Category Archives: Attending or Focus

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

Friday Faves – lightning-fast – go!

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

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

Photo Credit: Makoto Fujimura, Joseph Sunde

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

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

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

YouTube Video – A Conversation with Makoto Fujimura

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: NIAAA

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol Consumption Among Women Is on the Rise – Jennifer Clopton

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

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

Photo Credit: BP News

Bonuses:

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

2 Ways Your Phone Is Reducing Your Brain Power

25 Ways to Screw Up Your Kids

Photo Credit: Facebook, Enneagram & Coffee

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marianne Wink

Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl

[From the Archives]

Today marks the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 18 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Monday Morning Moment – A Store Opens and a Business Thrives – Thanks to a Decades-Old Business Philosophy Still Relevant Today

In all the years I’ve known Dave’s Uncle Bob, he made grocery shopping and restaurant meals more like field trips. He was a grocer for many years and then owned and operated restaurants later in life. Never meeting a stranger and one of the most kindly and engaged men I’ve ever known, he would talk to anyone who was willing. About the store/restaurant design, why the particular products or menu items, taking everything in through his experienced and cultivated senses. Then we would talk about it. “Do you see how they….?” “You know what she said about….?” I learned so much from him about customer service, product presentation, and business practices. He had a terrific understanding about what makes for excellence.

I think Uncle Bob and Mr. George could have had great talks.

George W. Jenkins, Jr. was the founder of Publix Supermarkets. He opened his first Publix food store in 1930, during the Great Depression. He and his store associates managed to make it through that trying time when so many businesses suffered or closed.

Last week, I attended the family night before the Grand Opening of another Publix Supermarket in Richmond, Va. We now have them all over the city, but they only arrived here in 2017. Richmond has several grocery store chains, and I wasn’t sure how Publix would do…but…it has prospered.

I learned much about the store at that pre-grand opening family night (store employees are called associates and the family night was for families of this latest store’s associates). The store was ready to go. Groceries, produce, prepared foods, meat and dairy were all in place in gleaming cases. For the families, snack stations were set up all over the store. It was yummy! Then we were gathered for the welcomes and introductions of different department leads. There was a prayer which I thought unusual but special. Then Mr. George’s name was often spoken as different individuals talked about how special Publix was to them through the years. The company seems not to have experienced mission drift in all these 89 years since the first store opening.

Todd Jones, the CEO of Publix Supermarkets, was present as well as several other regional executives. There was much applause as he asked for a show of hands of those who had worked for Publix from less than a year on up. Two persons had worked for 45 years at Publix. One of them had started as a bag boy, like Todd Jones himself. Whenever possible, Publix promotes from within. It was neat to see how employees could very naturally rise to the top as they took opportunity for training and leading over years of work.

I picked up a little booklet at the welcome table. It was entitled Lessons From Our Founder – Publix’s Founder George W. Jenkins. Here they are listed below:

  • Invest in others. – Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the US. Every employee (even parttimers after 1000 hrs. can buy stock. Ownership brings its own desire for excellence.
  • Give back. – Mr. George was a philanthropist throughout his life as a successful businessman. Once asked, “Mr. George, how much do you think you’d be worth today if you hadn’t give so much away?” His immediate response was: “Probably nothing.”
  • Prepare for opportunity. – Publix employees, or associates, have opportunities from the beginning to apply themselves toward excellence and future job advancement.
  • Be there. – Mr. George knew the importance of being present in his stores. CEO Todd Jones follows his example in attending store openings and celebrating associates’ advancement. Being there, at all levels, matters.
  • Respect the dignity of the individual. – Mr. George also always had an open door policy. He welcomed ideas. He allowed for mistakes. He cared about the associates. Each person brought something special to the work.
  • Treat customers like royalty. – This, for all of us customers, is the best part. No matter how beautiful the stores are or how good the food is…how we are treated is why we come back.

Do the right thing. – That was Mr. George’s summary on his business philosophy.

What company out there would not profit from such a corporate philosophy?

Finally, in case you don’t have a Publix in your city but run across one in your travels: the best cakes and fried chicken in our town now!

In the Words of Mr. George – Jennifer B.

Monday Morning Moment – Leveraging Our Limitations – in Real Time

Photo Credit: Grace Covenant

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

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

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

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

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

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

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

For me it was extraordinary.

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

Part of his message today:

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

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

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

How many limitations am I not leaning into?

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Angela Lee Duckworth, Thriving Intentionally

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

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

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

Leveraging Your Limitations – Steve Brown

Leveraging Your Limitations – Thriving Intentionally – Erin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Networking: Broadcast or Narrowcast?Genna Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

___________________________________________________________________________

Did I miss something? Please comment below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, true communication!

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Richmond

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

16 Bars – REAL LIFE

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

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

The Long Goodbye – Kara Tippetts Documentary – Jay Lyons

Bono & Eugene Peterson – The Psalms – Fourth Line Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wit and Wisdom of Toni Morrison

What have you read by this author of many books?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

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

Photo Credit: Victory Today, Facebook

I Want to Age Like Sea Glass – Bernadette Noll

Photo Credit: Bernadette Noll, Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Facebook, Vicky Appleton Eaton

Butterfly Breakfast Buffet

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

Photo Credit: Boom Positive

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

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

So we keep people in our lives worthy of imitating.

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

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

Photo Credit: Desiring God; John Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Hope that Inspires Response – God of This City – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

This is what the LORD says: “Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from his oppressor. Don’t exploit or brutalize the resident alien, the fatherless, or the widow. Don’t shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah 22:3

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”Matthew 23:23

It’s easy to get entangled in the negative, life-sucking conversations that bombard us through the mainstream news and social media.

Not today!

There was a time, not too long ago, when friends and coworkers would tell me that I inspired hope. That even when situations seemed hopeless, I could find the glimmer of light still present. The possibility. The “could happen”.

Somehow I have let that hope for our country…and world…flicker and dim.

Today, a light went on for me. A God-inspired remembrance. A hope that goes beyond but also includes us as individuals. A hope that answers the question, “What can one person do?”

I live in this beautiful small city in America. Richmond, Virginia.

Photo Credit: Flickr

It is a city of innovation and renovation. Once the capital of the Confederacy, there is also a history that divides the city.Photo Credit: Flickr, Taber Andrew Bain

Homelessness, poverty, racial discrimination, food insecurity, violence, crime, urban housing and education challenges, and addiction issues are all part of this city’s deep-seated problems.

While we rant about our country’s larger struggles, we sometimes forget that we are very present in the communities we call home.

We may not be able to do much about our nation’s troubles, but right here…right here in Richmond, we can make a difference. God is present and we are His people. In both the Old and New Testaments, He gives direction. It’s for us to act, prayerfully, with authority, and in love. To see our city as He sees it, and to love it accordingly.

I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.  Psalm 27:13

Worship with me – hope with me – to Chris Tomlin‘s God of This City:

[Verse 1]
You’re the God of this city
You’re the king of these people
You’re the lord of this nation
You are

[Verse 2]
You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

[Chorus]
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city

[Verse 1]

[Verse 2]

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

[Chorus]
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

There is no one like our god
There is no one like you, God

[Chorus]
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here*

*Lyrics to God of This City – Songwriters: Aaron Boyd, Andrew Mccann, Ian Jordan, Peter Comfort, Peter Kernaghan, Richard Bleakley

Story Behind the Song – God of This City also YouTube Video Bluetree God of This City Story

The Lessons of an Innercity Hospital – God Loves Us All the Same – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Do Something by Matthew West – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – God of This City (by Bluetree) – Fishermen’s Project//Cover

YouTube Video – God of Justice – Tim Hughes

Monday Morning Moment – Leadership, Criticism, and the Man (or Woman) in the Arena

Photo Credit: YouTube

Monday’s are exceptional days of the week. You may enter it with one focus or resolve and then discover a golden nugget that takes you a very different direction. It happened to me this morning.

My temptation was to vent frustration over a situation where leadership leans toward being restrictive, exclusive, and narrow in focus. Aren’t you glad I am not writing about that today?!

[I’ve written previously about negativity and how to turn it around – here, here, and here. No matter how consequential the issue, criticism won’t get us where we want to go.]

As I pondered how to address the topic in a positive, redemptive way, I came across a wise friend’s Facebook post that pointed me to an edited video of a talk given by author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown.

She was addressing an audience of young “creatives”.  She encouraged them to “show up and be seen”, but in so doing, there is a consequence. We will, at times, get our behinds busted, so to speak.

She referenced a riveting speech that President Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910, shortly after he left office. I do not remember ever hearing this speech until today. Below is the excerpt that Brown quoted:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I was deeply humbled by the wisdom of that speech.

Our leaders all have their own arenas. You have yours. I have mine. It is not my desire to exit the place where I am called to serve, to create, to fight battles meant for me…just to become a critical or negative spectator in another’s arena.

There are times when our battle is made harder by another…by one who could alter our circumstance, who could provide assistance, who could hear our cry for help…and doesn’t heed. It happens.

Yet…it doesn’t take away the cause I’m meant to hold dear…and the one for which I am to fight. It certainly doesn’t warrant me leaving my battle to judge his or hers.

Brené Brown gave a strong warning to both the unengaged leader and the critical employee:

“If you’re in the cheap seats, not putting yourself on the line, and just talking about how I could do it better, I’m in no way interested in your feedback.”Brené Brown

Scorching, right?

This Monday my thinking and life direction went a different way than at first it was headed. Are there times when we speak to leaders, imploring them to consider another way? Of course…but never so much that we take our eyes off our own work…our own arena.

Let’s get after it!

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – The Man in the Arena Speech (edited)

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count

“Citizenship in a Republic” – Theodore Roosevelt speech, April 23, 1910

Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” – Erin McCarthy

5 Friday Faves – The Lion King, Ethnic Food, Biblical Justice, Raising Men and Women, and the iGeneration

Friday Faves – lightning fast. Hope your weekend is slowed-down – I’m counting on it!

1) The Lion King – Just released, The Lion King (2019) film is making all kinds of news because of it’s computer-animation (it all looks so real!). Best part of the movie is the nostalgia of the music score (by Hans Zimmer) updated from the original (1994) film. Here Nathan Mills arranged and performed the stunning instrumental piece, the main theme, “This Land”. Again, it is amazing how this guy can take a single classical guitar and move the hearer as the full orchestra did in the film. Goosebumps.

2) Ethnic Food – We all have our own version of ethnic food. It’s the food that calls the mind and heart back to our moms and our childhood homes. For our children, their sense of ethnic foods includes the biscuits and gravy of the southern US, tamaya (falafel) sandwiches of Egypt, couscous of Tunisia, tajine in Morocco, and authentic Mexican cooking of a dear friend transplanted in Morocco as well. What ethnic food resonates with you?

Egyptian Falafel Best in the World: BBC Report – Al-Masry Al-Youm

3) Biblical Justice – With all the cry for social justice in our world today, I’ve been immersing myself in the study of Biblical justice. Trying to figure out how we are to best respond to the poor and oppressed around us.

Author and New York City pastor Tim Keller has written a book entitled Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. In it, he calls the church, corporately and as individual believers, to answer God’s call for us to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We are reminded of the two greatest commandments in the whole of Scripture: to love God with everything in our being and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

Photo Credit: By Their Strange Fruit

“We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need – regardless of race, politics, class, and religion – is your neighbour. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbour, and you must love your neighbour.”Tim Keller

True Biblical justice will never be satisfied with government programs or tax increases to the rich. God’s call to us to act justly is very personal. We will default to always think the government doesn’t do enough or the rich are always people richer than us.

When we consider our role in our neighbor’s life…we look beyond those like us or those we like…we look for the neighbor who needs the same grace that we need(ed) from God…and, in obedience to Him, we extend grace as far as it has been extended to us.

World-changing. Life-changing. Our own, and our neighbor.

4) Raising Men & Women – We all hope to raise up our children to be men and women who care about people and put themselves out there for others. Raising Men Lawn Care Service was founded in 2015 by Rodney Smith, Jr.. He began this service out of a compassion for people who struggled with taking care of their lawns. Single moms, disabled, elderly, and veterans. He mentors boys (AND girls) in extending care to these by cutting their grass for free. Or shoveling snow, raking leaves, etc. Like with martial arts, he gives these young people t-shirts that distinguish them by how many lawns they have cut for free. This is his 50-yard challenge.

From his website, Smith says, “We are completely confident in the fact that we can provide a very inspirational program that focuses on channeling the energy that youths have in a positive way as well as helping those who need it the most. We know that sometimes youth want to help the community and sometimes people need it, but it can be hard to know who, why and where. We focus on getting all of this sorted out while also helping people around the area to care for and maintain their lawns.”

Watch the video and consider donating on his Amazon wish list.

Maybe more of us can start this sort of thing in our own communities.

5) The iGeneration – My husband and I are Baby Boomers and we have raised three Millennials – although in ways all three are old souls and resonate in ways with Generation X’ers and us. The youngest people being studied these days for common characteristics have been identified as Gen Z or iGeneration. They are the first to be born who will have neverknown a world withou internet connectivity. Author Eric Geiger wrote a summary piece on this generation, entitled Who Are the iGeneration and What Does Research Tell Us? He notes the research examined by Dr. Jean Twenge in her book iGen.

Photo Credit: NPS

In the piece above and its subsequent Part 2 on these precious young ones, he describes a generation that demands more care and careful direction from us olders. I won’t list all 12 of his characteristics (worth your read) but will list a few that have concerned me (for them and those in their future).

  • Because of the almost continual connection with electronic devices, they just don’t read as much as earlier generations.
  • Geiger gives an example of the yearbook day many of us older folks experienced growing up. In the Spring, we all got photobooks that captured our year – mostly highlights but the occasional losses – we signed each other’s books as a testament that we were there and we cared…or didn’t (depending on the friendship). These days, every day is yearbook day, and the highs and lows of that visual and emotional bombardment undermines the happiness of these young people. With unhappiness comes depression that seems too much a part of their experience.
  • With eyes riveted to screens, iGeneration young people have neglected social skills like eye contact, conversation, situational awareness, etc.
  • Less connected, in general. Less connected to community, to political party, to religion. Just less connected. Again, related to electronic device usage and the deluge of so much information and conflicting and argumentative opinion.

These are four out of the 12 that Geiger lists. Again, worth a read, especially if you have these young ones in your life.

Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z – Explained – Kasasa

That’s it for me for this week. Blessings on you. Thanks for taking the time to read what I post. Hope it encourages you as you do me.