Category Archives: Conversations

Monday Morning Moment – The Great Good of Doing a Favor and Some Rules for Asking a Favor

Photo Credit: All Hands

We all need a favor from time to time. Every occasion Dave helps a friend move, he says, “That’s the last time”. Then there’s the next time.

There’s great good in doing a favor because it expresses care… sometimes great care. Of course, favors can be done for selfish reasons. Business writer and professor Adam Grant has written a book on three styles of behavior that speak to this. These styles are givers, takers, and matchers. There are those of us who do favors for the joy of helping others (givers), those who more often ask for favors (takers), and finally those who will do a favor for someone who’s done one for her already (matchers).

“Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”Adam Grant

I recently attended a conference. It was a poignant experience because the organizer of the conference is moving toward a secession plan for her role. This is a brilliant, generous, like-no-other professional I’m just grateful to know.

The conference ended and I was helping with the final tying up of loose ends. She and I passed in the hallway, and I took the opportunity to tell her how much she had influenced my life’s work. Then I laid out a proposition:

“If I can do anything at all for you, just ask. it would be an honor.”

“Well…there is something.”

Then she asked me for a favor that was totally out of my expertise and comfort zone. A favor that I knew would take hours, even days, to complete. A favor that I was sure someone else should be doing – fearful to be a disappointment to her.

Still…I had made the proposal and she accepted.

Without going into too many details, let me just say I have been up to my eyeballs in Excel spreadsheets. They are no longer outside my expertise…thanks to online tutorials…and all this experience I have now.

So the short of it is that by tomorrow, I will be finished with my favor. Next time I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for her, it may stop short of offering such an open-ended favor. I’ll find a different way to express how much she means to me. Flowers, maybe.

My husband told me several times that I needed to renegotiate that favor. He knew it wasn’t a strength of mine to do what she asked.

I just couldn’t take my offer back. She is the kind of person who should have favors done for her every day…she’s just that person.

In preparing to write about doing favors, I did come across two fascinating articles on this topic.

Asking for a Favor: The Three Keys – Jodi Glickman

In brief, the three keys for asking a favor are:

  1. Set the Stage: “I have a favor to ask you”.
  2. Give a Reason.
  3. Provide an Escape Clause.

[Read the whole piece. It’s a fast read and insightful for those who ask for favors – I don’t so much, but it was good stuff to know.]

The Five Golden Rules of Favor Asking – Tynan

Tynan offers these golden rules when asking him for a favor:

  1. Your benefit must greatly outweigh my inconvenience.
  2. You should make it as easy as possible for me to do the favor.
  3. Ask immediately. Don’t small talk.
  4. Do everything you can first.
  5.  Reciprocate.

[This piece also is an excellent larger read.]

These rules are all super nice and would be much appreciated if someone asks us for a favor. I find though that if someone asks for a favor, they often are pretty desperate for help and may not have asked with the finesse Tynan would like observed. Unless they are Adam Grant’s takers.

This favor, this Excel spreadsheet favor, was not solicited, except from my prompting. I gave this amazing woman the gift of asking for whatever I could do for her. Genie-like. She took me at my word.

Now that the time has been carved out, and a new skill has been honed, I’m thankful it worked out.

Doing favors for people isn’t a regular activity of mine, but it is something to aspire to. It is a great good.

We have had so many favors done for us. Two of the many that come to mind are a lawn mowed during a time we struggled caring for a our hospitalized little girl (thanks always J.R.) and the company offered to Dave in a surgery waiting room (thanks, Harriet).

It might be a helpful activity to write down all the favors done for us, or for others that we know about. Such a beautiful thing a kindness with nothing expected in return.

If you have some data demanding an Excel spreadsheet…and you need some help…maybe just wait a few days, ok? Same with moving.

[Any stories of doing or asking for a favor? Please tell us in the Comments below.]

5 Friday Faves – Minecraft Guitar Cover, Culture Care, Marriage Advice, Women & Alcohol, and First Responders

Friday Faves – lightning-fast – go!

1) Minecraft Guitar Cover – Since 2011, Minecraft is a video game that’s been played by millions. It is considered one of the most successful games ever designed. The players can build and create pretty much anything they want in the sand-box type game. The ambient theme music was brilliantly composed by Daniel Rosenfeld (aka C418). It is beautiful, as you’ll discover in listening to Nathan‘s arrangement and performance on classical guitar. Check it out:

2) Culture Care– Instead of culture wars, Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura focuses on culture care. He is an arts advocate and is known internationally as a culture influencer. He defines culture care as “a philosophy that offers the creation and conservation of beauty as antidote to cultural brokenness…The thesis of Culture Care affirms that beauty is vital to ‘soul care’, offering a vision of the power of artistic generosity to inspire, edify, and heal the church and culture…Culture Care is a thesis for thoughtful stewardship of culture.”

Photo Credit: Makoto Fujimura, Joseph Sunde

Writer Andy Crouch further describes culture care as a worldview of abundance: “that decision to choose abundance, to assume that grace is indeed infinite—that we can still choose to speak against our fears despite the world of scarcity we experience every day… The world we live in—and, even more critically for us, our church culture—seem driven by fear: to choose to fight culture wars instead of caring for and loving our culture. As a result, we display the face of fear instead of love; project hatred instead of joy; reveal anxiousness instead of peace; exhibit judgmentalism instead of forbearance; build walls with jealous exclusion instead of kindness; invite bitterness instead of goodness; celebrate celebrity instead of faithfulness; invoke rage instead of self-control. Can there be an alternative?”

I am intrigued by the idea of culture care. It embodies the call to “love God and love others as ourselves” (Matthew 22:34-40). There is so much beauty in that.

Makoto Fujimura on Cultivating the Imagination – Joseph Sunde [gives steps to moving toward culture care]

YouTube Video – A Conversation with Makoto Fujimura

3) Marriage Advice – In the car for long stretches this week allowed for listening to TED Talks and the like. Couples counselor Susan L. Adler gives a funny, practical, empowering talk entitled “Secrets of a Couples Counselor: 3 Steps to Happier Relationships”. She lays out 3 tools in how to work through a conflict; steps that can actually move the relationship into a more positive, stronger place. These steps are:

  • Anything but anger– “When you find yourself feeling angry, sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what an I really feeling under all this anger?’ Expressing just about anything other than frustration or anger can bring you closer.” She goes on… good stuff.
  • Raising the bar– challenge yourself to be better. “Whatever is happening, you take the high road. You can make a different choice…Challenge yourself to be helpful, patient, caring, and kind.” Again, she continues. Watch the TED talk.
  • Use “I would love it if…” statements, instead of blaming or criticizing one another. Rather than “You never wash the dishes!” Say “I would really love it if you could wash the dishes next round.” Keep these statements “positive and future-focused”.

4) Women & Alcohol – [No judging here. My own struggle with using food as self-medicating makes me hugely sympathetic.] Another in-car TED talk listen was Ann Dowsett Johnston‘s “Drinking and How It Changed My Life”. She is the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. In the TED Talk, she tells a riveting story of growing up with an alcoholic mom and becoming a high-functioning alcoholic herself.

Her story is one of caution. She talks as much about the growing incidence of drinking in women, in general, as she does about her own issues. The “pinking” of alcohol is a concern for her as she sees alcohol being marketed specifically to women, including to teen-aged girls. As has been done with cigarette smoking and illicit drug use, she presses for us to use our collective power to confront alcohol manufacturing and marketing companies.

Drinking in and of itself is not a problem necessarily…it becomes a problem when we drink to excess and that can be different, one woman to the next.

Photo Credit: NIAAA

[Added in regards to above image: Today, the beer is often a pint (16oz) at 6-8% alcohol.]

Becoming alcohol-free may be the choice of some. It has been for me. Does it affect relationships? It can…but the healthiest relationships will remain.

Jolene Park‘s TED Talk can help you identify whether alcohol is a problem for you or not. Her talk is both scientific and fascinating.

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Gray Area Drinking – Jolene Park

Women and Alcohol – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Brochures and Fact Sheets

Alcohol Consumption Among Women Is on the Rise – Jennifer Clopton

The Reason Why Women Are Drinking More Than They Ever Have – Ginny Graves

5) First Responders – With the devastation to the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian last week, and the commemoration of the 9/11 bombings this week, we are grateful for first responders. Those who move into danger instead of away from it. Risking their lives for the sake of others. In the dreadful wake of this storm Dorian. men and women specially prepared for disaster response left their daily lives and traveled down to Florida. Even getting over to the Bahamas has been complicated with all the destruction on the islands, but first responders are doing what they can, partnering with local churches and agencies, to reach out to the many who have lost loved ones and homes.Photo Credit: Go BGR

Photo Credit: BP News

Bonuses:

Come From Away: Tiny Desk Concert – Commemorating 9/11 and 9/12

2 Ways Your Phone Is Reducing Your Brain Power

25 Ways to Screw Up Your Kids

Photo Credit: Facebook, Enneagram & Coffee

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marianne Wink

Monday Morning Moment – a Wave of Nostalgia and 3 Lessons Taken

This weekend, we had some family time with our children and the grands. In picking up some stray items last night, I discovered one of the littles must have been playing with a globe from a basket in our hallway. As I put it back in its place, I realized that to have reached the globe, (s)he would have had to reach over the picture of my older brother…who left us at the age of 61, 12 years ago.

At that moment, I was overcome by this wave of nostalgia…of gladness and ache, reminded of a dear person and a sweet time – in the past. To our little grandchildren, the picture was of someone they didn’t know. My older brother has been a huge part of my whole life – either in real time or through memories and processing life since he died. It wasn’t always pretty either, but I learned so much through loving him and trying to understand him during hard stretches.

One day, when they are older, I will tell them about their great-uncle Robert. They would have given him so much joy…and he, them. He was always great with children…even when we had our share of struggles as adults. Knowing him was worth that struggle.

That moment set in motion a whirlwind of thought – stirred by three other junctures in the last 24 hours that prompted three lessons learned in nostalgia.

1) Nostalgia is deeply personal. It wraps itself around a particular experience, idea, or person(s). Two people experiencing the exact same thing can have very different emotions about it in the moment and as time passes. What is important for us as we reckon with our own memories and that of others is to be gentle with and respectful of the experience and its meaning to us and to others.

Classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar recently posted his arrangement of a medley of themes – by composer Jason Hayes – from the classic video-game World of Warcraft. I personally know very little about this game, except the music (thanks to his arrangement).

My stirred emotions, in listening to this music, have everything to do with Nathan’s performance. However, there are thousands out there who listen to this piece (and those below) with strong nostalgia. The comments on his videos and Patreon Discord channel reveal the sweet memories of all those young people now grown who loved playing that game – waxing nostalgic through the music attached to that experience.

Why Do We Feel Nostalgia? – VSauce – YouTube Video

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft: Legion – Anduin Theme Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft – Warbringers: Jaina – Daughter of the Sea – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nostalgia reminds us of the past and who we were in the past. Some writers on nostalgia talk about how our memories are glowing, more positive than what was real at the time. I don’t overthink that. When we are reminded of something or someone from our past, and a sweet nostalgia follows, we should just enjoy the moment and its association. Whatever it was in the past, if our memory of it does us good, then that’s enough.

Today, two old friends of mine have birthdays. Now, we rarely talk these days (unfortunately for me) but our seasons together were glorious. At least how I remember it. Working on projects together, praying with each other, laughing at the craziness of life, and talking deeply on things that mattered. These are my memories. Just seeing a birthday reminder refreshes an incredible connection with them. I loved those seasons when we were closer.

You know those times when we meet up with someone and it’s like the time melts away? We are ourselves together…as whenever we were last? That’s the gift of nostalgia…untested. Just a delightful reopening of a vault of treasured memories…of those kinds of friends.

It just so happens that one of these friends is in town this week, and we made plans to visit. The other lives farther away, and it’s been years since our last visit. Still, I’m hoping to move that nostalgia into real time and get her on the phone.

The Incredible Powers of Nostalgia – Jeanette Leardi

3) Nostalgia brings to the present what we learned in the past – to consider again.

Something brings my mom to mind every single day. Along with that comes all the lessons she taught her children. Her wisdom far surpasses mine, but the nostalgia of memories of her gives me hope to be more wise. She taught us so well. Working outside the home all our lives, she somehow redeemed the time. When she enters my thoughts, the emotions that follow are empowering and full of love.

One day, we olders will be part of what sparks nostalgia for our children and grandchildren. I hope we will have made memories together that will remind them of who they are and who they can be…to God, to us…to all around us.

Last night, on a twilight walk in the neighborhood, I enjoyed a flock of geese flying over. Their honking and precision of flight have always stopped me in my tracks…just to watch. Memories wash over me of times with Dave’s family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Geese seem often in flight there over the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe these geese last night were migrating south as we move into Fall. Whatever the occasion, I’m always reminded of Lessons from Geese – what we can learn from geese to get where we need to go…together.Photo Credit: iTS Leadership

[If you don’t know that short piece Lessons From Geese – take a look, either in the link above on teaming or this pdf. Or the video below.]

All this is part of the nostalgia that makes me this person today, having lived in that past…with the memories that surprise me in the present…and could help to forge a better future.

Thoughts? Please comment below. Thanks.

The Psychological Benefits – and Trappings – of Nostalgia – Krystine Batcho

Why Nostalgia Is Good for You – Matthew Hutson

There Are Two Different Types of Nostalgia – Ashley Hamer

5 Friday Faves – Overdose Awareness, Quiet Influencers, Primary Physicians, Habits of Purpose, and Museums for All

1) Overdose Awareness – August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Let’s have the goal of #NotOneMore loved one lost to drug overdose.

“May you never get that call. I did on October 24, 2010. Worst day of my life. I was lucky…he survived………..so many don’t…….These people are someone’s daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends…….Don’t judge. Listen to their stories. We need change. Many people need help and there is not always help out there.”Jeanne Barney

Overdose Day Website

Photo Credit: Facebook, International Overdose Awareness Day

“National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people [in the US]. More in 2018. These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

2) Quiet Influencers – We have all had them in our lives: these quiet influencers. People who gave us their best without needing to be center stage themselves. People who helped us to mature into people of influence ourselves…for some even, people of significant power or renown. These quiet influencers could be our parents. Or peers who saw in us maybe someone we couldn’t imagine ourselves.

Writer Rachel Pieh Jones urges us to capture the stories of our quiet influencers:

Power resides not only in the obvious leaders, the loudest voices, or the wealthiest donors, but also in the quiet influencers.

Search out these leaders, collaborate with them, use their own words, be wise in the details emphasized, and be mindful of how the story will be heard. Pass the mic to these influencers and do your part to elevate their voices. – Rachel Pieh Jones

How (and Why) We Should Be Telling the Stories of Quiet Influencers – Rachel Pieh Jones

I personally am so thankful for the many quiet influencers in my life and work. They are many and they are “just a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).

Thanks to Jones, I am feeling the need to capture some of their stories…so hopefully you’ll read about them here. How about you? Please comment about your quiet influencers in the Comments below. It’s a good start.Photo Credit: Facebook, Julie McGowan

3) Primary Physicians – You know you’re getting some age on when your doctor retires…especially when he is not so old, or so it seems.

Not everyone in the world has the privilege of having a family doctor. One who both cares for you and possibly your own adult children.

For over 10 years, we have had Dr. Bill Harrington as our primary physician. He’s been with us through all sorts of life transitions…as well as quite a few medical scares. I won’t go into the details here, but a physician who can get a hunch and follow it through – to discover cancer or a potentially life-threatening cardiac malfunction – is a tremendous asset. That is the kind of person Dr. Harrington has been to us. Wise, funny, thoughtful, and intuitive. We will miss him.

I’m counting on him still writing the poetry we have gotten to read – which he began writing just a short time ago. Definitely models for his patients how good life can be around every corner. Retirement blessings, Dr. H. Well-done!

4) Habits of Purpose – I’ve written about Justin Whitmel Earley. He is a very successful attorney who is now also a writer, speaker, and life coach.

Photo Credit: Joshua Straub

His book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction has become one of my favorites. Below you can find a graphic that gives his habits of purpose in brief (some are daily practiced and some are weekly).

Earley’s website has lots of free helps on it and now he has produced a video series (also free) to help us move our lives more toward purpose. I’m hoping to gather a group of friends to have weekly evenings of watching the short video and talking about how we might incorporate those ideas into our lives. Good stuff!

The Common Rule – Book Review – Darryl Dash

5) Museums for All – We have a family membership to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: Visit Richmond Va

My daughter, grandchildren, and I visited the garden earlier today. It was a marvel, as always!

As we were leaving, I commented what a privilege it was to be able to afford a membership to such a beautiful place. It was then my daughter told me about the Museums for All program.

It flows out of an initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) based in Washington, D.C. For anyone who has an EBT card (for supplemental food assistance), that person can buy and individual annual membership for a museum for $1 or a family membership for $5. That is an incredible benefit for those in our city who couldn’t afford a membership otherwise. So, yay for Museums for All!

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That’s it for this week. Although we still have days in the 90s, with the start of school and the small but clear changes in the environment around us, Fall is coming! I will leave you with a few images we all look forward to. Have a sweet weekend peopled with those you love.

Bonuses:

For you guitarists out there: Beyond the Guitar Academy

The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers

On slavery in North America 400 years ago this August and slavery in the world today:

Photo Credit: Twitter, D. B. Harrison

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes &

 

Photo Credit: Gzero Media

U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use & the Developing Brain

Perfect dessert at a friend’s house after we shared lunch. Fruit in a bowl from North Africa:

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Leveraging Our Limitations – in Real Time

Photo Credit: Grace Covenant

This expression “leveraging our limitations” is brand-new to me. Fresh as today, in fact.  Best-selling author Jeff Goins talked about it in this week’s e-newsletter (worth your subscribing for his wisdom as a writer but also in tackling any challenge).

Before I jump into Goins’ take on leaning into our limitations, Let me describe the situation today where my limitations all but glowed.

Last Fall, (to give context), I took a course through the non-profit  Embrace Richmond. Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace, taught the course entitled Mission Shift: Assets-Based Community Development (ABCDs). Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

“ABCD builds on the gifts, talents and passions of neighborhood residents and strengthens communities from the inside out.” – Embrace Richmond

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Through a Communities in School (CIS) program in a local county, I was able to become a mentor for a high school student trained on how to interview and gather information from various members of a community. Their answers would add to a body of work on both what residents love about their neighborhood and what they wish they could change. This listening project will hopefully culminate in a “dream team” of neighbor influencers, potentially including this student…all who could participate in engineering a plan for change if needed.

Student-Led Listening: Strengthening Our Schools in Partnership With CIS Chesterfield – Wendy McCaig

It was a joy for me to enter into the experience of adult neighbors and their like-culture student interviewer. Even the time we needed out of their day seemed a thing gladly given. We all want to be heard…and for these several minutes, the student and I were listening with full attention.

I was both wholly in the experience and also observing the experience. The women interviewed were so gracious. Children in tow sometimes. Their responses were so insightful and authentic. Even speaking with strangers. It was surprising and lovely. These women clearly were influencers in their own right…in the small sphere of their world.

The one man we interviewed was the most surprising. He had just gotten home from work and his wife was leaving at the same time (I didn’t understand if it was to her job or for something personal). He still invited us in for the interview. Still holding his lunch bag, and his supper prepared for him and getting cold on the table, he answered our young interviewer’s questions. This man was so elegant and articulate. I could see him, in a different life situation, capable of being a town mayor or other community leader. Without English as a first language and an immigrant in this country, his opportunities to lead have been diminished. I hope through this project, he (they) can have a voice at the table.

This, for me, was hopefully the first of many such afternoons, accompanying a high school student engaging her community in a very different and deeper way.

For me it was extraordinary.

Finding this eletter from Jeff Goins on arriving home, its timing couldn’t have been more perfect…and what he had to say about leveraging our limitations…enthralling.

Part of his message today:

“How often do we think something cannot be done until someone else does it?

Sometimes, the trick isn’t to work harder. It’s to recognize the opportunity in the obstacle.

These days, I think of limitations as leverage. My greatest breakthroughs come not when I ignore my challenges or even try to overcome them, but when I learn to use them. Turns out, this is a pretty good strategy for doing work that’s worth noticing: Don’t be better, be different.

How many limitations am I not leaning into?

How many obstacles am I trying to overcome when really I just need to own them?

When we lean in to our limitations, we create work that is for someone, not everyone...When those few see it, they instantly know it is for them. –  Jeff Goins 

You see, for some time now, I’ve wanted to figure out how to confront the staggering problems of poverty and race relations in our city. How could someone like me help in a healthy and sustainable way? One person with so many limitations.

  • Being an outsider.
  • Having little influence myself.
  • Not knowing the language (Spanish or Mixteko – the two languages in the neighborhood of our listening project).
  • Nor the culture.
  • Nor having the experience of an immigrant.
  • Only a beginner’s understanding of ABCD.

Jeff Goins’ piece pushed me to read more and Angela Lee Duckworth‘s quote on grit popped up.

Photo Credit: Angela Lee Duckworth, Thriving Intentionally

Leaning into our limitations…leveraging our limitations can make us more authentic and approachable. More determined to not let our limitations to define us or hinder us.

Did I want to quit several times this afternoon? Absolutely. Did our amazing high schooler? Totally. Today we didn’t quit…hopefully we won’t. We construct our comfort zones to protect our limitations… to not have to face them. It’s not conscious necessarily, but it just is.

So here’s to leveraging our limitations. Ready to lean in…another day.

Leveraging Your Limitations – Steve Brown

Leveraging Your Limitations – Thriving Intentionally – Erin

Worship Wednesday – We Must Go – Justice of God – Tim Hughes

Photo Credit: Heartlight

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

For several weeks now, I’ve been reading the Scripture with God’s justice on my heart. It’s strange how I missed that in the past…sort of read over it. Struggled with it, so just chose (without thinking) to ignore it. In thinking about salvation, I had made it a matter of mercy rather than justice. My sins had separated me from God. Apart from relying on what Jesus did for me, those sins would have forever separated me from a holy God. What God did on the cross was justice… and mercy. Jesus who was without sin took my sin, all of it, upon Himself. Because of him, before God, I am justified. “Just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. Because of him, I can now live forever knowing God and being with Him…forever. It is an incredible reality this justice and mercy woven together.

God says something like this: Because I have saved you from Egypt, you should live like people who have been saved from Egypt. In the New Testament, Paul teaches the same way. He says that Christians are ‘dead to sin.’ Because they are ‘dead to sin,’ they should live like people who are dead to sin by putting sin to death (Rom 6:1-11). What God has done for us is the basis of what He commands us to do. The basic command is: Be the kind of people that the Lord has made you; live up to who you are. [Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000), 79]

Micah 6:8 gives us direction on what God calls us to be and to do – He has given us so much – forgiveness of sins, abundant and eternal life, a right relationship with Him and the possibility of the same with each other, and work on this side of Heaven to point others to Him.

What does that look like? Micah 6:8 – Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. He calls His people to be like Him and to be His image-bearers in this world. To “be the kind of people that the Lord has made [us]; live up to who [we] are.”

How different our world might be if we as individual believers and the church at large walked humbly with God, acted justly toward others and loved mercy?

British songwriter/worship leader Tim Hughes has given us some great worship songs, including Here I Am to Worship. His call to justice and the God of Justice in the song below was new to me until this week.

Let’s worship together.

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry

Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord (x4)

Acting humbly
Loving mercy
We must go, we must go
To the broken
And the hurting
We must go, we must go

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go*

Whatever the “go” means for our lives each day, it can’t just be out of duty or self-interest. We go in obedience to God, and out of a deep love and gratitude. Oh Lord, thank You, that we can know you, and love others because You love them.

Let’s pray:
O God, you are always more ready to hear us than we are to call on you.
Hear us now as we turn to you.

We pray that you will help us truly be your church by seeking to serve
those who are little, last, least and left behind.

We pray for our world in which many starve and struggle to survive
while others have far, far more than they need.

We pray for our nation and our leaders, that the cries of injustice
will be heard above the clamor of corporations,
the needs of the vulnerable will come before the desires of the lobbyists,
the priorities of the poor will come before the positions of the powerful.

We pray for our communities, that we move from complacency to caring and action.
We pray for ourselves, for the courage to care when discouragement overtakes us,
for the energy to act for justice when day-to-day demands occupy us.

Ever present God, you have heard our prayers in the silence of our hearts and you hear us now.
We confess that we have dulled our ears to the cries of all who are hungry.
We confess that we have hardened our hearts to the plight of millions
living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet.

We confess that we have dimmed our hopes for a more just world
and our ability to make a difference.

Sharpen our ears we pray, to hear the voices of injustice and your call to us.
Sharpen our hearts to show compassion to all who are struggling.
Raise our hopes for how we can help bend the arc toward justice
and work for the world that you intend. 

These things we ask in the name of Jesus who sided with the poor
and reflected your intentions for the reign of God.
Amen.

Prayer adapted from “How Long Must I Cry for Help Bending the Arc for God’s Vision of Justice for Children” Children’s Sabbath, Children’s Defense Fund

*Lyrics to God of Justice/We Must Go – written by Tim Hughes

What Does It Mean to Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly (Micah 6:8)?

The Politics of Confrontation and Promise – Micah 6:1-8 – Benjamin Kautzer

Monday Morning Moment – Friends, Family, and Fellows at Work in the Digital Age

Photo Credit: The Art of Social Media” (CC BY 2.0) by  mkhmarketing 

My mom was an excellent communicator. She wrote emails like they were letters. Long and newsy, full of the details of her day, and her specific encouragements on the trials of life. Of course, this came out of her only daughter and family taking off to live overseas. With three of Mom’s grandchildren! I will never forget how she bought her first and only computer to be able to communicate regularly with us. She died before the advent of smart phones and social media. Believe me: she would have figured those out as well – to communicate with those she loved.

Dave works in a setting which requires much of his communication to be electronic. He talks about how it has been world-changing in terms of being able to have real-time communication with colleagues. Even time zones away. Email, conference calls, and a myriad of smart phone applications make work practices easier. Especially that of inclusion and having the right people at the decision-making table.

The challenge is when electronic communication is almost but not quite communication. A quick texting conversation or series of emails do not substitute for a face-to-face meeting where nuance and clarification are more easily secured.

I have a friend and one-time colleague who calls me regularly on her way to or from work. Those conversations are so rich. We haven’t lived in the same city for 25 years, but I know her…her take on things, her challenges, and the wealth of her wisdom for my own stuff. We text occasionally, but she has excellent command of the phone-conversation-catch-up-with-friends skill.

The article linked below came to my attention this week. It got me thinking on this topic more. We want to be good at friendship, “family-ing”, working well with our colleagues, right? At least we don’t want to do harm with relationships as we focus on others at the moment. This article is so packed with good stuff, I’m leaving it right here for you to read yourself:

How to Be a Better Friend in the Digital Age by Amy Maclin and Molly Simms

In thinking about our relationships and communication in the digital age, here are my notes to self:

1) Stay in the present. – When in the company of friends or family, or in a work meeting, put electronic devices away if at all possible. In your purse or pocket or another room. Cell phones always with us (at meeting or dinner tables) smack of self-importance, really. I struggle here, so preaching to self. Remember the days when we wrote the things we wanted to remember on pads of paper or a napkin? Maybe you’re not distractible but once I pull out my phone to make a note or take a picture of the food, say, it becomes an uninvited guest at the table…drawing my attention away.Photo Credit: Pexels

You may not have this problem of distractability. We can always make an electronic record later of what we wrote down. We cannot reconstruct conversation we missed while fiddling with our phones. Nor can we recoup that sense of full attention for those in front of us, lost while we were on our phones or tablets.

2) Be proactive in communication. – This may be a challenge for most of us. I am grateful for updates from bosses who want their employees in the loop. Also, how wonderful to get birthday and anniversary cards in the mail (?!)…from proactive loved ones.

Letting friends and family know news, plans, and other details (of special interest between you) sooner than later sends a message. They matter to you, and their time matters as well. If these same people don’t hear from you, in time, they will come after you…better to be proactive, loving in this way.

3) Be quick and appropriate in responding. – [Outside of situation #1] Take the call when possible instead of letting it go to voicemail. Text back even a quick response, with a more complete communication to follow. [Because of their disruptive nature, some texts seem now to be treated as emails to be answered later and in a clump. I get that. Unless the texts become emails that also go unanswered. Just saying.]

Consider the best way to respond. A text may require an email response to be effective. An email may require a phone call in followup. If positive communication is the goal, we go after the medium that best suits.

4) Our social media presence communicates different things to different people. We all know this intuitively. Something to think about if we’re using it for work or to maintain contact with friends/family. Social media, in general, is not a personal vehicle for communication. Definitely broadcasting. Unless you engineer it to be personal. I get how some have elected to go more private, more narrowcasting (see link below). We must remember with this medium: we think because we’ve communicated to some, we have communicated to all. A caution if we care.

Networking: Broadcast or Narrowcast?Genna Rodriguez

5) Avoid the fallout of negative or neglectful communication. – It always seems to have a greater impact than we intended. Or, should I say, a worse outcome. The “unfollow” or “blocking” or social media rant can be not only hurtful but relationship-altering. Not answering phone calls, texts, or emails will eventually stop those from happening…at a cost. Whenever a crucial or hard conversation needs to happen, a face-to-face meetup is best. Even if, because of geographic distance, it has to be via an electronic device (Facetime, etc).

We Have to Talk: A Step-by-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations – Judy Ringer

Also related to social media:  we often fall to being more consumers rather than creators. Our communication gets more passive, even lazy (it happens to me, for sure)…if we don’t take steps to practice being proactive in communication.

Having electronic communication – even at its impersonal worst – is better than no communication…but maybe not forever.

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Did I miss something? Please comment below.

In closing, I just want to give a salute to those in our lives who get all this. My friend who calls, a boss who doesn’t forget to followup, a family member who regularly checks in, that one who uses texts in a fun and familiar ways to touch base, and the people in our lives who practice kind and intelligent reason on social media posts.

I have a younger brother who has a non-stop work day. Long hours, leaving for work before I even wake up, and therefore getting to bed much earlier in the evening than most. We haven’t always been super close, but in these years of getting older and losing loved ones, we are now the next two oldest in our family. We are also much closer friends now than before…part of that is his initiation of calling on his long drive home from work. With hands-free technology to keep driving safe, it has become a sweet occasion between us.

Lastly, social media itself has been more a blessing to me than a curse. I have learned much from folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook. Through Facebook of all things, some once-close college friends and I were able to reconnect. What a gift!

So with all its challenges, the digital age has brought us more good than bad. If we are willing, we can hopefully keep it that way.

P.S. Communication at any level is colored by culture. My husband and I had the privilege of chauffeuring some Egyptian friends to their wedding reception. Our car was decked out in fresh flowers and streamers. Driving through the crazy Cairo night, Dave’s job was to get our friends safely to their destination, but that wasn’t all. Leading a small and festive parade, we were to let it be known to all those on the streets and in apartments above the streets, that a bride and groom were coming through. Traditionally, the driver periodically is to toot his horn in a rhythmic manner signaling those around us of an oncoming wedding party. DA-DA-dadada, DA-DA-dadada. That was the signal. Photo Credit: The Cairo Scene

Everyone knew it and what it meant. Dave was an excellent Cairo driver, BUT he was timid in doing this small duty of horn-blowing. He would only do the first “phrase” of the announcement and not the obligatory second one. It was so not right. After a couple of times of my failed cajoling, he did it one more time with just the first horn toot phrase. A huge packed Cairo city bus passed by us, and its driver finished the phrase! I LOVED IT! We all did. Dave got the idea finally and we joyfully trumpeted to all those around us from that point on with just the right and understood alert!

Ah, true communication!

5 Friday Faves – Gladiator on Guitar, Documentaries, Our Faces, Toni Morrison, and Families Sorting Out Trauma Together

It’s been a week! Babies and birthdays, neighborhood gatherings and sweet homecomings, diner dates and conversations in a late summer garden, walking with friends and working in solitude…life shared. Here we go with this week’s 5 favorite finds.

1) Gladiator on Guitar – I remember the only time I watched the film Gladiator. It was in a theater in Cairo with an Egyptian girlfriend. We both covered our eyes for more of the film than we watched. There is a scene where the military general turned slave turned gladiator (Russell Crowe) came into the arena. He bowed to the warriors selected to kill him, and then he killed them all. Bloody and horrific. Then he called out to the ruler and commoner audience, “Are you not entertained?!” Underneath his imploring, you can faintly hear the orchestral theme – composer Hans Zimmer‘s gripping theme “Now We Are Free” . Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, this song is so exquisite on classical guitar. Watch it here.

2) Documentaries – Film gives us the opportunity to engage with a story. Documentaries offer us a look into a real world we might never engage without a bit of a push or pull. 16 Bars is one of those films. It is the story of what happens when hip-hop artist Todd “Speech” Thomas spends 10 days in the Richmond, Virginia jail, giving voice to the inmates.

Photo Credit: Richmond

This effort was part of a recovery program to help those in jail not to become re-incarcerated after release. Thomas taught some of the men how to write and perform music (a 16 bar rap). What came out of that was both painful and hopeful. Beautiful. I am working on seeing the full film, but here is the trailer.

16 Bars – REAL LIFE

Do you have a favorite documentary? Three of mine are below along with one I’m looking forward to, still in production.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls – documentary on the global sex trade

The Long Goodbye – Kara Tippetts Documentary – Jay Lyons

Bono & Eugene Peterson – The Psalms – Fourth Line Films

The Funeral Home [Now entitled The Passing On] – Teaser – Fourth Line Films – The Passing On Movie website

3) Our Faces – What do people around us see in our faces? What do we see in others? In T. S. Eliot‘s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, there is a line about preparing our faces for the faces we meet. As in the phrase “putting on a face/mask”.

T. S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – Brandon Colas

We want to be real with each other, right? To be the real persons we are all the time, not to mask our faces differently depending on whom we have in front of us.

Is it the performance rather than the person with which we interact? We can default to vilifying the person when it’s really the performance that offends…or the opposite: placing people on pedestals…and we don’t really know them.

I don’t want to wear a mask; nor do I want to profile a person based on a mask. It is a discipline to keep from doing both.

I was so touched by a video I saw this week…wondering if it was truly authentic – it seemed to be – and the masks were off.

Two huge TV personalities Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper  talk together in a 20-minute interview on loss, faith, and humanity (shorter section of same interview). I don’t usually watch them, but a man I respect posted this on his Twitter feed and I was mesmerized by it…the honesty, the tenderness, and the understanding of shared experience.

Are They Seeing the Face of God in You? – Lisa Brenninkmeyer

4) Toni Morrison – On August 5, author Toni Morrison died at 88 years old. I thought she was younger.

Confession: I’ve never read any of her books. Now, I am reading what others write about her and know I need to at least hear something of her heart…and her wisdom.

The Wit and Wisdom of Toni Morrison

What have you read by this author of many books?

Here’s what Toni Morrison taught Brené Brown about parenting:

When a child walks into a room. She asked, “Does your face light up? When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?”

“Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”Brené Brown

5) Families Sorting Out Trauma Together – We don’t watch R-rated movies at our house…so when I chose Rachel Getting Married, I knew it was risky. [FYI: This film has foul language and tortured emotional conversations throughout.] The story centers on a family wedding. One sister is marrying and another sister came home from a drug rehab program for the weekend’s events. The sweet moments feel guarded as fights break out regularly over the sister’s addiction and its impact on the family…and there’s the grief revolving around a younger brother who died in a car accident caused by his older sister high on drugs… Over and over, each in her/his own way, the wedding party (sisters, groom-to-be, parents, friends) deals with the undercurrent of anger and grief.Photo Credit: Roger Ebert

Why do I mention this film? It resonated with my own experience of family at times. We children, even into adulthood, could have doozies of disagreements. We rarely came to blows, but thankfully we didn’t have alcohol or drugs as part of our growing up. Like in this film, that would have caused a worse, more volatile situation.

The film was fictitious, I imagine, but the hurt in my heart, watching it, came from recognizing familiar signs of a family in trauma.

That old adage “Hurt people hurt people” comes to mind. In real life, we are wise to look past what offends our sensibilities, and reach out to those hurting in front of us. To listen, encourage, pray, understand. This film family sorted out their trauma together… without benefit of faith in God…but with a love for each other, broken but stronger together.

7 Ways to Help a Loved One Who Has Experienced Trauma by Elizabeth Clayton Lee

[By the way, our family as we have gotten older don’t have those fights anymore. Thankfully. So thankful to God, and parents who loved us through their own hard, and siblings who refused to give up on each other.]

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That’s it for this week. Would love for you to share any of your favorites of the week in the Comments below. Blessings always.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Goodbye Nursing Homes! The New Trend is Co-Housing with Friends – and Richmond CoHousing

Photo Credit: Victory Today, Facebook

I Want to Age Like Sea Glass – Bernadette Noll

Photo Credit: Bernadette Noll, Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Facebook, Vicky Appleton Eaton

Butterfly Breakfast Buffet

Worship Wednesday – Why God? – Austin French

Photo Credit: YouTube

Suddenly a powerful wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on the young people so that they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you!” Then Job stood up, tore his robe and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord.” Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.Job 1:19-22

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:66-69

This has been a week of disorienting grief across the U.S. Weekend shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Chicago have rocked our country with so many dead and wounded…and everyone asks the question “why?”.

The answers to this question are complicated…beyond political, beyond ideological. As believers, we don’t look to government to answer because the losses we are experiencing go deeper than what a government can fix.
We go to God. How He must grieve at the madness happening in America right now. His grief must be ever so much greater than our own.

Singer songwriter Austin French, in introducing his song “Why God?” talks about the hard questions:

Why, God, do people have to die? Why does tragedy still have a place in the life of a Christian? Why another school shooting? God, why? Are You even here? Are You with us? These are real questions that inspired my song ‘Why God’ on my upcoming record. I believe that our God is a good father and we are his kids and He’s not scared of our questions. In those moments there’s tons of things in this life that we do not understand, but maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe we’re supposed to need God, need a father who knows all things and holds all things in his hands. And that’s ok.” – Austin French

Photo Credit: Facebook, Austin French

When hard things happen in our lives, we grieve. We adjust to a new reality. We do what we can to make life better, to make the world better…to make things right.

For me, walking away from God is not an option. Where would I go? God is good even when the world is not. Even when the world has gone wretchedly wrong.

Worship with me.

Why God
Do people have to die
A daughter or a son
Sudden and so young
Long before their time?

Why God
Do people fall apart
A promise and a ring
Becomes a broken thing
A road that got too hard?

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God I need You
It’s why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side

Why God
Do we feel so alone?
Every single day
Fighting through the pain
Hoping there is hope

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God I need You
It’s why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side, ooh…

Give me a faith stronger than I have
I need to know when it hurts this bad
That You hold my heart when it breaks
And I’m not alone in this place

That’s why God I need You
Why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side
Always right by my side
Even here in the why… God*

*Lyrics to Why God – Songwriters: Jeff Pardo, Mia Fieldes, Austin French, Jacob Harrison

Austin French Asks God Why

Austin French Music

El Paso and Dayton Mass Shootings – Christians Must Act As Well As Pray – Jamie D. Aten

I’m a Shooting Survivor – If You’re Going to Pray For Us, Here’s How – Taylor Schumann

Christian Leaders React to Mass Shootings: We Can’t Keep Going On Like This

Monday Morning Moment – Leaders We Want to Imitate – 10 “I” Adjective Descriptors (All)Iterated

Photo Credit: Boom Positive

From the time we were small children, we learn by imitating. We master both our mindsets and our capacities and competencies by learning from others…by imitating those we see doing well or doing good. We imitate until it becomes our own, and then amazingly sometimes others imitate us as well.

That is both sobering and challenging for us as leaders. It also gives pause in our choice of whom we imitate. We may sometime have to go out of our way to find excellent leaders to learn from. It does not take away necessity of following the direction of our bosses. We become like those we spend time with. The warning here is if we struggle with appreciating our leaders we may still default to become like them.

So we keep people in our lives worthy of imitating.

[I wanted to write about a much heavier topic this morning as our country is reeling from two mass shootings this weekend leaving at least 30 dead. So utterly devastating. I hope to write on this another day but today the words fail. Please, if you pray, pray for our country and especially for those grieving the loss of their loved ones.]

What characterizes a person we would profit by imitating? In a 12-minute teaching, author theologian John Piper emphasizes the importance of both the passion and the practice of the one we would seek to imitate. Both “the feeling and the living” for the sake of others rather than one’s own ambition.

Photo Credit: Desiring God; John Piper

I’ve said before that I love the grammar device of alliteration, and in writing today, it was easy to pull 10 distinctives together all beginning with “i” to describe a leader to imitate:

1) Inclusive – This leader would open the circle of leadership to include content experts, team leaders/coaches, and a sampling of those most affected by decisions being made. She/he is not threatened by a wider circle of influence.

2) Intelligent – I do not know how intelligent I am but have benefited from the thinking of others. Intelligence includes good judgment and sound reasoning.

3) Interested – You have probably experienced the difference when one is feigning interest vs. one who is genuinely interested in the person(s) right in front of him. She/he genuinely cares what others think and how they are affected by the direction of the organization.

4) Impassioned – It is easy to get behind someone who loves what they are doing and care about the outcomes (and their impact on people). When the cause is right or just, we can understand how the impassioned one is unflagging in his commitment. Adding the “i’s” above to “impassioned” moves folks forward in positive ways.

5) Involved – By involved, I don’t mean a micro-manager nor the opposite of an armchair quarterback . Involved is taking responsibility for the part that belongs to the leader and doing what he/she can to help the others on the team to do their part. With leaders like this, we don’t have to search for them. They’re close by.

6) Inspiring/Inspired –We are fueled to imitate someone when we see that what he/she is about matters. Even when the task is hard and the goal is beyond our view, this type person will encourage us to keep persevering.

7) Innovative/Imaginative – I’m an idea person who would be throwing ideas out and throwing ideas out until everyone left the room. Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity through the years to work with people who know how to take good ideas and turn them into great products/services. I’ve learned through the years by imitating these teammates – of going through the steps of taking an idea through to the innovation. So grateful for leaders who allowed me…welcomed me…to stay in the conversation.

8) Indefatigable – It’s easy to get tired and give up. People worthy of imitating are those who keep at it…who don’t stop until “it’s” done.

9) Intrepid – Along with indefatigable is intrepid – that characteristic of one who is not afraid of what could happen or what could be stirred up in the doing. She/he takes risks, values the adventure we are on, doesn’t mind the messy.

10) Irreproachable – Finally, character. Consistent, dependable character. We know we are safe to imitate this person because he/she is not going to surprise us with moral failure or self-serving or indifference or favoritism. Again, I’m so thankful for men and women who have given me space at their tables through the years…who continue to be the same sorts of people now as they were decades ago. Just more of whom I want to be like as I get older.

So there’s my list. It’s sort of like a “perfect leader person”, right? Or maybe you are thinking other characteristics more appropriate to the person you would hope to imitate. Please comment below – they don’t have to start with an “i”.

Philippians 3:17 – the Kind of Person You Should Imitate – John Piper