Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Worship Wednesday – Hills and Valleys – I Am Not Alone – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.Psalm 121

Hills and valleys. They are part of our lives.

A week ago, I sat silent in the car by this beautiful friend, her face blotched and shining with tears. It had been a low time for her, and, for the moment, she just needed to cry. We were together for her wedding day – the loveliest of high times. There have been other shared mountain-top experiences since…as well as valleys.

When we have those big positive experiences, the valleys are forgotten – that ache of loneliness or undoneness in the times of helplessness or disappointment. Still, we need people in both those experiences…More than that, we need God.

Several years ago, along with some friends, our family visited Mt. Sinai. Dave’s Mom and Dad also joined us, visiting from the US. It was an incredible time. We traveled up toward the summit on donkeys via a camel trail. The last 750 feet we climbed on foot. The view was spectacular. Just under 7500 ft. high, Mt. Sinai is a sentinel in Egypt’s eastern desert. Majestic, beautiful, changing in appearance with sun and shadow. Awe-inspiring.

Even more so, as we think this could be the place that Moses met with God, so many years ago. It is considered a holy mountain by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Looking out over the desert below, we got lost in our thoughts, reflecting on history and God and the privilege just to be there. It was more a solitary experience, although surrounded by loved ones and strangers. One group of tourists started singing “How Great Thou Art” in a language I couldn’t understand. We joined in, in English. It was truly an obvious mountain-top experience.

Then, the climb down. The camel trail would be slower, so we decided to take the faster route – the Steps of Repentance. Stones placed as stairs from the summit to the valley floor (legend goes that one monk placed them all as an act of repentance). 3750 stone steps. Uneven, rough-cut, some deeper or narrower than others. All requiring care in descending.

[Click on this blog for pics of Mt. Sinai’s summit and the valley below as well as a look at the Steps of Repentance – 3750 steps down to the valley.]

Plodding our way to the valley, step by step, wasn’t taxing at first, but that didn’t last long. As hundreds of steps took their toll on our knees, we started feeling shaky and unsure of our footing. Hoping not to fall or injure ourselves. It helped that we were in a group, in case we needed each other.

On that walk down, I got to see a tenderness in my husband that fit perfectly the situation. He saw his mom was struggling and came alongside her to get safely down to the valley. His dad was fine enough, as was I, although shaking from the pounding down descent. Being careful not to fall. It turned out to be harder than we thought.

Valleys are like that, in general. Ofttimes, harder than we think. We need each other and most importantly we need God. To bring us through the journey that takes us low. To give us the grace to deal with what is in front of us.

Our pastor Cliff Jordan preached on prayer a few Sundays back. Prayer and the postures of prayer. When we are experiencing a mountain-top moment or a downward spiral to a spiritual valley, we pray. As God’s children – for different reasons and with different postures. Remembering that we are not alone. Never. Not ever.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: 163atkw.aug

Singer/songwriter Tauren Wells‘ has given us a song about this very thing. Hills and Valleys.

“When you’re on the mountaintops of life, learn to bow low. and when you’re in the valleys of life, learn to stand tall….No matter where we’re at, we’re standing in God’s grace, and that no matter what we have, His grace is enough.” Tauren Wells

Worship with me.

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In You I hope again
No matter what I know
I’m safe inside Your hands

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
On the mountains I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley I will lift my eyes
Ohhh, ohhhh

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
No, I’m not alone
I know, I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills
And I am not alone
God of the hills
The God of the valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone*

*Lyrics – Hills and Valleys – Songwriter: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Hills and Valleys (Story Behind the Song)

Hills and Valleys – Behind the Song – Kevin Davis

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, since I know that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed made clear to me. And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure. – 2 Peter 1:12-15

Some weeks are packed with distractions – both lovely and loathsome. This week we’ve had to face conflict and disease in the family.  It happens. It’s part of life. It usually resolves.

Then there is the political and civil (uncivil) realm. We had a state election this week, and it went very differently than I thought it would. The ramifications regarding issues deep in my heart are huge.

Thoughts whirling around in my head have been dizzying. Finally, in the darkness of the situations, a light came on…and brightened even the blackest of my fears and worries.Photo Credit: Heartlight, Dwight L. Moody

I remembered God.

In our community group this week, we talked a bit about Psalm 105 (the text at Movement Church this past Sunday). These verses popped out at me:

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Remember.

During group, I told everyone of the struggle I’d had. Forgetting that God is still about His purposes. Then His gentle reminder earlier in the day and again during group. My heart was so comforted that it seemed fitting to begin a discipline of writing down remembrances of what God has done throughout history (as He brings them to mind) and what He is doing in our lives and those around us. So here goes…

To top all this off, I’m a part of Community Bible Study in 1 and 2 Peter. We just finished 2 Peter 1. The Apostle Peter, in these two letters, was encouraging the New Testament church that had suffered much and longed for the return of Christ. God had already revealed Peter was not long for this world. In his deep sense of urgency, he wanted to remind these believers…and all of the rest of us reading his words through the ages…to hold on to the truth.

Remembering What Not to Forget

  • Remember the reality of your salvation.
  • Remember the riches of your salvation.
  • Remember your responsibility to add to your faith.
  • Remember to make calling and election sure.
  • Remember the revelation of God to you.
  • Remember “We have a more sure word.” – Community Bible Study

So I’m on my way journaling both what God is teaching in the Bible study above, but also the remembrances of His provision for our family through the years, including the nearness of Himself through every trial.

Singer/songwriter Lauren Daigle has written and performed a beautiful song to take us to worship in remembering God in all things. Its title? Remember.

Worship with me and remember…

In the darkest hour when I cannot breathe
Fear is on my chest, the weight of the world on me
Everything’s crashing down, everything I have known
When I wonder if I’m all alone

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I will lift my eyes even in the pain
Above all the lies, I know You can make a way
I’ve seen giants fall, I’ve seen mountains move
I’ve seen waters part because of You

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there
With me*

*Lyrics to Remember – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury, Chris Tomlin, & Ed Cash

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Fight Through, Then Rest, & Remember – It’s Not Over Yet – For King & Country – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember? – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.

Monday Morning Moment – the Not So Subtle Punishment of Silence

Photo Credit: Socrates, Status Mind

The silent treatment. Seems so juvenile, in a way, and yet it is used as a punishment in relationships, both personal and professional. We may be the ones doing it without even thinking that’s what it is. Here we go.

In the earliest years of our marriage, Dave and I would sometimes have a fight about something. At times, the conflict didn’t end well for me, anyway. Then, without really a goal to be vindictive or mean, I would just have nothing to say to him…for as many as three days. Oh, we would cover the normal conversation of life – schedules, kids, etc., but from my side, all matters of the heart were wrapped in silence. Punishing him with that silence. I don’t think he always noticed, but inside my own heart and head, it was brutal.

Fortunately for us both, I grew out of that. Now after a disagreement, it may take me a few minutes to shake off my frustration…but not days. Silent treatment in our marriage is over.

In a recent blog by Jan Riley (a dear friend of mine), she talked about the use of silence to “break a person down”. She writes below:

In his book Ostracism: The Power of Silence, psychologist Kipling Williams writes: “William James [father of American psychology] suggested that to be ‘cut dead’ and to go ‘unnoticed’ by others would be worse than the ‘most fiendish punishment.’ The silent treatment may well be the most frequently used method of cutting people dead.”

In his piece Ostracism, Dr. Williams introduced the topic with a further quote by Dr. James: “If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead,” and acted as if we were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would ere long well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily tortures would be a relief; for these would make us feel that, however bad might be our plight, we had not sunk to such a depth as to be unworthy of attention at all.( James 1890/1950, pp. 293–94)

Ostracism – Kipling D. Williams – pdf

Psychologist Karen Young talks about silent treatment as

Photo Credit: Jaeda DeWalt

Silence is a very disorienting experience because you usually can’t discern what it means.  It can put you off balance.

Anyone who has ever experienced ostracism knows what it feels like and how debilitating it can be, even for a mature thinker.

Silent treatment can be intentional and manipulative, however it can also become a habit of “communication” – neglectful communication. Excluding someone from a conversation (at work or other association), not making eye contact, not speaking in casual encounters, not answering emails/texts, leaving a group member off a group email, not acknowledging someone’s input…and so it goes.

[Of course, all the above can happen innocently for the overloaded person, without intention. The dilemma is when we, over time, just let it keep happening because we can’t figure out how to fix it..or just aren’t inclined…to fix it.]

The curious thing about silent treatment, if you confront the person you sense is doing it, that person can always deny it…whereupon you feel like you’ve read the situation wrongly, you overreacted, etc. It is like a double punch.

So what does one do in regards to silent treatment? What are the counter-measures? I would love for you to share yours in the Comments because I am still sorting out what can affect change.

In a personal relationship, in a non-conflictive moment, you may talk together about what silence conveys. It may be that neither of you have an understanding of what’s going on with the other…because of the silence. Face-to-face communication most always helps with understanding each other better.

In a work situation, or other organizational affiliation that demands working together, systems can be put in place that facilitates engagement… team meetings, weekly email updates, some sort of regular internal communication process. Like with bullying prevention, a core value that speaks to the essential of regular, empowering communication can have impact.

A work or family culture that just accepts silence as a way of coping with stress or frustration can affect everyone in that culture. Identify the issues and do what you can to move them toward health.

One-on-one, there still may be little we can do to counter or improve a situation with such a someone – one who has made silence a pattern to control their encounters with others. We can definitely mark the experience, and check the pain. Then if there seems no way to improve the relationship, the best thing we can do is put our own boundaries around the experience…but not necessarily the person.

Photo Credit: Pikord, Michael Davis Lowery

[The above graphic was a chuckle, not a true work-around.]

We don’t want to respond to passive-aggressive behavior with the same sort of behavior. We may, however, have to acknowledge that for some people, it’s a deeply ingrained habit that could even have become unconscious.

When our daughter was 3 years old, she went through a season of not speaking to people. She would bury her face in my leg, or just turn her face/body away from the person. Then I tried to “excuse” her behavior with “she’s become shy lately.” The same friend above, Jan, who was also a parenting mentor for me, said outright: “That’s not being shy; that’s being rude.” Some of you may be put off by that, but I appreciated her being straight with me. From that day on, this mama worked with that 3-year-old on what ignoring and not speaking communicated and on how to be courteous and respectful. Now the lovely woman she has become is working on the same lessons with her little one.

Whatever your take is on this, hopefully you won’t default to perpetrating the silent treatment as your own pattern of controlling situations. Don’t do it yourself. Don’t be that person.

It helps me to realize that friends, family, and coworkers who use silent treatment didn’t get there overnight. There could have been an event, an altercation, a painful experience of their own that set them up for emotionally withdrawing and using silence as coping or as punishment. For some, like in our early years of marriage, silent treatment may be very situational. For others, it is borne out of habit – a habit of feeling no compulsion toward connecting with people they don’t value or whom they feel don’t value them. It is what it is.

In this day of social media and over-sharing, to put yourself out there and then be met with silence is a strange and sometimes painful experience. Fortunately, even that does not define us. Right? Right.

The Surprising Truth About the Silent Treatment – Karen Young

When We Use Silence As Punishment

The Silent Treatment: a Deadly Killer of Friendships – Noelle Rhodes

Worship Wednesday – Spirit Pour Out – Andy and Rachel Graham

And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.Luke 19:41

Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7

The shining city we call home is Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, gleaming mix of old and new.  A river runs east-west through it, and interstate highways divide it north-south. The divide goes much deeper than the highways cut through neighborhoods decades ago, but these transportation portals speak to that divide.

After the Civil War (during which Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America), the African-American community began to thrive here. In fact, Jackson Ward, a Richmond neighborhood still today, was once known as “Black Wall Street” and “the Harlem of the South”. Beautiful homes, large churches, successful businesses, and popular entertainment venues were all part of this thriving neighborhood.

Then “progress” happened. City and state officials determined the design of what is now our vast interstate system. This all-white group of officials made the decision of what would best serve the city and beyond. The highways would be laid down right through Jackson Ward. 1000 homes were lost through the city’s powers of eminent domain.

Roads to Nowhere: How Infrastructure Built Built on American Inequality – Johnny Miller

Recently I saw a TV show, All Rise, that featured an anquished young man, wrongly accused of a felony. While awaiting the jury’s verdict, his public defender sat with him. She asked about why he was studying urban planning. This was the powerful scene that speaks to what happened in our city and others:

“Every shining city is built on something pretty dark.”

The above statement from the scene isn’t always true (especially when I think of Heaven), BUT. God, in His Word, demonstrated both understanding of and love for cities.

The peoples of cities. Peoples like us, and others not like us but loved. Exquisitely, generously loved by God. We are meant to love as He loves. We are blessed to be a blessing to all peoples.

Not just transactional charity…where we give of our goods but not ourselves. Jesus did feed the thousands (transactional) but He also gave all of Himself to all people (transformational). He left that example for us…that transformational model of loving people.

Seek Your City’s Good – John Piper

This past Sunday, our worship team at Movement Church, led us in a song new to me. Spirit Pour Out. It was written by Andy and Rachel Graham out of a worship experience with Urban Doxology, a ministry based in Richmond. Members of Urban Doxology live, work, worship, and serve in the racially diverse (and divided) neighborhoods of Richmond. They bring a message and vision for reconciliation – with God and each other. See the Ted Talk about Urban Doxology here. The YouTube video below shows footage of our city, Richmond, Virginia. It is a call to prayer for cities – for ours and for all cities.

Worship with me.

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

Come restore generations of desolation
Bind up the poor and broken heart
Plant and sow, till and grow what time has ravaged
Break down the walls of race and war

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

God we seek the peace and welfare of our city
Prosper redeem her as your own
That all would see your glory here in greater measure
Through us your church your kingdom come

Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come

You are the God who builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Evil has no claim
You are the God builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Fervently we pray*

Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In fact, we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).

So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King. – John Piper

*Lyrics to Spirit Pour Out – Songwriters: Andy & Rachel Graham

YouTube Video – Spirit Pour Out – Urban Doxology

Monday Morning Moment – What Stirs Motivation, Initiative, and Innovation – What Kills It

Photo Credit: Flickr

We all have the capability of motivating those around us…or demotivating them. We can stir initiative or slow it down. We can grease the tracks for innovation or derail it.

How are motivation, initiative, and innovation defined? Considering the definitions will help us remember how crucial they are to forward progress – in serving others, in product development, and in employee (or volunteer) engagement.

MotivationInternal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal. Motivation results from the interaction of both conscious and unconscious factors such as the (1) intensity of desire or need, (2) incentive or reward value of the goal, and (3) expectations of the individual and of his or her peers. These factors are the reasons one has for behaving a certain way.

InitiativeAn individual’s action that begins a process, often done without direct managerial influence. For example, an employee might take the initiative to come up with a new product or service that the company could offer…Demonstrat(ing) initiative by sharing their ideas, helping to improve our business, speaking up about problems, and suggesting potential solutions.

InnovationThe process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

We can celebrate situations where we experience daily motivation and have the freedom and support to run with our initiative and participate in innovation. It’s in other situations that we need internal and external encouragement to press on, even without the help or support of our managers, leaders, bosses.

Dealing with bottlenecks, micro-managing, and continually reiterating leaders or bosses can tempt us to disengage and slow down in our own work…even in areas where our passion and commitment are high.

“One of the signals that managers might need more training is when their engineers aren’t taking initiative.”Jean Hsu, Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative?

“We agree completely that micromanagement is a big mistake. It diminishes people’s self-confidence, saps their initiative, and stifles their ability to think for themselves. It’s also a recipe for screwing things up—micromanagers rarely know as much about what needs to be done as the people they’re harassing, the ones who actually do it.” – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Photo Credit: Flickr

This piece today is really not to vent about those in authority over us who make our work or volunteering difficult (and sometimes joyless). Listed below (in the links) are several lists on particulars that stifle or kill motivation, initiative, and innovation. Especially if you are a manager or boss, these would be important to consider.

We may need to process a bit about our struggle to get a project finished or an idea embraced. This particular blog came out of such a frustration. Still, what I hope is to take the power to spoil out of the hands of our bosses (most probably that is not their primary intention) and to empower ourselves to push on in ways we can. Without being divisive or insubordinate. Empathy is one of the tools we can use.Photo Credit: Brian Solis, Flickr

Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings”.

The Truth About Why Empathy is a Required Skill in the Workplace

Empathy probably seems a bit counter-intuitive when you’re feeling blocked by a controlling boss. Think about it. Once you think through her reasoning on slowing down a process, you can then give support to your ideas with language that speaks to her concerns.  For example, a micromanager may have several critical and costly projects going at the same time and could be afraid himself of dropping the ball on some, so he slows everything down and reins in decision-making. It can make a work team nuts, but if you determine to understand something of his position, you can stay in the conversation rather than just bolting.

Hating on your boss will only cloud the relationship from both sides. Then there’s the ripple effect to other relationships. None of us really want that. See link below…wisdom.

Workplace Wisdom – Dave’s Observation on Work (and Other) Relationships – What You Think of Others Matters – Deb Mills

You can help here, respectfully, by thinking through other ways to get to the solution of the problem or impasse. Empathy is a discipline that keeps conversations positive and inclusive of all those needed to make the decision on a new direction.Photo Credit: Career Contessa

Empathy at Work – Why It (Really) Matters – Jacqueline McElhone

Besides empathy, I have also discovered a different path. Maybe like you, I am one of those persons who generates ideas like other people generate the responses “we tried that” or “that’s good, but”. Creatives aren’t always well-received in the decision-making hierarchy. In recent years, I went through a season of de-motivation and diminished initiative. Life is too short to spend long in that mindset.

I finally shook off the troubled slumber of that season, in three ways:

  • Making the decision to continue working with the same organization, but
  • Looking for other avenues (non-profits, start-ups) to express the energy and passion of these ideas which I believed would make a difference.
  • Playing with and developing these ideas in an environment of inclusion and all-voices-wanted-at-the-table.

It wasn’t long that my confidence and sense of how to work smarter helped me to re-engage my workspace, with empathy. The bottlenecks may still be there, the control may still be weighted, but I am the one who changed. More ready for the battles and taking them less personally.

You matter. Your ideas, your solutions to problems, your presence at the table.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them (in Comments).

Photo Credit: Needpix

What Kills Motivation at Work – Justin Reynolds

7 Ways Toxic Managers Stifle Employee Motivation and Productivity – Kristin Marquet

7 Ways Micromanagement Stifles Creativity – Wayne Hastings

Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation – Rosabeth Moss Kanter

10 Ways Weak Managers Stifle Innovation – Liz Ryan

10 Things Companies Do That Kill Employee Motivation – Paul Petrone

Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative? – Jean Hsu

Monday Morning Moment – A Day at the State Fair – A Lesson on Disappointment and 5 Steps to Recovering Joy

[State Fair, 2013 pic]

This week is our state fair. Once a year for 10 glorious days, we have all kinds of opportunities to relish all kinds of good – Fair food, concerts, carnival rides, animal and produce exhibitions, and home cooking and crafting. Did I mention fair food?

We pack in as much as we can in just one day. It’s not a cheap experience, but the sheer yummyness of fried everything is worth the splurge. It’s once a year…the nostalgia alone brings us back again and again.

Then…there was this year’s fair day. Today. Put one very tired adult (not mentioning names) together with little ones with very short attention spans, and grumpiness prevailed. At least with the adults…not so much the littles. Nothing at the fair today was quite what we remembered it to be (except for the funnel cakes…they were as tasty as always).

We did all our usual stuff…things that gave joy in all the years past… but disappointment crept in…starting with our tired person, but not stopping there. The little ones fortunately seemed still to have a great fair day, but the adults were thinking this could be our last one altogether. It was that dreadful for a bit.

Photo Credit: Billy Graham, All Christian Quotes

Then on the drive back home and with the rest of the day full of other people and responsibilities, five revelations unfolded about the disappointment…and any disappointment really.

  1. Expectations are exposed by our disappointments. There it is: expectations. When our expectations are dashed is actually the moment we discover we had them. I try not to let expectations color an experience or encounter, but if we aren’t aware they are always at work, then we are thrown off balance when they are not met…or disappointed. Suffice it to say, my expectations for the day weren’t met…which could have made it difficult for everyone else.
  2. Humility gentles disappointment. When we shake down our expectations, then we have the beautiful possibility of humbly dealing with the possibility that another person’s expectations were thwarted as well. This tired one I refer to had hopes (expectations) of the day as well. He hadn’t planned on the ill effect of a very late night working and a barking dog early awakening him this morning. He was looking forward to the day as much as the rest of us. The rest of us weren’t very empathetic toward his own share of disappointments. Sigh… As we look at our situation with humility, a kinder and healthier other-mindedness comes into play.
  3. Gratefulness deflates disappointment. We still got to try milking a cow. We still watched pig races. We still got to ooh and aah over hand-made quilts, knitted dolls, and other crafts we might try ourselves now (or ask the other grandmother to try, definitely). We still got to watch the ducklings go down the slide and pet the rabbits. We still got to be together, more happily than not. It was a good day…really.
  4. Perspective is a happy outcome of humility and gratefulness. So…we may reconfigure our fair day next time. Some things may need to change…but not the people. I love these people. In light of other much harder things that happened when we returned home (hospice called in for a loved one, in particular)…the frustration of an imperfect outing was brought into real-life perspective. Imperfect was still full of messy, lovely life.
  5. Joy is recovered…restored when we put disappointment in its place. Definitely want to still do life with these people always and for as long as God allows. No walking away from this family. We are a mess sometimes, but the love hangs on…always.

Sandy Peckinpah‘s piece Breaking Expectations…When Life Hands You Disappointment – don’t stop before reading this. Really good!

Don’t Let Overwhelm Steal Your Joy – Sandy Peckinpah

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.]

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

Worship Wednesday – Singing in the Dark – Hymns, Psalms, and Worship Songs

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Years ago, we would play outside until dark. Especially in summer. I remember those evenings fondly…until the moment we started being called inside. My house was farthest away. Walking that dark street home alone was sometimes scary for this youngster. It was then that I would quote verses of Scripture or sing some hymn chorus or two. That practice would remind me of the nearness and protection of God… even in the dark.

Fast forward to today, and this came across my Twitter feed:

Photo Credit: Twitter, Matt Smethurst

[When you click on the link in the photo credit, you will find numerous comments answering the question. Some humorous, some serious. So many songs listed, old and newer. Some you may not only recognize but that will gladden your own heart.]

There’s probably not a person reading this who hasn’t been comforted by the singing of a hymn or worship song. Alone in the dark. At the dying of a loved one. Or during an unsettling time of another sort.

When my mom was dying, a friend of ours came and sang  Above All just for her. She loved that song and the young man who sang it to her.

So back to that tweet above…We all have cell phones now, and, if need be, can look up any song (if we can remember its title or searchable lyric)…to sing in the dark…To sing over someone we love…or to comfort our own hearts.

How wonderful, though, to have songs tucked away in our hearts and minds. Songs we can recall – to remind us of truth; to recall the Lord of Light; the Lord of our salvation (Psalm 27:1).

A church acquaintance of ours is teaching her children some of the great hymns of old. I heard them (5 y/o and younger) sing recently. The song was My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less (Solid Rock) written by British pastor Edward Mote in 1834. Loved it!

This is one of those songs that would come to mind when I was a child, singing in the dark, on my way home.

This same song actually also stirs many more memories. One, in particular, was hearing it sung by Filipino teens from a shanty town church group in Surigao City, Philippines. A team of us from the States would spend our summer there with the goal of helping that small congregation have its own church building. The pastor and family would make their home in the loft of the building. It was a long journey for us to get there. Flying into Manila, and then boarding a ship to the island of Mindanao. When we arrived in Surigao, we were transported on a bus to the building site. It was a tiny lot with more tidal pool than land showing. Seeing the seemingly insurmountable task before us, we were encouraged by their singing in English. A song familiar to all of us. Especially as they sang out the chorus: “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

At summer’s end, a church building was standing on that site.

Worship with me, to this great old hymn as true today as then:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
And I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

His oath
His oath, his covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

When he shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!

Yeah, You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
You are rock
You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
Jesus
Yeah, Jesus

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand*

Do you have a playlist for those “singing in the dark” times? What Psalms help? Other Scripture verses that have become your own heart songs? What hymns or worship songs? Please comment below.

*Lyrics to On Christ, the Solid Rock, I Stand – Written by Edward Mote, as sung by Charlie Hall

10 Songs to Play on Repeat to Get Through Fear & Worry