Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

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

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

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

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

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

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

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

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

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

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

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

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

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

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

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

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

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

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

There is just so much cliché out there these days. From what’s hip in men’s facial hair, to cool shoes or right purses, to shirts in or out, jeans skinny and cuffed…and the lingo. Oh the lingo!Photo Credit: Contently

Vu Le writes this hilarious article: 21 Irritating Jargon Phrases, and New Clichés You Should Replace Them With. He doesn’t just list out some of those phrases we hear (and say?) at work…ad nauseam. He also suggests alternative language. Just read the piece. Your endorphin level will rise…unless they are your fave phrases…oops!Photo Credit: Disquscdn

I’m weary of having to search for just the right phrase to communicate that what I have to say has merit (see…I shied away from the word “value”). Oh…for a culture where plain speak isn’t judged or suspect or treated as just too uncool.

Where jargon becomes cliché, our definitions can as well. What it takes to be good leaders has had a gargantuan amount written about it…and being a servant or humble leader can also fall into the category of cliché – just another fancy of today’s business culture.

Not so with true humility. Here’s my take on humility in the workplace. There is this seeming humility that masks something else – whether arrogance or insecurity, I couldn’t say. Then there is true humility – this is what makes a leader so easy to follow.

Writer Pat Lencioni has written a book on humility as one of three essential virtues of team players. In his book,  The Ideal Team Player – How to Recognize and Cultivate the three Essential Virtues, he tells a story about humility, hunger, and smarts.

Photo Credit: Amazon

“There are three required virtues that make someone an ideal team player. Those virtues are humble, hunger and smarts. The most important of those virtues is humility. The ultimate foundation of being a team player is a person being willing and able to put the team’s interests above his or her own. Only a truly humble person can do this effectively. The second virtue required is hunger, the desire to work hard, make a difference and get things done. The third and final virtue of an ideal team player is something I call smarts. It has nothing to do with intelligence, however, but is all about social awareness and interpersonal common sense. Ideal team players, in addition to being humble and hungry, demonstrate smarts with their ability to understand their colleagues and work with them effectively.”Patrick Lencioni, Author Q & A, TableGroup
This ideal team player is the kind of person we hope to always have leading our team…and our organizations.
I asked my husband recently what was the mark of a truly humble person. This was his response:
“Humble people pay attention to the people around them, whether they’re big or little.”
As wise as my husband is, he got that idea from Patrick Lencioni after reading his book.
Lencioni had much to say about humility, including:

“So many people there are so concerned about being socially conscious and environmentally aware, but they don’t give a second thought to how they treat the guy washing their car or cutting their grass.” Pat Lencioni

[I write about the power of noticing people here.]

Humility is cliché if it’s just coming at you from the front of the room or the head of the conference table. True humility communicates a right, or proper, understanding of relationship between colleagues, clients, and customers. No lone rangers or rock stars in this equation.  Photo Credit: AZQuotes

Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. It is no great surprise, then, that humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.Pat Lencioni

True humility in leadership is so not cliché. It can be observed, modeled, and developed. What’s cool today can become cliché tomorrow. True humility?…never.

“Throw the passes when no one is watching. Write the pages no one sees. Work through the business plans people don’t believe in yet. Hustle long before the spotlight finds you. You don’t need the whole world on your side to create something that changes the world.”Marcus Mariota

6 Ways Humility Can Make You a Better Leader – Fast Company – Gwen Moran

Your Picks for the Worst Nonprofit Jargon by Cody Switzer

Infographic: 50 Terrible Work Phrases You Need to Stop Using by Nicole Dieker

Monday Morning Moment – Uncommon Courtesy in the Workplace

blog-courtesy-adding-value-john-maxwell-iluvquotesPhoto Credit: iluvquotes

My mom raised me to be courteous…thoughtful towards all…civil in every circumstance…extending grace. Recently, I have become aware that my behavior in the company of others has become less courteous overall. Not in an intentional way, hopefully, but in a careless neglectful way. This is disconcerting because it makes me wonder how long has this been a part of my demeanor and deportment. Not necessarily with those closest to me…but with “the others” in life – the stranger, the coworker, the customer.

blog-common-courtesy-quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: Quote Addicts

Yesterday, not at work, I interrupted the conversation of three people. Not overtly, maybe, but it was a quiet drawing away the attention of one of them. Without even thinking, I was rude.

We don’t really mean to be rude or discourteous probably…but in the neglect of practicing courtesy…we can become “those people”…rude, disingenuous, self-serving people.

What does that look like in the workplace?

John Kyle describes rudeness at work:

“It can range from subtle things like eye-rolling to outrageous things like berating a colleague in a meeting.

Here are some common examples:

  • Gossiping and talking behind someone’s back.
  • Giving colleagues the silent treatment.
  • Interrupting someone when they are speaking.
  • Leaving trash and food containers in public areas like the office kitchen.
  • The work around – excluding colleagues from projects or meetings even though they should, by role and responsibilities, be included.
  • Being late for meetings or in other ways not respecting someone else’s time.
  • Speaking to people in a condescending way.

All of these examples of rudeness are forms of disrespect. A pastor-friend of mine once said that giving someone the silent treatment is the relational equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t respect and care enough about you to talk to you.'”

John Kyle, Chief Operating Officer for The Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics, also delivers some simple advice on how we might overcome rudeness at work. One of his tips is to make a practice of greeting people…just saying hello (using their name if you know it). How simple is that?! Yet, too often, we walk quickly by, head down, lost in our brilliant and important thoughts, or hanging on every word of that one we’re accompanying. Is it so hard to smile and nod our head at those we are passing by? Those who work with us, have the same vision, hope for the same outcomes, wrestling with the same struggles at work or home.

What Kyle reveals in his article on being courteous at work is that we expose our lack of regard for those around us by not taking the time for them…to say or do the small graces for each other that communicates that “there are no ordinary people”.

blog-courtesy-no-ordinary-people-c-s-lewis-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest – WitandWisdomofCSLewis

His counsel echoes a book I recently read by John Maxwell – Intentional Living – Choosing a Life That Matters. Maxwell, like Kyle, talks about adding value to people…communicating that if we are not intentionally adding value to people then we show that we devalue them.

What do you think? It would be such a gift to have your comments on stories where you were treated with uncommon courtesy at work. Do you have examples of how such actions and attitudes are rewarded in your workplace? Do your bosses display this sort of worldview? Please share your stories…even the negative ones that might have given you pause about your own altered attitudes over the years.

As I described in the story earlier, this has certainly given me pause. I want to be a load-lifter at work. An encourager. A respecter of all persons…not just the ones who can help me get ahead with my career. It’s possible that I might have become a bit more curmudgeonly over time…and that’s not really the kind of coworker I want to be. My mom would be glad to see that I’m climbing out of this insufferable ditch – resolved anew to make a habit of uncommon courtesy.

Bringing Courtesy Back to the Workplace – Harvard Business Review – Ron Ashkenas

Why Is Common Courtesy Increasingly Uncommon at Work? Rudeness on the Rise – John Kyle

How do You Practice Common Courtesy at Work?

Workplace Etiquette – 4 Ways to Show Courtesy to Coworkers – Rachel Wagner

Uncommon Courtesy – Blog

Slideshare – Courtesy

How To Become a Curmudgeon – WikiHow – just for a chuckle!

Worship Wednesday – Praise Completes Our Joy – Hosanna – with Hillsong United

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord…Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you. – From Psalm 33

Much to my chagrin, I’ve made a reputation for myself of being a documenter. That’s someone, by definition, whosupports (an assertion or claim, for example) with evidence or decisive information”.  Although journaling, note-taking and blogging are ways I document, it’s usually most evident in my picture-taking.

It’s hard for me to be “in the moment” without my camera. Taking in the faces of people I love, or the beauty of this world, or a unique situation before me all scream to be documented. I try to comply.

When Justin Wredberg took the pulpit this week at Movement Church, in our pastor’s absence, he brought to clarity that call in me to document. Using the text of Psalm 33 (podcast here), he taught how God wired us for praise. In fact, praise makes our joy complete as we share that person or thing we find praiseworthy.IMG_8095

God calls us to worship not because He has some need for our praise but, in praising Him, we “document”, in a way, his love, beauty, and provision. We document who he is, in our singing, and prayers, our giving, and testimony of Him and his greatness in our lives and in this world…sometimes in the quietness of our thoughts, but ultimately in our sharing God with others…

Like me with a camera…or my journal…or this blog…I can’t help but point out that which is noteworthy…the stuff that has made me stop in my tracks…and then want to turn to you and say, “Look…wow!”

That’s what the Psalmist does in Scripture…he’s a documenter…and that’s what we do in worship.

 As we sang on Sunday, I couldn’t help but take a few not-great-quality shots of the screen while we worshiped to the song Hosanna. Documenting some of the beauty of lyrics that speak to God and His character and work in us and all around us….Look…wow!IMG_8088

Worship with me.

I see the King of glory
Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes
The whole earth shakes

I see His love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing
The people sing

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith

And I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees
We’re on our knees

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved meIMG_8089
Break my heart from what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from nothing to eternityIMG_8091
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna in the highest*

*Story of and Lyrics to Hosanna by Hillsong United’s Brooke Fraser

Praise: The Consummation of Joy by Sam Storms for Desiring God Don’t miss this!

5 Friday Faves – FOMO, Parenthood in 120 Seconds, a Summer at Oxford University, Saving Mr. Banks, and Favorite Guitar Videos

Blog - Friday Faves

Good Friday morning! Hope this week has been kind to you. The world continues to open itself to us to learn and grow and, hopefully, choose wisely. Here are five of my favorite finds from this week:

1) FOMO – So this is a new term for me. I heard, just this past weekend, a young friend lament about being plagued by “FOMO” – this “fear of missing out”. It apparently is exacerbated by all the social media which tantalizes us about friends getting together and going to all sorts of exotic places. C. S. Lewis, in his essay, The Inner Ring, actually exposes the danger of FOMO. BLog - FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - the silver penPhoto Credit: The Silver Pen

Wanting to be “in”  or “included” is morally neutral, in itself. It is in the choices we make and the compromises we make within those choices that become dangerous for us.  In Thoughts on C. S. Lewis, he is quoted, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”  If we stop being so frantic about fitting in or giving into to our particular FOMO, then we will find ourselves in a natural community – fitted for us.

John Ortberg writes about FOMO in his book All the Places to Go…How Will You Know?  He raises the issue that God himself may have instilled in us this idea of wanting what we might be missing – but finally finding it in Him. Even Satan’s temptation of Eve was FOMO-oriented (Genesis 3:4-6) in that maybe she could be like God (if she ate the forbidden fruit). Ortberg observes: “The real, deep reason that FOMO exists is that we were made for more and we are missing out.  Only the “more” isn’t more money or more success or more impressive experiences I can write about on Facebook.  My hunger for more turns out to be insatiable if I try to satisfy it by wanting more for me”. God can satisfy, in Himself, the FOMO we may be experiencing.

Lewis on Disordered Desire to Enter the Inner Ring – Art Lindsley – The Gospel Coalition

2) Parenthood In 120 SecondsBuzzfeed India has published this funny and true video. Produced by Sumedh Natu and Umang Athwani, this 2-minute film is such a delight – so “been there, don’t that”. Loved it. Watch it here.Blog - Parenthood - cupofjoPhoto Credit: Cup of Jo

3) A Summer at Oxford University Beth Wayland, a counselor and writer friend of mine, had the great fortune to spend part of her summer at Oxford University. I’m sure she will write about it on her return to the US, but she gave us bits of her journey through her Facebook account. As part of her experience, she walked around in the steps of C. S. Lewis – his office, his favorite pub, the libraries, dining halls, grounds of Oxford.

Blog - Oxford University - Beth WaylandBlog - Oxford University - Beth Wayland - 2Photo Credit: Facebook, Beth Wayland

One special reminder was of C. S. Lewis’ dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He dedicated it to his god-daughter, Lucy Barfield, with these words:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be,

your affectionate Godfather,

C. S. Lewis.

This, to me, is Oxford University. Thanks, Beth. Thank you, Dr. Lewis.

4) Saving Mr. Banks  – I just saw this 2013 Disney film about the complicated making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins . Walt Disney would try for over 20 years to win the rights to the book Mary Poppins. Author P. L. Travers finally agreed but with strong stipulations. Saving Mr. Banks is based on this true story but with embellishments. I loved this film. There were so many takeaways about collaboration, the influence of fathers, the mind of creatives, perspective, and forgiveness (Brian Dodd writes more about these here). Definitely worth seeing if you haven’t.  Blog - Saving Mr. BanksPhoto Credit: Disney Dose

5) Favorite Guitar Videos – by My Favorite Guitarist – Finally, Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar has posted his latest YouTube video: Skyrim: Ancient Stones – Beyond The Guitar.

The arrangement is lovely and the cinematography, directed by Ian Edwards and Danny Caporaletti, is beautiful. Here it is:

Nathan also posted a vlog on Stop Waiting For Things To Be Perfect. It’s instructive not just for guitarists but for any of us who struggle with holding back, not wanting to proceed unless we get (fill in the blank) just right. Watch to the end for a peek at the humorous side of this guitarist. You can also interact with Nathan via his live streams on krueTV.

That’s it for this week. What are some of your favorite finds of the week? Please let us know in the Comments below. Have a safe, restful weekend.

Worship Wednesday – Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard – Jason Gray

Blog - Perfect Love Casts Out Fear - best of picturePhoto Credit: BestOfPicture

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. – 1 John 4:18

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear and love. Over the last two weeks, we’ve heard a lot about these two states of heart and mind. Well, if we’ve followed the conventions of the two major political parties in the US…. Whether we’ve watched on TV or not, the messages of both conventions have blasted our newsfeeds. What does one believe about any of it?

One convention (and political party and candidate) is purportedly all about fear. The other is all about love. One sees the solution to fear comes with building walls. The other sees the solution to our nation’s problems is love. Big fear = Big walls, guns, bluster. Big love = Big government, inclusion (unless maybe you look and think like me). Gone are the days, in both conventions, when God is mentioned in light of how we are meant to do government and treat our neighbors (both near and far).

Sidebar: Regarding fear, John Piper does talk about the importance of a certain type of temporary fear. “The painful fear, the guilty fear, the craven fear, the humiliating fear — all such fear will one day be taken way. But only in the way God intends. And in his time. We should not be done with it in the wrong way, or too soon.

Here is the way C. S. Lewis puts it:

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18]. But so do several other things — ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.

It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. (“The World’s Last Night” in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, 51)” – John Piper

I wasn’t revved by the one convention’s soberness, nor was I wooed by the other convention’s frivolity. The jokes just weren’t funny, but everyone there was laughing.

Until the reality seemed to sink in for the supporters of a minority candidate, that it might be over…and the tears flowed.Blog - Fear and Love - PoliticsBlog - Fear and Love - Politics - tearsPhoto Credit: FoxNews, PressDemocrat

I actually felt some of their pain.

What is a follower of Christ to do?

Scripture makes it very clear that we are not to give into worldly fear. Scripture also convicts us that love is the solution – not the love of government, or a political party, or like for like. For us as Christ followers, we are called to love…even those who don’t agree with us, even our enemies. This kind of love is extremely costly – it’s the kind of love Jesus taught us through his life…and through his death.

We’re not meant to give into a fear that builds walls, nor are we to clamor for a love that costs us nothing…a love that comes out of government and not out of our own skin.

During a season in this country, when we’re being hammered with media messages that divide us, may we as the followers of Christ unite – not by political party or by our own offended or soothed sensibilities. May we unite in keeping our eyes on God when we fear, and apply our lives to truly loving – not just people like us but all peoples. Not just looking to an outside agency to “show the love”, but to extend ourselves to that loving…as we’ve experienced in the God of love.

Worship with me with this song from Jason Gray‘s album A Way to See in the Dark

Turn on the T.V. for the evening news
They got plenty to fear and nothing to do
Another somebody who’s gone too far
Makes you want to put up your guard
Fear is easy, love is hard
So we draw up another dividing line
We label each other and we choose a side
Peace could come at quite a cost
So we won’t build a bridge across
Fear is easy, but love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
I’m sorry baby is what he should’ve said
But she wouldn’t listen even if he did
They’ll die without forgiveness soon
But no one wants to make a move
When fear is easy and love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
It’s hard to bring your heart to a world that can break it
To offer love to those you’re afraid will forsake it
But a well-defended heart is always looking for a fight
In a lonely war against an endless night
But love can bring a light
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid
It comes down to a simple choice
Shouting devils or a still small voice
One is spreading fear and dread
Oh but love has always said
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid.*

Blog - Fear and Love - GrowinginHisGracePhoto Credit: Growing In His Grace

I love the truth in Paul’s writing to Timothy. God doesn’t mean for us to fear what surrounds us, what seems to loom ahead, or what has happened in the past. He means for us to gather ourselves, as His children, to act with the power He’s given us, to love with the example He’s shown us, and to think, (and reason together), with sound minds. Sound minds. We can think through and manage this election year if we keep our wits and guard our hearts, with faith unblemished in a God “whose arm is not too short to save!” (Isaiah 59:1)

*Lyrics to Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard

Fear or Love? Responding to Terrorism Like Jesus – Nicole Simpson – Christ & Pop Culture

Responding to the Tragedy in This World – Growing In His Grace

YouTube – Chris Tomlin – Whom Shall I Fear? [God of Angel Armies] – Lyrics

BLog - Fear and Love - Nothing is too hard for God - facebook - Mariah KingPhoto Credit: Facebook

Worship Wednesday – You are I AM – with MercyMe

Blog - You Are I AM - MercyMe - sciencemusingsPhoto Credit: Michelangelo, Science Musings

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”Matthew 16:15-17

When we get right down to the most important questions of life, what are they? I can’t imagine any other more weighty questions to wrestle out than these two: Who is God and who am I…are we…in relation to Him?

God, the Creator and Redeemer of His creation, makes Himself known to us through 1) His Word; 2) His very creation (this beautiful natural world); 3) His people throughout history; 4) His Son (through his teaching, life, death, burial and resurrection); 5) the circumstances of our own lives; and 6) His Holy Spirit who draws us to the Father and empowers us, as only God can, to live life.

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Photo Credit: Examiner

There comes a time in all our lives, really, when we must answer that question for ourselves. C. S. Lewis, a great British scholar and writer, was a studied critic of Christianity for many years. Then he came to the place of realizing that the God he detested was actually the very Person he could no longer contest. Lewis, in fact, was utterly surprised by joy as all his arguments finally crumbled in a heap at the astonishing conclusion of his that God is indeed God.

“A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.” – C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I don’t mean to be offensive, except to say (not as well as C. S. Lewis) that responding to God’s calling me to Himself and walking with Him, however falteringly, have given inexhaustible meaning to my life. I look forward to an eternity of knowing more and more of God and being in the company of those who also responded to His call and claim on their lives…out of our own desperate need for a Savior.

The band MercyMe and friends wrote a song that speaks to our human condition and how we answer the questions of who God is. The lyrics were packed with the acts of God and our own struggle past our weakness and doubts to know Him. Praise Him, He makes Himself known to us. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

I’ve been the one to shake with fear
And wonder if You’re even here

I’ve been the one to doubt Your love
I’ve told myself You’re not enough

I’ve been the one to try and say
I’ll overcome by my own strength

I’ve been the one to fall apart
And start to question who You are

You’re the one who conquers giants
You’re the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You’re the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan’s hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I am

I’ve been the one held down in chains
Beneath the weight of all my shame

I’ve been the one to believe
That where I am You cannot reach

You’re the one who conquers giants
You’re the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You’re the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan’s hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I am
You are I am

The veil is torn and now I live
With the spirit inside
The same one, the very same one
Who brought the son back to life

Hallelujah, He lives in me
Hallelujah, He lives in me
Hallelujah, He lives in me
Hallelujah, He lives in me

You’re the one who conquers giants
You’re the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You’re the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan’s hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I am
(Hallelujah, He lives in me)
You are I am
(Hallelujah, He lives in me)

Lyrics to You Are I AM – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Dan Muckala, Seth Mosley, Bart Millard, Nathan Cochran, Barry Graul, Jim Bryson, Mike Scheuchzer, Robby Shaffer

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song You Are I Am by MercyMe

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Engaged at Work? It Matters that YOU Show Up

Blog - Engagement - idonethis blogPhoto Credit: IDoneThis.com

In the pre-dawn light of this Monday morning, my husband and I sat briefly together. Over our first cup of coffee, we were talking about employee engagement, of all things. I had just read the most excellent blog (by Corinne Rogero) on being engaged, and it inspired a rare early morning conversation. Be encouraged.

This beautiful young woman, Corinne, tantalizes the reader with a blog seemingly about engagement to be married:

“I want to be engaged, but it’s probably not what you think. I’m as single as a slice of American cheese right now, which is perfect for me and I prefer it that way. But when I say I want to be engaged, I don’t mean I’m looking for a fiancé. I mean I want to be engaged in the sense that I’m mindful of the people and surroundings and culture and the spiritual warfare around me. I want to establish meaningful connections with the person on the other side of my coffee mug or in the booth across from me at dinner or in the passenger seat of my car. I want to lean in and connect with the stories being told. I want to actively console the sorrows being shared. I don’t want to go through conversations absentmindedly anymore.” – Corinne Rogero, I Should Be Engaged

This state of mindfulness and staying in the present are crucial to being engaged…no matter the environment or work circumstance.

Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

When we become discouraged or demoralized with work, our tendency is to lose our bearings, almost become disoriented. We move to being defensive (reactionary), rather than offensive (proactive or forward-thinking). We lose focus and the best problem-solvers, highest producers among us can seem to lose their way…shifting focus to lesser goals and more easily achievable ends.

What I loved most about Rogero’s blog on being engaged was the personal intentionality of it. Her chief desires were clear and she was resolved to clear the way for them…in her day-to-day present.

I loved that and am inspired, empowered, and energized by that. I want to communicate and model that in my own workspace.

Tom Muha wrote a great piece entitled Achieving Happiness: Leadership Styles: Multipliers vs. Diminishers. I didn’t see how it related to achieving happiness but it did give an excellent summation of Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best leaders Make Everybody Smarter. Read her book for sure; Muha’s article will whet your appetite to read it.

I refer you to the concept of “multipliers vs. diminishers” because employee engagement is incredibly impacted by what kind of supervisor we have. Some supervisors maximize their team’s work experience (multipliers) while others maximize their own perceived importance to the organization rather than empowering their employees (diminishers).

We may not easily see how we can alter our situation with our boss (other than losing ourselves trying to please him/her, disengaging, or quitting altogether), but I see possibilities. It is possible, we can make a difference with our boss…if we don’t give up. It is also possible to make a difference for peers to help each other stay engaged or to re-engage. I loved Corinne Rogero’s quote below:

You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher or the Christian by staring into his eyes as if he were your mistress: better to fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him.C. S. Lewis

It is hard sometimes…harder than we could imagine it would be sometimes…but whatever it takes to stay in the battle is better than disengaging ourselves from it.

Disengagement is very isolating. The disengaged just get quieter and focused elsewhere. Or, at its worst, disengagement gathers together a company of the miserable. No judging here…I just grieve the loss of what can be – not just product or service, but the continuing growth, joy, satisfaction of real, valued people at work.

Whatever our work situation or challenge, staying engaged is worth every effort, moment by moment. Hopefully your organization understands and is building in processes for ongoing employee engagement. Speak into that, if given opportunity. Speak into it anyway.

BLog - Employee engagement - management study guide

Photo Credit: ManagementStudyGuide.com

Hear one last word from Corinne Rogero on being engaged in life in the present:

“I want to be locked and loaded with an arsenal of grace and truth and boldness to bring the good news of hope into the lives that intersect mine. I want to be fully aware of God’s presence in every moment and not as much like Jacob who woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it!”Corinne Rogero

No matter our situation at work – a team at odds with itself, a difficult culture, a boss who I don’t understand – no matter our situation, we can determine to be engaged. There is an undeniable emotional component to engagement, but it is larger than emotion. We can do the personal work of being “locked and loaded” – alone or with a few others who share our same vision and stewardship (belief/ethics). Our work lives are too precious to waste in disengagement… It may take some time for our circumstances to change, but our hearts, resolve, and focus can be sharpened in the fire of whatever difficulty faces us at work…if we don’t give up*.

What challenge are you facing at work that steals away your joy, drive, or confidence? What has helped you stay engaged? What are you doing to turn perceived walls, barriers or bottlenecks into doorways? Let us learn from you in comments below, please.

I Should Be Engaged – Corinne Rogero

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everybody Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown

Gallup – Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

Best Practice Advice on Employee Engagement and Organization Development

*Galatians 6:9

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.

Blog - Baptist Global Response - refugeesPhoto Credit: GoBGR.org

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.

Blog - Friday Faves - C. S. Lewis on Love - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Monday Morning Moment – Marking Lives Well-Lived, Work Well Done

2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 004Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross

There are no ordinary days, nor are there ordinary lives. This morning, Monday, November 2, is a day I want to mark as an opportunity to celebrate extraordinary lives. Yet, how is that even possible? People who live for grand causes and for God Himself don’t look for celebrations or accolades. What do we do then when we want to stand in ovation and clap them back out onto the stage for an encore?

Celebrating retiring colleagues is best done by those who know them well – who have watched them through the most difficult times, seen them push through seemingly insurmountable circumstances, resonated with their joy in the simplest triumphs.

How do we mark lives well-lived and work well-done? I don’t have that answer yet…except to express personal gratitude and to live and work in the shadow of these who went before…to steward well their example.

For today, I will enter into that process of puzzling over how properly to celebrate the lives and work of those “finishers” who have done well to fix their eyes on the goal…right through. It doesn’t feel enough, but for today, I join a great cloud of witnesses, so grateful to see how it is to finish well.

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.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

As I sort this all out, I would be grateful for any stories you have of celebrating work well done and lives well lived. Following  are some quotes of those who finished strong or who, living still, are living well.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” – C. S. Lewis

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” – Jonas Salk*

“When we are at the worst times of our lives, when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be, when we are at our highest point as well, when things are going really well, we want somebody to comfort us and be there for us and to say, ‘Well done.’ That’s Jesus!” – Russell Wilson*

“Well done is better than well said.” – Benjamin Franklin*
“The pinnacle of the fulfillment I can ever experience for my spirit and soul is to hear from the Lord, when I see Him face to face, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.'” – Nick Vujicic* Blog - Well Done - Nick Vujicic
The Apostle Paul, in an encounter with Jesus, was completely transformed from a life of murderous, religious zeal to a life of complete surrender to God (something altogether different). He speaks of living life, and finishing well – likened to fighting a good fight or running a race to the finish.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:6-8
2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 002Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross
For us all…there is still a race to be run.
“My legacy doesn’t matter. It isn’t important that I be remembered. It’s important that when I stand before the Lord, He says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. I want to finish strong.” – James Dobson*
“It is finished.” – Jesus, from the cross (John 19:30)
Blog - Well Done - Parables of the Cross - Lilias Trotter