choice…that conscientious objection to what choices we have.

This, at the deepest level, is stewardship. I’m not proud of my inactivity in civil matters. As a Christian, my efforts to make a difference in the world have been more through the church in my own city and in global communities. This year, more than ever, I see that more has to be done – either by the church…or by collectives of people who truly care about our nation’s people…and the peoples of the world. Government is not enough…and making it bigger may not be the answer.

I don’t know…but this I do know. Voting for all of us has come at a high price…of one sort or another. So…it’s the very least we can do.

…and pray…the most.blog-unknown-soldier-national-security-herobox-on-facebookPhoto Credit: HeroBox on Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

Blog - Friday Faves 006 (2)

It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.