It’s FRIDAY! Wrapping up another week that roared by. Without further ado, here are five of my favorite finds.
1) Body Language – Since our moms first instructed us to “smile at the nice lady” or “stand up straight”, we’ve been aware of the impact of body language. Posture, attitude, and approachableness are all a part of that.Photo Credit: DevZone
We communicate so much through our faces and bodies. Eye contact is a big one as well as what we do with our eyes – as in rolling them or staring off. What does our body language convey?
Are we too self-important to engage with the person in front of us? Are our children growing up too cool to be bothered with the people around them?
Earlier this week, I saw a 2-minute video of UConn basketball coach Geno Auriemmas talk about body language. He nailed it! Not just in athletics but in any other life situation. We can still help our children and grandchildren to think beyond themselves…as we model it, too.
Andrews is so engaging. His books are highly readable and full of wisdom. His easy writing style is like having the author himself telling you the story out loud (in fact, in his audio books he does just that). I used his book The Traveler’s Gift in teaching ESL while we lived in Morocco. The adult students loved it!
Andrews’ Seven Decisions (see image below) were gleaned from his own life experience and through reading and researching. He read over 200 biographies of great men and women of history. What was it in their character or circumstance that led to their greatness?
In his book The Traveler’s Gift, he fleshes out the Seven Decisions through the story of a desperate man’s fantastical visitation with historical figures, learning their stories and gaining their wisdom.
How humanizing and honoring to see that visual and performance arts are being used right alongside medical treatment for our veterans.
Healing arts can include so many different expressions – photography, drawing, spoken word, story-telling, and music. During college, our son, Nathan, played his classical guitar as a volunteer at the medical center nearby. I have friends who also facilitate art projects, therapeutic story-telling, and photography.
4) Cheese – One of my absolute favorite foods. My heart goes out to those who have dairy allergies or lactose intolerance. Our life overseas even had an element of cheese discovery. Often when people live outside their home countries, they have cravings for what feels like home. The longer and happier you live in another country, those cravings subside. It happened for us in many ways. However, we were thankful that each of our resident countries had great cheese.
Egyptian cheeses most enjoyed by Egyptians are gebna rūmi (similar to a hard Romano cheese), and Gebna bēḍa (a soft salty cheese). We ate those cheeses but also found a wonderful white cheddar from New Zealand in the larger supermarkets. Tunisian cuisine was much more exotic, but cheese wasn’t a mainstay. There we again ate imported cheese from the Netherlands. Edam cheese encased in a red rind. We used it for everything we would have ordinarily used Cheddar or Mozzarella. Moroccan food again was really wonderful…with few cheese offerings. There was a fresh goat cheese available locally that was yummy. Still we found the Netherlands Edam and were satisfied.Photo Credit: Gouda Cheese Shops, New Zealand
Why the meandering about cheese this week? Not exactly a new find. The reason I’m writing is that my husband sent me searching the answer for why is cheddar cheese in America orange in color.
Well, it turns out you can follow the money for the answer to this. Centuries ago, when cows (Jersey and Guernsey, in particular) were grass-fed, they produced milk that was more golden in color. The color came from the beta-carotene in the grass. This golden-colored milk yielded a deep golden cheese. The deeper the color translated to the higher the quality. In fact, consumers were (and still are) willing to pay more for a deeper colored cheese.
Cheddar is the preferred cheese in the US, and most people associate it with its orange color (even though there are white Cheddars). Dyes (more natural dyes now, like the plant seed Annatto) are used to produce the deep color. In these days of the artisanal farmers, cows are becoming more grass-fed, and we see cheeses of deeper colors (without dyes added).
[Probably more than you ever wanted to know about our food preferences or the color of cheese.]
5) Don’t Waste Your Life – In 2000, a much younger John Piper preached to a crowd of young people at a Passion Conference. He focus in this sermon was to urge these college students not to miss the Kingdom of God before them…not to waste their lives on what wouldn’t last. Here is a brief (7-minute) excerpt you might want to watch. It is gripping.
Life happens. Whatever our hopes, goals or dreams, we go after them in real time and regular life. The challenge is to not lose sight of them in the course of working your day-job, whatever that might be. Jon Acuff’s book Do Over came out at a very timely place of transition in my life. The recurring theme of his book was to do what it takes to get where you hope to go – not finding yourself at the end of your career realizing you just clocked in and out of “someone else’s job”…for decades. The daily of our lives can snuff out or overshadow where we knew in our hearts we wanted to go…in work, relationships, and vision. Mark that and take positive steps through it.
I’ve read ever so much more about goal-setting than I’ve actually used. In thinking of goals and action plans, I can actually feel an eye twitch coming on…and all I want to do is eat junk food and check Facebook. Alas…goal-setting is a challenge…but a worthy one.
Roadmaps are helpful for me. Not only with finding the destination but also with marking progress, checking for more scenic routes, noting markers which teach us stuff, and pointing to rest stops.
After reading the articles linked below, a roadmap for decision-making has emerged that makes sense to me…and hopefully will be helpful to you. We need goals or we are never fixed on a mark toward which we launch our best efforts. The key, however, is not just in deriving the goal but, setting a course that aligns with our relationships and responsibilities. That way, when setbacks come, they don’t put us off-course. We just deal…and get back on course.
So here we go:
10 Sure Turns Toward Achieving Our Goals
Listen to the Longing – As we get older, our goals change in life. Still at a heart level, we have longings for a life of deep purpose and genuine achievement. Those longings may be as unique as we all are as people. We are never too old or our lives too far-spent to tune into that longing. It’s never too late.
Tell Those Closest to You – Don’t keep to yourself what you would love to pursue. Tell those who care for you so much that they will pour into your vision and your goals. Fear of failure or disappointment won’t diminish your hopes if others share them with you…because they love you and believe in you.
Set Goals and Then Revisit Them With “Why’s?” – This is actually some of the hardest work of moving forward and stymies some of the best of us. Serge Popovic breaks this down in a helpful way by looking at the systems (or commitments) that help us get to goal. The goal is our destination but we daily make decisions and take action toward that goal. These rhythms are part of the discipline of achieving our goals. They also inform our direction as we revisit our goals and ask the necessary “why’s”.Photo Credit: Dreams Procrastinated
Consider the Costs and Work Them into Your Plan – In setting course to meet life goals, there are givens we must consider. Taking care of our family is an obvious one. Managing our time around other responsibilities. Not missing our children as we strive toward that goal that can stretch years ahead. The costs don’t have to alter our course, but we must reckon with them.
Organize Your Life – Why is this important? Organization can have a huge impact on recouping the costs (in #4) and in freeing us up to potentially getting to goal faster. Do be careful what your organize OUT of your life…especially relationships. Make wise decisions here… It’s one thing to get rid of stuff or downsizing time-wasters, and another thing to neglect relationships.Photo Credit: Paul Sohn
Choose and Develop Your Team and Expand Your Network – Speaking of relationships, this is one of those circles that can pay huge dividends for all involved. Rarely do we make goals that don’t include the investment of others. Think through the people you know and who of those would be a great support to your future. They could be idea-generators, mentors, investors, content experts…and some could be family who mostly cheer you on and pray for you in the battles.
Take Action or Execute Your Plan – What? Taking action is point 7 on a 10-point roadmap?! We have clearly taken action in multiple ways already, but those preparatory functions have set the stage for a strong start to execution. Even through Steps 1-6, we may have already reframed what the plan looks like. Being proactive before we set the plan in motion greases the tracks for achievement. The action plan will be revisited often…which actually makes it less stressful for me to develop. Melanie Curtin even writes about journaling our goals and action plans, giving us a daily view of progress.
Deal With the Drag of the Past – This is a preemptive strike against those emotions that form barriers to reaching our goals. That dull sense of foreboding, the failures of the past, the gnawing insecurity, the temptation to blame…. None of these keep us from reaching our goals, unless we empower them to do so. Lighten the load by cutting the ropes on the past. One caveat: the “drag of the past” doesn’t include wisdom we’ve gained – Remember that part of the past always.
Allow for Respites and Setbacks – Again, life happens. I have had to sideline some goals in recent months because of health and family issues. They are not gone from my mind or my habits…but they are sidelined for the moment for real life things of more urgent need. However…these kinds of things can become normative if we aren’t careful. You don’t want to lose momentum …keep moving toward your goal if at all possible…even if it’s ever so slowly. At some point, sooner than later, revisit and reset goals…and rest when that’s the greatest need.Photo Credit: Bloom to Fit
Celebrate and Express Thanks All Along the Way – no explanation needed here. This isn’t just for the finish line but for every step along the way. For every barrier that we turned into a door. For every problem we forged into an opportunity. For every God-orchestrated appointment and “per chance” meeting. Celebrate. Show gratitude. Widen the circle – your achievement is enjoyed by many!Photo Credit: Morning Business Chat
Hopefully, you found this helpful. The resources below informed this piece and are all rapid reads if you want to go deeper in a direction. I hope your main-takeaway is that you can achieve and starting today is not too late…starting is the point. You’ve got this!
Friday again. Whew…this week flew…for me, anyway. I have some great finds for you…as usual, if I might be so bold. Friday Faves celebrate the hard work and achievements of others that encourage me and I hope encourage you. So here goes:
1) Snow Days – For some of you snow comes in months not just days. For us, it’s a few glorious days of this…and I love it!
I have no need for heavy snow recreation…just the quiet, the beauty, the slowing down of life, and the camaraderie of those snowed-in or out with you (family, neighbors, colleagues). More books, more coffee, more hours in pj’s, and more meditation on the Creator who orchestrated such beauty for our pleasure.
2) Organizing Your Life – Leadership coach Paul Sohn has posted the most fascinating infographic on organizing your life – not just your home space, but your work and social media spaces. Really helpful!!
3) Riveting Short Film – It is so easy to allow our attention to drift away from important issues. The news stream is so full and fast-moving. About a year ago, National Geographic showcased a short film by Lior Sperandeo entitled People of Nowhere. It puts the film-watcher on the seashore as boat after boat of Syrian refugees arrive, some barely alive…leaving everything and desperately risking all they have left – each other and life itself. Compelling and transforming…and still happening.Photo Credit: Vimeo
4) Dayman Cover – One of the longest running TV sitcoms in the US is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Out of this edgy sometimes dark comedy came a song that is known and loved by the show’s fandom – that song being Dayman. Here is the clip from the show and below is the cover arranged for classical guitar by Nathan at Beyond the Guitar. [The Green Man is a frequent character on the show.]
The social media buzz over this video was fun to watch as well.
5) The Possibility of Unity – Political conversations post-election in the US continue to simmer and sometimes boil over. There is no hope for unity unless we do the work to forging a path. Therein lies the possibility. Two thought-provoking posts came out this week of the topic – one from a business leadership writer, Jarrod Shappell, and the other from a Christian thinker and author, Philip Yancey.
“In The Anatomy of Peace, a fantastic book about attempted reconciliation between leaders of Israel and Palestine, the authors say, ‘In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t. In the former case we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.’ If we continue to believe that we are on the superior side of the argument, we will only objectivity, vilify, and perpetuate conflict.
Finding healthy unity that embraces difference is no easy hunt. We prefer to retreat into our tribal groups among people who think and act like us. We say we value different points of view but rarely seek them out. We feign listening but are really just forming our next rebuttal. All of that is unity’s most insidious counterfeit – uniformity. We are seduced by the enjoyment of confusing sameness with unity.
We fear that adapting our viewpoints is compromising our values (spoiler alert: it’s not). But true unity is hard, gritty, messy work. It takes guts to let go of the need to be right. It takes the deepest of principles to understand your “enemy’s” views rather than vilify them. And only the greatest of organizations, communities, and leaders will take the leap of faith away from their staunchly held ideals in the belief, hope, and determination that there is room for both theirs, and others, ideals.” – Jarrod Shappell, Navalent
Then, from Philip Yancey:
“Francis Schaeffer added, ‘Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.’ I see that as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.
As the dust settles from the storm of 2016, I pray that those of us who follow Jesus remember that mark above all. The apostle Paul used these words to describe the characteristics of a true Christian: humility, charity, joy, peace, gentleness, forbearance, patience, goodness, self-control—words in short supply last election year. Republicans will busy themselves with the difficult task of governing a factious nation in a perilous world. Democrats will huddle to devise a new playbook. May Christians of all persuasions remember that our ultimate allegiance and our ultimate hope belong to neither party. As resident aliens in a divided nation, may we too form pioneer settlements to show the world the Jesus way.” – Philip Yancey, Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap
Bonus:Kris Kristofferson – Story behind his song Why Me, Lord? and the latest on this man’s amazing life:
It’s the end of the year…anyone who is able is grabbing those vacation days and running with them. Probably few people are reading leadership posts this week, but even on end-of-year time off, I still think about the workplace. Occupational hazard (so to speak).
Thinking about the coming year always sets momentum for change for me. Not just wishful New Year’s resolutions…but actually taking strategic steps toward some change or another. When I came across Ron Carucci‘s post this week on leadership, he got me thinking about what keeps us on our jobs…and what causes us to pull away.
Thinking about work, we gravitate to what challenges us more than what satisfies us. Having interesting work, close colleagues, and a good boss would be a wonderful way to start the new year. If that’s your situation, then you should be off sipping hot cider, head in that new book, or playing games with your grandchildren.
If the challenges of your job are causing you to rethink whether to stay or look for other work, take some time to evaluate what is it that would put you on such a course of action. Having a job at all is no small thing. Go slowly in changing course and know, for sure, why you would make such a change.
There’s a cliché that surfaces in leadership articles (like the ones linked below) which speaks to the reasons why employees quit. It goes something like this: “People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.”Photo Credit: Pinterest
Bosses have their own struggles – balancing the bottom line with keeping their employees equipped and engaged. It can be complicated to keep the customers, employees, and investors all pleased with their efforts and the product/service provided. Still…it is those in leadership that have the onus of keeping the best employees on the job.
So much has been written about this, because losing good people is hard on everyone in the workplace. Carucci talks about the three types of power that bosses wield: positional, relational, and informational. Using their power, managers can do much to assure fair treatment throughout divisions, to invest personally in individuals and teams, and to keep information pathways open and multi-directional. Read more of Carucci’s advice here…and here.
I’ve had some great bosses across my career – bosses that made me want to stay even when the work had become too hard or too same and colleagues had become too wearisome (or maybe it was me). There were times I stayed because of my relationship with that boss.
One of those bosses was Mary Florence Woody. In my first job after graduate school, she was the director of nursing of an 1100-bed inner-city teaching hospital. I interviewed with her for the oncology clinical specialist job. In my mid-20s, full of youth and confidence with little understanding of how much I didn’t know, I presented myself to this great lady. She was a giant in nursing in those days, and for all of her career actually. She asked me big questions that day and listened deeply, and somehow I got that job. It was a tremendous launch into a profession that was very kind to me.
Ms. Woody gave me some great counsel that day. She told me not to let my youth or inexperience define me. “If you determine to get to know and revere the people and their work, at all levels, then respect and regard will be returned to you.” Over the whole of my seven years working there, in the role of educator and practitioner, I did as she had advised. Mopping up spills, delivering food trays, making beds, troubleshooting equipment, rounding with physicians, nurses, dietitians, and chaplains. In whatever capacity the patients were served, I tried my hand at it. Not always well…but with persistence. That’s how I learned how valuable each person was on the team…and it helped me have perspective on the piece of care I provided as well.Photo Credit: Massey
Mary Woody helped me from that first day. Did we hang out together? Absolutely not. She had enormous responsibilities and time constraints, but she communicated what mattered. Ms. Woody cared about her employees and it was obvious to all of us. She also let us find our own way, but not without applying her position and influence on our behalf.
Was I a “keeper”? Not sure…but I never had to guess whether Ms. Woody had confidence in me. She did…and the strength of that kept me out of the ditch for months into that new role. In fact, opportunities came my way that I could never have imagined. Thanks to Ms. Woody and other colleagues like her, I left that job to teach at Yale University…having so much more to offer than before.
All that to say what? When we look to the future as to whether we stay in a job or leave for another one, we must reckon with what matters most to us. There is no guarantee we won’t find a similar set of circumstances in the next job, so there’s that…
I hope you’ll read the Carucci, Bradberry and Myatt articles below. They all resonate with the same message, just different aspects of it. What can make a difference in keeping quality personnel on the job? Care and control are the critical components – more caring and less controlling. Something we can all consider in the new year…whatever our position…
Hold onto that resignation letter for a bit. What would compel you to stay? When the right next job presents itself, take it…absolutely …but know for sure why you’re leaving this job. Then leave burning as few bridges as possible…like Jon Acuffadvises, “Make sure you leave with one finger raised high: your thumb. As in, ‘Thumbs‑up guys. Thanks for letting me work here. I’m off to a different adventure, but you guys are awesome.'”
If you stay, maybe you can influence others by genuinely caring for them and by letting go of some control yourself. If your boss struggles in these areas, she could learn from you. Who knows?
Happy New Year…done with thinking about work for today… Bring on the apple cider.Photo Credit: Foodie Misadventures
Friday, again! This will be a fast one. I am actually finishing writing this on my phone today. Between travel and more meetings than usual, there’s been little time at my writing desk. So here are my favorites this week.
1) God – Courage….. Every day I am grateful to know God…There are weeks, like this one, that I am even more grateful for the sovereignty of a good God. Margaret Nyman writes a beautiful blog on getting through whatever hard we find ourselves. In “Hand in Hand“, she talks about the reach of God into our lives and circumstances. A widow – who also, with her husband, endured a terrible economic loss – writes about the presence of God with her.Photo Credit: Michelangelo, Getting Through This
“When I [the apostle John writing here] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’ ” (Revelation 1:17-18)
God is not surprised by our situation. As we look to Him, He will give grace…and make a way through the hard.
3) Tommy Emmanuel – Speaking of guitar and live music, my husband’s favorite guitarist (after Nathan) is Tommy Emmanuel. We are so excited that he’s coming to Richmond, Va. in March 2017. If you ever have a chance to hear him perform, don’t miss it. Photo Credit: WFPK
4) The Long Goodbye – These days, I travel a lot to Atlanta to spend time with my dad. Between Alzheimer’s and cancer, he is winding down. Very thankful for his caregivers there, as he has moved from assisted living into the home of my brother and sister-in-law. Dad sleeps a lot, but when he wakes up it is such a delight for all of us to see the spark in his eyes and hear his intelligence, humor, and sweetness break through the cloud of his illnesses. Thankful for this long goodbye…which gives us the opportunity to enjoy him more and spend time with various of our family members in ways that will galvanize us as family when he enters Heaven.
5) A Beautiful Fall – Words aren’t needed here. So glad for the opportunity to live in a place of four seasons.
Hope you have a restful and reflective weekend. Would love for you to post some of your favorite finds in the Comments.
Friday again. Nice. This week has been an easy one – lighter work load, early morning walks with neighbors, visits with old friends, and marveling at sweet grand-babies. Life on the side of simple. There was one significant dip in our week when my dad had a bad night, but he has improved remarkably since then. Each day is different. Rejoicing in the good days.
Here are my favorite finds from this week. Please share any of yours in Comments below.
1) Writing – Always an outlet for me. I’ve written journals from childhood (called them diaries in those days). Photo Credit: LitHub
All my life, people who were privy to some of my writing, have told me, “You should write a book!” I don’t have the discipline, message,…or passion, maybe, to write a book…yet. One day. I started this blog for my children, during a time I was frightened that my memory was fading. So far, it seems to be the forgetfulness of my aging (not diseased) brain. Still, blog writing continues to be a joy…almost a mission. When life keeps me from writing, as in the last couple of weeks, I miss it…and then it’s hard to get back into the habit. Rebecca Solnit posted recently suggesting 10 Tips on How to Be a Writer. Her article is beautiful writing in itself. Here are two of her most encouraging observations:
“It’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.” – Rebecca Solnit
“It starts with passion even before it starts with words. You want to read people who are wise, deep, wild, kind, committed, insightful, attentive; you want to be those people.” – Rebecca Solnit
2) Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs – It’s a big year here in the US. In just a few days, we will, together, vote to elect the next Commander and Chief of our country. Usually by this time, lawns and cars are covered with signs and stickers that declare our preferences (or decry the prospect of “the other guy” becoming President). Photo Credit: YouTube
Bumper stickers abound broadcasting our various allegiances, in general. [Dave and I are not a bumper sticker people, but various ones make for fascinating distractions while stopped at traffic lights. Quite telling of the mixed bag of cultural values we have.]Photo Credit: Cafepress
Oddly this year, where we live, political loyalties are less obvious. Only occasional bumper stickers. Even fewer lawn signs. Not that they are relevant to election outcomes. Still, they were interesting predictors of where neighbors, co-workers, and random strangers stood politically on issues and candidates.
I wonder why there are so few this year. Are we less sure or even despairing at our options? Is it fear of displaying our colors? What do you think (without going all political in the comments)?
A postscript to this is the possibility that we now live in an age where “putting it all out there” on our vehicles, or in our yards, is not wisdom. Again, thoughts?
3) Old Men Grooving – On a lighter note, I discovered this British dance group, of 40-60-somethings, who performed on Britain’s Got Talent . They call themselves Old Men Grooving, and you will get a sweet chuckle watching them dance together. Very impressive really. Reminds me of when I took a tap class, for the first time, as an adult. Never too late to dance! Find Old Men Grooving on YouTube.
We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of negative people, walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us. This article talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing. I appreciate people who love me and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):
“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.
Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.” – Greg Morse
There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends.
5) A Clean House – Who doesn’t like a clean house? When our first child was born, my mom-in-law and her sister came to help me for a week. They were wonderful! One day, while I was sitting all pampered with Baby Girl in my lap, Aunt Nancy asked me what I used to clean the baseboards. Baseboards? First of all, I wasn’t sure what baseboards were, and secondly, I was positive I didn’t clean them. Years later we lived in North Africa and had house helpers all through our time there- those years of my school-aged children. A time when the kids thought that she was their helper rather than mine?!
What a blessing to have the so-daily dust of the Sahara Desert washed away by someone…else! Now back in the US, I am faced with the dust of Richmond, Virginia…Alas. There are endless numbers of articles out there on how to clean house, and I’ve read several. Reading does not necessarily lead to cleaning unfortunately.Photo Credit: Quadcity
The article by Valerie Fraser Luesse entitled Do You Clean Like Mama? is my most recent helpful, funny, and non-judgmental read on this subject. It gives me hope again that if I keep at it, one day the house might be clean…for a glorious moment or two, at least.
Those are my faves…although I could also go on and on about the goodness of God, babies, and the sweet arrival of Fall…but those we’ll leave to another day. Have a restful and restorative weekend out there.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” – God (Job 38:4)
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”…and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. – Job 42:1-6, 9b
I don’t cry easily. Maybe it’s all the years of cancer nursing where my tears were spent. Or having already lost loves of our own has drained them. Or this broken world has finished off my tears.
Or so I thought. This morning has brought tears as my sister-in-law texts with me about Dad. He is in his last weeks…days…we don’t know. This funny, intelligent, extraordinary and simple farmer’s son…this man who took in four more children when he married my mom…this man who has always been strong as an ox even in his 90s…this man who fiercely loves his family and friends…this man is winding down in this life.
I don’t ask God “Why?” about Dad’s dying…he’s lived a full and amazing life. My prayer has been that he can enter the healing of Heaven without the terror of late Alzheimer’s or the pain of cancer spreading. So far, he still knows us all and has sweet moments of reflection…when he wakes from his long naps. The pain, like the cancer, is growing, but so far, with medication and the close care of family and hospice, he is managing to be comfortable most of the time…and we’re thankful.
The part of life, for any of us, when suffering looms large does cause us to ask “Why?” sometimes. This past Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang Where Were You. We are in an Explore God sermon series along with several other churches in the Richmond area. This Sunday the topic was “Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?” [You can listen to that podcast here.]
The issue of suffering is a very personal one. It’s really a wonder, in such a fallen world, that there is not more suffering. God has always been intimately present with us in times of loss and suffering, and I hope to be able to trust Him in future hard places.
The song Where Were You? is taken directly from the book of Job. He suffered enormous loss and physical pain which could have entirely shaken his faith in God. The book describes his wrestling with the “why’s” with the help of three not-so-helpful friends. Beginning in Job 31, Job makes one last appeal to God to satisfy his questions. Before God speaks, another friend, Elihu, shows up and offers a glorious defense of God’s character. He speaks through 5 chapters of Job on God’s behalf. Then, God Himself, makes the closing statement to Job (Job 38-41). It is thrilling to read. God is the answer to all our questions…if we will listen.
I said God I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but suffering
God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?
He said where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?
Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show
Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth
Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor
Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife
Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike
Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built
Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?
I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*
We are not alone in our suffering. There is plenty of great teaching on suffering elsewhere (including John Piper’s article linked below). For me, for today, thinking about and praying for my dad…this song was a just-right reminder of God’s power and His goodness. He can do all things and His purposes are not thwarted. Hallelujah!
[If you’re reading this just after it’s been posted, we would appreciate your prayers for our dad and for those most closely caring for him. Thank you.]
Mondays are meant for postings on how to make our workplace a great place…and our work life full of purpose and excellence. This post comes to you through my association with a young guitarist and entrepreneur. He is Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar…Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar
…and he’s our son. All last week, he was posting, on Facebook, these videos from Graham Cochrane. I recognized the name because Nathan looks to him as one of his mentors, albeit mostly online. Cochrane is a musician, audio engineer, entrepreneur, and blogger.
Graham Cochrane‘s 6-part video course on Facebook Live turns out to be a great study on business practices. He gives winsome, practical, and timely counsel on starting and sustaining a business. However, we can all profit from his content whatever our work situation is. His principles in brief follow and are derived from King Solomon’s Proverbs.
Strive to be generous – “One gives freely but grows all the richer.” – Proverbs 11:24-25
Grow slowly – “Whoever gathers little by little will increase.” – Proverbs 13:11
Do great work – “A man skillful in his work will stand before kings.” – Proverbs 22:29
Don’t devour your profit – “A foolish man devours all he has.” – Proverbs 21:20
Avoid debt – “The borrower is slave of the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7
Business is messy – “Where there is no oxen the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the work of the ox.” – Proverbs 14:4
I hope you take the time to watch/listen to these videos. Fascinating content, whatever your work is. I am always inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit – especially when that passion and willingness to work hard at something you love has a ripple effect for good.
Friday again. It’s been a hot weather week here as we move to the end of July. How the summer flies by! I get my walks in early and try to get work done before the afternoon dulls my brain. For those of you who have long workdays with some out in this heat, the weekend is almost here. My Friday Faves this week are:
1) Pokémon Guitar Medley – For me, Pokémon stirs up old memories of my boys hunkered down playing it on the old Gameboy system. The melodies emitted from the game had no emotional attachment for me; just signaled their playing nearby. Photo Credit: YouTube
Fast-forward a couple of decades to a new phone app – Pokémon Go. Genius! Nostalgia reigns. This version of the game weds the old with the new – social gaming and a quasi-outdoor-adventure. Even in our quiet old neighborhood, there are now young folks walking around with their phones out like flashlights (reminds me of the old guys on the beach waving their metal detectors back and forth). Photo Credit: Times Free Press
This phenomenon has definitely stirred up sweet memories for guitarist Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. He’s arranged a melody of some of those old tinkly electronic tunes from childhood of playing Pokémon. Whether you ever played the game, you will enjoy the music (hard to believe the beauty those composers instilled into the gaming experience for the kids who played back then).
2) Dr. Tony Evans on Race – A Biblical Response on Race – You already know I love radio. Well, Tony Evans has been a go-to for me for 30 years. His program, The Alternative, and his preaching, speaking, and writing are just as fresh and relevant today as ever.Photo Credit: Tony Evans
This past Sunday he preached on Race, Culture, and the Biblical Response. His message is to the church, but anyone could benefit from what he has to say on these issues. So timely also as our nation is going through an intensified examination of our own thinking and actions in this. Evans used the text of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, crossing culture and class, demonstrating the love of God.
“It’s real easy in here….we can all get along…in here. What happens when you go out and you have to face your own race? What happens when your biblical view is not the popular view? What happens when you’re rejected for not being black enough, white enough….? When you have to take that stand responsibly, kindly, in love, but clearly. When you hear messages on love and unity….it’s good…inside the House. What God is looking for are some serious Christians on this issue who start biblically and spiritually and work it down racially, socially, and culturally. You do not start with your culture and work it up. You start with the Word and the authority of your faith and work it in. May God help us to do our part locally, personally, in our families, and through our influence, to bring people to a spiritual biblical approach to the issue of race, culture, and class so at least we can model, before the world, biblical solutions to a society in chaos.” – Tony Evans
3) Burgess Owens on Liberalism – We are in the political season of party conventions and a presidential election. So much rhetoric. So many promises. So much finger-pointing and blame-shifting. Over the course of my life, I’ve changed political parties as they have changed ideologies. This election is a tough one for some of us…
I love to discover unusual heroes who are rarely found in popular media. Star Parker is one of these – a politically conservative black woman who also changed her thinking over the course of her life. She was the impetus for me to search for other conservative thinkers who, because of their race or beliefs, have to have a deeper sort of courage to give voice to their ideas. This week, I discovered Superbowl Champion Burgess Owens. You can see him speak about persistence in this YouTube video on “the 13th season”. He is the author of Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps. He writes about the first 100 year, post-slavery, history of entrepreneurial, faith- and family-centered American blacks. He also writes about the founding of the NAACP by mostly white, Marxist social engineers, and that influence on African-American thinking and culture. Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster
I have not read the book yet, so this is not a recommendation of the book as much as of the author. After hearing him speak during an interview (as part of his book tour), I was struck by this “other side” of what we see in the news media. His thinking is compelling. In my 20s, I worked in a huge inner-city hospital in Atlanta (wrote about it here). It was then that my thinking politically began to change. I loved our patients and families so much, and the poverty that encased them seemed impenetrable. It was then I began to see that throwing money at poverty doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away either. My nursing friends and I would have deep and anguished conversations about the tangled mess of poverty, welfare, class, race, and politics. I am thankful for how those years and relationships changed my thinking. Still have so much to learn.
I welcome your recommendation of other voices…these kinds of conversations could affect real and crucial change…beyond any political party or government power.
4) Three Day Coconut Cake – OK…something a little lighter. My mom-in-law is an amazing cook. She also knows I love coconut. We had a huge family gathering this past week to celebrate the newest addition to our family. She always makes strawberry pretzel salad which is top of the list of our family favorites. For me (and a handful of others who also like coconut), she made this refrigerator coconut cake. It’s practically a food group all by itself. Enjoy. Here’s the recipe.
5) Back to School – During the hottest days of summer, a Fall breeze blows through our favorite stores. Back to school supplies and cool kids’ clothes pop up everywhere. I have always loved the smell of pencils and paper. However, I never loved the long hours of school that boxed in our children to spend evenings separated from us and each other with hours and hours of homework. Sorry, wonderful teacher friends of mine. Anyway, seeing school supplies in the stores this week was fun…and also a reminder of the flight of time. Summer slow down.
I always love to hear about your favorite finds of the week. Please comment below. Have a safe and sweet weekend!
“Pick a lane”. That phrase comes to mind literally when dealing with another driver on the highway who weaves back and forth, for whatever reasons. We get agitated at him, don’t trust her movements, and want to get as clear from them as possible.
In our careers, picking a lane is hugely important. There probably won’t be the same negative emotions (as above) about someone who is all over the place, but we are wise to set a straight course. Sometimes, especially across a lifetime, we have to re-set our course. The key is to do the work of that reset – pick a lane again. Being a generalist, a “jack-of-all-trades”, can make us quite useful to our employers, but there is no distinction in that. I’m not talking about significance here. I’m talking about what makes us the “go-to person”, that person whose passion, determination, and honed skill gives her voice in an organization…where she can make a difference. It’s something to consider…
Here’s a quick story of an incredibly successful young man who “picked a lane”. I did not know the person Lin-Manuel Miranda until a funny video crossed my Facebook newsfeed just a few days ago. The video was Broadway Carpool Karaoke and Miranda was one of the performers in it. The video was produced to usher in the 2016 Tony Awards ceremony. Photo Credit: Broadway
Hamilton was birthed while Miranda, then in his 20’s, was on vacation in Mexico and picked up Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. He was enthralled by the story of Hamilton’s life and was amazed the story wasn’t already written as a musical. [Hopefully you non-theater folks are still with me. This is such an incredible story.]
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote/composed the musical Hamilton, and from what I’ve seen of it, it is mesmerizing. So what goes into such a young man’s pursuit of such all-encompassing excellence in his craft?
Charlie Rose of CBS’ 60 Minutes interviewed Miranda about his life and Hamilton’s. [The full transcript is here.] Lin-Manuel Miranda – this playwright, composer, lyricist, and actor – talked about how he got to where he is today.
At five, Miranda tested into Hunter College Elementary, a school for highly gifted children, where he told us sometimes, he felt like he did not belong.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: You know, I went to a school where everyone was smarter than me. And I’m not blowin’ smoke, I was surrounded by genius, genius kids. What’s interesting about growing up in a culture like that is you go, “All right, I gotta figure out what my thing is. Because I’m not smarter than these kids. I’m not funnier than half of them, so I better figure out what it is I wanna do and work really hard at that because intellectually I’m treading water to, to be here.”
Charlie Rose: So why do you think I’m sitting here talking to you and not sitting here talking to one of your classmates?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: ‘Cause I picked a lane and I started running ahead of everybody else. So I, that’s the honest answer. It was like, I was like, “All right THIS.”
Miranda laid out very simply what framed his life of distinction: “I picked a lane.” We all do that across our careers, to some degree or another. Early in my professional life, I chose to carve out a niche in the care and counsel of cancer patients and their families. That was the focus and direction of my life for almost 20 years. Then, married with children, I would pick a very different lane – focusing on that little circle and those we shared life with in our community.
When we lived overseas for another almost 20 years, my lane was a merging of family, cross-cultural living, teaching English, and serving women (local and expat.) and their families. I loved those days of constant traffic in and out of our home. I miss those days. It’s quite possible, however, that those years marked a season where I was weaving in and out of traffic. You might need to ask my husband and children about that.
Now we’ve been back in the US for sometime. Picking a lane became a huge need for me as clearly my moorings of cherished overseas life were gone and I was a bit adrift. When the opportunity to came to test my skills as a communications strategist for a new and innovative work team, I jumped at it. That was a great time of learning and growing and a thrilling adventure which fueled a deep passion of mine. Alas, short-lived though. It only lasted a couple of years and that work went the way of an organizational down-sizing.
What followed has been a protracted season of being “a warm body” and “filling a hole/need” in whatever came along in life and community. Don’t hear me deny the importance of such serving, because there are times when helping in this way is exactly the right thing to do. Still, it’s not how we are meant to frame our lives over the long-haul.
A few months ago, I wrote a series of blogs on Jon Acuff’s book Do Over. He writes in such a liberating way about, essentially, picking a lane. His book is a “how-to” in getting back your life and getting on with it.
Picking a lane isn’t about just operating out of your strengths, abhorring any task or process that doesn’t show off your abilities. Picking a lane is about honing your craft, building your expertise, showing up in your giftings. It’s not about being a knower but being an insatiable life-long learner.
If the job you loved is gone or forever altered, pick another lane.
Don’t allow your current work/life situation reduce you to something other….to someone you are not and never were. Don’t let age, opportunity, personality squash your passion. We do not have to be side-lined (or defined) by getting older, being an introvert (just for instance), having a hard boss or a confusing work situation. Since this recent cancer diagnosis, I have more clarity, hope, and optimism about finishing strong… Hearing Lin-Manual Miranda’s story has heightened my resolve all the more.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Here’s the thing about Hamilton. I think Hamilton was ready to die from the time he was 14 years old. I think what he has is what I have, which is that thing of, “Tomorrow’s not promised. I gotta get as much done as I can.”
Charlie Rose: It’s not only good acting. It’s not only good music. People are saying it’s transformative.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: It’s certainly changed my life. But I think it’s because when great people cross our path, and I’m talking about Hamilton here, it forces us to reckon with what we’re doing with our lives, you know? At my age, Hamilton was treasury secretary and creating our financial system from scratch.
Charlie Rose: And building a country?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Yeah. I wrote two plays.*
Picking a lane…that’s what I’m doing. More to come…down the pike.