Category Archives: Life Skills

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Dave’s Wisdom

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[Adapted from the Archives]

Picture this scenario.

At first, you really liked working with this person. Then, bit by bit, he/she began wearing on you. He is always messing with his phone. Her solution to today’s problem is too labor-intensive. His email responses have become terse. She is late for your meeting. You think, maybe I was wrong about him. He is not the person I thought he was. Maybe, she’s the wrong person on the bus…at least on my bus.

When a relationship begins to deteriorate at work (or home), you are wise to take steps to turn this around as quickly as possible. You could be in a work situation that has been difficult from the outset. It is still possible for you to make inroads in turning that relationship toward a more healthy or positive one. If not altogether, at least from your side. Consider an adage that has had a long and useful run in our family and work.

Your opinion of someone approximates their opinion of you.Dave Mills

There are exceptions, but I have found this to be wise counsel (from my husband, no less) in both personal and professional relationships. When what was a warm, congenial relationship takes a turn toward the negative, you can actually work, from your side, to restore the relationship. Even to take it to a deeper level. It can get more uncomfortable at first, because you have to start with your own thoughts toward that person. How have those thoughts changed?

We send signals to each other – whether we speak or not.

Mom raised us hoping we would be positive, peaceful people – often using the saying from Walt Disney’s film Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel except for the reality of those conversations that still go on in our heads and color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions.

Let’s say I have an amicable relationship with a colleague, and then something happens. I may not even be aware of it – a misunderstanding, a misconstrued action, an insensitivity unaware. Then a chill develops, or a clear outright dislike. I have a window of opportunity to clear that up. Otherwise, if I don’t act, then a process can begin where I turn around and decide that person is also a jerk and has woefully misjudged me…and off we go.

Remember: This can go both ways. You may have had a few off days with a colleague, and find yourself just not thinking so well of him, then stop it! It’s possible you can keep them from picking up that signal and prevent the relationship from getting more toxic as they decide you’re not so great either.

If I refuse to think ill of another person and discipline myself to be respectful, deferent in my demeanor, and tireless in pursuing understanding, I could restore that relationship. If it doesn’t improve right away, my attitude and actions work for my own benefit and can definitely help rebuild trust with my team members. One day…that relationship may also turn. It’s worth the effort.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave

Job coach and writer Jon Acuff talks about the four ways we invest in our careers – through skills, character, hustle, and relationships. In an interview with LifeReimagined.com, he had this to say about difficult, or neglected, work relationships:

“Even if you have skills, character and hustle, without relationships, it’s the career version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Why?”

“If you don’t have relationships, you eventually don’t have people in your life who can tell you the truth about the decisions you’re making. You don’t have people who can tell you no or question you honestly. What I’ve learned is that leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things.”LifeReimagined.com interview with Jon Acuff

He identifies three types of people in our lives (work or otherwise, really): friends, foes, and advocates. Jon writes in Do Over:

“The best thing to give a foe is distance. We should ignore most foes. The problem of course is that we won’t. If your definition of foe is too loose and is essentially “anyone who kind of bothers me ever,” your job is going to be miserable. If you see people as your adversaries, it’s almost impossible to have a good working relationship with them. The first thing is to understand whether these foes are clueless or calculated. A clueless foe is that person whose behavior encourages you to fail. They are not malicious. They are not trying to make you lose, but with the power of their influence you are. “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn ‘accomplices’ into ‘friends’ and you can be two-thirds more likely to succeed.”Jon Acuff, Do Over

I think what Jon says is true. Because of my own worldview and value system (and married to Dave all these years), I don’t think we can just acknowledge there are foes out there and distance ourselves from them. Sometimes, that is virtually impossible to do and still be effective at work. Because what can happen, if we don’t act to keep our own thinking clear, is that we take on some of that “foe-dom” ourselves. Maybe you aren’t going to be bosom buddies with this person, but your own work and other relationships can suffer if you develop bad habits around this person. Better to work on the relationship.

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“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with. – Jim Collins, Good to Great

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For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8

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 Do Over by Jon Acuff

Fourteen Indispensable Leadership Quotes from Jim Collins – Thom Rainer

How to Deal With Difficult Co-workers – Read, keeping in mind that some days you might be the one perceived as difficult.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 4Photos: Just a few of the men in Dave’s life who required no special work on his part to love and respect…and there are many more. Grateful.

Monday Morning Moment – Offense, Being Offended, and Taking Up Offense

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, Bryant Mcgill

Processing thoughts on the difficult subject of offending and being offended, a song drifts into my hearing. Dave is riding his bike (on a trainer) to a playlist that matches his ride (slow/fast/slow). This particular song pounding into my head is rock band The EaglesGet Over It. [Dave will also pull that song up on the occasion he recognizes he’s having a pity party.]

I’ve had some great friends in my life who have spoken reason to me in times when something said or done to me (or to someone I cared about) offended. “Get over it!” It was actually a helpful “slap” into reality for me. Reminds me of that old commercial, “Thanks! I needed that.”

The motivation for this piece is walking alongside people I love who have been deeply offended and don’t see a way to get past it. Offenses are hard, especially if they seem intentional.

We still have a choice. We can choose not to be offended…whether it felt the seeming offense was directed toward us or we are tempted to take up offense for another.

Author Desirée M. Mondesir writes a “slap to the face” piece on our culture’s move to looking for and taking up offense. It’s especially fascinating to me because she refers to a student revolt at Yale University. Having taught there years ago, I can see this gradual evolution from reason to riot. It’s a stunning change in society and we are none immune to it.

A Sign of the Last Days – Offense – Desirée M. Mondesir

Mondesir refers to this cultural shift as being a sign of end times.

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” – Jesus – Matthew 24:10-13

Sure sounds like today’s culture, in the US anyway.

Writer and counselor John Bevere has written a fascinating book on offense entitled The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of Offense. The title put me off at first but in reading it, the whole issue of offense was highlighted as something that turns us inward and keeps us from healthy relationships with one another and with God. When you think about it, Eve, in the first pages of the Torah/Old Testament [Genesis 3:2-7], was the first of humankind to act in offense. In her conversation with the Serpent tempter, she reacted to the Serpent’s suggestion, questioning the instruction of God. To me, it demonstrates her taking offense that she would be drawn into Satan’s ruse. Even acting in rebellion, presuming God didn’t mean good toward her. She decided for herself to eat from the tree (the one tree God had forbidden), and the consequences of her choosing continue to today.

What could Eve have done differently? She could have trusted God’s heart toward her. If she fell into doubt (through Satan’s cunning argument), she could have sought out the Creator first before she acted on a lie.

When Eve acted in this way, and took the bait, we can see how we, too, can be drawn in – becoming disoriented by someone’s words or deeds, and forgetting what is really the truth of the matter. Our emotions fly away with us, and we bind ourselves in the chains of offense.

Joe Levi puts it this way:

“Someone else cannot “offend” youhowever, you can choose whether or not to take offense at something someone says or does.

Someone else cannot make you mad, happy, sad, or offended – you, and you alone can control how you react to the world around you.

Learn and apply that one relatively simple lesson, and you’ll be much happier in life.”

We may not be able to choose our immediate emotion over a word or action perceived as against us, but we can develop a habit or discipline to determine NOT to take offense.

I watched the Democratic National Convention last week, and this week I’m watching the Republican National Convention. The news media is having a hey-day with sound-bytes and interviews hand-picked to incite offense.

We can choose not to take the bait.

As for personal situations, people who offend do not always mean to offend. [I don’t say this lightly. Of course, there are those who do. I also am not talking about abuse here. That is a whole other topic, but the principles still apply.] No one knows truly what’s inside us that gives us struggle, not even ourselves. Like the Mcgill quote states, it’s only in our response that we discover the which that is still unresolved. Reacting in self-defense or in counter-attack mode brings more hurt. “Hurt people hurt people.” With practice, I can determine not to carry hurt away from a conversation or interaction.

In situations between two people, we can choose not to be offended, but how do we deal with the offense?

Advisor Charles H. Green describes the offender and the offended. He gives excellent counsel in his article Being Offensive vs. Being Offended – and Trust:

  • The offender communicates disrespect. A social violation occurs. Two people are involved and the resolution of that interaction requires input from both of them. When the one offended determines to engage in good faith, trying to seek understanding and rebuild trust, s/he may actually discover the intent of the offending person. A misunderstanding or an action following a perceived threat on the part of the offender may be the issue rather than an intent to hurt.
  • On the side of the one offended, this is not a social situation. It is deeply personal. Only the one offended knows the extent of the offending words/actions. For this reason, the offended person can refuse to think ill of the offender…and not take offense. Then take steps toward reconciliation or, if that’s not possible, make a personal decision not to be hurt by that person. This is not easy…especially at first in training one’s responses.
  • “The answer is a little paradoxical: We should strive not to offend or disrespect others. At the same time, we should also strive to not feel offended, or disrespected, for long. In other words, we should strive to be kind socially, and to feel free psychologically.”
  • Forgiveness opens the door wide to reconciliation. Forgiveness can defuse the hurt. Boundaries may come into play, but if the boundaries are built out of fear, dread, anger, or hatred, we are still not free from offense.

Thoughts?

Being Offensive vs. Being Offended – and Trust – Charles H. Green

What Is the Difference of Being Offended and Harmed? – Robert Enright

Stop Being Offended Today: 3 Cures for Everything That Irritates You – Bill Apablasa

Forgiving in Two Dimensions – Peace Pursuit

5 Friday Faves – School Re-openings, Restraint, Tiny Harvests, Your Next Job, and Communication During Covid

Happy weekend, y’all! This week was another one of those steep learning curve weeks for me. So much to think about and then to figure out how to apply practically to life. Step by step. My faves of the week follow:

1) School Re-openings – Where we live, the final decisions have come down on this Fall’s school re-openings. Finally, we have the answer. What makes this a Friday Fave for me is that NOW we know what is before us – as parents and friends/family of you parents.

For those parents who need to keep working with small ones at home, it will be a continuing challenge. Our city school system and 2 out of the 3 county systems will have on-line instruction (at least for the first quarter of the school year). Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

The 3rd county has choice for the parents to pick either all in-school instruction or all on-line. Nice when parents have a choice. There will be health guidelines (masks, social distancing, etc.), but the risk is there for the in-school option should COVID cases start ramping up within the school population (teachers, staff, students, families).Photo Credit: Pixabay

This has been a hot topic since the start of COVID-19 this Spring. Which is better – in-school instruction or online learning? What is considered safer for the short-term may be detrimental in the long run. Brown University economist Emily Oster‘s article “Parents Can’t Wait Around Forever” supports the data that returning to school may not present a great risk. So many stands on this topic in the U.S…

As Central VA school districts opt for virtual learning, CDC releases guidelines in favor of reopening schools

CDC Sides with Trump, Says Students Need to Go Back to School – Tim Pearce

Texas Officials Offer Schools Option to Hold Online-only Classes Until November – Brooke Seipel

Millions of children forced into labor as COVID-19 creates global hunger crisis: World Vision – Anugrah Kumar

Private schools in our area are opening with in-school instruction. Daycare centers and preschools continue to provide support for little ones, but what do working parents do with their school-aged children? It is a conundrum for many.Photo Credit: Pikrepo

Homeschooling is becoming more the norm – whether it’s parental (or other adult) supervision of students with on-line instruction or the exit from public schools to all-out homeschooling. Fortunately, for parents new to homeschooling, resources abound. Almost to a dizzying level.

Photo Credit: Homeschool Hive, Facebook, Instagram @Lifeographer

What’s happening where you are?

I feel for the parents and children (especially those families most vulnerable – single-parent, poor, non-native-English speaking, etc.). On the flip-side, I can also understand the trepidation school systems trying to provide a safe space for learning on-campus. Getting students back in school as soon as can be well-managed seems best for long-term learning, social and mental (maybe even physical) health, and (unpopular opinion, but essential) for the sake of the economy.

What are your thoughts?

2) Restraint – My husband is an introvert; I am not. He commended my every day early-morning restraint in holding onto my thoughts until he had his first cup of coffee. I’m glad, after all these years, he still notices. Restraint is a good thing. It is defined as “the act of holding something back”.Photo Credit: Flickr, Raphael Love

Restraining ourselves is way different than being restrained or restraining others (in case, that word gives a negative connotation). Our culture these days seems not so into restraint. Social media as well as the streets of our cities are ablaze with the activity of “casting off restraint”.

Some actions and ideologies demand intervention on the part of those most affected and those standing with them. Still, restraint has its place in honoring one another. We are not so far down the path of mean-spirited self-expression and group-think that we can’t change the course of culture. That is my hope anyway.

My voice doesn’t always have to be heard. What we do with our thinking is exponentially more impacting than what we say. Especially if we are tempted to “speak” with bricks and lasers… [I get that it feels like a last-ditch effort in some cases.]

Practicing some measure of restraint gives space to hear others and to treat them with dignity if not yet understanding.

For many in our country, we will speak with our vote in the November elections. For every day, we can use restraint as a demonstration of true caring for those around us, provided the action energized by the restraint is well and rightfully aimed.

The Benefits of Restraint – What Are We Practicing? Greed or Restraint? – Alison Bonds Shapiro

Divine Restraint – Alex M. Knight

A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for Our Nation – David French

3) Tiny Harvests – This is the time of summer when we are gathering the harvest of tomatoes and peppers. It’s the time for many of our flowers to pass from previous glory into the magnificent “going to seed”. We have many little visitors in our garden these days. I especially love how the goldfinches harvest the seeds of the coneflowers.Photo Credit: Piqsels

They are joined by all kinds of other little feeders and harvesters. Have a look with me.

4) Your Next Job – In 2015, I read a Jon Acuff book, during a season of huge change. It had a huge impact on my thinking regarding career moves. The book was Do Over. It inspired me to actually do a blog series on the book; it was that good.

Dave and I read the book. On a mini-vacation that summer, we took Acuff’s book along and, together, we did his exercise on using index cards to help us look at our strengths and passions. In the pursuit of either a different career or recognizing our fit for our current one. It was very instructive and affirming. Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, table and indoor

In these days, we have friends who were furloughed because of the COVID-19 impact on the economy. You might find this exercise helpful. Jon Acuff has given us a 14-minute how-to YouTube video. As he guides the viewer through this exercise, he encourages us to think big through our strengths.  “This is the hero’s slow walk from the explosion moment. What’s something you’re good, dare I say amazing, at?” Consider doing this exercise whether you’re looking at a job change or you are just fine with your job. It’s a revealing and elevating experience.

5) Communication During Covid – Communication happens. Badly at times. However, we keep at it. Visits in the yard. Drive-bys. Social media. Email. Video calls. We want and need that touch with others.

We are either more consuming or more creating. Sending or receiving or, hopefully, a combination of the two.

I’m so thankful to those creating content. Podcasts and written media. We may not know these creators, but they resonate with us. Many give us something to consider, even to shake up our thinking.  Others just give us a touch into the lives of others. They draw us in and help us feel our own humanity more. We feel kindred.

Feeling kin is a precious commodity. Like in families, we don’t always agree but we belong with each other. Organizations and individuals who are innovating in this whole area of communication will help us stay engaged with each other.

Please share in Comments about communication innovators in your COVID experience – whether it’s a fairy godmother-type neighbor (we have one of those) or a team of folks who keep communication fresh and interesting – drawing a circle around everyone in the organization.

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is a classical guitarist who arranges covers of TV, film, and videogame themes. During COVID, he began a podcast. What?! It’s honestly been a lot of fun listening to him and cohost Jeremiah Dias, both musicians and friends since high school. They talk music, career, family, and pop culture. It has the feel of a comfortable hang-out or a family gathering listening to the young people talk. It draws the listeners close – to Nathan and Jeremiah – and, in a way, to each other.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar Podcast

I also listen to an array of podcasts under the umbrella of Blogging Heads. In particular, I listen to The Glenn Show. Economist Glenn Loury describes his show as “Glenn Loury invites guests from the worlds of academia, journalism and public affairs to share insights on economic, political and social issues.” It sounds pretty heady, right? It can be but it is so engaging we can all learn from these guys. My favorite episodes are when he and linguistics professor John McWhorter dialog. They are not always in agreement but their respect for each other and their complete focus in the conversation teach us as much about communication as about their subject matter. So good!Photo Credit: YouTube, The Glenn Show

Confession: I consume communication more than I create. However, if anybody out there wants to create communication and wants some ideas, I have some. In the meantime, it’s drivebys, phone calls, and yard visits.

Hope you get some rest in this weekend. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Mike Pineda, Facebook

Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race – Resource Roundup – Katrina Michie

You remember this day? That first check…and the amount you really brought home (after taxes).

5 Friday Faves – Growing Up with Pixar, Pursuing Unity, Bringing Hope, Agility in Today’s Realities, and Making Music Happen

Happy Weekend! With so many of us either working remotely or with otherwise altered work situations, some rhythms are shifted. One for me is writing. I miss it. Please bear with me…and stay with me…as I carve out time and temperament to write something worth the read. You give me courage.

1) Growing Up with Pixar – Classical guitarist Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) knows exactly how to take any film song he chooses and draw out every bit of emotion possible. Related to Pixar, he did that previously with medleys of both the happy theme songs and the sad ones. This week, Nathan arranged and performed the heart-wrenching Randy Newman song “When She Loved Me”. You will recognize this song from the film Toy Story 2. It’s the poignant story of Emily and her cowgirl toy Jessie. At first, little girl Emily adores her toy and Jessie feels so loved, through their tireless play. Then…Emily grows up. Jessie ends up in a cardboard box donated to a charity. Many of our children have grown up with Pixar and have had lessons on life reinforced – love, loyalty, friendship, and determination – through these films. Nathan’s sweet rendition of this song will take you back.

Also check out his latest podcast on The Truth About Going Viral.

2) Pursuing Unity – We live in a world torn by division. Whatever our political ideology or religious fervor, we don’t have to just sit by and watch it burn. I am reminded of one who prayed for unity for us. One who died the next day in a world divided.

“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”Jesus, John 17:21-23

I want to align myself with those who choose unity…those who keep reasoning together, and refuse to hate, and who are determined to forgive and to find answers and to love no matter what.

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

A veteran officer of the United States Marine Corps and a teaching pastor, Grant Castleberry, wrote exquisitely about pursuing unity. Here’s a bit of his article:

“The New Testament emphasis, over and over again, is that true Christian unity is only built on a right understanding of the gospel. No matter our national allegiance, economic background, political party, or ethnicity, the gospel unites believers in one faith, one ‘body’ (1 Cor 12:12, 17)…The family of God outstrips all our other allegiances and affiliations. This includes our allegiance to a political party or ethnicity. Identity, and therefore unity, in the New Testament is almost always linked to the fact that we have been united to Christ in faith through the gospel…we should be defined by a spirit of love and forgiveness…In our divided culture, unity in the Church will be only nurtured and maintained, using the methods and principles that Jesus and the Apostles have outlined for us in the New Testament…These bodies of believers, from diverse backgrounds and idealogies, will serve as beacons of unity in a divided world.”Grant Castleberry

3) Bringing Hope – What kinds of things have brought you hope in these days? I have experienced and observed so many acts of kindness – simple ones and costly ones. People being creative and hopeful themselves and lavishing it generously on others.

Actor writer John Krasinski is one of those persons. He created this little YouTube channel with the focus on Some Good News (in the face of all the bad). Only eight episodes in total but he celebrated so much in those eight weeks – health care and other essential workers, our beloved sports teams, and the big Spring events that have been disrupted (graduations, proms, weddings, etc) secondary to COVID-19.

John Krasinski Fights Back Tears During Emotional Some Good News Finale – Emily Belfiore

Column: What I’m Glad to Say Goodbye to John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’ – Mary McNamara

I guess John Krasinski has some projects coming up because he ended his broadcasts after the eighth episode. Or maybe with the opening up of our countries, we will be making even more good news. Like visits with beloved grandparents after three months of “social distancing”. Now that’s some good news!!!Photo Credit: Facebook, Eryn Cobb

Finally, the most hope-bringing message: “Jesus loves me/you; this I know!”

4) Agility in Today’s Realities – We often think of agility in terms of sports – that ability to change directions quickly, but it’s that and so much more. What does agility mean in life and work?Photo Credit: Gunther Verheyen, Scrum

We hear a lot these days about a “new normal” after we come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Maybe we are better off thinking not new but real – what is real now and how could it change or be changed?

Wisdom is taking what we are learning about this virus and maximize prevention and sound treatment while, at the same time, figure out how to still do life…work…all that matters to us.

Try things. Experiment. Think in teams. Acknowledge the fails. Try something different. Strengthen the successes. Broaden them.

I’m talking very simplistically here, but we have a lot of smart and innovative people out there. Let’s figure out how to be agile in our decision-making.Photo Credit: Facebook, TobyMac

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends that will Rule 2020 – Carey Nieuwhof

The Original 2020 Is History. 7 New Disruptive Church Trends Every Church Leader Should Watch – Carey Nieuwhof [insight beyond churches as well]

5) Making Music Happen – I had an opportunity years ago to direct a Christmas program in a tiny church in New Haven, Ct. It was a magical experience – for me for sure. Then years later, I had another opportunity to produce a fine arts program in a school in Casablanca, Morocco. Again, to bring singers and musicians together to make something beautiful was an incredible experience. Below are two videos of music that we might not have had except for COVID-19.

Also the following are now-famous songs from the film musical The Greatest Showman. They are “in the making” versions and bring us close to what it’s like for the singers to create something musical and joyful for us all. In the middle you’ll find another “virtual ensemble” bringing to life one of those great songs during the social distancing of today.

Bonuses:

Blue Bloods’ Reagan Family Dinner:

MercyMe’s Hurry Up  and Wait

Core Values List: 115 Values That I Filtered on Practicality – Darius Foroux

30 Days in the Shire – Adapted for Use in the Midst of Coronatide – Tea with Tolkien

“And people stayed at home
And read books
And listened
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
More deeply
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.”

The above poem was published on March 16, 2020, by writer Catherine O’Meara (aka Kitty O’Meara)

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elaine M. Lechanski

Photo Credit: Facebook; Wonders of Nature, Robert E. Saddler

Monday Morning Moment – Resilience – Socially Distanced but Emotionally Engaged

Photo Credit: Resilience, Seoraksan National Park, South Korea, Chris Campbell, Flickr

Let’s talk about resilience – that ability to weather hardship over time; to endure and stand strong; to bounce back to a new normal. A new normal not thrust on us but one we help create.

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” – The Road to Resilience

When strong winds come (whether illness, financial setbacks, or social distancing prescribed to avoid COVID-19), we can bend or break.Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

There is a more middle place as well, when the bending leaves us bent rather than just stretched. We are in a season where we might feel bent. In a “fog” of sorts, disoriented by our circumstances, ill-equipped for what we currently face. The lethargy, fatigue, and emotional/mental dullness are confusing when we actually have more opportunity than ever before to create and innovate.

This is where resilience comes in. After weeks of “staying at home”, getting work done in different ways than before, we are teetering on whether to remain cautious or throw caution to the wind.

Tapping into that mental energy for decisive action can move us toward resilience.  What do we want as a long-term outcome of this season?

Author James Clear writes about habit formation. He says it takes 2 months or so for a new habit to become automatic. He also cautions against focusing on the amount of time it takes more than the work it takes. “Do the work”. From Day 1 until whatever day our lives will “return” to normal.

Have you thought about what you hope to gain from this time we’re in “together”? We can’t control everything, of course. We will continue to have days where it seemed we weren’t able to accomplish much more than keeping our kids safe and fed. Underneath the sluggishness of this season of “staying well” or “staying in” for the sake of others…there is a rock-solid foundation of future possibility.

Let’s go after resilience. Let this be something we and our children look back on as a gain from 2020. Photo Credit: George Mason University

I’d love to hear your thoughts, your struggles, and how you are tackling the framing of that new normal. How are you staying mentally and emotionally engaged in spite of social distancing?

I’d like to close with some wisdom from Patrick Lencioni:

Hope Despite Coronavirus Fatigue – Trillia Newbell – my inspiration for today’s post

The Road to Resilience – Excellent resource (pdf)

Enhancing Resilience – Beth Payne (quick & helpful read)

The 6 Domains of Resilience – Jurie Rossouw (deeper dive, another excellent resource)

7 Successful Battle Strategies to Beat COVID-19 – Euvin Naidoo – for both work and personal life

You Can’t Think Yourself Out of Feeling Bad – Brianna Wiest

The Twisted Trees of Slope Point, New Zealand

Monday Morning Moment – Overthinking – a Bane or a Benefit?

[Forgive my simple artwork. I figure if Darius Foroux can do it, I can follow his lead.]

Do you find it hard to turn your brain off? Not just at night, but during the day? Our brain, like the rest of our body, needs rest.

Some of us struggle with overthinking. We just can’t get our brains to stop thinking. Probably because we have set habits deep in our thinking lives. Not just ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. We could also be in jobs that require us to always be “on” – problem-solving, strategizing, managing crises.

To be the best we can be in sorting out solutions for work problems or setting course for a new direction, we need to somehow turn off our thinking, even for a few minutes each day.

Productivity consultant Darius Foroux‘s piece on overthinking came to my attention this week and got me thinking (which moves to overthinking pretty quickly). Check out his article How to Get Rid of the Thoughts That Are Clogging Your Brain.

Foroux presents the idea that both negative and positive thoughts can “clog” our brains. It’s our over-thinking along any line of thought that over time wears us out, such that we actually under-perform. Overthinking ironically leads to poor performance. Something to think about…besides its impact on our mental and physical health.

I’m an overthinker and in very good company with others. Overthinking doesn’t make us smarter. It’s just something we are prone to. Not just worrying or obsessing but that bent toward thinking we have to make something happen (fill in the blink of what that might be). It could be a control thing or just a coping mechanism.

Reading Doroux’s article on overthinking gave me pause. He recommends short-circuiting our overthinking by 1) being more self-aware, 2) examining our thoughts and thinking habits, 3) managing our thinking, and then 4) just taking joy in the moment.

Just think how managing our thinking overload could improve the quality of our lives and the outcomes of our work.

An example that came straight to mind was visits with my grandchildren. Everything doesn’t have to be a teachable moment, or a lesson on character, or even a meaningful communication. Sometimes it can just be down on the floor doing whatever they want to do…just being with them…in the moment.Photo Credit: Pikrepo

What do you think? In truth, I’m not sure I’m willing to give up all overthinking, given the other treasured overthinkers in my life. However, I sure don’t want to miss the joy of what’s right in front of me. How about you?

Here’s What happens to Your Body When You Overthink – Julia Ries

Why You Need to Give Your Brain a Break – Debbie Hampton

Thinking Is Bad For Your Health – Overthinking Is Worse – Hadi Khatib

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

Monday Morning Moment – Focus – This Won’t Take Long

Photo Credit: Picpedia

Click. Click. Click.

Notifications. Notifications. Notifications.

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.

We live and work these days in a culture of distraction where focus is a rare commodity.

“The culture of distraction makes your ability to think deeply and creatively constantly threatened. Conceiving ideas and putting them into practice requires time for reflection, and for that you need a personal organization method like GTD: if you are able to create a space where you can think and reflect, you will be able to move forward with more things, with less energy and less time.”Francisco Sáez

Doing research this morning on focus, I came across the Tweet below:

All these devices can make our lives hackable, too. Our deep thinking time…our complex problem-solving capability…vulnerable.

What can we do to recover our focus? To be able to expand our recall and use our memory…our mind to its greatest capacity?

Entrepreneur and teacher/mentor William Treseder, co-founder of BMNT has written a book on this topic:

Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction

Photo Credit: Amazon

While you’re waiting for the book to arrive, Treseder has also written a rapid read on focus where he outlines The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus . Those two killers are screen distractions (smart phones/tablets) and meetings.

He offers 5 easily executable ways out of our mental chaos and into focus. They are listed below but don’t miss his commentary on each here.

  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Organize tasks.
  • Clean up.
  • Shrink meetings.
  • Preserve buffers.

I am personally very easily distracted. To make these few adjustments is worth getting my focus back. Thoughts?

Oh…last thing: Treseder also wrote a thought-provoking piece on How to Develop a Mission Mentality. This takes the issue of focus to a much more “big picture” place. When we have set the “why” and “who” of our daily focus, we are compelled to stay at the task and bring others with us. That is mission mentality.

10 Tips to Stay Focused – Francisco Sáez 

Photo Credit: James Clear

Monday Morning Moment – the Positive Power of a Community of Women

First off, this is for you women out there. Men could also profit reading, because it speaks to a need they have as well. [At the bottom, Guys, is a link marked with an * that speaks to a situation worth assessing, along with this one.] Today, I am writing to women though because it’s women I know best and whose community I need most.

West Texas mom and blogger Amy Weatherly has written a great piece on the essential nature of having a tribe. I have to say that word has gone South for me. A tribe too often means “a clique, a squad, a pack” – exclusive, closed, self-promoting. Not in Amy Weatherly’s article, at all…as you will see. Just for my own sensibilities, the word tribe is translated community elsewhere in this blog.

Here’s Amy Weatherly’s piece and her defining quote on women in community:

Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Tribe. A Tribe of Women Who Could Choose to Compete, But Take the Higher Road of Collaboration Instead

Behind every successful woman is a tribe. A tribe of other women who support her and love her and push her to be her absolute best but stick by her even when she’s at her absolute worst. A tribe of other women who could choose to compete, but take the higher, better road of collaboration instead. A tribe of other women who don’t just fix her crown, but also bend down to pick it up and dust it off when it’s fallen off. A tribe of other women who refuse to get jealous. Who refuse to compare. Who refuse to belittle or go low. Who refuse to gossip, or leave out, or hurt just to watch her crumble under the pressure.

A tribe of women who tell the truth. When it’s hard. When it’s easy. When it’s uncomfortable. When a lie would be the simpler road to travel.

A tribe of women who pick her up and put her back on her feet when she’s gone off-course. A tribe of women who have the courage to encourage her. A tribe of women who have the strength to strengthen her.

A tribe of other women who have her back, and her front, and her side, and her soul, and her spirit, and her heart, and her best interest in mind. Always.

Behind every successful woman is a God who knows the plans He has had for her from the very beginning. A God who holds her in His own hand and cheers her on from Heaven. A God who loved her before she was even born and had dreams for her before she even took her first breath. She mattered to Him before the womb. She mattered to Him in the womb. And she sure matters to Him now. – Amy Weatherly

We Adore Messy Bun, No-makeup Mom’s Post After Friend Asks: ‘Who Even Are You Anymore?’ – Sonja Haller – USA Today

What Weatherly wrote so resonated. Across the geography of my life, communities of women have reached in and given me love, confidence, and safe places where dreams can turn into reality. I hope to have learned well enough from them to do likewise in other circles of influence.

Sometimes the communities are small – my mom and me, for one. However, there are always other women connected. I think of the women, friends of my mom’s, who taught and counseled me growing up (in church and in our neighborhood). Then in Mom’s last years, friends of hers (and mine) who leaned in to love us well when cancer became our collective enemy. Losing Mom was awful, but her friends stayed…and are staying still, for me. Praise God for that community.

After reading Weatherly’s article, I got to thinking: what is it that makes for such a community? Here are some characteristics:

  • They show up…
  • And they stay (you don’t have to worry about them walking away)
  • Challenge in positive ways (all in)
  • Empower (bringing their own skill sets to insure success)
  • Serve one another
  • No selfish ambition
  • Inclusive
  • Genuinely interested in what each cares about
  • Will give benefit of the doubt
  • Refuse to think/speak ill of the other
  • Will move Heaven and earth to make things happen
  • Celebrate each other’s successes
  • Grieve the losses and comfort those most affected
  • Speak the truth in love
  • Keep short accounts (ask forgiveness, forgive, and counsel to do both)
  • Speak blessing
  • See and know each other

This is not an exhaustive list. What would you add? [In Comments below.]

Are any of us always that way as a group? No. Of course not. Still, in genuine community, we experience a fertile soil to grow and flourish.

I wish I could include images of all the communities of women that have peopled and blessed my school, work, and home life through the years. It would be a beautiful sight.

As for the communities of women that break our hearts or frustrate our hopes or, in some way, feel we have done wrong to them? We learn in these situations as well…to keep seeking to grow, to understand and to love anyway.Photo Credit: Edwin Markham, Tony Mayo

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

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups

The Health Benefits of Female Friendships and Girlfriends [According to Science Your Girl Squad Can Help You Release More Oxytonin] – Laura Barcella

Why Women Need Their Tribe