Category Archives: Monday Morning Moment

Monday Morning Moment – Waiting – a Waste or a Way to Wisdom

Photo Credit: Henri Nouwen, Quote Fancy

Have you ever found yourself in a season of waiting that seemed as if it would never end? Maybe you’re there right now.

The more pivotal thing about waiting is what we do with it…can we stay on top of the entitlement and all its turbulent emotions when they are unsatisfied? That is a goal worthy of pursuing. Treating the waiting not as a waste but as a way to wisdom.

Just this morning, I was waiting with a friend for a promised outcome. She is an old grandmother, resettled here from another country, with few resources.

She had the hope this morning of receiving some much-needed dental work ( in process for several months now). Today was to be the day for her to receive the last treatment – the fitting of a partial denture which would allow her to enjoy eating again.

It did not happen.

For whatever reasons it was delayed and more appointments would be made. Apologies and explanations were made, and the grandmother pulled herself up out of the dental chair one more time. We weren’t entitled to a different outcome. She is receiving free care through a local university and foundation. So why did this make me so angry and sad at the same time?

I was sad for this sweet grandmother who has already been through so much this year. Sad for myself, as her driver, for another series of appointments ahead of us. Even a little sad for the dental student breaking the news to us. And close-to-tears angry that either we misunderstood or someone somewhere dropped the (proverbial) ball.

As I collected myself and came back to my senses, I was reminded (in the conversation going on in my head) that this was a small thing. What if I was waiting on a big thing?! What would my response be to that?!

In years past, cancer nursing was my profession. Talking to a friend about this whole waiting thing, she recalled what so many cancer patients go through in waiting – for biopsy results, for treatment decisions, for blood counts to come back, for reevaluations of their cancer, for…for…for. We wait. To conceive that much-longed-for baby. To meet that person we will spend our lives with. To hear the outcome of elections or military coups. To determine if we prepared well enough for landfall of hurricanes.

Big things and small things all require waiting in life. We either wait in wasteful, blaming, soul-diminishing ways or we wait in wisdom.

Maybe it’s in the wait that we find what matters more.

In the minutes that tick by, we re-order our thoughts toward life and hope and possibility. Photo Credit: Heartlight

By the time my grandmother friend and I left the dental clinic this morning, we were better. No blaming. No feeling mad or bad. We accepted that today wasn’t the day we would say our goodbyes to this long waiting. It was just another day situated in between more to come. I didn’t resign myself to the disappointment, but rather determined it would not rob me of the joy of the day. We would be back, and, one day, she would get what we originally came for, months prior.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Don’t get me wrong about waiting. I have, at times, pushed back against it. Not just for myself but because it was a disservice to someone else. There does seem to be a pecking order in waiting…the poor and marginalized are required to wait the most, it seems.

When waiting generates a disturbance in our hearts that takes us nowhere good, then we must check it, and check our reaction to it. In that space, we can choose to change direction and keep our heads and hearts at peace. We can choose a way to wisdom, rather than an explosive, diminishing waste of the waiting.Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, AZ Quotes

Waiting can be exasperating…and any engineering to decrease it is a beautiful thing…so there’s that for which to be thankful. Also, what is the object of our waiting. If we look to people to always deliver (in a timely fashion), they (we) will disappoint. If we can take our eyes of people and on to God, waiting becomes a very different experience.

Two of my favorite verses from the Old Testament speak of this:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.Psalm 40:1-2

Those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31

Even Jesus on his last day of life on earth waited…until all of the prophecies were fulfilled. While hanging in pain on the cross, He waited until just the moment all were fulfilled, and then he gave his last breath. Wow!

Photo Credit: Philip Yancey, Heartlight

May we learn to wait as the Messiah did with loving perseverance and hope of a greater future.

“While we are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives, pure and blameless in His sight. Consider the patience of the Lord as salvation.”2 Peter 3:14-15

Monday Morning Moment – Reformation Day – A Halloween that Changed the World

blog-martin-luther-reformation-day-prae-huPhoto Credit: Prae.hu

[Adapted from the Archives]

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

On October 31, 1517, Catholic priest Martin Luther nailed a document known as his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. In this public stand against the Catholic practices of that day, he would divide Christianity into at least two camps – that of Protestants (the Reformers) and the Catholics.

Today marks the 505th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 is known as Reformation Day…and, of course, Halloween.

October 31, for most in the US for sure, is a huge family/community cultural event (very different from the historical Halloween). Parties, dress-up, spooky decorations, and sweet treats.blog-halloween-2016

For those of us who are Christian, identifying more Protestant than Catholic, we wouldn’t want to miss the historic significance of this day as well.

Justin Holcomb‘s piece on the five solas lists the fundamental elements of the Christian faith (as put forth by the Reformers) and the substantiating Scriptures. Below are the five (see article for commentary and Bible verses):

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.*

[See links below for articles/resources on the full relevance of this day for us personally, for our families, and for culture, in general.]

In all you might savor in this day, this 31st day of October, consider how Martin Luther changed a world, by taking a stand… Some of our children will choose to dress-up in super-hero costumes – taking on larger than life personas for the good of those around them. They are more like Martin Luther, in that, than they may know.

blog-halloween-martin-luther-costumeblog-martin-luther-legos-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest; Pinterest

*5 Points From the Past That Should Matter to You – Justin Holcomb

5 Bible Verses to Read on Reformation Day – Andy Rau

October 31 – Halloween Dress-up and Reformation Day Stand-up – DebMillsWriter

Reformation Day: Resources to Help Us Remember – Desiring God

Man Between God and the Devil: Martin Luther and the Reclamation of Halloween – William E. Flippin, Jr.

Monday Morning Moment – Loneliness in Isolation – Fighting Against It and Occasionally Successful

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Just last night I was confronted again with one of the tolls of the COVID epidemic. That toll being a physical isolation that has grown into a lingering social isolation. A friend texted me about her sense of feeling disconnected, even unseen, in the midst of her church community, of all places. She is reaching out but has not yet found her people. I tried to encourage her to keep reaching out and she would eventually find those friends, that connection for which she is longing. This isolation, this loneliness, is something I, too, was fighting against and occasionally successful.

She told me this had to be my next blog (title) and so it is…although I don’t have answers…but will share what I’m learning from my own journey and from wise others.

“Here’s what we do: We spend hours alone in our crowded, noisy, screen-lit worlds, we invest only sporadic time with acquaintances, and then we expect close friends to somehow appear in our busy lives.”Jennie Allen, author of Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World
Being retired from my usual work has afforded me much discretionary time…time which can be lavished on others or on disciplines like study, prayer, and writing. Too often…this time on my hands has taken me to places too quiet…where I get lost in my thoughts. That is an excellent description of this loneliness that comes from isolation.
We think too much maybe. Get lost in those thoughts and become slow to respond. Instead of going after friends, we wonder where those friends are…is it us? Is it them? We look for reasons for the unsought solitude we find ourselves in yet we can’t seem to fight off the sluggishness of too-long isolation. We text instead of call. We do electronic meetings instead of face-to-face ones. We cling to smaller rhythms instead of restoring larger lives.
OK…is that just my issue? I don’t think so. The phrase “new normal”, no longer in vogue, is a misnomer. It deludes us into a posture of waiting…rather than seizing on what’s right in front of us. Whatever is the present normal…that is what we have. This present normal.
This present that we have is fleeting, temporary…but the people  around us are not. Yet, relationships require some level of intentionality. A wise counselor once told us, during a season of multiple moves for work, to “put down your roots as deeply as you can – wherever you are”. COVID mediation has pushed us toward shallow relationships. We don’t want to miss people in the dullness of this odd season.
My beautiful friend above is already on the way to an answer to her loneliness because she is recognizing the “what’s not right” about her current situation and she’s not holding on to the status quo. That is forward motion right there. I am hopeful for her and for myself.

Writer, speaker, and mom Kari Kampakis wrote a fascinating post on Instagram and Facebook. It was titled: “What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship”. She wrote to girls but the lessons are redeeming for all of us, especially in this world that’s become COVID-isolated.

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

“Friendships change.” Following you will find Kampakis’ 10 thoughts (abbreviated from her blog) on the struggle – written for middle school girls but applicable to any of us. Especially as we face loneliness and isolation and want to either jump-start or strengthen our friendships:

1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change.

2. Everything will be okay. – Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend.

3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. – When you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.

4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. – Kampakis lamented: “One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings.”

5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself.

6.Remember that everyone is learning and gradually maturing. Just because you don’t click with someone now doesn’t mean you won’t click later. 

7. The biggest friendship killers are jealousy, comparison, insecurity, and fear – fear of rejection, fear of being left out, and fear of being alone. Acting on these emotions can turn you into someone you’re not. – By being aware of your negative emotions yet learning the self-control to not act on them.

8. Form your own opinions about people, and don’t believe everything you hear. – Treat everyone like a friend until they give you a good reason not to, and when possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

9. Know the difference between committed friends and casual friends. – Committed friends are the kind you carry through life. They have your back and will stand in your corner even if they’re your last friends standing. Casual friends are the kind you have for a season of life, maybe a few seasons.

10. Be kind, and keep in mind that kindness is more important than popularity.  

Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis

“What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship” – Kari Kampakis – Blog

Those 10 points were written for middle schoolers. It was a great reminder to me of the sweet simplicity of pursuing friendship. Both in rekindling neglected relationships and sparking new ones.

The world won’t all of a sudden become warm and welcoming…but I am ready to stretch again. It feels almost like a hungry bear coming out of a long hibernation.  It’s possible to shake off the sleep of shallow relationships. To be more present with people – not just on my terms but open to enter into their space…both heart and head.

Even if it’s one person at a time.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Life does not stand still for us. I have friends and family that are dear to me and yet we rarely see each other. Do we think that is going to happen somewhere down the road? Magically? There’s a place for urgency in dealing with the habitual loneliness we have come to know in recent months. My friend above is taking steps as am I. Cautiously, awkwardly…but occasionally successfully.

How about you? What’s your story? [Comment below.]

[Sidebar: If you’ve read this whole piece and wondered what’s the issue because you have great friendships – current and satisfying – maybe see Kampakis’ #4 again.  “Leave room at the table for someone new.” Don’t circle the wagons. If you are basking in the experience of an inner circle, turn around – someone who may need you, or you them, may be just outside. Invite her in.. New friendships can be costly but the benefits are worth the expense and the risk. *]

*Monday Morning Moment – Real Friendship – on Friends Who Wound, Fierce Friends, Friends Who Turn Around, and Friends Who Stay – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond?

Photo Credit: South Mountain Works

My childhood memories have gaps. A year ago, I began exploring the possibilities that there were memories being kept hidden in my brain. Reading and working through the three books of Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson moved me to consider the power of shame in keeping my memories silent. Dr. Thompson encourages his clients (and book readers) to write down our life stories, in long-hand. Journaling the decades. Especially working on recalling our childhood. Bringing those memories into the light.

My preschool years are still mostly devoid of memories. My mom had told me later that our rarely employed biological father neglected us such that she had to employ a babysitter daily while she worked. Whether neglect is abusive or not, I have no recallable memories of my father from those years. Mom divorced him by the time I was 6.

In doing the exercise of writing out my life, one childhood memory that I was able to re-remember started out happy. It was a neighborhood “garden party”. I was maybe 7 or 8. These so-called garden parties were a gathering of family and friends to process the harvest of large vegetable gardens – for canning and freezing. Those who came enjoyed lively conversations, engaging stories, and finally a large meal together. The adults were caught up in the moment, and the children wandered in and out…and farther away.

I’m not sure who all ended up with me in a large barn some distance away from the home of our hosts. In that barn, an older boy (trigger, sorry) talked me into letting him touch me in inappropriate ways.

I had put that memory far back in my mind.

In remembering it, I also recalled telling my mom that evening and her taking action by going to talk to the parents of that boy. That’s where it ended, I believe.

Later in my childhood, I would discover my older brother’s (I suppose) hidden stash of pornographic magazines. [We didn’t have internet pornography in those days, and this sort of perusing seemed an expected coming-of-age pastime.] Page after page of naked or scantily clothed women in sexually provocative poses. Even as a pre-teen, it drew me in, even though it felt dirty and shameful. I don’t think I understood the power of taking such images into my brain. It is what pornography does and why it is so toxic.

[Could this sort of pornography be a launch-pad for girls who, seeing those images, become sexually aroused, then thinking she might be  same-sex attracted? Especially if it happened today in our current culture…I wonder.]

Being exposed to pornography as a child isn’t abuse, of course, but it forces an unhealthy peering into an adult world. I wish I hadn’t stumbled on it and hope parents take seriously the availability of porn on the internet. OK…done with that topic.

At the age of 13, my parents invited a young co-worker of my step-dad’s for a cookout. He must have been 18 or 19. He stayed long into the evening. I have no idea what my parents were thinking at the time (and they were excellent parents), but they went to bed and he was still there. This seemed to set up a green light for him, and he became very aggressive physically. My 13-year-old sensibility was at first enthralled at his interest in me and then frightened, too timid to cry out or get away. If my older brother hadn’t returned early from a date, and sent him on his way, I’m not really sure where that would have ended. So thankful for my brother that night.

Where does abuse begin? Did it start with the neglect of a father? Even with an incredibly loving and supportive mom, she couldn’t be everywhere all the time. Was I vulnerable to the attention of boys (and men) growing up because of a father who started out uncaring and became increasingly absent (don’t remember seeing him after my early childhood years). Even with the love of a dear step-father, did I struggle with needing approval, wanting to feel special, absorbing the very adult messaging of pornography geared toward adult men?

[I’ll stop my story here for now.]

My extended family has known the searing pain of abuse. The abuse of power, the deceitfulness of sin (protecting the perpetrator), the isolation that comes with shame, and the complicit nature of silence.

In fact, with the statics (of sexual abuse alone), in the US, we’re talking as many as 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the age of 10 and 1 in 6 boys.

How do we respond to abuse? How do we even consider such atrocities? Put aside sexual abuse for a moment. It comes in many different ways.

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes That Heal, talks about the role of crossing personal boundaries in abuse…when people step over a line, a boundary, wounding another person.

“The essence of boundaries and limits is knowing what we own and what we do not own…when we do not own ourselves as separate people from the ones we are bonded to, we develop unclear boundaries, and we allow people to cross those boundaries when we should be saying no”. –  Dr. Henry Cloud, Changes That Heal

One thing we could all assess within ourselves is our own understanding of personal boundaries – where we stop and another person starts. Abuse can happen with overreach (in parenting, marriage, friendships, and the workplace) or a lack of understanding or ownership of our own personhood.

This boundary breach leading to abuse can happen with strangers, but, more often than not, it happens with people we know – parents and children, spouses, other family members, trusted teachers or clergy.

Abuse Is Never the Victim’s Fault – video – Dr. Henry Cloud

Abuse can be subtle…still with the impact of intimidation or silencing. Even something we are all familiar – the silent treatment – is its own form of abuse.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

I’m not going to cover what we need to do comprehensively in handling abuse. Resources abound in this area. However, my work on memories coming back to light (and processing them as an adult, not as a child) helped me understand some attitudes and behavior that affect my sense of self and relationships today.

So in brief, I would say:

  • Do a journey of self-discovery (with a counselor or trusted friend) – examining and reframing painful childhood (or early adulthood) memories.
  • If abuse is still a part of your current life – get what distance you can from it, as you develop coping skills to protect yourself but also the generations coming after you. Building forever boundaries between you and that person/those persons can be its own abuse. It is a stop-gap measure and still holds the abused in bondage to the abuser.
  • Don’t be silent. Talk to someone. Tell your story.
  • For those who suspect abuse in another, don’t be complicit in the abuse, by your silence. Prayerfully, carefully, come alongside the abused. If you have a relationship with the abuser, reason with that person, if you can.
  • Isolation is a product of shame for the abused and the abuser. It also works to keep the abused more vulnerable. Shame, isolation, and secrecy.  Don’t ignore isolation (even in these post-pandemic days when it may be harder to detect). Be vigilant in surveilling those in your circles – your family, neighborhood, workplace, and friend group.
  • Finally, be aware of “vicarious trauma” – for those helping, caring, mentoring persons – experiencing a secondary trauma because of your leaning in and coming close to the trauma of another. You may need help from another as well, choosing not to leave the room but needing support yourself.

This is just a start.

Again, there are so many resources. Curt Thompson’s books and podcasts. Dr. Diane Langberg‘s website and YouTube channel. Adam Young Counseling podcasts and videos. Counselor Matthias Barker podcasts. Just to name a few.

I’d appreciate your thoughts in Comments below. Please…don’t keep silent. There is help…and healing.

Photo Credit: Connecting Paradigms, Matthew S. Bennett

15 Trauma Therapy Techniques to Implement to Help You Heal From Trauma – Gala Gorman

Understanding Trauma – Loretta Grieve

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – a Parable of Lost Sons and Their Father

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, Wikipedia

Whatever your faith base is or even if you have none to speak of, the parables of Jesus are magnificent stories that call us to deep thinking about life…and the choices we make.

The parable reflected in Rembrandt’s extraordinary painting above is one such story. In brief, you see a father and his older son (both in red robes) and a younger prodigal son, returning home, repentant.

The Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt – Wikipedia [read the short and powerful article – a beautiful synopsis of the work.]

“The Parable of the Lost Son” is found in only one of the Gospels – Luke 15:11-32 (the whole of his story is found in the link, within the larger context of Luke 15 – read that here). Jesus was responding to the questioning and contempt of the religious leaders of his day. Their problem with Jesus was the two opposing facts that he was a religious authority himself and yet he took company with sinners.

In Jesus’ response to them, he spoke of loss and our reaction. We go after what is lost, and we rejoice when it is found.

His story tells how a younger son wants his freedom and asks his father for his inheritance. He wanted something that would not normally come to him until his father’s death, but he demanded it still. The father then divided his estate between his two sons. The one left home to spend his wealth on folly, and the other, the older son, stayed, out of duty or love (we don’t really know).

The younger son’s foolishness quickly leads to a wasted, impoverished life. He longs for the life he once knew in his father’s house. He finally “came to his senses”, remembering his good father and how well even the hired workers in his household lived. He determined to return home and ask his father’s forgiveness – not to be restored as his son but in hopes of becoming one of those workers.

Jesus’ story goes on to show the father’s deep and loving character – seeing the son approaching from a distance, he ran to him. Receiving him back to himself, in joyous celebration.

This was part 1 of Jesus’ parable of the lost sons. Part 2 begins here with the older brother. He had been working out in the fields as always, and, returning at day’s end, he hears the noise of a party. When he asked a servant what was going on, he was told the younger brother had returned home and their father had ordered a celebration. Here, we find the other lost son’s response…

…he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him.
But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
” ‘Son,’ [the father] said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” – Luke 15:28-32
Again, we capture the beauty of the father’s character. He loved both sons. He was generous with them both, and he invited both into his merciful love.
Jesus shared this story (as well as the story of the lost coin and lost sheep) with religious leaders who questioned his care for sinners. In a way, these religious ones were much like the older son.
Do you identify with one of these sons? One is reckless and searching – allowing his self-indulgent longings to take him far from home. The other is dutiful and obedient. Accepting the responsibilities of life to shape his character…and his subsequent lack of care for both his father and brother.
[My husband preached a sermon on this story years ago and I am often reminded of his reflection on it – how the elder brother must have thought he was pleasing his father because he stayed at the plow. What if that older brother would have come to the father and said, “Hey, Dad, would it be all right if I go and look for my brother?” If he truly knew the heart of his father, he would have left home, at some point, to search for that lost brother and bring him back to their dad.]
The father in this story is reflective of God. He is home. Whether that is your belief or not, we are place-oriented as humans. What (or who) we regard as home has a huge impact on how we do life.
I take heart in both of these brothers…my life has taken me far from home in both these ways. Wanting popularity and the stuff of this world as well as longing to do what is right and the influence that comes with that. Neither extreme brings us the joy we can have in being known and loved for who we are…and loving others the same.
Henri Nouwen‘s book The Return of the Prodigal Son is a short, winsome engaging of these three men in Jesus’ story.

Here are a few of Nouwen’s observations on Jesus’ story:

“Anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are the obvious signs that I have left home.”
“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
“…the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
“There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home.”
“The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. ..Isn’t it good to be obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, hardworking, and self-sacrificing? And still it seems that my resentments and complaints are mysteriously tied to such praiseworthy attitudes… It seems that wherever my virtuous self is, there also is the resentful complainer.”
“In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. “Rejoice with me,” the shepherd says, “I have found my sheep that was lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the woman says, “I have found the drachma I lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the father says, “this son of mine was lost and is found.” All these voices are the voices of God.”
In closing, I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comment section of this blog. What struggle do you have in coming home? Or thinking of yourself as never having left, do you still feel alienated even at home? The best part of this story is that whether we feel more like the older brother or the younger brother, Jesus communicated that we can come home. A loving father is watching for us.
[Below are two sermons that got me thinking again about this great story – one of many Jesus told to those with “ears to hear”.]

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 1 – Sermon by Khiry Cooper – Movement Church RVA – September 18, 2022

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 2 – Sermon by Cliff Jordan – Movement Church RVA – September 25, 2022

Monday Morning Moment – “Be Curious, Not Judgmental.” – Leading With Questions

Photo Credit: Quotefancy

“Be curious, not judgmental”. This brilliant and pithy statement is attributed to the American poet Walt Whitman. I’d never heard it before today, and yet it speaks volumes to any human relationship – whether personal or professional.

There comes a time in knowing people that we think we have them figured out. Or we know enough…for better or worse. We stop asking questions. Whether in marriage or in the workplace. We think we know all we need to know about a person… ironically, just when we are feeling the less fond of them. When conflict bubbles up. When a critical decision is being made. When a door closes in our face…or on our way out.

This is humorously and poignantly illustrated in a scene from the TV show Ted Lasso. [Full disclosure: I have never seen the show itself. Also my understanding is the language is fairly unfiltered, so this isn’t exactly a recommendation…but this scene is perfect.]

Be Curious, Not Judgmental: A Leadership Lesson From Ted Lasso – Connie Whittaker Dunlop – super helpful article using the video above to introduce a great leadership lesson.

“Be Curious, Not Judgmental” – Something Walt Whitman Used to Say – Steve M. Nash – read this! You’ll be glad you did.

Questions are the main ingredient in curiosity. And curiosity is itself an important component of the communication patterns that generate psychological safety, quality in interpersonal relations, and collective intelligence. In other words: all the different elements that impact on the quality of our collaboration, decisions, and actions, and which ultimately become a determining factor for the results and value we create for our customers and the wider world.

We can ask questions in many different ways, and all are not equally constructive. For example, there is a great difference between a leader asking his employees: Why didn’t you do something about the problem? and asking: What do you see as possible solutions to the problem we are facing? The first question reflects the leader’s view that the employees ought to have responded and taken responsibility earlier. It creates a focus on blame. The second question expresses the view that there is a problem that everyone involved needs to address and come to a solution together. It invites employees to commit and involve themselves in finding solutions in a forward-looking movement. Being aware of our way of asking questions has a big impact on the way we relate to each other – and also on our ability to contribute, do, and achieve things together. As such, good questions can’t really be put in a template. The quality and effect of the questions always depend on the context they are asked in.” – Henry Kleive, Thomas Johansen and Thomas Specht, “Leadership for Sustainability Powered by Questions”

What if we went into conversations or meetings with an open mind and questions aimed at honoring and understanding the person across the table? What if we wanted to reconcile our relationship as much as we wanted to prove ourselves right about the project, or problem, or predicament?

Learning to ask powerful questions and being willing to use them can make a huge difference in our relationships.  Asking questions well can demonstrate care for that person. Sometimes questions actually help both the one who asks and the one who answers with what they really think about a situation…questions draw us out…often in positive and fruitful ways.

https://image.slidesharecdn.com/questions-130807203819-phpapp02/95/the-art-of-powerful-questions-7-638.jpg?cb=1424648128Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mark Gillow, The Art of Powerful Questions

So whether or not we think we’re right about a person – their motives, intentions, abilities, or intellect – we won’t do justice to the relationship if we stop asking questions.

Get to know him or her again…use the questions offered in the resources above and below. Find common ground, through good questions. See if you can turn the (relation)ship around…not just for the sake of the team, organization, or family…but because of the benefit to each of you.

“Lead From Within: A leader is as good as their questions. When you ask questions, you will change what you know. When you change what you know, you will have a new understanding. When you have a new understanding, you change your actions—and, ultimately, your leadership.” – Lolly Daskal

The Art of Asking Powerful Questions and 51 Powerful Questions to Ask in Different Situations – Sumit Gupta

The Art of Powerful Questions – Catalyzing Innovation, Insight, and Action – Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs – PDF

The Art of Powerful Questions – Slideshare – Mark Gillow (concise slideshare on book above)

The Art of Powerful Questions – Slideshare – Peter Bricknell (refers to the interviewing style from Mahan Khalsa’s bookLet’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play‘ 

“Leading With Questions” – Michael Marquardt – Notes by Dave Kraft

YouTube Video – Top 10 Most Heartwarming Ted Lasso Moments

Monday Morning Moment – Emotional Intelligence at Work and in Life – We Think We Have It or Can’t Be Bothered – Don’t Miss This!

blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

[From the Archives – I wrote before on Emotional Intelligence here, here, and here. Below you’ll find the summaries from those pieces.]

You can probably remember an encounter with someone who was so engaging and interesting that you hoped you would meet them again, or work with them some more, or even become their friend.

Below is a story of how I experienced emotional intelligence in a beautiful and transforming way.

Years ago, I worked for a beloved organization. In that work context, I’d had an idea of a particular needed next step. Even though it wasn’t a strength of mine to carry the ball on it, I saw such a need for it to happen that I floated it a couple of times to our leads.

It didn’t go anywhere…timing, not the right people in place…lots of variables.

Then, out of the blue, an announcement came down that we were going to run a pilot on that very idea. The woman leading the pilot was perfect for it. Enthusiastic, funny, bright, humble, and inclusive. Perfect.

I messaged her about how excited I was about the pilot and told her if I could be any help at all, just let me know.

Because of who she was (and maybe the timing…although I think it was just her), the project hummed along. Lots of others jumped in to help. I was so excited. Felt no need to push in but wanted to cheer-lead any way possible.

Then she wrote me this brief message – surprising and lovely – full of emotional intelligence. She said at that time she didn’t need more folks on the project, BUT she commended me and expressed her gratitude for my support. Just a message. A few lines.

It was just what I needed and I didn’t even know I needed it.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” 

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The Little-Known Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Success – Shane Barker– rapid read with definition and characteristics of emotional intelligence.

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Remember this distinction: there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator with and appreciator of people.  [Go back and click on that infographic – very helpful!]

Emotional Intelligence is a concept that’s been around for awhile now.  Matt Monge’s article for The Mojo Company sparked my interest some time ago. He described 6 symptoms of leaders with low emotional intelligence.

Two of Monge’s points were: 1) Leaders with low emotional intelligence say “I’m sorry you feel that way” more than “I’m sorry,” and 2) Leaders with low emotional intelligence often blame the people they hurt for the situations leading to them being hurt.

Daniel Goleman has written several books on this topic including Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. The very cool thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be developed. The big dilemma is whether bosses or even teammates, not bothered by their impact on others, would buy into this relational skillset. Incorporating such concepts in personnel accountability metrics might provide some incentive. I’ve added graphics below that helped me further understand emotional intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - grid - dollieslagerPhoto Credit: Dollie Slager

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - low & highPhoto Credit: The King and Queen

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Even people with strong emotional intelligence can find themselves off-balance when in conflict with someone. Leadership writer Marcel Schwantes gives counsel for this in 7 Brilliant Things Emotionally Intelligent People Do When Their Buttons Are Pushed.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Schwantes encourages us to respond rather than react in a conflict situation. His seven action points follow (read more of his article for his commentary on each one).

  1. Get perspective.
  2. Take a 6-second pause.
  3. Stay humble.
  4. Try empathy.
  5. Ask the most conflict-diffusing question. [“Are you ok?” What’s going on?”….what else would you think would diffuse the situation?]
  6. Speak from your authentic self.
  7. Be the first to reach out after conflict.

Don’t miss the brief video at the end of Schwantes’ piece on 3 Simple Questions to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Leadership - Emotional IntelligencePhoto Credit: Self Study History 

I hope you’re surrounded by emotionally intelligent people. Maybe you’re an “EI” rockstar yourself. For me, that woman above, piloting the project, had my respect from the beginning, but because she responded to me in such an honoring, genuinely considerate way, she also has my complete support and more.

Do you have any emotional intelligence stories? Please comment below. We can always use  stories of great bosses and coworkers to inspire and spur us on.

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Try These Two Smart Techniques to Help You Master Your Emotions – Lisa Feldman Barrett

How Emotional Intelligence Boosts Your Endurance – Alex Hutchinson

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Bonus: Resources for Raising Our Children to Be Emotionally Intelligent

Research Shows Reading Improves Kids’ Emotional Intelligence and Increases Empathy – Katie Priske

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

Parents Who Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids Teach This Important Skill, Says Neuroscientist and Parenting Expert – Here’s How – Willian Stixrud & Ned Johnson

Chores Lead to Happy Children. So Why Do So Few Parents Require Them? – Annie Holmquist – OK…this doesn’t really have to do with emotional intelligence but it fits in the mix of raising kids well.

Monday Morning Moment – You’re Stronger Than You Think – Really? – A Truer Truth

Photo Credit: Quotir, Winnie the Pooh

OK…who hasn’t heard this encouragement? “You’re stronger than you think.” I have never cared for it. Why? Because it pushes the weary soul, doing all we can to stay afloat already, to “just keep swimming”.

Not that any of us wants to quit whatever we’re about…but…is there a truer truth?

The “stronger than you think” quote has been attributed to A. A. Milne, author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Written by  and published in the 1920s. This was a time post-World War I and prior to The Great Depression and World War II. The expression of “pull yourself up by your boot straps” and the mentality of self-reliance was fueled in those days, in literature and culture. It continues today.

[Now, you should know Milne did NOT write that expression. A writer at Disney must have. It is a quote from the animated film (1997) “Pooh’s Grand Adventure: the Search for Christopher Robin”. Pooh’s dear friend Christopher Robin is going away to boarding school and is trying to give Pooh, and himself, the courage for them to be apart. That message is there but not in so many words as in the Disney film.]

So…after that bubble burst, let’s return to the oft-quoted “stronger than you think” encouragement we find everywhere. It seems to speak to our culture…across generations.

Self-reliance. Work harder. Work smarter. We can do better. Sigh…

When we are told by a friend or family member, or even a social media stranger, that we’re stronger than we think, we are not being encouraged to lean on community…or God. We are given the message that somewhere inside ourselves, alone, without others, we can tap into more strength than we are feeling at the moment.

Is that really encouragement? I know we mean well…but do we really want to offer up Disney verbiage to a real struggle?

When I’ve gone about as far as I can go, can I slog out more, just with my own “main strength and awkwardness”? Maybe. At what cost and to what gain?

I got a phone call earlier today from a mom needing an understanding ear on a hard struggle involving her young son. She’s a terrific mom. Yet…she’d come to the end of her rope on this one. She sounded on Empty. Did it help that we talked? I think so…and definitely it helped to pray afterwards. She will find the way to help her son. She has a way forward even if she doesn’t see it clearly yet. Through her own resolve and experience. Through deep community. Through an enduring faith in a wise and loving God.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The Apostle Paul speaks so eloquently and practically on this issue of our weakness and God’s strength. In fact, when we come to the end of ourselves, we find God’s strength perfect in our weakness. It’s both a hard truth and great comfort. We don’t like the experience of coming to the end of ourselves. Nor do we like to see our friends and family moving so close to that reality. For this reason, we encourage those we love to dig deeper.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

You know I love words…and I squeeze as much good out of them as I can. The Pooh video clip above and its messages of the richness of relationship do have meaning for us. Part of that meaning is how sustaining relationships can be even with we are apart from each other. However, the best part of relationships and how much stronger they make us comes from the moment-by-moment reach of them in the present. When we are there for each other (and pray for each other) we become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.

When we seek to encourage with words like “You’re stronger than you think”, your heart will be heard. Lean in with those words…and pray for that one in the struggle.

Why I Believe ‘You Are Stronger Than You Think’ Is Not Always True – Arlene Pellicane

Monday Morning Moment – That Thing Does Doesn’t Need to Be Said – and If It Does – Deb Mills [Remember the quote from the Disney film Bambi? “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That is actually part of my family’s lexicon – so Disney does have wisdom sayings in its film library. 🙂

[Mandisa sings about how hard things make us stronger BUT she says that in the face of God being right there with us – holding us through whatever comes. We can rest in Him…and each other.]

11 Reasons Why You’re Stronger Than You Think – Coaching-Online – this is actually a good article on the argument of “you’re stronger than you think”…but, there is a truer truth.

If you can’t get enough of Pooh – this is a sweet film:

Monday Morning Moment – Back to School – 12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

[Adapted from the Archives]

It’s Back to School days around here. Whether we teach our children at home or contract and cooperate with other teachers, this time of year is both exciting and sobering.

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the serious nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not a better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones, establishing their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey we use in desperation. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action. That is a lesson they will take all the way through adulthood.

Raising our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”). When they heard that, they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) –A thankful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation with joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in unforgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep, loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many parents do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

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

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

Monday Morning Moment – “The Chosen” – Jesus and Generation Z

Screenshot from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

The Chosen is an online TV series created and directed by Dallas Jenkins. The statement of faith posted by Jenkins includes the following: “The Chosen is a narrative show, which means it’s not a documentary…it’s absolutely not a replacement for Scripture. It is not focused on religious tradition, but on Jesus. It’s a show…but it’s a high calling for me.”

Dallas Jenkins and “The Chosen” production team developed a film project entitled “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”. It is a documentary where 9 strangers of Gen Z age were brought together to binge-watch “The Chosen” Season 1. They did not know what they would be watching. The documentary was just posted this week. It is below (starting 32 minutes in). You will love it!!

The Gen Z’ers (young people born after 1995) were really lovely. Different religious backgrounds. Very different social and family situations. More trauma and isolation than I would have imagined. Hard. Yet here they are grown, bright, their own people.

Screenshot from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

Binge-watching “The Chosen”. Their perspectives were fascinating – starting out, watching, and then processing afterward.

A little bit about “The Chosen” (from a previous blog I wrote):

I love the stories. They are reflective of Jesus and those closest to Him. They are plausible given what we know of Jesus in Scripture and what we know of the whole counsel of God in the Bible.

I have so many favorite scenes in this production (Season 1 and Season 2 also, and coming soon Season 3). One of the scenes is when Jesus calls Matthew as a disciple. Matthew…a Jewish tax collector – under the protection of the Romans – hated by his fellow Jews for the hardships he brings on them. In this treatment of this real person, Matthew is shown as one who could be on the Autism spectrum…brilliant and different. Watch the scene here.

Jesus’ line, “Get used to different”, although extra-Biblical, is so in character with the person of Christ. Winsome, loving, and right.

Merch from The Chosen Gifts

Worship Wednesday – Trouble – From The Chosen – Deb Mills

So what happens when a group of young people, very different from each other, watch this TV series?

Screenshots from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

I appreciated their take on “The Chosen”. Thoughtful, analytical, emotional, and open. No arrogance or judging. They considered the stories and the message. Did they all convert to people who follow Jesus? I don’t think so and it isn’t fully disclosed in the documentary …and…that certainly did not seem like the producers’ ploy.

What did happen for these Gen Z’ers is that they saw Jesus differently. Hopefully more accurately… They left the room changed.Screenshot from “Unfiltered: Gen-Z Reacts to The Chosen”

This documentary was just really good. I wish I could say to each one, thanks for being willing to risk being a part of that project. Their vulnerability was something we could all benefit from.

I wonder if they watched Season 2 of The Chosen on their own. I’m certainly looking forward to Season 3. In a world as cynical and jaded as ours, to be immersed in the place and community of Jesus is a great refreshing of the soul. Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus, is an actor, of course…but his portrayal of Jesus is brilliant and true to the heart of Christ.

If you haven’t seen The Chosen yet, it is free to you, on YouTube and the app. Catch up…you’ll be glad you did.