The strongest memories I have of the song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families, from various Christian denominations, who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English. We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.
We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.
Now to Rend Collective. I heard this group for the first time on my radio a few years back. The song was Second Chance. I jotted down the group’s name and song and would later buy the album based on that one song. Have you ever done that?
When I heard You are My Vision, my first thought was how could anyone mess with such a great hymn that so truly magnifies God? As I listened, the personal nature of this version drew me in. This old Irish hymn written in the 8th century has been, not-so-much updated but, celebrated by an Irish group of young worshipers. Not celebrating the song so much as celebrating the Savior of the song.
We no longer “attend church” in various African countries. Today we are deep in the life of church, bringing our own stuff to the stuff of many others. All of us collectively love God, albeit imperfectly, of course, and want to express His perfect love in our communities.
This Sunday during worship at Movement Church we sang Be Thou My Vision, and I was reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known.
Worship with me through the lyrics and music of Rend Collective’s You are My Vision.
You are my vision, oh King of mine heart. Nothing else satisfies, only You, Lord. You are my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Your presence, my light.
You are my wisdom; You are my true word – I ever with You and You with me, Lord. You’re my great Father and I’m Your true son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one.
You are my battle shield, sword for the fight. You are my dignity; You’re my delight. You’re my soul’s shelter, and You’re my high tower. Come raise me heavenward, oh, Power of my power.
I don’t want riches or a man’s empty praise. You’re my inheritance, now and always. You and You only, the first in my heart – High king of heaven, my treasure You are.
High king of heaven, when victory’s won, may I reach heaven’s joy, oh, bright heaven’s Son. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.
Straight forward into the weekend! Here are my four favorite finds of the week. I usually post five but this has been several days of computer glitchiness and slow internet…so we’ll stick with these four today. Thanks for taking the time to scan them, and please comment below on your finds for the week.
1) Leadership – Bookmark this week’s blog by Brian Dodd on Leadership. Dodd has been live blogging the various speakers at the Rethink Leadership Conference. His quotes from some of these talks are incredibly helpful…making it like we got to be in the audience. There were several great leadership speakers at Rethink. I’ve included Dodd’s notes on three and a link to a fourth.Photo Credit: MaxPixel
Carey Nieuwhof’s Opening Thoughts on Leadership:The reason vision falls flat is you don’t have a strategy. Clear strategy provokes deep fear. Ambiguity never provokes fear. Clarity does. Strategy is the execution of your mission and vision. Strategy becomes divisive because it is clear. The last 10% of the change is hardest. The clearer you are on your strategy, the simpler it is, the more it is written down, the easier it is. It’s easy to change something someone else built. It’s much more difficult to change something you built. The temptation to strategize once is very strong and the direct path to irrelevance.
Jeff Henderson on Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing: Insideritis – a malady afflicting the vision of an organization resulting in focusing on insiders over outsiders. The role of a leader is raising people to run the business and you be out in the community bringing in new customers. Vision leaks. And so does inspiration. What are we here for? This is a vision inventory question. 4 Rhythms – What do you meet about? What do you talk about? What do you see? What do you celebrate? Everybody likes getting their Instagram photo liked. It reinforces behavior. 999% of Instagram photos from churches are about what’s happening in the church. We need to be about what’s happening in the community. Celebration is something leaders can overlook. One of the best things you can do as a leader is write three Thank You notes a day.
Dan Reiland on Essential Elements to Lead Your Staff Well: 5 Categories Of Hiring – Culture. Selection. Development. Performance. Teamwork. Culture is who you are, what you value, and how do you get things done. Culture determines how you see staff. How you see staff determines how you treat staff. Lead with vision, not job descriptions. Trust is the foundation of empowerment. Micromanagement and control kills trust. What you get people with is how you keep them. When you can’t recruit with vision you have to buy them. Never lower your standards. It’s better to go without than hire the wrong person. You’re not hiring an administrative assistant to make your life easier. You’re hiring an administrative assistant to make you more productive. Chemistry wins the day. Assume competence. Identify competence before the conversation gets serious. Embrace the 2X Factor. Pour twice as much in as you expect out. You do this because you care. You can’t develop people well if you don’t care. Not everybody cares. You can’t fake caring. The secret to being a great coach – Pay Attention. Champion progress, not performance. Don’t apologize for accountability. You have created or allowed your current circumstances. Trust is the core, the epicenter, the bedrock of teamwork.
Carey Nieuwhof’s Closing Thoughts on Pastors and Cynicism: I was the guy who sent people to counseling. I didn’t get counseling. Cynicism doesn’t happen because you don’t care. It starts because you did. Cynicism starts because you know too much. Cynicism is a choice. Life actually doesn’t make you cynical. You make you cynical. The antidote to cynicism – Cynicism melts under the relentless hope of the Gospel. The best antidote to cynicism is curiosity. The cynical is never curious. The curious are never cynical. Curiosity is a discipline. You can learn it.
2) Storytelling – Don’t you love a good story? Part of the magnificence of a story is its delivery. All Y’All is a podcast out of Louisiana. If any of you are from the South and have transplanted your lives elsewhere, this is a place, you can rest your ears on your mother tongue. I discovered a sweet-with-Southern-drawl episode on referral of a friend. The guest storyteller was Amy Lynn Treme, a preschool teacher from Shreveport, Louisiana. Her story about a pet store job and supervising a field trip with exotic pets, including a large snake named Monty, is hilarious! Listen here.Photo Credit: All Y’All
We are familiar with GoFundMe and KickStarter, but there are many other platforms, depending on the situation or need. Wikipedia is a much-used and much-beloved crowdsourced venture. My favorite charity is Baptist Global Response; it receives some of its support via crowdsourcing. This avenue of support can benefit non-profits, individuals in crisis, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and artists.
In another era, the great patrons of music supported the composers of their day – musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn among others. We still listen to their brilliant music today, and we have their patrons to thank also. Creative work takes time, but rarely is that work itself rewarded until the album is produced, for instance, and concerts are performed. What if we, the general public, had a voice in which artists we wanted to support, besides just buying albums or concert tickets? Patreon is a crowdsourcing vehicle for artists and the crowds who would support them if they knew there was a way.
I watched a TED Talk this week on crowdsourcing by singer Amanda Palmer. The talk was The Art of Asking. Amanda Palmer lives a very free life and uses language and attitude in her music that is pretty much in-your-face. That’s very appealing for many. For me, her TED Talk was real and winsome and a great testament to crowd-sourcing…that taking your idea, your vision, your gift to the people and letting them be part of growing it.
I do have an artist like that in my life…a gifted musician who is both building his craft and trying to make a living at the same time. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. He has “a crowd” who partner with him in various ways – video production, sound, tech support, social media and messaging, startup advice, and financial investment.
Crowdsourcing isn’t charity. It’s partnership.
None of us can play classical guitar or arrange music like Nathan…none of us in Nathan’s “crowd”. Yet, we get to be a part of his vision and his music. I delight in the rewards of patronage.
4) Clarity – Here’s to clarity…and to those people in our lives who help us navigate through the murkiness of some relationships and situations in life. I experienced some life-defining clarity this past week and wrote about it already here.
Clarity is that enlightening aha or “got it” moment when you see that you were right…or wrong…and the relief of it, just the knowing, is electric. No longer entangled by “What is going on here?” or “Am I crazy?” Clarity comes with a path forward, because once you really where you are and the truth of that situation or relationship, you can advance. I didn’t say leave the relationship or bail out of the situation but move forward. There is a big difference there. When confusion and dis-ease clouds our thinking about something, we just want out. It’s uncomfortable. Clarity empowers and emboldens us to act with intentionality and even compassion.
Because of the aforementioned computer/internet woes (where I also need clarity as to what is the problem), I’ll close here. Maybe in the comment section we can talk about clarity. I’ll blog on it again sometime because it’s huge…not for escaping the murk and mire we may find ourselves in sometimes, but to forge a way through.
We’re rolling into the weekend with gorgeous Spring weather to draw us outside. The fact that the grass must be cut before the neighbors organize an intervention also motivates. Beauty surrounds us here as April moves to May and the flowers bust out.
For your Friday refreshment, here are my five favorite finds for this week:
1) The Office – What a funny TV show! The Office (not to be confused with the British version) ran from 2005-2013 and still has a huge cult following. It is a parody of the American workplace. This mockumentary gives us an opportunity off-the-job to chuckle at the quizzical nature of some of our workplaces and relationships within them. Nathan Mills has done a brilliant guitar arrangement of both the show’s theme as well as musical interludes in several of the episodes.
Watch, enjoy, and remember this show that has humor and an innocence very different from many of today’s TV sitcoms.
2) Accents – I love languages. Over the course of life, I’ve tackled Spanish, Arabic, and a bit of French. Living in North Africa for many years allowed me to be immersed in languages different from my own mother tongue. Language learning is such a useful discipline for all of us and I’m thrilled when I see parents helping their children become multi-lingual. The younger we are when learning languages the better able we are to naturalize our accents in those languages – substantiated here and here. Don’t let the fear of a Southern (or other) drawl keep you from learning and speaking in a newly acquired language. Dialect coach Sammi Grant gives some interesting advice in her YouTube video How to Do 12 Different Accents.
When I talk about resilience, I’m talking about the ability to stay engaged with a person, project, or circumstance — to stay in the game — through its inevitable ups and downs…we’re talking about our ability to handle life, in all its unpredictable and maddening difficulty, without falling off, going crazy, or hurting ourselves in the process.
Harbinger goes on to talk (podcast and blog) about the journey of becoming resilient, or gritty. We all have life occurrences that input into whether we grow resilience or take on a victim’s worldview. We can’t change the situations maybe but we can change how we respond to them. Having strong, nurturing relationships and choosing to learn as much as we can from adverse experiences are two processes of becoming resilient.
I want to be resilient in the hard places and help those I love to be the same. Hard things happen, but we don’t have to be devastated by them. Learn from these guys, and others, about the resilient life.
4) Community – There are no words really that express well enough the great value of community. Deep caring friendships reflecting love of a nature only God can infuse. We experience in this small group of folks in our local church. Community is also a part of our work, neighborhood, and family. I hope you know true community as well. Tell us about in Comments below.
5) Long Goodbyes – Saying and experiencing long goodbyes – It’s part of what we walked with Dad and what we learned about God, each other, and our own hearts in the process. Saying goodbye (for awhile) to a dear friend. The final closing of an office. They can both wear you out and leave you totally satisfied…you did all you could do to honor that passing. Bonuses
Happy Friday! We made it! You know those weeks where so much is going on it’s hard to process it all? I’ve surfed on top of the waves of this week…thankful for all the helps along the way. How was your week?
Always glad to hear your views on life, not only on the Friday Faves, although they’re fascinating, but on anything you want to talk about. Please share in Comments below.
Here are my Friday Faves. Enjoy!
1) Spring Flowers – Search “Spring” on my blog and you will find several posts on this incredible season. We’ve lived in countries where Spring isn’t as obvious as it is here, but Spring comes all over the world, in subtlety and in glorious spectacle. Where we are, trees are flowering, buds are popping, and leaves are unfolding. Oh the beauty of the earth! Love!
These guys give a bit of their stories and their counsel on what is required to build an online community and have a successful podcast. Great reading!
3) Organization – Fuzzy boundaries and project piles are part of my battle in life (work and home). Love to keep my options open, I guess. It requires all the discipline I can muster to finish well. When folks write about organization, routines, and habits, I take note. The best articles are those that are consummately practical – and encourage rather than condemn.Photo Credit: Flickr
4) Caring – In recent months, I have been increasingly aware of two health issues requiring great insight and caring – 1) Adverse Childhood Experiences and 2) Alzheimer’s Disease. A film debuted in 2015 titled Paper Tigers. Its focus is a high school in Washington state and how the staff and other caregivers began turning things around for traumatized high schoolers who deal daily with toxic levels of stress. These are the same kind of kids that too often get less care than more because they are difficult to engage.Photo Credit: Marshfield News Herald
Alzheimer’s Disease is a frightening disease as we watch someone we love change and diminish, both in their thinking and their function. As hard as it must be on the one who has dementia, it is also devastating to those who love that person. That’s what makes it so amazing when a son, for instance, takes the time and effort to honor a mom with dementia. Joey Daley, of Lima, Ohio, has taken on a video project to document their journey through dementia.
I haven’t watched all the videos, but the ones I’ve watched have allowed us, strangers to their experience, to see inside their relationship in a difficult time. His visits with his mom are as sweet as any son’s would be…with dementia added. He knows, and we know, the days will become more difficult. I think we will see his love for her endure…
5) Frosted Strawberry Lemonade – Chick-Fil-A, a US restaurant chain, has this incredible refreshment blending ice cream with lemonade. I already raved about their frosted lemonade here. This Spring, there’s a seasonal addition to the menu. Strawberries added – enough said.
“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24
In a stressful week and a spiritually dull time, it’s been good to reflect on the work of GOD in our lives. 12 stones of remembrance are piled on my kitchen windowsill. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.
7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task. That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few. Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.
8) Sometimes God’s might and gentle care both shine through a seemingly insignificant situation. After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was incomprehensible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind. It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.
9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.
[Since writing this blog originally, we’ve also lost our dad. He had both Alzheimer’s and colon cancer that was spreading. We had prayed for months that he would not be afraid as he lost his memories and that he would not be in pain in the end. God gloriously answered those prayers for us. We know it doesn’t always work out that way, especially with Alzheimer’s. We are so grateful.]
10) Losing my mom was especially hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving miraculously in that direction…by God’s grace.
11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.
12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in North Africa, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. One very dramatic time was when we came back to the US. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.
Right now, as we are days away from this year’s Easter celebration, I am once again riveted by God’s reach into our lives. Just in this past year alone, He has been with us through great joys and great losses, a cancer diagnosis, much change in our work, and the birth of a precious grandchild. The handprint of God is everywhere…even on days when I have to get my heart quiet and my eyes focused to see. He is always near…it just takes us looking…and then remembering all the times before.
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
Will there be days we forget? It happens… Fortunately, for us, even when we forget, He never does.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16
Beautiful day outside…hope the same is the case for you.
Here are my Friday faves this week:
1) Music Lessons – I was the worst student at music lessons. My mom was so determined that I would learn to play the piano. Seriously, I don’t even remember having a piano in our home…we must have, right? Dear old Mrs. Bowles taught me my first lessons. She and her husband owned a tiny general store in our neighborhood. She was ancient…and kind. I loved her but not enough to practice. Some weeks, my only time on the piano was our lesson. Do you think she could tell?
In the article he lists 13 scientific benefits of the many more derived from music lessons. Below, I’m posting his list, but don’t miss his brief and fascinating commentary on each one. Here’s his article.
Taking Music Lessons:
It improved your reading and verbal skills.
It improved your mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning.
It helped your grades.
It raised your IQ.
It helped you learn languages more quickly.
It made you a better listener, which will help a lot when you’re older.
It will slow the effects of aging.
It strengthened your motor cortex.
It improved your working memory.
It improved your long-term memory for visual stimuli.
It made you better at managing anxiety.
It enhanced your self-confidence and self-esteem.
It made you more creative.
All three of our children had piano lessons early in their schooling. They all did music through high school then took different paths afterwards. After her high school girl band and college chorale experience, our oldest plays piano just for her own pleasure now. Our middle, Nathan Mills, moved from piano to classical guitar and is now doing music professionally and giving lessons himself. Our youngest loves opera and is teaching himself the harp. Music lessons are definitely worth their investment…even beyond the music itself.
2) Final Fantasy – No, this isn’t some bucket list or deathbed wish. This is a video game. In fact, it’s a very popular one and has been around since 1987. This past week marked its 15th update. During our boys’ growing up years, I wasn’t enamored of video games, but I also never really sat down and got to know what they were about (my mistake). Final Fantasy is a good-vs.-evil battle game. Its musical themes are beyond beautiful. Our son, Nathan, has arranged many of the themes for classical guitar. Most recently, he has posted the Valse di Fantastica. As I’ve listened to this piece over and over, it makes me wonder at the times I kicked him off gaming to do something else more valuable with his time. Yet, the music stayed in his head and heart. I’m glad he’s kept the music…and here it is for you.
3) Grandchildren – These littles are so worth the wait. I say if you don’t have your own grands, then find some to love. Never enough love for children – tiny ones or those nearly grown. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay
Reuters posted a news story by Madeline Kennedy that touts the health benefit for seniors of occasionally caring for their grandchildren. Without going into the statistics, this German study reported that those who care for their grandchildren, on an occasional basis, actually live longer.
This and other studies (see article) point to time caring for grandchildren as benefiting cognitive function, as well as physical and mental health of the grandparent. These benefits could be enjoyed by caregivers not related to the children as well. Also a distinction was made that the study related to occasional care-giving (rather than full-time care) and depended on what was considered stressful or non-stressful by the grandparent.
In Mertz’s article on leadership ladders, he’s not talking about building or climbing ladders for our own success but for the success of others. What a lovely and timely concept! He prescribes four different leadership ladders – family, personal, organizational, and community. Read his piece here.
Within his article on leadership ladders, he references his 3 articles below. I read them all, and you will want to as well.
5) Smorgasbord on Success – OK, we all define success in many ways. Couldn’t think of another exact word – being effective, making a living, realizing a dream, leading well. I’ve been reading a lot lately about leadership and about business start-ups. This week has made for a bounty of discovery on these topics (including Jon Mertz above). I’m just going to post the links and you can choose what tickles your itch this week.
My biggest take-away is that if we’re willing to learn, apply what we learn, and push out of our comfort zone, we can make extraordinary advances in our work and workplace. I really believe that, no matter what our age or level. Here are some writers who say the same:
On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.
I had nothing.
After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.
On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.
Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.
Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.
There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.
1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before
2. Map It All Out From the Beginning
3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately
4. Put “Creation Time” On Your Daily Schedule
Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.
Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.
I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.
The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.
Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.
My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.
Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]
Happy Friday! Hope this week was kind to you. Here are my 5 most favorite finds of the week for you.
1)St. Patrick’s Day – Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish. Still love celebrating this day a bit. Photo Credit: Flickr
Also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak recently shared the following with me via email this morning – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):
He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
Patrick was a man brought up on a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
He was kidnapped at 16 (he said he didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned Irish.
As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
Before this, he had ‘sinned’ – something that ‘lasted an hour’ and he believed that God punished him.
God spoke to him in a dream about a ship to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (the ends of the earth at that time).
He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.
What we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?
The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters.
The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.
2) Beauty and the Beast Guitar Arrangement – Yesterday the live action Disney film Beauty and the Beast debuted in the US. Articles abound about the production – its beauty and grand scenes. Other articles raise the question of whether it is as family-friendly as the Disney animated classic by the same name. Everyone will have to decide for themselves about whether to watch this film and how often. One very easy decision would be watching the just-released classical guitar arrangement by Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar).
It is beautiful, even with less-grand scenes, and its own Belle and wee beast. It is definitely family-friendly and the music is lovely. Enjoy!
Tenacity is that characteristic in a person or group that keeps her/them moving forward – persistence, resolve, determination.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Read the article for examples Crowley gives, and here’s his illuminating summary:
Tenacity has many manifestations for founders and their startups. At the beginning, it’s often deeply tied to identity. Giving up one’s idea feels like giving up on oneself. After hitting early milestones, tenacity is confidence. But it’s best tempered with humility, so as to avoid flying too high on early wins. As a company scales, tenacity is focus. There will be accompanying growing pains as customers sign up, headcount grows and the market responds. Anchor and orient yourself by asking: what is this supposed to be when it grows up? When the going gets tough, tenacity is grit. Don’t look externally to others to build what you need — you’ll be waiting longer than you want. Do it yourself. Lastly, tenacity is culture and a private truth. Tenacity at scale will both involve and elude people. What guides the team isn’t always accurately reflected in the public’s perception. An informed, committed team around you is the best way to drown out the noise and to march toward achieving your biggest goals.
“These different facets of tenacity are important insofar as invoking them keeps your legs moving and charging forward. Growing a company is an impossibly hard endeavor — many wouldn’t start if they knew just how difficult it is,” Crowley says. “But the early stories of most successful companies are often those in which no one thought it could be done. In fact, if you asked them, those founders probably didn’t know if they could do it either. But if you can get there — if you stick to what you set out to do — it can put you in an amazingly powerful and defensible position.”
4) Manliness – We should affirm, empower, and let loose women to fulfill their callings, giftings, and places in the world. Not being sexist, the same is true for men, of course. That’s why I appreciate the website/podcast the Art of Manliness. The Art of Manliness aims to encourage our readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, citizens — a new generation of great men (the About page).
I don’t go with everything on this website but some of the content is fascinating and extremely helpful. I hope never to have to jump from a speeding car but knowing it’s possible to walk away from such a situation made me interested in reading about it.
This information isn’t just for men, but some of the entries are male-specific. We women write volumes about how to be “better women”. I’m glad there are men (and women) are writing for men in this way.
5) Embracing the Life You Have – We have all experienced losses. We grieve…and grieve again. As time goes by, the grief changes, but that doesn’t mean it has to change us. At least not in an unhealthy way. John Piper speaks about this so eloquently and tenderly:
I have in mind two kinds of losses: those who had something precious and lost it, and those who hoped for something precious and never had it. It works both ways. Sixty years go by, and forty years on you think, “I’ve come to terms with that,” and then one morning it breaks over you, and you weep about a 40-year old loss, or a 40-year “never have,” and my counsel is, yes, go ahead, embrace that moment. Weep.
But then, say to your weeping after a season, “No. You will not define me, sorrow, because my God has said, ‘No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly’ (Psalm 84:11). Therefore, even though it was good in one sense, and I miss it in one sense, I trust my God, and he has not withheld anything that is good for me.” Yes, let there be weeping in those seasons — feel the losses. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life he’s given you. – John Piper
As one who struggles with waves of grief out of nowhere…thank you, Dr. Piper.
Principal Financial Group has been running a series of commercials with the theme Life Doesn’t Always Go According to Plan. Three of their commercials follow. Sweet messaging…
Be gentle with yourself and each other. Serve somebody, and be safe out there. [Oh, and please share in Comments your favorites of the week. Thanks!]
Who are the Refugees? Which are their Host Countries? Take a Guess.
There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.
My heart melts.
Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.
Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?
[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels
My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.
The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).
Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?
I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.
This is not a new awareness. Articles have been popping up for years on the negative emotional, physical and social impact of over-use of tech devices. As we’ve passed our devices on to our children, the warnings apply to them as well. Worse for them is the fact that their brains are still in development, as are their interpersonal bondings, awareness, and skills.Photo Credit: Flickr
Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.
But it’s even worse than we think.
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras
I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.
Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.
It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.
I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.
Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr
How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]
As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.
In his LinkedIn article, Barry Sanders talks about one of the characteristics of what makes a “best place to work”. This characteristic is “common purpose”. He writes:
Common purpose is essential to driving organization-wide adaptability, which is key to succeeding in today’s fast-paced business world. A shared set of values and goals across the organization allows leaders and individual contributors to achieve widespread alignment, manage uncertainty, and guide decisions in times of turmoil and change.
Without establishing common purpose, companies risk a lack of motivation, lower levels of commitment, less loyalty, and decreased alignment amongst their employees—not to mention negative Glassdoor reviews.
He also quotes from his CEO General Stanley McChrystal’s bestseller Team of Teamswhich gives this summary of the importance of common purpose:
“Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose…Individual SEALs have to monitor the entirety of their operation just as soccer players have to keep track of the entire field, not just their own patch of grass. They must be collectively responsible for the team’s success and understand everything that responsibility entails.”
When you can see the entire field, not just your patch of grass, your organization becomes more effective—and a better place to work. – Barry Sanders
I sure hope senior leaders get this message. Just communicating the purpose is not enough. That “patch of grass” must be given to that soccer player. He must own it and own his part of the entire field. Leaders who genuinely believe in and nurture common purpose cultivate a “best place to work” for their personnel.
2) Safeguarding Your Marriage – Infidelity or unfaithfulness in our marriage relationships is not just about sexual betrayal. Infidelity can happen when we allow our hearts to become more bonded to someone or something else more than to our own spouses. Dave Willis defines infidelity as “broken trust or broken loyalty”. He has posted a tremendously helpful article entitled The 9 Forms of Infidelity in Marriage (Hint: 8 of Them Don’t Involve Sex). Willis is a pastor,counselor and founder of Stronger Marriages. Single or married, you will benefit from his article because too often we “fall” into infidelity by letting ourselves be deceived in thinking it’s nothing. Safeguard your relationships!
3) Being Different – Matt Damico has written an excellent piece for Christ-followers. It is The World Needs You to Be Different. If you are reading this and you aren’t keen on the teachings of Jesus, you may already think that Christians are a quirky lot of people. What Damico says in this article is to call us to the rhythms, the routines, the practices of the church that work a peculiarity in us that’s a good thing.
Piano scales make a pianist. Hours behind the wheel make a driver. Weightlifting reps make muscles, and lots of miles make a runner. Routine and repetition aid us in so many ways, yet a lot of us seem allergic to similar habits in our weekly church worship gatherings.
But just as these individual habits do something to us, so it is with our congregational habits: they’re making us into something. God willing, they’re making us the right kind of peculiar.
We’ll bear fruit in this life when our roots are firmly planted in the coming new earth. As C.S. Lewis said, history shows that “the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” One of the main ways this happens is through the rhythms and repetitions worked into our weekly gatherings.
So, as your church gathers for worship this weekend, appreciate anew what’s happening, how the strange rituals — the “rhythms of grace,” as Mike Cosper calls them — are making you more faithful and more fruitful. – Matt Damico
4) Hard Seasons – I’m not going to wax on here about hard seasons – we all know what ours are. I just always want to keep Syrian refugees on my radar so here’s a photo piece that dramatically displays their reality…in a way that has stayed in my mind all week.
Then I also wanted to share a piece by Aaron Brown. I know his family. He grew up in Chad where his father was a physician. His reflects on a very difficult time and its oddly positive impact on his life…renewing his hope after the very difficult year of 2016.
5) Small Beginnings – In the Bible, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the people, “Do not despise small beginnings.” They had the huge task of rebuilding the Temple, and Scripture tells us, this great work began in the mundane but extraordinary act of Zerubbabel picking up the plumb line. Any beginning may seem small and inadequate for the grand vision that stretches in front of us. However, we never know when the small explodes into wonder.
Chip and Joanna Gaines (HGTV stars of Fixer Upper) have an incredible story of small beginnings which grew into a huge, phenomenally successful business. They started out flipping houses as a young couple and often had just the cash in their pockets. Now they have their own TV show, a real estate business, home goods store, and “The Silos” – a refurbished commercial venue in Waco, Texas.
Another example of small beginnings is pastor and author Tim Keller. Just this past week, Keller announced he was stepping down from the senior pastor position of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He pastored there for almost 30 years and it now is a multi-site 5000-member church. [This is a planned succession and he will be teaching in a seminary.] A friend of mine here in Richmond “knew him when”. Years ago, before his NYC church role he was her pastor, in a small church near here – West Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Small beginnings…
Whether you are examining a small beginning as a Christian or from a different worldview, there is excellent counsel to be had…both in Scripture and in articles (such as those linked below).
Just yesterday I was trying to encourage a young man about what he viewed as a small beginning in his career. Not sure I made sense at all. Then today, my husband emailed me this great article – about the exact same subject.
the power of choice (“you stop playing the victim to external circumstances and take responsibility for your life – the private victory“) and
the power of context (“In everything you do, there should be collaborative and synergistic elements. Of course, there is work which is your work. However, that work should be embedded within a group of others and toward something much bigger. – the public victory”)
Hardy’s full article is excellent (even includes components of the assist we get from brain plasticity which I wrote about earlier).