Category Archives: Monday Morning Moment

Monday Morning Moment – the Hobbit Life – a 30-Day Journey

Photo Credit: Flickr

Monday mornings can start so well and then sort of spiral. This was that sort of Monday around here. So much stress – with tough news, tight deadlines, and too much time in my own head…

Then a lovely idea…sparked by Tea with Tolkien (a Twitter account I follow)…lifted my spirit and cleared my mind. 30 Days to a Hobbit Heart. The focus of these 30 days is “slowing down, choosing simple joys, and forming new hobbity habits together”.

At the top of my movie list are The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (LOTR) and The Hobbit – both from the pen of British author J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s stories are of great adventures, loyal friendships, and battles for good against evil. The music from these films does justice to the stories. [Sidebar: Two songs from above film series inspired Nathan at Beyond the Guitar to arrange and perform them – here and here.]

I signed up for the 30-day journey. Let me know if you do, and we’ll do it together. The guide for the 30 days is actually a simple checklist of how to order your day in a hobbity way. [I want to say that word at least a few more times.] Suggestions include less screen time (of course), more time outside, more time with friends, simple suppers, second breakfasts, and time for walks, reading, and writing.[Just a bit of my husband’s garden which he makes hobbity time for]

Where do we find the time for these habits of life? If there is room for all that Marie Kondo requires in minimizing our stuff, then there is room for Tolkien’s ideas of reshaping how we spend our time…and with whom.

One of the suggestions is actually reading some of Tolkien’s letters. I’ve already begun today. It was thrilling to read in one letter (#47) how he was nearly finished with the sequel to The Hobbit. He mentioned how it would be a much longer story (The Lord of the Rings) but that the reader would not be disappointed.

Author Cam Clark describes how being familiar with The Hobbit Life actually made him a better person. He talks about how hobbits value the simpler things of life – friends, food, and stories. He also points to two characteristics that distinguish them from folks of our era. They are 1) not beleaguered by status anxiety (fearing have a lower status than others), and 2) they are more technophobic (whereas the villains of Tolkien’s LOTR were advanced in their weaponry). Hobbity people today would not be so bothered by pursuing status, and they would incline toward being less attached to their devices.

So there you have it…this little distraction brightened my day and altered my perspective. Looking forward to the 30-day journey to  wherever this hobbit life idea takes me.

By the way, the tough news and tight deadlines are still there…I’m just differently engaged…hopefully in a better way.

The Hobbit Life: How The Lord of the Rings Helped Me Become a Better Person – Cam Clark

7 Habits of Highly Effective Hobbits – Alex Knapp

A Day in the Life of a Hobbit – Alice

My Own Shire- Living a Hobbit Life in the Modern World – Arwen

Tea With Tolkien

Tolkien the Film

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Serving

Photo Credit: Summit Kids Academy

[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]

One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.

The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.

Yesterday we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).

Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.

Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this.

 “Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”

When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.

In serving, one distinctive might be the military acronym: ABCD – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

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

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

What if, along with with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.

Photo Credit: Caring For Our Generations

Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:

I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a “shining model” of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” Lisa Jacobson

She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:

  • Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
  • Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
  • Let them enjoy helping out.
  • Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
  • Cheer them on as they learn to serve.

Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others – Lisa Jacobson

Photo Credit: Intentional by Grace

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Author, educator, and pastor Andy Crouch writes about our callings in life. He is speaking to Christians, but these would richly apply to anyone who believes in God as our Creator.

Our three callings*:

  • To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
  • To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
  • To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.

[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]

“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.Andy Crouch

*The Three Callings of a Christian – Andy Crouch

How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.

As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.

Looking back, I don’t think we created a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just easier to do it myself, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. This is a regret for me today. There were moments, however, – bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to help our grown-up children model and teach serving to their grands. Can’t wait to see them, growing up to adulthood, discover the continuous joy of serving others.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults – Trevin Wax

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 1 – Responsibility Is Two Words

[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference. Part 2 – Raising Adults – Creating a Culture of Serving can be found here.]

Being a parent is a humbling work…one way or other, it takes us to our knees at some point. In thinking about how we shape our little ones and raise them into adulthood, I was driven to prayer…a lot.

“Oh God, You have given us such crucial work in raising our children to adulthood. Help us to be faithful to live in the tension of remembering they are still small/young and yet pointing them to their place in this world and Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

In the book of Genesis, we have a beautiful picture of God’s work – His eye for detail, His gift of order – He provided everything that was needful…including work for us.

God has given us all work to do. It was His plan from the beginning… In training up our children, we will always push against the counter-pressure of entitlement in our kids’ lives (and in our own)… but we are not alone. He’s already promised that “His yoke is easy, and His burden’s light”.

The Scripture is full of wisdom pointing us toward teaching our children to become responsible adults…understanding the importance of showing up, working in whatever capacity they can.

So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.Nehemiah 4:6

Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters.Luke 16:10

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.”Colossians 3:23-24

What goes into raising adults? Teaching our children and giving opportunity to see the value of work, to treat people and possessions appropriately, and to see themselves as a responsible part of a larger community. When does it start? Very early.

Author and parenting coach Reggie Joiner talks about the key to raising responsible adults is to give them responsibilities…now.

Raising Adults – Reggie Joiner

We are called, by God, to work…from the beginning…to have dominion…and to essentially clean up our own messes. As we learn to do that at home – caring for ourselves and contributing to our family – we can quite naturally expend the effort, and extend that, toward our larger community.

Joiner defines responsibility and counsels parents how to train it:

“Responsibility is an interesting word.
It’s actually two words.
Response and ability.

Do you see the link between the two concepts? If you want to raise kids to become responsible, then lead them toward a life where they develop the right attitude toward work and tasks. Give them chores at every stage.

  • Lead so their response reveals their ability.
  • Lead so their response matches their ability.
  • Lead so their response grows their ability.

Think about it this way:
Home should be the first job every kid ever has. What kind of experiences are you giving your children to prepare them to be responsible adults?”
Reggie Joiner

Raising Adults – Reggie Joiner

Just last week I was listening to a podcast from Liberty University. The guest was writer, thought leader, and world-shaker-upper Karen Swallow Prior:

She talks about this being the anxiety generation. Some of that anxiety revolves around the pressures coming out of social media. “There is an existential anxiety that goes with having so many choices in front of you and being afraid you’re going to make the wrong choice and miss out and go down the wrong path.” – “Everything you do in life [marriage, work, weekends] is supposed to be this huge self-fulfillment…such that you can post it on social media.” Too often, our experiences aren’t fulfilling and then the anxiety comes, “did I make the wrong choice?” – Notes from the podcast with Karen Swallow Prior

Dr. Prior supports education as a help in correcting the “tunnel vision and distorted vision” that can evolve in young people’s thinking. Work throughout our children’s growing up years can also impact thinking as well…restoring perspective.

One of my favorite books on this topic is Escaping the Endless Adolescence by Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen. The Allen’s write about the “failure to launch” generation. Teens who are exhausted at what seems required of them to be adults and therefore resist doing more than the minimum, coasting through life.

Instead of asking: “What will keep our teens out of trouble?” “What will make them happy?” or “What will get them into college?”, we need to switch our focus to a different set of queries: “How can we introduce realistic elements of adulthood into their worlds?” What activities best provide real feedback about their effort and skill?” and “Which other adults can we recruit to help pass our values on to them?” In short, we need to switch our focus from activities that reflect living happily as a teenager to activities that let our young people actually use their energy, connect with adults, and make choices that matter in order to begin moving successfully into adulthood.Allen & Allen

In their helps for parents of teens (and younger children), the Allen’s coach how to guide kids to become contributing members of the family, how to give genuine, real-world feedback toward maturity, how to connect their kids with role model adults (including the parents themselves), and how to positively stretch their kids toward skill- and confidence-building.

Writer and stylist Jo-lynne Shane shares a ‘raising adults” system she uses with her three children.

 [Her] system based on the following principles:

  1. logical consequences vs discipline and anger
  2. choices vs commands
  3. questions vs lectures
  4. no nagging
  5. no idle threats
  6. no yelling

You see, when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders.  Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems.  Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing. 

By giving them choices rather than commands, they don’t have the option to disobey.  The key is to give only choices that you can live with, and then to be willing to follow through. 

Asking questions instead of lecturing encourages kids to think for themselves and be discerning. – Jo-lynne Shane

Raising Responsible Kids – a Series – Jo-lynne Shane

Finally, writer and parent Cara Sue Achterberg offers this exercise:

List the abilities and qualities you hope your children will have by the time they are eighteen.

Back track from that point and begin thinking of chores and responsibilities you can give your children now which will help them attain those abilities and qualities before they leave home.

Instead of thinking in terms of what they can’t do, begin to see them as the capable human beings they are and discover what they can do.Cara Sue Achterberg

Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

…and then they were grown.

All our children are, bit by bit, becoming adults. [Like we are often told, it comes faster than we can imagine.] We as parents recognize the adult inside each one and build scaffolding, just enough support, to help each child grow into that adult. At every age, they can see it matters that they show up. It matters.

15 Tips to Raise a Responsible Child Dr. Laura Markham

Are You Teaching Your Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges To Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

Practicing What You Preach – Raising Responsible vs. Entitled Children – Marsha B. Sauls

The Goal Is Not to Raise Good Kids, but Great Adults – Dave Ramsey

I Took ‘Adulting Classes” for Millennials – Andrew Zaleski

Monday Morning Moment – 5 Years Writing – Inspired by Mom

[Adapted from the Archives]

Tomorrow, May 7, marks 5 years of writing this blog. May 7, 2014.

Writing has always been a part of how I processed life. As a little girl, I had the little pink lock-and-key diary. Certainly better that it is not to be found. Then journaling in high school and after. Teaching in a university required research and writing. When the children were little, my writing had to downsize to quick notes in their baby books and daily entries on a big wall calendar.

After moving overseas, so much new happened each day and insisted on being documented. I would send long “journals” home to Mom, Mom-in-law Julia, and those others closest to us.

In 2014, it seemed that my memory was not as good as before. It was a scary season and one pooh-poohed by my doctor. He reassured me that my memory had its normal (for my age) robustness and not to worry. Still, I thought about the kids and decided maybe some things should be written down.

My Mom died in 2002, and it wasn’t even 5 minutes until we had questions that only she could answer.  It’s over 15 years now since she died, and I still miss her every day.  What I also miss is all the knowing she had…all the history, the memories, the funny and sad stories.  She lived an incredible life, triumphant through extreme poverty, resilient after failure and loss, tenacious in making a home for us all.  She was a lioness with cubs.

Sometimes we come too late to the realization that the generations before had great insight.  I learned so much from my Mom, but could have learned more.  Now, my memories of her, and the stories she told, and the wisdom she imparted are a precious treasure to me.  You will hear her voice in mine.

Mom and me

Mom was born during the Great Depression.  She was excruciatingly poor growing up.  Yet, she pushed through her circumstances.  I want to write about her.  And I want to write about so many things…God, people, culture, beauty, family, lessons learned and lessons still to be learned.

All my adult life, people have told me “You should write a book.”  Maybe because of our travels, or maybe because of something else…I’m not really quite sure.  It’s my Mom who should have written, but she would never.  She wouldn’t think she had anything to say that should be memorialized in print.  I am of a different generation.  I am writing…because of her…and for me…and hopefully for another generation.  We’ll see.

Monday Morning Moment – Overthinking – Handicap or Superpower?

Photo Credit: Confessions of an Overthinker

A blog on overthinking has been on my radar for weeks now, but I keep overthinking it!

How about a definition to start? Overthinking: “Something is on your mind and you continuously think about it, the thought gets deeper and you start thinking about circumstances, events and possibilities that could be…” I like this definition because it feels normal rather than obsessive, anxiety-provoking, or neurotic…with the resultant analysis paralysis.

My husband is a deep thinker but he is not an overthinker. He is adept at compartmentalizing and seems to know what each issue requires in terms of his own decision-making and personal responsibility.

For me, thinking through things is much more fuzzy-boundaried. I can be crystal clear about solutions – what needs to be done to take us (whomever “us” might be) to the next level of operation or relationship. Where I get muddled up is when a decision or a direction doesn’t make sense. Overthinking the why’s and “what happened?” goes into overdrive.

Being an overthinker is a new revelation for me. The “aha” moment came recently during a conversation with a brilliant young woman, a friend of mine who considers herself an incorrigible overthinker. We have deep conversations on just about everything. Total ease and transparency. No judging. It dawned on me as we talked that evening that we agreed on how much of life required some measure of overthinking. It’s just not that simple…life.

As I have processed this whole overthinking thing, it seemed a good solution might be to have a support group…along the lines of overthinkers anonymous. After a quick online search, a plethora of such blogs, websites, and Facebook pages popped up – with the goal of helping those of us who overthink.Photo Credit: Breadbin, Ken Breadner, Will Farrell

If you have a bent toward overthinking but you find it uncomfortable, then you have all sorts of resources to recognize it and turn it around. Below are just a few of those postings. [Scroll past them if you don’t want to be “fixed” for some happier news.]

Stop Overthinking and Live in the Present! – Darius Foroux

Overthinkers Anonymous

Rule 33 – If It Exists, I Have Overthought It – Ken Breadner

Overthinkers Anonymous – the 12 Steps – Thirsk Counseling

Are You an Overthinker? You’ve Been Poisoned.

Science Says This Is What Happens to You When You Overthink Everything – Amy Morin

What if…let’s just say…overthinking is a positive thing? What if we overthinkers bring certain strengths to the table that could prove valuable to a work team or family/friend group? What if overthinking, when disciplined and matured, could be like a regular superpower?!Photo Credit: Pinterest

The links below are all about overthinking is a positive (or potentially positive) character trait. The authors list out several strengths found in overthinkers. They include creativity, tact, self-awareness, eye for detail, memory/recall, intuition, life-long learning, empathy, compassion, careful decision-making, and a commitment to doing what’s right.

Overthinking Is Not as Bad as They Told You: 3 Good Reasons Why It Might Be a Real Superpower

12 Hidden Benefits of Being an Over-Thinker That You Need to Realise – Katie Adcock

Overthinking Is Actually a Good Thing – Holly Riordan

5 Exceptional Personality Traits of an Over-Thinker

6 Reasons Why Overthinking Could Be Good – Javannah Melissa Evans

Overthinking has to be trained and tooled toward positive outcomes. Since beginning to see my own bent toward overthinking, I no longer view it as a weakness. Others might, but hopefully not forever.

Overthinkers are sometimes criticized for “beating a dead horse“. It is very hard for us to give up on something that we feel strongly about. Here’s what might help, those of you who have us on your team or in your organization…to harness our problem-solving and decision-making capabilities:

Just trust that we mean “good and not evil“. Reason with us rather than just diagnosing us as bothersome. If we feel like something seems murky, if not downright wrong, consider the possibility. Entrust us with a meaningful project or body of work…we will apply ourselves probably more than is necessary, but you will reap the good of it, if you can endure the discomfort of our overthinking. We get that it is just easier to make that decision without a lot of extra input, but it’s possible the overthinker has thought of something you haven’t.

Just sayin’.

[I’d love to hear your thoughts on overthinking – in the Comments below. This overthinker has just scratched the surface of this topic and would love a chance to dialogue about all the positives and negatives.]

5 Friday Faves – Game of Thrones on Guitar, Right Frame of Mind, Legacy Beyond Career, Privilege, and a Stack of Books

It’s Monday. A smoldering week-long cold zapped my usual strength. This was topped off happily by a healing family weekend at the beach…and Friday turned into Monday. You will find these favorites of the week worth the wait. They sure brightened my week.

1) Game of Thrones on Guitar – Full disclosure: I have never watched Game of Thrones. The glimpses I’ve seen on YouTube are stunning but the Medieval violence (both weaponized and sexual) are halting for me. The music, however, is gorgeous…which I can enjoy without watching the popular series. On the eve of the start of Season 8 (and the final season reportedly), Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has released his arrangement of the Game of Thrones theme (“Light of the Seven”). Watch and enjoy here.

YouTube Video – Game of ThronesLight of the Seven Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Right Frame of Mind– Author Frank Sonnenberg writes to encourage people that how we think frames our relationships and our work. When we struggle with negative thought patterns, they ooze out through facial expressions, tone of voice, focus, quality of work, and health of relationships. Even when we feel justified, we are the ones hurt by negative thinking. Turn it around. His graphic below is a good place to start.Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg Online

Soul Food: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life – Frank Sonnenberg

3) Legacy Beyond Career – Basketball. This week marked the final game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Between college and professional basketball, there’s a lot to watch on TV…including great commercials.

[Sidebar: I have to insert here that although I played basketball in high school and watched the Atlanta Hawks while living there), I don’t watch basketball so much anymore. Dave and I did walk over, on a snowy evening in New Haven, to see a Yale/Cornell game, way back when. It was our first date.]

During the final game of the NCAA tournament, we watched University of Virginia finally defeat another great team (from Texas Tech). It was exciting!

One commercial that evening really touched me. It was actually a beer commercial but that message was subtle. The real star of the commercial was Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade who just retired this past week from professional basketball. He’s a great ballplayer but his legacy goes far beyond his basketball career: Take a look:

Tearjerker Alert: NBA Legend Dwyane Wade Is Honored for His Off-the-Court Activism

4) Privilege – Again, maybe because it is the height of basketball season, I came across an insightful essay on white privilege by professional basketball player Kyle Korver.

NBA Star Kyle Korver Has Written a Powerful Essay About White Privilege

Privileged – Kyle Korver

Photo Credit: The Players’ Tribune

Racism and the NBA – The Players’ Tribune [Watch the video]

Growing up, I had determined to be color-blind myself, but it was naive and hurtful, on my part. To be honest, white privilege is a phenomenon I’m just coming to terms with… Kyle Korver’s essay, from the standpoint of a white person looking at privilege from a close and intimate vantage point, is a good place to start.

5) A Stack of Books – Kindergarten registration was this week around here. It dawned on me that in one year, my wee oldest granddaughter will be the age to register. Yipes!

She loves to “read” already, having the daily experience of books read to her by mommy, daddy, and whoever else will open one with her.

Thought leader Russell Moore is someone I follow who reads voraciously. When he posted his latest stack of books, it revealed a book I’m reading right now as well: Justin Whitmel Earley’s The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction.Photo Credit: Russell Moore, Twitter

After seeing his stack, I pulled together (from various parts of our house) the books I’m currently reading.

How about you? I would love for you to post (in the Comments below) a picture of your current stack of books.

___________________________________________________________________________

I would say something about having a great weekend, but now it’s Monday. Let’s get to it! Blessings always and thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

[One of our azalea bushes and the first butterfly of Spring]

How to Downsize Your Home (Free Checklist)

What Is a Kind Husband? Five Characteristics of True Kindness – Douglas Wilson

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

List of All Suicide Helplines Worldwide

Monday Morning Moment – World-Class Leadership – Let’s Get After It

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Alexas Fotos

Monday’s are usually real up days for me. An opportunity for a fresh start…a new beginning. This morning I was dragging. Not really feeling it. In fact, wrestling against a flat-out negative mind-set.

What does it matter if I show up…or not?

Sure, we keep our commitments, make it to the meetings, answer the emails. However, a rut begins to form. A tuning down of expectations…or hopes. We check off our lists, but if we’re not vigilant, we find those lists lackluster…the vision dimmed.

You may never have to climb out of your own ditch, but I do sometimes. Having the help of another can make all the difference. A word of encouragement that resonates with understanding and care.

The quote below from my Twitter feed was all it took to get me back on course:

Photo Credit: Twitter, Ron McIntyre, PH McGillicuddy

A world-class organization: Happy, attentive people. Well-kept surroundings. Everyone cares about what they’re doing. A humble and gracious leader.

A world-class organization is the workplace where you want to alert your friends when a new position opens up. It’s the church you talk about all week long because being a part of it is real true community. It’s the charity you can trust with generous support.

Marketing strategist Julie Taeko Gramlich lists six characteristics of a world-class organization:

  • Delighted employees, customers, and vendors;
  • Innovation-focused, dynamic;
  • Outstanding leadership;
  • Mission-driven;
  • Operational excellence; and
  • Sense of ownership.

Gramlich prioritizes the role of the leader, whom we think of as the CEO, or the lead in product design, or the senior pastor, or whomever is at the helm.

If your boss or primary influencer is gracious, humble, generous with ownership, and driven by mission and excellence, then you have the great pleasure of working for a world-class organization. Or, for sure, it can be…

I am convinced we all lead, in one way or another. We bring to the table our own skills and our own caring for the others around the table. Mission drift doesn’t just happen to CEOs or boards of an organization.

It can happen to any one of us. This Monday morning I was reminded of the importance of staying on course, of not giving up, of genuinely caring for those around me, and of marking excellence in others and making it my goal daily…

I’m out of the ditch…one more Monday. Let’s get after it.

The Most Important Factor to Become a World-Class Organization – Julie Taeko

How to Make Your Organization an Irresistible Place to Work – Ron Carucci

Secrets of Kick Ass Teams – SlideShare – Paul McGillicuddy

Monday Morning Moment – Strengthening Decision-making with Collaborative Conversations

Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: AJCarlisle.files.wordpress.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

Change is normal, and resisting change is normal as well. You may be part of an organization or company where sweeping changes are being implemented, even this week. Or maybe you are not on the inside loop of these decisions, so you are not privy to the change coming. Whether you are part of that process or not, consider how you might have a role in making change work, in your sphere of influence, among your colleagues.

You may already have read and profited from the book Crucial Conversations. Now consider collaborative conversations. Collaboration, simply defined, is “working together towards shared goals”. Collaborative conversations bring a collective intelligence to bear on the problem to be solved, vision to be defined, or direction to be changed.Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: ThoughtFarmer.com

David Perkins, a Harvard professor, wrote about collaborative conversations in the workplace, using the metaphor of King Arthur’s round table. He described the beneficial nature of bringing several principal players (or stakeholders) to the table and treating each one with an equal or autonomous voice.

Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations is a tremendous resource in developing this kind of decision-making work environment. An Executive Book Summary* can help you get started.

“A round table makes it a little easier to pool mental effort. A round table makes a group a little more intelligent…For a group to display intelligence in a sustained way, the members have to value their exchanges and stick together to keep making them. This depends on positive symbolic conduct [side messages sent by our words and behavior]…and collaboration… It’s not ideas, but people with ideas that make things happen.”David Perkins

“One of the simplest ways to immunize a culture against broken trust, corruption, and animosity is to build a common vision.”David Perkins

I personally thrive in such a setting and intuitively understand the value-adding nature of collaborative conversations. In researching this workplace topic, and choosing the links below, I came across a fascinating paper** by Heather Davis, a professor of RMIT University Australia.

Davis presented her paper at the 14th International Conference on Thinking (2009, Malaysia). She discussed how workplace leaders often choose “languages of war” in making and communicating decisions and creating change. Her paper is heady stuff but if you read her thoughts below you will want to read the whole paper. It gives huge support to the role of collaborative conversations.

“In [leadership’s] ‘language of zealous allegiance’, there are expectations of allegiance [in the workplace] that lay a path for uncritical acceptance and passivity. This manifests in an expectation that followers be conscripted wholly to the cause. There is little room for questioning. ‘Conscription means one important thing: there is no questioning of orders, one only executes them; “either you’re with us or you’re against us”.’ “

“Rhetoric plays out in the workplace too and can be tested by how well leaders:

  • hear and acknowledge the ‘other’ point of view,
  • see the ‘other’ as people rather than pawns or simply abstractions,
  • manage the distance, materially and metaphorically, between themselves and the people and sites affected by their decisions.”

“In the corporate world there are many examples of executives living and working in gated communities or otherwise removed by dint of corporate hierarchy or geography from the people and conditions affected by their decisions. Often, these leaders are also surrounded by people who can only agree, leading to little opportunity for double loop learning or deeply reasoned decision making processes. Whether our leaders live in gated communities is their business, but if they think, work and take refuge within a ‘gated’ mindset then we all need to be concerned. These conditions lead to hubris and have been the undoing of many leaders and corporations.”

The role of the organisation is ‘to know its purpose and not be diverted from it’ (Drucker, 1993). This is a timely reminder here – easier said than done in times of flux, complexity and discontinuous change.”

“The main difference between Perkins’ languages of war and peace are that the war metaphor is founded on exclusivity and a preference for limiting discourse to its [leadership’s] own narrowly defined boundaries. Perkins’s peace metaphor is founded on inclusivity and opening up the space for conversations and conflicting views [i.e., collaborative conversations].”

“Oppositional language and the pitting of one deeply held worldview against another will not lead to resolving the underlying problems of the workplace. Rather, space for conversations to surface underlying assumptions is required. Perkins’ language of peace metaphor confirms that that there are always other lenses to view the world through, not just the one that [leadership] prefers.”Heather Davis

Provocative reading from this Australian educator.

Bottom line: Those of us in leadership carry a great burden of responsibility. We at times must make difficult and sometimes painful decisions. Adding voices to that decision-making can generate even more challenging processes to negotiate. However, we will make more sustainable decisions for “better futures” if we bring those most affected (or most experienced or insightful) to the table. Whenever possible. That’s the gain of collaborative conversations – working together toward shared vision and shared ownership.

Stay engaged in your workplace. Don’t entertain indifference. Stay in the conversation. You can make a difference.

*King Arthur’s Round TableHow Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations by David Perkins – an Executive Book Summary

**Troubling Invisible Barriers to Better Futures: Surfacing the “Five Languages of War” in the Workplace – a scholarly paper by Heather Davis, presented at the 14th International Conference on Thinking

Leadership Lessons from King Arthur – a Review of Harvard Professor David Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table

The Five Literacies of Global Leadership – What Authentic Leaders Know and You Need to Find Out – by David Hames – Business Book Summary

The Perils of Indifference – a Speech by Elie Wiesel

How to Lead When Change is the New Normal – Emer Coleman

The Art of Collaboration (Collaborative Behaviors) – by Steve Dale (includes a SlideShare)

Collaboration: What Does It Really Mean? – Carlos Dominguez

What Is a Coaching Conversation? from Opening the Door to Coaching Conversations by Linda Gross Cheliotes and Marceta Fleming Reilly 

Cutting Through the Hype – What “Collaboration” Really Means – ThoughtFarmer.com

5 Choices You’ll Regret Forever – Travis Bradberry

Monday Morning Moment – Ian Bremmer – on Global Politics and Replacing Rage with Hope

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

How do American politics affect our ability and capacity to be a force for good on the world stage?  What elements align to make any of global nations consequential or inconsequential? What natural or geopolitical events will lead to migrations of people to who knows where? What are the top political risks facing our country and our world today?

Political scientist and thought leader Ian Bremmer was just an unknown name on our Richmond Forum subscription for this year’s season. Then we heard him speak. Wow! My ignorance was what was showing.

Ian Bremmer is a brilliant, funny, courageous, optimistic analyst of all things global. He has conversations with world political and economic leaders and their staff, and I’m sure he asks excellent questions. His analysis is intriguing because he clearly knows what he’s talking about and he kindly brought it down to a fifth grader’s understanding.Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Ian Bremmer Engages with Geopolitics, Honesty, and Humor at The Richmond Forum – Thomas Breeden

The best part of the whole evening was his unflappable honesty. He clearly had his biases regarding world leaders, including our own country’s leaders. Yet, he takes the larger and longer view. I so appreciated that. It’s part of why he’s not “crazy”, as he encouraged us not to be as well when we read and watch the news each day.

Bremmer told the audience his goal for the evening was to make us all “10% less crazy.” What makes us crazy regarding our country’s politics? He summed it up memorably:

A lot of us feel like our system is rigged. A lot of us feel like our representatives are not representing us. A lot of us feel like the American dream no longer applies to us. And they feel like when the political leaders or the CEOs or the bankers or the journalists or the public intellectuals—God forbid—are talking to us, that they’re lying.”Ian Bremmer

If we daily wonder if we’re being lied to by our politicians and not truly represented by our elected officials, then we do become a little crazy…distrusting our government and divided and polarized in our thinking, depending on our particular brand of politics.

Adding to this, Bremmer gives four other factors that fuel the divide:

  • Immigration – So much talk and very little done on either side of the aisle to improve the system – with the hope of making it fair for all who would like a chance to immigrate as well as humane and just for those foregoing lawful entry to the country.
  • Economic Inequality – This continues to increase, and it heightens the political divide between peoples as well. It adds to the “us vs. them” scenario.
  • Wars – When we seem always on the brink of a war (either threatened by a nuclear power or compelled to enter because of an oppressed ally, we struggle again with trusting our leadership, especially as our spouses and children lay their lives on the line for these wars. For what purpose?
  • Social Media – The rage of the average citizen who feels unheard or discounted by his government is stoked through the comments of others on social media. Where are the conversations being had by reasonable people with a stake in the outcome?

Ian Bremmer addressed these stressors and then he calmly proceeded with a survey of global and national threats and trends. I won’t go into them here but you can follow his generous, insightful commentary on all the latest news via his website, broadcasts, books, and Twitter/Facebook feeds. He will educate you and encourage how to engage rather than isolate.

[Forgive me for staying general on this, regarding geo-political risks.]

Bremmer gave two excellent challenges to us. The first is to find a person who we disagree with politically but who we respect (I have a short list of those valuable friends and family members). Then engage in conversation, with the goal to listen, learn, and better understand. Our default is to be enraged but not engage…we just read their social media posts and don’t comment, or worse, do…when we could actually create face-to-face dialogue. Neither of us may change but we have the opportunity to grow closer in coming to viable solutions to the problems we face.

His second challenge was to encourage our young people to study abroad…even in high school, even just for a semester. To put themselves in the minority. To learn from others who have similar problems as well as quite different ones. To learn how to draw down conflict and create understanding. To learn how to problem-solve with less monetary resources. These young people of ours will be the ones who will have to figure out how to flourish in the world we are leaving them.

Ian Bremmer talks reality but with hope and a healthy sense of humor. We would do well to follow his example in this…whether we agree with him on all points or not.

From a secular point of view, he came as close to answering my life-long question “Why can’t we all get along?” Bremmer’s talk also reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, the Places You’ll Go. In the midst of a forum on global politics, economic upheaval, war and poverty, he posed the possibility of hope…if we show up and engage with one another.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer on the Failure of Globalism – some of the content we enjoyed at the Richmond Forum.

YouTube Video – Ian Bremmer – How the US Should Use Its Superpower Status

Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa – Dan Shepard [Ian Bremmer got me to consider global warming more seriously when he talked about how the peoples of equatorial Africa will one day have to leave their countries and immigrate north.]

Monday Morning Moment – The Tyranny of Sensitiveness – C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: QuickMeme

Years ago, my best friend and I went on a cross-country sight-seeing trip. Our plan was to camp out a couple of nights and then stay in a hotel for the third, and continue in that rhythm for the two weeks we were on our adventure. It didn’t always go well. I loved camping; she preferred the hotel. Our food preferences were more different than we realized. We did, fortunately, agree on the “not to be missed” aspects of our journey across America.

Along with all the great memories made, we had some humdinger disagreements through the course of our time away and returned home even better friends as an outcome. However, it didn’t come easily for either of us.

It turns out I could majorly stomp on her feelings without even knowing that was happening. We have both matured greatly since then so this can encourage you…it has for me in the times in recent years when I find myself in similar situations.

First, you must know I never intended to plow through her preferences to race toward my own. She was my dearest friend. It gave me joy to see her happy. Still…somewhere I crossed a line. In our responses to one another, as friends, family, colleagues, (even strangers on social media) we can discover things both about ourselves and about the other.

Emotions are different from feelings. I’m not going into the physiological pathways or mental habit formation of all this, but the quote below by Debbie Hampton is very helpful:

“Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are two very different things…Emotions originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. Emotions precede feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Feelings are sparked by emotions and colored by the thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked with that particular emotion for you. But it works the other way around too. For example, just thinking about something threatening can trigger an emotional fear response. While individual emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke may persist and grow over a lifetime…In the gaps between emotion, feeling, and acting, we all have the power to change and direct our lives for the better. “Debbie Hampton

In the milliseconds between any stimulus and our response to it, we can choose how we will respond emotionally. However, because we have set a course “over a lifetime” of responding certain ways, emotional patterns (feelings) are formed and put into practice. We can change these, if we find them detrimental to our physical, emotional, and relational lives.

That happened between my friend and me. In close proximity, for two weeks, our daily experience very dependent on the other, we found we could irritate each other. The statements “That hurt my feelings” or “You hurt my feelings” became her lament…this from an accomplished teacher and successful manager of a classroom of tiny children. Somehow, on this trip, I had the capacity, regularly, of stealing her joy.

For me…inconceivable. I loved her and had no desire to hurt her, ever. Still, it happened.

[By the way, this expression of sensitiveness using the word “feelings” may be more encountered in women, but men have some similar experience – you know you do – but call it different things. “Offended”, maybe? “Annoyed”? Is that where sarcasm or cynicism is birthed?]

Back to the story: In some way, my behavior set off for my friend emotions that were tagged by past feelings of being discounted, not considered, not favored. It wasn’t pretty…for either of us.

Fast forward, decades later.

We live in a culture of lofty sensitiveness. The measure for political correctness in our speech continues to get moved upward. We are a nation so easily offended that we can’t even discern what is truly intentionally offensive from what is just true.

Have you ever been in a season with a friend or colleague that feels emotionally murky? You don’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something is. Then…you step on the landmine – and you say something or do something or your face shows something – that explodes all kinds of feelings in the other person, from what seems a life-time of storing up.

This is what has now been popularized as weaponizing feelings or emotions. The outcome? Guilt, shame, wounding, and (for some) returning fire.

It will make me sad if this post “hurts feelings”, especially of those friends of mine who read my stuff. The thing is, just like my friend and me, we can go deeper in our relationships when we refuse to let feelings define our friendships. When we refuse to think ill of others we grow a spiritual maturity and neuroplasticity that impacts our emotional responses and our relational resilience.

What got me thinking about all this, this week was actually a Lenten reading from British scholar C. S. LewisPreparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis.

He talks about the danger of weaponizing sensitiveness long before it became the cultural phenomenon it is today:

“‘Did you fight fair?’ Or did we not quite unknowingly falsify the whole issue? Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.C. S. Lewis

After being an atheist, Lewis did not come to faith in Christ until his mid-thirties. His intense study of the Bible, relationship with God, and deep, gut-honest conversations with a circle of intimate friends moved him to such understanding of people and life…and our responses to both. Any thoughts on this? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Flickr

Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions? – Debbie Hampton

The “Weaponizing” of Emotions Wade Trimmer

The A-Z Guide to Feelings and Emotions – Sebastian Gendry

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Invisible Wounds of the Sensitive, Empathic and Emotionally Intense Child – Imi Lo – this is a sobering, emotionally charged article. I resonated with it in preparing for the blog above and include it because it might be helpful for some to read. Just a warning that it is hard to read because it honestly did not give much place for hope. [If I missed it, please illuminate me in the Comments below.] Maybe the hope comes in recognizing what we as parents might be doing that’s hurtful to an emotionally intense child and correct course.