Category Archives: Relationships

Worship Wednesday – Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Forever friends. What a grace of God! These are friends we don’t choose necessarily. They choose us, almost in spite of our own failings at being friends ourselves.

I thank God for the friends who have coursed with us across continents, through births and deaths, and in both the mundane and extraordinary of life. Today we’re settled, for the most part, and there are days, in the solitude of this current life that I wonder if I have friends (I know…silly thoughts…when too much alone).

In truth, this life of mine has been full of friends…lifelong, through all sorts of troubled water, friends.

Some of these friends turned out to be family, while others God Himself brought across our paths and a spark of commonality and community blazed into a fire. A fire that has warmed my heart from days to decades. A fire that snaps me out of my doldrums to be a better friend myself.

Am I having a kumbaya moment? Absolutely.

Friendship is not something to be trifled with in life. I’m learning (thankful for friends who have suffered long with me over the years).

Part of what has stirred this gratefulness today is in reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Each short but full chapter addresses a kind of friendship in our lives. Within each kind of friendship, Sauls points to the kindness and mercy of God within those relationships…and how, in both strength and weakness, we have our place.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Another writer, Dave Zuleger, exposes our cultural bias of casualness with friendships.

We need to begin defining true friendship and brotherly love not by conforming to cultural expectations, but by looking at the face of Jesus and being changed to look and love more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we look at Jesus, we find a friend who loves when we are unlovable, and a brother willing to die for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. We find and experience a love utterly unlike what we normally find in ourselves, in our own hearts.

We can be such fickle friends, distancing ourselves from difficult people and situations. If someone seems too immature, too demanding, or too inconvenient, we bail. We find excuses (legitimate ones of course!) to distance ourselves from these kinds of friends. Yet, Jesus — the perfect, holy Son of God — went and hung out among wicked sinners who were extremely immature, difficult, and even dangerous (they crucified him!). – Dave Zuleger

Zuleger’s words reminded me of a very old song by Sharalee Lucas:

I see Jesus in your eyes, and it makes me love Him

I feel Jesus in your touch, and I know He cares

I hear Jesus in your voice, and it makes me listen

And I trust you with my love, because you’re His.

I see Him…Sharalee Lucas

This is the sort of friendship I’ve known. That friend who came quietly to sit with Dave during my cancer surgery. Those friends whose love for my mama has been lavished on me since her death. The friend from work who refuses to define or disdain me by my different political views. The friend neglected who gives me grace. The friends who see value in me that I don’t see. The friends who include me in their great works. The friends who love in spite of…

A cherished local friend told me recently that she was moving away within the next few months. Thinking of losing her, I was reminded of another old song about friends – the one Michael W. Smith published in 1983. We never have to lose a friend. As our travels over the last 20+ years have shown us, God gives us forever friends, not limited by time or geography. For this mercy, I will always be grateful to Him.

[BTW – for any younger friends who can’t wrap their sensibilities around this old song – I would love to know songs about friends that are super meaningful to you – so please let me know in the Comments.]

Worship with me, please…the God who calls us friend and who gives us the great grace of friends.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter of your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And with the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you live in
Is the strength that now you show

We’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

To live as friends

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

No a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends*

 We need to learn to see every friendship through the lens of the work of Christ on our behalf. To see that at the cross there is more than enough grace to cover a multitude of sins committed against us. To see the cross of Christ as the depth of suffering a perfect Brother was willing to endure. We need to remember a true brother moves closer when times get harder, and never leaves or forsakes a friend, even when the trial lasts a lifetime. – Dave Zuleger
Here’s to friends (images of just a few of the many amazing friends – would put up a lot more and you would get tired of scrolling) that God has given over the years):

*Lyrics to Friends (1983)

Song Facts – Friends – Songwriters: Michael W. & Debbie Smith

The Best Friends Are Born For Adversity – Dave Zuleger

Find a Friend to Wound You – Greg Morse

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Ready For Your Workday? – Lessons From Cintas

Photo Credit: Food & Beverage Magazine

Next time you head to the restroom, take a look around. Unless it has just been stormed by a tour group that needed more than the usual service, you can get a sense of readiness. Not the readiness of the restroom, but of the person or agency servicing it…and you as a customer. I wrote about this level of customer service once before  here. Why I wrote about clean restrooms then is why it begins my topic today. Clean restrooms demonstrate a sense of pride and caring. We want restrooms to be ready for the workday. How about our own readiness?

Readiness is defined as being fully prepared and willing to execute.
It is not just about being prepared for one’s workday. It’s also a ready-set-go willingness to be on our toes, stepping up, taking the ball, and scanning both the horizon and the lines drawn on our playing field.

When a Cintas truck rolls into the parking lot, I can almost smell the clean linens and uniforms inside. Their branding includes this mantra: Ready for the Workday: A confident image, clean facility and safe workplace start here. Here’s their commercial that I just saw this weekend, It got me thinking about the broad reach of readiness in the workplace.

My husband walks out of the house ahead of me every morning with his computer bag and a thermos of coffee. He has his schedule on his phone and he keeps a journal. He has thought about the day. He is prepared…the willingness to execute then comes into play as he goes out our door and enters his company’s door…and all the rest of the doors of his day. Both are disciplines – the preparedness of readiness and the willingness to execute.

Readiness keeps momentum going and momentum has huge impact on business and workplace excellence.

After watching the Cintas commercial, I went to their website. What a feast for anyone wanting to learn about leadership and a healthy workplace culture. Check out their Code of Conduct and Business Ethics page. Nothing on their agenda about Business Casual – and everything about dressing and performing aims at positive impact, and helping their customers do the same.

The website’s drop-down menu displays a variety of helps and services. Honestly, it’s hard to believe this company is for-profit based on the generous sharing of information for helping others (their customers and competitors) be “ready for the workday”.

I want to close with some of the quotes from the Cintas website – both from their own founder and from writers who speak for and to their own leadership. Enjoy.

Corporate culture is the single most important distinguishing factor between greatness and mediocrity. It is a major reason Cintas is different from our competitors and other companies. It is our ultimate competitive advantage.” Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

A key to our success has been a culture that encourages meaningful, respectful relationships between the company and our employee-partners and the commitment to always do what’s right. This spirit of teamwork, camaraderie and trust has become our most important competitive advantage and is a cornerstone of the Cintas culture.” – Richard T. Farmer, Cintas Founder & Chairman Emeritus

“Those who rise to senior leadership levels in almost any organization have one critical attribute in common — they’ve embraced soft leadership skills. This includes having the ability to build relationships with the people you work with. There’s never been a leader in this world without people who wanted to follow them — and the first step to getting people to want to support you is to get them to like you. Take the time to get to know the people you work with, and learn what’s important to them.”Karlyn Borysenko

Be transparent. Insincerity and evasion chip away at trust, so whenever you can, be transparent about what’s happening with the business. Of course, there will be confidential data you can’t disclose. Carolyn O’Hara of the Harvard Business Review notes, ‘regularly distributing other information—like financial results, performance metrics, and notes from board meetings—shows that you trust your employees, which in turns helps them have greater faith in you.’”Lee Polevoi

Don’t micromanage or give step-by-step instructions. Instead, provide guardrails while giving [employees] the freedom to find smart and creative solutions.Chuck Leddy

Photo Credit: LinedIn – Cintas

Hope you enter your workplace ready for the day today! The best part of Monday is its own possibility of a new beginning. Of course, that sort of “Monday” can come any day of the week.

On ready!

6 Essential Leadership Skills That Will Advance Your Career – Karlyn Borysenko

Building Trust in the Workplace – What Business Leaders Can Do – Lee Polevoi

Agile Process Management: An Approach For Business Success – Chuck Leddy

16 Things You Should Do at the Start of Every Workday – Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes

6 Tips For Building Momentum  During Change – Sallie Sherman

Why Preparation Is Better Than Planning – Craig Jarrow

Being Ready For Your Workday Feels Great! – Advance Preparation Is the Key to a Successful Day – Craig Jarrow

What Does Casual Dress Really Mean Today? – 6 Wardrobe Tips For Career Success – Lynn Taylor

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

Valentine’s Day – Making It Ours

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

[Adapted from the Archives]

Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is ripe with all sorts of possibilities… and potential frustrations. It’s a day that picks at our contentment and whispers in our ears, “Is this enough? this love I have? these loves I have?” I say we take this holiday, turn it on its head, and totally own it.

What do you love about Valentine’s Day? Most probably, you are women reading this blog, because men seriously don’t want any more information on how to celebrate this day. We women have this totally lovely day thrust upon us once a year to do with it how we want. ..so let’s get after it.

Here’s what I love about this day:

1) I can be as effusive and gushy as I want on this one day of the year. It’s allowed…tolerated…appreciated even. Cards, phone calls, and social media shouting out to those we love…there’s a lot of relational muscle pumped on this day…wouldn’t hurt to keep this going through the rest of the year. Words. Are. Powerful.Blog - Heart & Love Much

2) It’s a golden opportunity to hang with our best buddies. Not just husbands or boyfriends, but moms, grandmoms, the widow neighbor down the street. Those glorious women in our lives… Valentine’s Day is a fine excuse to have lunch together, cake together, movie night together. Whatever. How thankful I am for the great women in my life…from lots of places in the world.Blog - Morocco friends2014 Phone pics July-December 119

3) This day lends itself to a total indulgence (guilt deferred) of sugary delights. Valentine’s Day blesses all excesses. I don’t eat chocolate these days, but Hershey’s Kisses still speak. Whether I eat those foil-wrapped happy little candies or not, they still generate lovely thoughts for me on this day…as do the other treats that come out especially on this day of the year.Blog - Valentine Goodies

Blog - Valentine Hearts

2013 Feb Valentine's Day 004

4) I love how cheery people are toward each other related to Valentine’s Day (kind of back to the gushy/effusive side of this day). Whether it’s decorating a colleague’s cubicle wall or lavishing gifts on your child’s teacher…it can make for a sweet day. Whether there’s a dear man in our lives or not, we can use this day to bless others…just for the fun of it (for them AND for us).Blog - Valentines on a cubicle by Heather TeaterPhoto Credit: Cublical Decorating – Heather Teater2013 Feb Valentine's Day 001

 5) Last thing I love about Valentine’s Day is its celebration of love itself. The history of Valentine’s Day is far from the romance and roses we expect today. Yet, if there is something worthy of setting aside a day, it is love – real, deep, sacrificial and satisfying love. Maybe it’s a stretch to consider that sort of love on a day that’s been riddled with commercialism, but that’s where I would like to end. Today, more than anything I celebrate the God of love who teaches us best how to love. First loving Him and then, because of Him, loving each other as we love ourselves. Blog - Valentine #2

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;   does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends.Blog - Friends - Valentines #1

The Single Way to do Valentine’s Day – Mandisa

A Tribute to Charlotte Ray – Cal Thomas

Monday Morning Moment – Roadmap to Achieving Your Goals in Real Time and Regular Life – 10 Sure Turns

Photo Credit: edX

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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!

Achieve Your Goals – Is Your Roadmap the Right Way Up??? – Wendy Tomlinson

Goals vs. Commitments: A Simple System for Long-term SuccessSrdjan “Serge” Popovic​

10 Quotes That Will Radically Reshape Your Idea of Calling – Paul Sohn

50 Goal Quotes that Will Inspire and Motivate You – Marelisa Fabrega

When It’s Good to Be Bad – The Road to Excellence Is Paved With a Few Lapses On the Way – Cody Delistraty

6 Ways You Are Making Life Harder Than It Has to Be – Paul Angone

How to Crush Your Goals in 2017 – Travis Bradberry

Crushing Your Goals…God’s Way – Stephen Altrogge

Want to Improve Your Focus and Lower Stress in 2017 – Take Up This One Simple Habit – Melanie Curtin

YouTube Video – A Tale of Two Brains (“The Nothing Box”) – Mark Gungor

Photo Credit: AllGroanUp

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh

[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]

Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Blog - Inner Rings 2 - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:

  • In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
  • Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy.  “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]

Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis – Collection of Addresses Including The Inner Ring

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

Why Are We Chasing? – Jeremy Writebol [Followup piece to above article]

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring of Cronyism – Elise Daniel – Institute For Faith, Work, and Economics

C.S. Lewis and the Inner Ring – Nicholas T. Batzig

The Inner Ring and the Moral Question of Our Time – Nozomi Hayase

Monday Morning Moment – Belonging and Going Deep and the Blind Presumptions that It’s Actually Happening When It Isn’t

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams – Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: Jeff Block

We had already been friends for years…never running out of things to say. Laughter poured as freely as the coffee we shared.

The days that our conversation turned more serious were tender and hang in my memory. We did not agree on this one thing that was as much a part of who we were as probably anything else in life. We didn’t agree about Jesus…who he was or who he meant to be in our lives.Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Then she asked me, “Why can’t you just believe as I believe?” She asked it in such a longing, loving, non-judgmental way… I knew she thought me terribly wrong in how I believed…she may have felt the same from me. Our love for each other restrained our conversation.

I thought about that question long and hard…and then I wrote a letter to my dear friend. Our friendship has endured our differences…and will in this life. I thought of her this morning and the letter. Maybe other friends are struggling with the question, “Who is Jesus? What do I do with Jesus?” Or maybe you’ve been asked to consider a religion or ideology that considers Jesus just a man…or even a fairy tale. Here is how I responded…once…to a dear dear friend.

Dearest Friend,Photo Credit: Safraz Ali

You’ve asked me why can’t I follow your way.  I know you spoke that from your heart, and you know I love you for it.  You also know how much I love you as you love me.  Since our conversation, your question has weighed heavily on my mind, and I want to try to give that question the answer you deserve.  Thank you for loving me enough to risk asking that question.  Now, I hope you will hear my love through this answer.  We think very differently on these things, but I don’t think I will be telling you anything that we haven’t already talked about. What I write below is the answer to your question, “Why?”  And it’s written with all my love.

  • My greatest desire is to know God and to surrender to Him in all areas of my life.  It’s been the pursuit of my life.  Following man-made religions is not enough.  My hope is to follow Him as He reveals Himself to me, both through His Word and by His Holy Spirit.
  • As I understand your question, to follow your way would require me to leave the way I now follow. That would be impossible for me.  I wasn’t born Christian.  I became a believer as I understood His revelation, and it’s a relationship with God that I would never or could never sever.  To remove a portion of Who I believe He’s expressed Himself to be both to and for His creation would be unforgivable.  He has come near to us, and I am thankful to know Him, as One both Holy and Humble.  I would be sad to believe in a God whose holiness and judgments separate Him far from His people.
  • To have to face the burden of a life of sin would be more than I could bear. Because I believe by His Word that He has forgiven me and continues to forgive me, as I confess my sins, repent of them, and live for Him.
  • To live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether I would spend eternity with God or in Hell would be very painful. His Word tells me that I can know – not because of my good works but because of His good work for my sake.  I take great comfort and joy in knowing that I will be in the presence of God forever.  It is also a great comfort to know I will see my Mom and Dad again, and others who have gone before me, confident in God’s promises to them through His Word.
  • To have to deny the sinless life of Jesus, the Messiah, to deny His teaching, His life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. To deny any of that would be the greatest dishonor to God that I could ever commit in life. I would never be willing to deny this, and if this is required to follow your way, then I am helpless to go that way.
  • I could not require my children to follow any religion. I do prefer for them to be believers in God by way of the Messiah, and I would be broken-hearted if they denied God in their lives.  It is up to God how He moves in a person’s life.  I cannot demand it, no matter how much I would wish it a certain way.
  • Last, but not least, is that to follow your way, I would have to give up parts of the Bible. I can’t do that.  It would be great sin, unforgivable, for me to deny any part of God’s Word.  I believe every word is true.  I know you think I am deceived.  All I know, is that there was a time in my life that I wasn’t a Christian, and it was a dark time for me.  God revealed Himself to me through His Word, through the person of Jesus, through the example of others whose lives had been changed by God, and through the movement of His Holy Spirit in my life.  Now, I know the experience of a changed life.  I am free, because His Truth has set me free.  It would be impossible for me to leave His Guide for my life.  This person that you know and love is that person, only because I am walking in the Light of His Word.  We all struggle with the presence of sin, but we can have victory through His Word and by His Power.  Since I believe what He says about His own Word, I cannot leave His Word, any more than I can stop breathing.

As I write this, my heart aches, because, of course, I would love for us to be on the Way together.  I have answered your question.  Maybe, you’ll answer the same question for me sometime.  No matter what, if you let me, I will love you all the days of my life.  You are my friend, my sister, and my daughter.  You are one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given me, and I am so grateful.  Sometimes His gifts require a price.  He gave Himself for us, that we may be with Him forever.  My hope is that our friendship won’t require a price.  I never want us to be apart…although we’re not exactly traveling on the same path.  My prayer will always be that we reach Home together….and I know you pray the same for me.  Only God can answer both our prayers…

Worship with me.

There is a truth older than the ages
There is a promise of things yet to come
There is one, born for our salvation
Jesus
There is a light that overwhelms the darkness
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us
Jesus, JesusWho walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus
There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages
He is Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus
Messiah, my Saviour
There is power in Your name
You’re my rock and, my redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name
You walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
God, you walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
Jesus
There is no one like you
Jesus
There is no one like you*

YouTube Video – Jesus – by Chris Tomlin – with prayer and praise video clips submitted especially for this video

YouTube Video – Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

YouTube Video – Is Jesus Really God? – Explore God

YouTube Video – Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus – Spoken Word – Jefferson Bethke

YouTube Video – The Gospel In Four Minutes – Pipeline generation

5 Friday Faves – Politics and a Confession, Beyond the Guitar, Must-See Documentaries, Writing Your Story, and the Tail End of Life – Plus Bonuses

Friday Faves – my favorite finish to a writing week. It suffers when I travel…today, I’m home. Lots of faves over the last several weeks went without my pushing them forward to you. I’ve added some bonuses to this one to pull in a few more.

Hope you are doing well in this first week of the New Year. I wrote about making resolutions and experiencing real change earlier. New resolve is something as welcome as each new year. It helps me, for sure…no matter how successful, I am energized by resolution. Glad for new beginnings.

Here are this week’s 5 and a handful of bonuses:

1) Politics and a Confession – Whatever your political bent, we are in a new era in the US. The presidential inauguration is fast-approaching, and President-elect Trump will become the next POTUS. I have enjoyed reading the pundits on their take on the new normal. Two of my favorite finds this week are from very different: pieces by New York Times writer Ross Douthat and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. From opposing sides, their articles (with Gingrich, it was a speech delivered after the 2016 Presidential election) are enlightening and the stuff that will help us move forward and cross aisles toward a nation for all Americans.Photo Credit: Joshua Lott, New York Times

Hope you take the time to read them…would love to hear your take on them (Comment below). Also Gingrich refers his audience to an article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, Taleb describes the Intellectual Yet Idiot – “the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking ‘clerks’ and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for…The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.”

I felt so vindicated in Taleb’s article – probably not an intellectual, hopefully not an idiot.

2) Beyond the Guitar – When Nathan’s Facebook hits on his Star Wars Medley passed 1.3 millions, I was like, “What?!” Not because I don’t complete agree with the beauty of these themes when arranged for classical guitar…but because of that whole social media phenomenon. Wild! Anyway, here’s his latest arrangement of Princess Leia’s Theme – as a tribute to Carrie Fisher:

3) Must-See Documentaries – Documentaries have neveer been high my watch-list, but this list was intriguing to me. 200  Documentaries You Must See Before You Die. My favorite documentary production group is Fourth Line. Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms is my favorite film from that company…not on the list of 200 (this time around). After reading the list and making notes to self on what to watch, I’ve determined to come up with my own short-list of must-see’s (stay tuned for that). Any recommendations?

Photo Credit: Coffee and Celluloid

4) Writing Your Story – A dear friend of mine writes biographies – not for publication, necessarily, but for her and her family’s own pleasure. Lee Taylor-Wimett, twice-widowed, has written her husband’s stories and her parents’ stories. She has also written her own story…thus far. I had the joy of reading her story when she shared it with me – a simply bound volume of real life. She has, for years, encouraged me to write…to write about my own parents…and maybe, one day, to write my story. I have begun that process – writing about my mom and dad…and keeping up with bits of my own life. Memory is a precious thing and not to be taken for granted.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In this throw-away culture, I have boxes of bits of our lives – growing up in Georgia, having babies in Tennessee, moving around Africa, and now “empty-nesting”, figuring out this life with sweet aging parents, adult children with children…and work in a very different season. Whether any of my children or grandchildren read the story (and I know some will), I want to document this life…this amazing life God has given us.

Steve Anderson of Family Search has made a quick assist in this process with 52 Questions in 52 Weeks: Writing Your Life Story. This is a good week to get started.

Photo Credit: Family Search

5) The Tail End of Life – Tim Urban and Andrew Finn of Wait But Why make charts and graphs that put all kinds of information in a visual form. As a visual learner, I love that. This one is by Tim Urban who helps us look at the human lifespan in a lot of meaningful ways – how many Red Sox games or pizzas or presidential elections we might have left…and more.Photo Credit: Wait But Why

Urban’s observation on time left with parents was poignant [and for my children – this is even more telling for us and our own remaining parents,   as for you]:

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents—assuming I’m as lucky as can be—this becomes starkly clear:

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

So what do we do with this information? I see three takeaways here:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

Thanks, Tim Urban! I’m calling my Mom-in-law right now. Have a great weekend, y’all. Be safe!

Bonuses

New BookBellum Academicus: War Academy by Kevin Prewett – free today on Amazon (Kindle version). Great sci-fi read with lots of suspense – fun cross-generational read and read-aloud.


Sherlock (Season 4) on Masterpiece Theater – I love this mini-series. 3 episodes. Available on PBS.Photo Credit: PBS

First Episode: The Six Thatchers

A Garage the place Hewlett-Packard got started…

Photo Credit: Twitter

Tolkien Quote from The Hobbit

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit