Monday Morning Moment – Honoring Retirees – Workplace Culture & 5 Languages of Appreciation

Blog - Retirement - Gratitude at Work - Thank YouPhoto Credit: Harvard Business Review

It’s Monday morning. Who’s retiring from your team this week? Who retired last week? Who do you see around you at work today? Do they know they matter to you? To your organization? How has their value been reflected back to them? What can you do today to show your appreciation, especially to that one who is retiring? Sorry for all the questions. They’re bouncing in my head. Let’s talk about it.

[This might be a little awkward if you’re the one retiring, especially with reluctance…or if you’re not retiring but question your own relevance or value at work lately. You may not be able to fix much of what your experience has been, but you can set your own “finishing well”…whether it’s official in a few days, or in several years.]

From the sidelines, I am watching a very strange phenomenon this week. On Friday, hundreds of employees in one local company will retire. It relates to a measured downsizing necessary to keep the company operational financially. The downsizing is a much kinder and more valuing option than layoffs. Still, there are huge ramifications for those leaving as well as for those who remain, in the months/years ahead…without them.

How does an organization go about honoring hundreds of retirees? Well…apart from the numbers, it’s in the same way you would honor one. Bill Peel offers a really helpful array of articles on appreciation in his Make Mondays Meaningful, quoting from C.S. Lewis and the Harvard Business Review. This is a good place to start.

As I was thinking of the challenge for a company’s leadership and the human resources department to honor so many retirees, a little book came to mind. It’s The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Then I discovered he and Paul White wrote a follow-up book entitled The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Blog - 5 Love Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Chapman and White describe five languages of appreciation (see in next paragraph). How we receive meaningful appreciation varies from person-to-person. Therefore we must attempt to personalize our expressions of gratitude to be effective. In a situation where a large number of folks are retiring, or in plan to build a workplace culture of appreciation, a comprehensive “shot-gun” approach may be warranted. If your aim is authentic honoring of your personnel, the extra work and creativity will be well-applied.

Maria Elena Duron, in her US News piece on workplace appreciation describes Chapman’s & White’s 5 Languages:

  1. Words of affirmation. Reassuring words (“thank you for your input,” or “great job on the presentation”) that serve to motivate and show gratitude to team members.
  2. Quality time. Going out of your way to spend a little more time with team members, discussing the topics that are relevant and important to them.
  3. Acts of service. Your words of gratitude could land on the deaf ears of team members who would rather receive help finishing a project or assignment. Going out of your way to lend a hand means more to such people than mere praise.
  4. Tangible gifts. Lots of people appreciate tangible gifts. The important thing here is to make sure the tangible gift is something the person values in their life outside of work, like a jersey of their favorite college football team or a coffee mug with their favorite cartoon character on it.
  5. Appropriate physical touch. Some members respond well to appropriate physical touch, like high-fives, handshakes, fist bumps and pats on the back. You’ll see this in sports, but it also translates well to the work environment.

Delbert Terry (speaking on The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace) gives this charge to both supervisors and colleagues:

“In order to appreciate, you MUST initiate.”

  1. For appreciation to be effective, it must be individualized and delivered personally.
  2. Appreciation needs to be viewed as valuable to the recipient.
  3. Employees are more likely to “burn out” when they do not feel appreciated or emotionally supported by their supervisors.
  4. When leaders actively pursue communicating appreciation to their team members, the whole culture improves.

Dr. Terry acknowledges: “There are challenges that get in the way of effectively expressing gratitude to our colleagues. Some are internal issues attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs. Other challenges are external and relate to corporate structures and procedures. These challenges need to be faced realistically, but they can be overcome.”

Challenge #1: Busyness

 Challenge #2: Communicating appreciation is not important for you organization

 Challenge #3: Feeling overwhelmed with existing responsibilities

 Challenge #4: Logistical issues that interfere with the process of sharing appreciation for others. Varying schedules, working on different projects…often make it difficult to express appreciation to certain coworkers.

 Challenge #5: Personal discomfort with appreciation *

*The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace – presented by Delbert Terry (pdf)

In honoring retirees and setting a workplace culture of appreciation, it is never too early and [hopefully] never too late.

As I think of the mammoth task of trying to honor hundreds of retirees in one fell swoop, I am both overwhelmed by and grateful for those who undertake such a task. How do you orchestrate such a celebration of so much human history and accomplishment? You do your best with gracious words, team parties, a speech from a charismatic leader, a slideshow of faces we love, and maybe shrimp and petits fours. I wouldn’t miss it, for sure.

The one thing I hope happens and it’s the hardest thing to make happen is that we capture the story of these lives. History, experience, a personal witness are so valuable and should be preserved somehow. Storycorps is an organization that gives us opportunities to record stories of people’s lives who have made a difference in ours. What a great way to honor those who have gone before us, so that we and future generations can continue learning from them.

Finally, we know something of the importance of authentic appreciation because of the character of God Himself. “Well done, good and faithful servant” are words any of us as Christ-followers hope to hear one day…from God, who knows us best. We reflect that deeply personal “divine compliment” when we truly honor one another.Blog - RetirementPhoto Credit: carp.ca

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman & Paul White

Applying Appreciation Language in the Workplace – Maria Elena Duron, U.S. News & World Report

Why Appreciation Matters So Much by Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review

How to Give a Meaningful “Thank You” – the Power Thank You by Mark Goulston, Harvard Business Review

StoryCorps.org – “We Believe Every Story Counts”

Appreciation at Work

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Charles, Dave, KevinThese friends are not retiring…transitions and send-offs are also opportunities to say (and show) “You matter.” #SaveOurHistory

5 Friday Faves – New Duo, In Defense of Christmas Cheer, Christmas PlayList, Introverts & Extroverts, and the Tacky Light Tour

Blog - Friday Faves

  1. New Duo – The Tide Rose, Richmond, Virginia.  Whitney Cavin and Keilan Creech have just debuted with a new EP, The Tide Rose. They have been lighting up TV, radio, and the music events calendar in Richmond recently.  You can see/hear them play here on video from their appearance on Virginia This Morning. I don’t really know how to describe their sound – nautical folk is the phrase used. You will have to listen yourself. We have known Keilan for many years. He recorded a solo EP awhile back (Dying for a Change) with our son, Nathan Mills on guitar. Now, his collaboration with Whitney Cavin is very new and lovely. Their voices weave together so soulfully. Hard to describe really – hauntingly beautiful. Take a listen. Maybe you’ll get to say, “I knew them when.” That’s where we are happy to be. Blog - Friday Faves - The Tide RosePhoto Credit: Facebook.com/thetiderose

2) In Defense of Christmas Cheer – I love Trevin Wax. He is a young theologian, a prolific writer, and regular guy. His blog is only one of two I read every day (the other belonging to Angela).  Trevin’s In Defense of Christmas Cheer was an uncharacteristic “Bah, Humbug!” of another writer theologian (Scott McKnight)’s redress of current Christmas culture. McKnight ‘s blog is also a worthy read.Blog - Five Faves - Trevin Wax - Christmas Cheer - thegospelcoalition.orgPhoto Credit: thegospelcoalition.org

Here are quotes from both (do read them in full – they bring beautiful balance to the whole Christian conversation about Christmas):

“Telling the world about Jesus as Messiah and family under threat is is not Starbucks’ job; it is the church’s mission to to be announcing this at Christmas. But it is not the church’s mission to tell the world a Dickens Christmas story. It is the church’s mission to tell the real story about Christmas, about a God who entered into the world in a socially shamed family in order to lift the socially shamed to the highest name ever. I can’t imagine Starbucks telling that story well.” – Scott McKnight

“Joy and singing and big family dinners and giving and receiving and caring for the poor” may not be what the original Christmas was all about, but it’s certainly part of Christianity as an atmosphere, is it not? And no one succeeded at creating “atmosphere” better than Dickens.

Should we not marvel that even in our increasingly secular age people still sing carols packed with biblical truth every year? ‘Joy to the world,’ indeed. Should we not marvel that in a world of broken homes that big family dinners still take place? That reunions still happen, and that people put aside their differences to share a meal? Should we not marvel that, in a dog-eat-dog world of competition run by the evolutionary motto of ‘survival of the fittest,’ our culture devotes time to running ‘to and fro giving and receiving and caring for the poor?’ 

Christianity is not generosity, but generosity is part of Christianity. Who knows? Perhaps when caught up in the moment of cultural gratitude, the secular heart may long for Someone to thank.

The Dickens vision of Christmas does not take away from the truth, but complements it. ‘Tis the season for joy and feasting!” – Trevin Wax

3) Christmas Playlist – We start listening to Christmas music in October, but the playlist doesn’t really happen until now. In my car, I have the following albums: 1) Amy Grant’s A Christmas Album (Tennessee Christmas has been a favorite song since our years in Tennessee – still miss it); 2) Tommy Emmanuel’s All I Want for Christmas (we are a guitar family – Nathan Mills); 3) Mannheim Steamroller’s A Fresh Aire Christmas 1988; 4) Straight No Chaser’s Holiday Spirits (we also love a cappella); 5) Twila Paris’ It’s the Thought; 6) Kenny G’s Miracles – The Holiday Album; 7) Casting Crowns’ Peace on Earth; 8) Positively Christmas 2012; 9) Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Music of Christmas; and 10) Sarah MacLachlan’s Wintersong.

Blog - Friday Faves - Christmas Songlist

Photo Credit: xgiosiax.blogspot.com

I need to add Charlie Brown Christmas to my car play for Christmas.  Two singles I love and hear a plenty on the radio through December (and via YouTube videos) are Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You and The Drifters’ White Christmas.

4) Introverts and ExtrovertsJennifer Kahnweiler is a champion for introverts. Author of The Genius of Opposites and The Introverted Leader she is a help to all of us. As an extrovert married to an introvert, and working with many as well, I appreciate her writing so much. We can make such a difference at work and home if we understand each other and make an environment where we can all be effective and comfortable together. Here’s a short piece from her with a very amusing video. Love my introverts!Blog - Friday Faves - Jennifer Kahnweiler - Introvert Extrovert leaderPhoto Credit: RedCapeRevolution.com

Bonus: John Platt’s An Introvert’s Guide to Leadership (fast read!)

5) Tacky Light Tour – Every town and city in the US, from Thanksgiving weekend through the New Year have light displays that brighten our winter nights. None can possibly compare with Richmond, Virginia’s Tacky Light Tour. It’s an annual tradition for us. We plan out an itinerary (impossible to take in all the displays in a sane evening) and often squeeze into several vehicles to caravan around the city. “Ooh’s and aah’s”, “selfies”, and “usies” abound as we document the fun of these evenings. Incredible work and creativity go into these displays and we as spectators are wildly grateful. It’s always a temptation to rent a limousine (but…not yet. I still prefer the low luxury version of the Tacky Light Tour. You will not be disappointed. What’s your favorite local equivalent?Blog - Friday Faves - Tacky Light Christmas TourBlog - Stella, Junko, Christie - Tacky Light Christmas TourBlog - Friday Faves - Stella & Junko - Tacky Light Christmas TourBlog - Friday Faves - Tacky Light Christmas Tour

Happy (Black) Friday, Everybody! Be safe out there.

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful

Blog - Mills & Kitenko Family Thanksgiving 2015Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! If you’re in the USA, it’s a big day. Lots of food (all favorites you expect/hope to see every year) with those you love crowded around. Then football. Falling asleep from all the turkey.

Dave’s family is in Delaware and most of mine is in Georgia. We’ve had Thanksgivings with both, on sort of a rotation…but not nearly often enough, since we lived overseas for so many years. During that season of our lives, friends became family for us.Thanksgiving 04 009

The food favorites varied somewhat depending on the family. If you knew us well, you would know which family gathering was that year, just looking at the food below. What are your “must-haves” on Thanksgiving Day?2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 1152014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 023

Better even than the food is the time together with people we love. We can’t always be all together because of distance…but it is a good day spent together…I’m grateful for every memory we’ve made together. So thankful for family – with all its imperfections. God put us together, and I want to always honor that.

PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.   – Albert Schweitzer

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 3852010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 263 (2)2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 0582014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 0542014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 056

If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes, and search for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it, and how would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction.  The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and as the magnet finds iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing, only the iron in God’s sand is gold.                                 Henry Ward Beecher2009 Nov 029

Football!2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 057Football! 2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

[Sidebar about football and the mad cleanup that follows the huge Thanksgiving meal – this commercial.]

I cherish every memory these images represent and all the other memories not documented here. Thank You, God, for all Your good gifts to us. Your kindness is beyond our imagining.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”Romans 11:36

Look for things to be thankful for: a dear old face at an open door,

The table set for the family meal, a husband’s love that is true as steel.

A cushioned chair that you fixed yourself, your favorite books on a nearby shelf,

A green-hued twilight that sort of glows, the clean, fresh smell of a brier rose.

An old windjammer that you recall beating its way through an April squall,

Its old sides crusted with salty spray, limping in at the close of day.

The lovely odor of lemon peel; a humble man with a flaming zeal

For a worthy cause that he thinks is right; the feeling of warmth on a winter night.

Look for things to be thankful for: a braided rug on your bedroom floor,

A dormer window with curtains drawn, a bluebird singing across the lawn.

So much to be thankful for these days, so much to enjoy and love and praise. – Edna Jaques, Ideals, Vol. 57, #5

2009 Nov 006 (2)

Prayers for those of you who have said goodbye, for now, to loved ones this year – thinking especially of our dear friend, Tom Elliff, whose beloved Jeannie went ahead of him to the Lord this summer. May God’s tender presence be a sweet comfort to Tom this Thanksgiving…as he continues to bless his family and serve the Lord.Blog - Tom Elliff & Family at Thanksgiving 2015Photo Credit: Tom Elliff’s Family

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving Poems

Ideals Magazine – Christmas Edition 2015

5 Organic Ingredients of a Grateful Heart by Steve Graves

Blog - International Student Thanksgiving Dinner 2015 2VCU International Student Thanksgiving Dinner 2015;  Photo Credit: Donna Ange Photography

Worship Wednesday – If I Stand – Rich Mullins

Blog - Rich MullinsPhoto Credit: azquotes.com

We stand “on the shoulders of giants” (attributed to Isaac Newton, but not original to him, standing on giant shoulders as well). How thankful I am for praying women, Godly teachers, sincere encouragers, true friends, and kind strangers. Among these as well are musicians who wrote and sang about the God they knew.

Worshipping God is something I do not do well enough. He is worthy of so much more. Fortunately for us, He has given heartsongs to a faithful few songwriters who put words to how we know, or want to know, God. Keith Green was one of those influencers in my life. I actually remember where I was when he died – working on a construction site in Surigao City, Philippines, over 30 years ago.

Another such influencer is…was Rich Mullins. His songs always help me shake off self and soar to worship God. He also died young in 1997. His legacy to us is song after song of gut-honest worship and wonder. He struggled in his own personal brokenness and that of our world. Yet he turned that into praise to a God who created all the beauty of this world for us and lavished His love on us, no matter what. Listen to this worshipper speak truth to you himself:

“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart…It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice — it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.”  ― Rich Mullins

“God did not give Joseph any special information about how to get from being the son of a nomad in Palestine to being Pharaoh’s right hand man in Egypt. What He did give Joseph were eleven jealous brothers, the attention of a very loose and vengeful woman, the ability to do the service of interpreting dreams and managing other people’s affairs and the grace to do that faithfully wherever he was.”Rich Mullins

“I had a professor one time… He said, ‘Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway’.”  ― Rich Mullins

“And then he [Job] went to God and wanted to know why the righteous suffer. And Beuchner points out, God never gave him an answer. That God merely gave him Himself. And when Job had encountered the Almighty, the questions lost their power over him. And I think that a lot of us are real interested in some easy answers, and some ‘Wow, if I can, if we can come up with some kind of an easy answer to make life comfortable…’ We’re much more interested in answers than we are in the Truth. And the Truth is always going to be a mystery. It will always be a paradox. It will always be a little beyond our grasp. And if we’re uncomfortable with that, that’s okay, because a little bit of discomfort will keep us moving.” — Rich Mullins

“Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t also cost you yours.”Rich Mullins

Worship this beautiful, loving, just and merciful God with me:

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the giver
Of all good things

CHORUS:
So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegence
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

CHORUS(2x)

And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home
.

“Like Thoreau, I love to suck the marrow out of the bones of life.  People want to know God’s will for them. In one of his most explicit statements on the subject, Christ said, ‘I come that you might have life and have it abundantly.’ One day it won’t make any difference how many albums I sold, but I will give account of my life to God. What I think He’ll be most pleased with is to see that we truly lived, that we were the person He created us to be.” Rich Mullins

Please share, in a comment below, someone who has influenced your experience of God because of how he/she knew Him. Thanks.

 

Blog - Rich Mullins 2Photo Credit: azquotes.com

Film- Ragamuffin – the True Story of Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins’ Biography – Wikipedia.com

*Rich Mullins’ Biography – ChristianMusic.com

YouTube Video – Interview with Sheila Walsh – 16:32 Rich Mullins talks about truth and comfort and then the extraordinary experience of the love of God. Don’t miss this vulnerable and personal look into the God who transformed his life…and music.

 

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom – the Way It Could Be – at Work & Home

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Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into holiday celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the holidays helps. It’s easy to find daily Advent readings for the month of December…depending on your favorite author or blogger, they’ve probably written some.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift, and we don’t have to wait another day for it. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, starting on November 23 to take you right through to December 25.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas not far behind, I hope you can look forward to happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

Surviving Christmas – Advent Devotions for the Hard and Holy Holidays – Anne Marie Miller – free ebook

Advent Devotional Readings Online by Lifeway

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: a Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp 

“You Are the Man!” – What if I Really Am That Guy? That Weaker Brother, That Hypocrite, That Proud Religious Guy

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During today’s worship and Bible teaching with Movement Church, God touched my heart again with the story of Stephen, the very first martyred Christ-follower (Acts 6-7). Stephen’s serving and prophetic ministry was short and effective. He was used mightily by God to confront the religious establishment of that day…the very people who were instrumental in Christ’s crucifixion. Stephen would lose his life as well at the hands of these defiant religious men.

Our first-born son was to be named Stephen after this man of God. My niece was pregnant at the same time and claimed that name first for her son. So we looked for another name of a man who loved God more than man, who spoke God’s truth no matter the cost. Our son was given the name Nathan, after a prophet that God used to wake up King David from a terrible self-deception. After David had taken another man’s wife, murdering that man to cover his own sin, Nathan told a story to David which brought him to his senses and caused him to repent.

David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.” Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul…'”2 Samuel 12:5,7

…Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 2 Samuel 12:13

I am deeply thankful for the prophets of the Bible and God’s prophets today. A prophet is defined as a messenger of God – “The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was “to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government.”

When our pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached on Stephen today, I was reminded of how God draws us to Himself and the truth of His Word through others – these who become messengers of God in our lives.

My heart was pierced at the times I have read Scripture and chose to see myself as the one without fault…the one who was “in the right” as compared to that “other guy” who fell short…in my estimation, if not God’s. As Cliff preached on Stephen, that passage and two others resonated as to how we allow deceit in our lives. You may recognize these passages and persons…from one side or the other.

  1. The Weaker Brother – In this passage, Paul challenged the “stronger brother” to resist using his freedom in Christ as a stumbling block for the weaker brother who struggles with whether he’s free or not.

“Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Romans 14:20-22

Sometimes, we are that “weaker brother”. It helps to remember that…it keeps us humble and dependent on God and each other. He means for us to reason together in love to understand the ways of God and how to follow Him…together.

2. The Hypocrite – With the Log in His Eye – Jesus tells a story about judging each other unrighteously. There is a right judging – as we have seen through the prophets in the Word and in our lives. We usually think we are God’s messenger in others’ lives to get “the speck” out of their eyes..and sometimes to get the “log out”.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:3-5

Maybe we are the one with the log in our eyes. The most loving thing we can do for that brother or sister is to help them rid themselves of “the speck”, but we can’t help them until we get rid of our own “log”…or own sin, or hypocrisy, or self-deceit. In proceeding this way, we are given a priceless opportunity to walk humbly in community with each other.

3. The Religious Establishment – When Stephen faced the religious authorities of his day, he was in excellent company. Jesus had faced these same men in a hurried trial with his death as the goal of the proceedings. Stephen had to know that his life was at stake. In a riveting review of the history of Israel, he spoke forcefully to the pattern over the centuries of the religious rejecting the ones God sent to them. Such arrogance. God help us!

“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”Acts7:51-52

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Stephen was martyred for his message, but he was not silenced. His witness to a holy God is as powerful today as it was that day he passed from life, through death, to be with God in Heaven. Hallelujah! We are called to be such witnesses to a living, loving God.

After Cliff closed the teaching in prayer, the worship team led us in singing “I Surrender All“. More than anything in my life, I want to live a life worthy of God – to be courageous, to love truth, to serve others, to always remember my need for a Savior – to live a life that points others to Jesus…not because I am perfect, far from it…but because He is.2015 Nov - Phone Pics - Sadie, Movement, Church, Sunset, Blob 007

[Have to include this YouTube video – of a time when celebrity Oprah Winfrey had a I Surrender All moment when she submitted a deep desire to God. Faith Hill belts it from her own experience.]

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Charity, Tablescaping, Brunswick Stew, Christmas Commercial, and Thanksgiving Songs

Blog - Friday Faves

What a week, huh?! The world is all a-chatter about how to wisely and compassionately respond to the needs of displaced peoples…especially Syrian refugees right now. I want to write about this soon, but for now, the blogosphere is full of solid commentary on how we might respond and what’s at stake. For today, I will focus on lighter fare…except for #1.

  1. Favorite Charity – Baptist Global Response is a relatively small charity with a wide reach. It is the disaster response/humanitarian relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and partners with many other local and global agencies. Their work alone with Syrian refugees (and other internally and externally displaced peoples) means so much to me. Consider BGR in your Christmas giving – it’s a start in touching the lives of Syrian and other refugees.

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2. Tablescaping – A beautifully set table is its own art form. So many meals these days are plated and eaten in front of the T.V. or computer. Sitting together, face-to-face, around a table makes for a very different communal experience. This week, I attended Mt. Vernon’s Women’s Christmas Event. The theme was The Sights, Sounds & Flavors of Bethlehem. Each banquet table was prepared by different tablescapers. Beautiful.2015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0692015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0702015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0652015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0482015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0382015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 042

3. Brunswick Stew – A favorite restaurant of my childhood in Georgia was Old Hickory House. Some of the restaurants have since closed, but at least one remains. I remember well the tangy sweet barbecue and Brunswick stew. This week I discovered a blogger who also knew Old Hickory House. He gifted us with the recipe for that hearty stew. Blog - Friday Faves - Brunswick Stew

4. Christmas Commercial – I love Hallmark Christmas commercials and you can find a bunch here.  This week a different annual favorite came to my attention. The John Lewis Department Store, in the U.K., puts out its own Christmas commercial each year.  I came across this video through a Country Living blog on how old people have so little contact with others. This is a sweet metaphor on that.

5. Thanksgiving Songs – There are some church hymns we only sing on their respective holidays. Thanksgiving songs aren’t usually sung in more contemporary evangelical churches, and I miss them. My favorites are We Gather Together and Come Ye Thankful People, Come. Maybe updated versions would bring them back in our worship services (up for arranging them, Nathan?).

Two other Thanksgiving Songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brianna Haynes are also lovely…didn’t know them until this week.

What were your favorites this week? I’m closing with a quote from C.S. Lewis – seems appropriate as we struggle in the U.S. over our response to the current world crises. Great weekend, Friends.

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Worship Wednesday – Fixing My Eyes on You, God – For King and Country

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Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3

I wonder at the commercial value of media’s generating fear among us. A strangling fear can choke out love and awareness of those real people behind the news commentators – people who desperately need hope and a future. For us, as Christians, as we watch the news of a world seemingly gone mad, what is our response?

Our action and reaction must always be to fix our eyes on God – to act in accordance with His love and character. To be driven by news media or public opinion is not an option for us as Christ-followers. We have a different path set before us, but we do not walk it alone.

Praise God that He has surrounded us with His own love and with “a great cloud of witnesses”. We are spurred on by the lives of those who have gone before us – who chose faithfulness over fear, peace over prosperity, security in Heaven over safety here. We are also emboldened to live such a life because of Jesus who lived such a life – without sin, in obedience to the Father, for our sakes.

I heard someone being interviewed on the radio yesterday saying her opinion about the current world crisis was set because of her concern for her own children. She would do whatever she could to “circle the wagons” around them. I understand her concerns but not her conclusions. We all want a world where our children can thrive and discover what God meant for them in this life.

Focusing on our own children will not create that world. Focusing on God’s purposes for us in this current world, the only one we have, is our greatest hope for our children’s future.

Joel and Luke Smallbone, of the band For King and Country, sing a rousing anthem entitled Fix My Eyes. I previously wrote about it here. The song relates to looking back with regret to decisions made earlier in life and points to how we might live today.

I want to live such a life today.

Worship with me:

Hit rewind, click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently, I’d

(Chorus)
Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I’m supposed to walk, and

(Chorus)

The things of earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I’ll set my sights upon Heaven
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes

(Chorus)

I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You
I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You

“That hope is why we do what we do to carry that into any situation, any environment, that we’re allowed to, to offer people not just a temporary fix but, God willing, offer them a changed eternity.” – Joel Smallbone

“A changed eternity”. What are you seeing about you and what are you doing to move our world, person by person, toward a changed eternity? Please comment below…and thank you.

5 Friday Faves – a Country Store, Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas, an Argument for Trouble, Teaching Empathy in the Classroom, Teaching our Children to be Entrepreneurial

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Posting from Atlanta, visiting Dad and family.

1) A Country Store – In an era of “buying local”, it’s easy to forgive a huge franchise when it feels like a country store. Cracker Barrel is like coming home. It’s my dad’s favorite restaurant (breakfast all day, and a huge menu full of “home-cooked” favorites). Walking into Cracker Barrel, you enter the country store section ahead of the restaurant. It is a retail paradise, especially if you’re from the South. Or maybe for everyone. It was lovely  seeing it recently through the eyes of a Moroccan-Scottish friend visiting. So much fun, this place, whether you buy anything or not!

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2) Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas – Beautiful Fall leaves and pumpkins are still with us in Virginia, although the season is waning. Even with our American Thanksgiving still days away, Christmas is also upon us – with decorations, music, and the wooing to the stores for gift-buying. I don’t mind the mix at all. There’s enough to delight in both holidays.

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3) An Argument for Trouble – Mark Modesti’s Argument for Trouble – YouTube video (TED Institute) – take the time to watch. Even the Bible tells us we will always have trouble, so wisdom is to learn how to thrive in it…and make it work for us and others.

4) Teaching Empathy in the Classroom – Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell’s article on Empathy in Action: How Teachers Prepare Future Citizens. I love when educators are committed to working with parents in helping our children to grow into responsible, thoughtful adults. Growing up happens all too quickly – redeem the time.

5) Teaching Our Children to Be Entrepreneural – Charmian Solter’s 8 Entrepreneurial Skills You Should Teach Your Kids (in an info graphic). Like 4), these are things we might as parents want to consider to help our children face the future that awaits them.

That’s the quick and short of my favorite finds this week – what are yours? Would love to hear about them. Enjoy your weekend!

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Worship Wednesday – ‘Tis the Season – What’s at Stake When We Indulge In Attacking Each Other

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“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”Jesus, John 13:34-35

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Jesus, Matthew 7:3-5

Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Paul, Romans 14:20-22

The “happy holidays” are upon us – juxtaposed against a landscape of polarizing political campaigns and various divisive protests and boycotts. In a season of the year (for us in the USA, in particular), we could enjoy warm community and loving unity, even when we differ on some things. Yet, we still divide ourselves up into various camps.

Where are we to land in all of this as Christ-followers?

For sure, it is not in attacking those who are not like us or who may be like us but differ in preference or opinion. Especially, we who call the name of Jesus as Savior – we have no ground to stand on in attacking each other…ever.

So why do we do it? There is this soul satisfaction that comes with feeling right, or smarter, or more cool, or culture-savvy. A soulish satisfaction from which God has actually called us, and toward something extraordinarily better. A unity, a bond of love. A love by which we are known to the rest of the world as followers of Jesus. Here there is even ground for all of us, the weaker brother and the stronger one (that one who becomes weaker when he taunts or shames the other). Jesus calls us to deal with our own flawed perspective (“log”) before we can help dislodge the painful speck from our brother’s eye.

Do we really care about the other, that one God calls us to love as we love ourselves? Do we show that love to the world when we treat those with whom we disagree with the same derision or contempt as the world does? Or worse? Are we keeping company with arrogant haters or are we becoming one? When we publically part company with believers who are offended by what we consider silly matters, what is at stake?

You may ask, “what about those hate-filled people who call themselves Christians and who protest all sorts of things, based on their “Christian” sensibilities?”. Still…Scripture is clear how we are to treat them…Jesus calls us to love even our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-45)

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”Jesus, Mark 3:25

There is much to lose and much more to gain in wrestling successfully with this dilemma – exposed in our private conversations and public (un-social) media.

Voices of Wisdom to help us – Keep Unity, Guard Community – Choosing to Love, Refusing to Shame

Blog - House Divided - Scott Sauls

Scott Sauls is the author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides . He has also written the richest piece on this whole shaming and raging culture that colors us as Christ-followers, if we partake in its rank hatefulness. In fact, I can’t even quote from his article, because I want you to read it…please. It is a quick but full read on identifying the problem, and seeing what is the truth of how we are to live, in the example of a living, flesh-and-blood human-like-us man, Tim Keller. Please…read Scott’s article. Transforming.

Christians are in many ways a band of opposites, who over time grow to love one another through the centering, unifying love of Jesus…sincere believers can disagree on certain matters, sometimes quite strongly, and still maintain great respect and affection for one another…I don’t know where I would be without the influence of others who see certain non-essentials differently than I do..In non-essentials, liberty. And to this we might add an open-minded receptivity. We must allow ourselves to be shaped by our ‘other’ brothers and sisters for Jesus’ sake. We will be the richer for it.” – Scott Sauls

“This great passion for souls [Romans 9:1-3] gave Paul perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing – the souls of men. ‘Get love for the souls of men’ – then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about the crotchets of a family, and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men…Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little griefs will be driven out. – Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon Gems, p. 7-8

“I will never get why we defend our chicken sandwiches and our gingerbread lattes but we won’t take a stand for the things that actually matter to God. Are we loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we obeying God in our personal lives? Are we defending and providing for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant? Are we sharing the hope we have in Christ? That’s pretty much our full job description.” – Angela

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Photo Credit: JonathanPearson.net

What I Came To Respect Most About Tim Keller (Even More Than His Preaching) by Scott Sauls

We Disagree, Therefore I Need You by Scott Sauls

Jesus Outside the Lines – a Way Forward for Those who are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls

What Stops Our Fighting? by Tony Reinke