Category Archives: Community

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom – the Way It Could Be – at Work & Home

Blog - Monday Morning email

Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into holiday celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the holidays helps. It’s easy to find daily Advent readings for the month of December…depending on your favorite author or blogger, they’ve probably written some.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift, and we don’t have to wait another day for it. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, starting on November 23 to take you right through to December 25.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas not far behind, I hope you can look forward to happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

Surviving Christmas – Advent Devotions for the Hard and Holy Holidays – Anne Marie Miller – free ebook

Advent Devotional Readings Online by Lifeway

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: a Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp 

“You Are the Man!” – What if I Really Am That Guy? That Weaker Brother, That Hypocrite, That Proud Religious Guy

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During today’s worship and Bible teaching with Movement Church, God touched my heart again with the story of Stephen, the very first martyred Christ-follower (Acts 6-7). Stephen’s serving and prophetic ministry was short and effective. He was used mightily by God to confront the religious establishment of that day…the very people who were instrumental in Christ’s crucifixion. Stephen would lose his life as well at the hands of these defiant religious men.

Our first-born son was to be named Stephen after this man of God. My niece was pregnant at the same time and claimed that name first for her son. So we looked for another name of a man who loved God more than man, who spoke God’s truth no matter the cost. Our son was given the name Nathan, after a prophet that God used to wake up King David from a terrible self-deception. After David had taken another man’s wife, murdering that man to cover his own sin, Nathan told a story to David which brought him to his senses and caused him to repent.

David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.” Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul…'”2 Samuel 12:5,7

…Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 2 Samuel 12:13

I am deeply thankful for the prophets of the Bible and God’s prophets today. A prophet is defined as a messenger of God – “The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was “to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government.”

When our pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached on Stephen today, I was reminded of how God draws us to Himself and the truth of His Word through others – these who become messengers of God in our lives.

My heart was pierced at the times I have read Scripture and chose to see myself as the one without fault…the one who was “in the right” as compared to that “other guy” who fell short…in my estimation, if not God’s. As Cliff preached on Stephen, that passage and two others resonated as to how we allow deceit in our lives. You may recognize these passages and persons…from one side or the other.

  1. The Weaker Brother – In this passage, Paul challenged the “stronger brother” to resist using his freedom in Christ as a stumbling block for the weaker brother who struggles with whether he’s free or not.

“Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Romans 14:20-22

Sometimes, we are that “weaker brother”. It helps to remember that…it keeps us humble and dependent on God and each other. He means for us to reason together in love to understand the ways of God and how to follow Him…together.

2. The Hypocrite – With the Log in His Eye – Jesus tells a story about judging each other unrighteously. There is a right judging – as we have seen through the prophets in the Word and in our lives. We usually think we are God’s messenger in others’ lives to get “the speck” out of their eyes..and sometimes to get the “log out”.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:3-5

Maybe we are the one with the log in our eyes. The most loving thing we can do for that brother or sister is to help them rid themselves of “the speck”, but we can’t help them until we get rid of our own “log”…or own sin, or hypocrisy, or self-deceit. In proceeding this way, we are given a priceless opportunity to walk humbly in community with each other.

3. The Religious Establishment – When Stephen faced the religious authorities of his day, he was in excellent company. Jesus had faced these same men in a hurried trial with his death as the goal of the proceedings. Stephen had to know that his life was at stake. In a riveting review of the history of Israel, he spoke forcefully to the pattern over the centuries of the religious rejecting the ones God sent to them. Such arrogance. God help us!

“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”Acts7:51-52

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Stephen was martyred for his message, but he was not silenced. His witness to a holy God is as powerful today as it was that day he passed from life, through death, to be with God in Heaven. Hallelujah! We are called to be such witnesses to a living, loving God.

After Cliff closed the teaching in prayer, the worship team led us in singing “I Surrender All“. More than anything in my life, I want to live a life worthy of God – to be courageous, to love truth, to serve others, to always remember my need for a Savior – to live a life that points others to Jesus…not because I am perfect, far from it…but because He is.2015 Nov - Phone Pics - Sadie, Movement, Church, Sunset, Blob 007

[Have to include this YouTube video – of a time when celebrity Oprah Winfrey had a I Surrender All moment when she submitted a deep desire to God. Faith Hill belts it from her own experience.]

Worship Wednesday – Fixing My Eyes on You, God – For King and Country

Blog - Fix My EyesPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3

I wonder at the commercial value of media’s generating fear among us. A strangling fear can choke out love and awareness of those real people behind the news commentators – people who desperately need hope and a future. For us, as Christians, as we watch the news of a world seemingly gone mad, what is our response?

Our action and reaction must always be to fix our eyes on God – to act in accordance with His love and character. To be driven by news media or public opinion is not an option for us as Christ-followers. We have a different path set before us, but we do not walk it alone.

Praise God that He has surrounded us with His own love and with “a great cloud of witnesses”. We are spurred on by the lives of those who have gone before us – who chose faithfulness over fear, peace over prosperity, security in Heaven over safety here. We are also emboldened to live such a life because of Jesus who lived such a life – without sin, in obedience to the Father, for our sakes.

I heard someone being interviewed on the radio yesterday saying her opinion about the current world crisis was set because of her concern for her own children. She would do whatever she could to “circle the wagons” around them. I understand her concerns but not her conclusions. We all want a world where our children can thrive and discover what God meant for them in this life.

Focusing on our own children will not create that world. Focusing on God’s purposes for us in this current world, the only one we have, is our greatest hope for our children’s future.

Joel and Luke Smallbone, of the band For King and Country, sing a rousing anthem entitled Fix My Eyes. I previously wrote about it here. The song relates to looking back with regret to decisions made earlier in life and points to how we might live today.

I want to live such a life today.

Worship with me:

Hit rewind, click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently, I’d

(Chorus)
Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I’m supposed to walk, and

(Chorus)

The things of earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I’ll set my sights upon Heaven
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes

(Chorus)

I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You
I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You

“That hope is why we do what we do to carry that into any situation, any environment, that we’re allowed to, to offer people not just a temporary fix but, God willing, offer them a changed eternity.” – Joel Smallbone

“A changed eternity”. What are you seeing about you and what are you doing to move our world, person by person, toward a changed eternity? Please comment below…and thank you.

5 Friday Faves – a Country Store, Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas, an Argument for Trouble, Teaching Empathy in the Classroom, Teaching our Children to be Entrepreneurial

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Posting from Atlanta, visiting Dad and family.

1) A Country Store – In an era of “buying local”, it’s easy to forgive a huge franchise when it feels like a country store. Cracker Barrel is like coming home. It’s my dad’s favorite restaurant (breakfast all day, and a huge menu full of “home-cooked” favorites). Walking into Cracker Barrel, you enter the country store section ahead of the restaurant. It is a retail paradise, especially if you’re from the South. Or maybe for everyone. It was lovely  seeing it recently through the eyes of a Moroccan-Scottish friend visiting. So much fun, this place, whether you buy anything or not!

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2) Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas – Beautiful Fall leaves and pumpkins are still with us in Virginia, although the season is waning. Even with our American Thanksgiving still days away, Christmas is also upon us – with decorations, music, and the wooing to the stores for gift-buying. I don’t mind the mix at all. There’s enough to delight in both holidays.

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3) An Argument for Trouble – Mark Modesti’s Argument for Trouble – YouTube video (TED Institute) – take the time to watch. Even the Bible tells us we will always have trouble, so wisdom is to learn how to thrive in it…and make it work for us and others.

4) Teaching Empathy in the Classroom – Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell’s article on Empathy in Action: How Teachers Prepare Future Citizens. I love when educators are committed to working with parents in helping our children to grow into responsible, thoughtful adults. Growing up happens all too quickly – redeem the time.

5) Teaching Our Children to Be Entrepreneural – Charmian Solter’s 8 Entrepreneurial Skills You Should Teach Your Kids (in an info graphic). Like 4), these are things we might as parents want to consider to help our children face the future that awaits them.

That’s the quick and short of my favorite finds this week – what are yours? Would love to hear about them. Enjoy your weekend!

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Worship Wednesday – ‘Tis the Season – What’s at Stake When We Indulge In Attacking Each Other

Blog - House Divided - coffeewiththeking.orgPhoto Credit: coffeewiththeKing.org

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”Jesus, John 13:34-35

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Jesus, Matthew 7:3-5

Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Paul, Romans 14:20-22

The “happy holidays” are upon us – juxtaposed against a landscape of polarizing political campaigns and various divisive protests and boycotts. In a season of the year (for us in the USA, in particular), we could enjoy warm community and loving unity, even when we differ on some things. Yet, we still divide ourselves up into various camps.

Where are we to land in all of this as Christ-followers?

For sure, it is not in attacking those who are not like us or who may be like us but differ in preference or opinion. Especially, we who call the name of Jesus as Savior – we have no ground to stand on in attacking each other…ever.

So why do we do it? There is this soul satisfaction that comes with feeling right, or smarter, or more cool, or culture-savvy. A soulish satisfaction from which God has actually called us, and toward something extraordinarily better. A unity, a bond of love. A love by which we are known to the rest of the world as followers of Jesus. Here there is even ground for all of us, the weaker brother and the stronger one (that one who becomes weaker when he taunts or shames the other). Jesus calls us to deal with our own flawed perspective (“log”) before we can help dislodge the painful speck from our brother’s eye.

Do we really care about the other, that one God calls us to love as we love ourselves? Do we show that love to the world when we treat those with whom we disagree with the same derision or contempt as the world does? Or worse? Are we keeping company with arrogant haters or are we becoming one? When we publically part company with believers who are offended by what we consider silly matters, what is at stake?

You may ask, “what about those hate-filled people who call themselves Christians and who protest all sorts of things, based on their “Christian” sensibilities?”. Still…Scripture is clear how we are to treat them…Jesus calls us to love even our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-45)

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”Jesus, Mark 3:25

There is much to lose and much more to gain in wrestling successfully with this dilemma – exposed in our private conversations and public (un-social) media.

Voices of Wisdom to help us – Keep Unity, Guard Community – Choosing to Love, Refusing to Shame

Blog - House Divided - Scott Sauls

Scott Sauls is the author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides . He has also written the richest piece on this whole shaming and raging culture that colors us as Christ-followers, if we partake in its rank hatefulness. In fact, I can’t even quote from his article, because I want you to read it…please. It is a quick but full read on identifying the problem, and seeing what is the truth of how we are to live, in the example of a living, flesh-and-blood human-like-us man, Tim Keller. Please…read Scott’s article. Transforming.

Christians are in many ways a band of opposites, who over time grow to love one another through the centering, unifying love of Jesus…sincere believers can disagree on certain matters, sometimes quite strongly, and still maintain great respect and affection for one another…I don’t know where I would be without the influence of others who see certain non-essentials differently than I do..In non-essentials, liberty. And to this we might add an open-minded receptivity. We must allow ourselves to be shaped by our ‘other’ brothers and sisters for Jesus’ sake. We will be the richer for it.” – Scott Sauls

“This great passion for souls [Romans 9:1-3] gave Paul perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing – the souls of men. ‘Get love for the souls of men’ – then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about the crotchets of a family, and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men…Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little griefs will be driven out. – Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon Gems, p. 7-8

“I will never get why we defend our chicken sandwiches and our gingerbread lattes but we won’t take a stand for the things that actually matter to God. Are we loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we obeying God in our personal lives? Are we defending and providing for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant? Are we sharing the hope we have in Christ? That’s pretty much our full job description.” – Angela

Blog - House Divided - Jonathanpearson.net

Photo Credit: JonathanPearson.net

What I Came To Respect Most About Tim Keller (Even More Than His Preaching) by Scott Sauls

We Disagree, Therefore I Need You by Scott Sauls

Jesus Outside the Lines – a Way Forward for Those who are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls

What Stops Our Fighting? by Tony Reinke

Monday Morning Moment – Marking Lives Well-Lived, Work Well Done

2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 004Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross

There are no ordinary days, nor are there ordinary lives. This morning, Monday, November 2, is a day I want to mark as an opportunity to celebrate extraordinary lives. Yet, how is that even possible? People who live for grand causes and for God Himself don’t look for celebrations or accolades. What do we do then when we want to stand in ovation and clap them back out onto the stage for an encore?

Celebrating retiring colleagues is best done by those who know them well – who have watched them through the most difficult times, seen them push through seemingly insurmountable circumstances, resonated with their joy in the simplest triumphs.

How do we mark lives well-lived and work well-done? I don’t have that answer yet…except to express personal gratitude and to live and work in the shadow of these who went before…to steward well their example.

For today, I will enter into that process of puzzling over how properly to celebrate the lives and work of those “finishers” who have done well to fix their eyes on the goal…right through. It doesn’t feel enough, but for today, I join a great cloud of witnesses, so grateful to see how it is to finish well.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

As I sort this all out, I would be grateful for any stories you have of celebrating work well done and lives well lived. Following  are some quotes of those who finished strong or who, living still, are living well.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” – C. S. Lewis

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” – Jonas Salk*

“When we are at the worst times of our lives, when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be, when we are at our highest point as well, when things are going really well, we want somebody to comfort us and be there for us and to say, ‘Well done.’ That’s Jesus!” – Russell Wilson*

“Well done is better than well said.” – Benjamin Franklin*
“The pinnacle of the fulfillment I can ever experience for my spirit and soul is to hear from the Lord, when I see Him face to face, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.'” – Nick Vujicic* Blog - Well Done - Nick Vujicic
The Apostle Paul, in an encounter with Jesus, was completely transformed from a life of murderous, religious zeal to a life of complete surrender to God (something altogether different). He speaks of living life, and finishing well – likened to fighting a good fight or running a race to the finish.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:6-8
2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 002Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross
For us all…there is still a race to be run.
“My legacy doesn’t matter. It isn’t important that I be remembered. It’s important that when I stand before the Lord, He says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. I want to finish strong.” – James Dobson*
“It is finished.” – Jesus, from the cross (John 19:30)
Blog - Well Done - Parables of the Cross - Lilias Trotter

October 31 – Halloween Dress-up & Reformation Day Stand-Up

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Our kids were pre-schoolers the last time we celebrated Halloween – and that was a long time ago. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Amber reminded me of a different side of Halloween. It’s not just another commercialized holiday (second only to Christmas in the US). Nor is it just for dressing up children in fun outfits (although that is one of the best parts of Halloween).Blog - Halloween 2

Nor is Halloween just about giving and getting large quantities of favorite candies…although this might be THE BEST PART of Halloween.Blog - Fall - Candy Corn - twitter.com ERLCPhoto Credit: Twitter.com/erlc

Amber, still fairly new in town, was looking forward to Halloween to meet more of her neighbors. Over the years, we had separated our family from Halloween because of the darker side of the holiday (All Hallow’s Eve). I don’t think our kids missed out at all, really, but this year I have opened the door back up a bit…to meet more of our neighbors.

For the first time in two decades, we turned the porch light on, and had a basket of candy ready….and the children came. We marveled at their costumes and greeted their parents (and sometimes, grandparents). It was fun to chat with these little guys and then watch them meander on to the next house in their dressed-up otherness.

When the candy ran out, I flipped off the porch light. The glow of our next door neighbor’s luminaries still beckoned the small bands of children with their watchful parents close by.Blog - Halloween 3

So that was Halloween 2015. No new friendships forged or anything…but we at least showed ourselves friendly.

Earlier today, I was reminded of the other side of October 31. Reformation Day. My husband’s mom, Julia, reads through a couple of devotionals each day as part of her Bible reading. On a visit with her this morning, she read to us the page below.Blog - Reformation DayPhoto Credit: 30 Days to Change the Nation by D. James Kennedy

On this day, 498 years ago, Martin Luther stood up against a wrong done in the name of God. He challenged his beloved Catholic Church to stop certain practices of that day. Practices that drew people away from God really, rather than closer to Him. Practices, or indulgences, in particular, that communicated that we could actually buy our salvation or do service enough to earn our salvation from our sins.

He wrote 95 “theses” or indictments against the church and hammered that long list on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. They were serious accusations and started with the first one below:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Because of Martin Luther’s protest, a reformation was birthed. Millions of believers worldwide “have submitted to God’s word as their highest authority (Sola Scriptura) and…that salvation is a gift given by God’s grace alone (Sola Gratia) through the instrument of faith alone (Sola Fide) in the death and resurrection of their one savior and mediator, Jesus Christ (Sola Christus), so that all glory would always redound to the Triune God alone (Sola Deo Gloria).” *

October 31 marks two days – Halloween and Reformation Day.

The first calls for dress-up. The second a call to stand up.

I’m sure Martin Luther took great courage in God’s Word as he stood firm in his understanding of it.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God…and having done all, to stand firm.”  – Apostle Paul,  from Ephesians 6:10-20

Be safe out there if you’re still closing out the night. I’m thinking the kids won’t notice if a Butterfinger or Snickers bar is missing in the morning from their candy haul tonight…or could be, they will. It’s a risk. Good night.

*Reformation Day – Jesus Came Knocking

What Are Your Thoughts on Halloween? – John Piper

5 Interesting Facts About Reformation Day

Halloween - Nathan & Bekkah, Cliff & April[Four of my favorite grown-up “trick-or-treaters” -one of the kids must have taken this picture.] Photo Credit: Bekkah Mills

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother – How We Can Help

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As October winds down every year, stores are transformed into a shopping wonderland with Christmas just weeks away. Toys for children and presents under the tree are part of the wonder of the season. Henrico Christmas Mother is a local non-profit that helps “keep Christmas” in the lives of even the poorest of our neighbors.

Henrico Christmas Mother provides a unique and amazing shopping experience for qualified applicants, to brighten their family’s Christmas. Moms can choose gifts for their children from an enormous array of possibilities…without any cost. Thanks to the incredible generosity of their neighbors.  They also receive boxes of food to help during Christmas break when the children are home more, without the added breakfast and lunch programs available to them at school.

Harriet Long, a retired educator who I don’t think ever truly retired, is this year’s Council President of Henrico Christmas Mother. The Council is made up of past Christmas Mothers and representatives from the 5 Henrico county districts. Mrs. Long was Henrico Christmas Mother in 2013. These volunteers on the Council lead the huge effort made each year to fulfill their mission:

“To provide assistance in the form of food, new clothing, books and toys to qualifying families, adults with disabilities, and the elderly during the holiday season.”

2015 October - Christmas Mother - Ken & Harriet Long 003Harriet Long and her husband and #1 volunteer, Ken

I caught up with Mrs. Long this week to learn more about the year-round operation of Henrico Christmas Mother. As she talked about the community they serve, her eyes brightened. She has, for years, seen the difference made by Henrico Christmas Mother. Thinking that Henrico County had a fairly affluent citizenry, I was surprised at the number in our county in need of help. 40% of students in the Henrico County Public Schools live at or below the poverty line. 20% of Henrico County citizens receive some sort of public assistance.

Through the generous support of Henrico County Government and the Henrico County Public Schools, along with donations from private citizens and corporations, Henrico Christmas Mother serves hundreds of our neighbors.

2014 December Christmas Mother (48)

I saw that “neighbors helping neighbors” motto at work last December when I volunteered alongside many more at the Henrico Christmas Mother Warehouse. Harriet and her husband, Ken, were there as well…actually they are there every day during those two weeks of helping moms and dads shop for their families.  The joy of serving neighbors pulsated through that huge warehouse. All the work of packing food boxes, gathering, sorting, by size and age, and displaying items for ease of the moms being served is done completely by volunteers. It’s a sight to behold!2014 December Christmas Mother (29)

 How can we help our neighbors through Henrico Christmas Mother? There are so many ways, and one way might fit you.

Inviting the Henrico County Christmas Mother to speak at your organization or company, especially during Spring and Summer, would be a great help in getting the word out. Neighbors helping neighbors.

Making donations is the way this non-profit organization has continued to serve since 1942. You make financial contributions through their website or mail a check to Henrico Christmas Mother, PO Box 70338, Henrico, Va. 23255.

If you would like to donate items, you can begin to do that, as the Christmas Mother volunteers do – during the after-Christmas sales. Mrs. Long and the Council will begin to prepare for next year’s Christmas Mother starting right after Christmas. New toys, books, and clothing are bought for all ages of children. From 0 to whatever age the child is still a student in Henrico County Public Schools. Hats, gloves, socks, new children’s books, bikes with helmets, coloring books and crayons are always on the needs list.

Henrico Christmas Mother also serves senior citizens of the county as well as disabled adults – those who qualify financially. There are gift tables for them to shop for themselves – costume jewelry, books (including Bibles and cookbooks), pajamas, hats, scarves, gloves, caps, and socks. This service is unique to Henrico Christmas Mother, and donations of items for these adults are greatly appreciated.

The food boxes that are given on shopping day come from student donations through the Henrico Co. Public Schools. Last year, students donated over 110,000 non-perishable food items. Along with the food boxes, giftcards for meats, fruits, and vegetables are also provided on the shopping day. Just ahead of those two weeks of Christmas Mother, donations of soup, cereal, cookies and crackers, in particular are also solicited. Remember that these children are some of the most vulnerable in the county nutritionally during Christmas.

How does this all work?  The Henrico Christmas Mother Council works year round. In August and September, notices begin going out to families in Henrico about Christmas Mother. One flyer is sent in the water bill. Word also goes out through government-subsidized housing and through Social Services. Posters go up in the schools starting in September.

Applications are taken, at the warehouse, the first four Mondays of October. On that day, if the family qualifies, an appointment is made to return to shop during two weeks in December.

Then the fun really begins. The moms come in on their appointment day and are assisted by a volunteer to maneuver around the massive warehouse. They can choose books and clothes for each of their children. Hats, gloves and socks also are available for all the children. The toy tables are arranged by age. 2 toys/child. The parents choose them from a huge selection gathered by the Christmas Mother Council. Then each child receives stocking stuffers, coloring books and crayons.

Finally, the shoppers receive food boxes based on the number of people in the household – food enough for five meals. Henrico County Government staff then help these moms get all the gifts and food to their cars.

This is Henrico Christmas Mother – neighbors helping neighbors.

 2014 December Christmas Mother (12)2014 December Christmas Mother (1)628_Choosing_Stocking_Stuffers2014 December Christmas Mother (8)

I’m so grateful for the introduction President Harriet Long gave me to this great organization. This Christmas, share the joy of helping your neighbors through volunteering, donating, and inviting the Henrico Christmas Mother to speak at your organization or community event on next year’s calendar.

Henrico Christmas Mother provides a true and tested opportunity for us to show love to our neighbors this Christmas and all through the year. We can make a difference in the lives of these families.

Blog - Love Your Neighbor Christmas Mother - Beverly Cocke 2015

2015 Henrico Christmas Mother

2015 Henrico Christmas Mother, Beverly Cocke    (also the Brookland District’s representative on the Henrico County School Board)
“There is nothing like the joy in knowing that you played a small part in bringing a smile to a stranger’s face and sharing the message of love and hope across Henrico during the holiday season. I am honored and humbled.”

2014 December Christmas Mother (33)

Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull’s Story of Pixar, Working with Creatives, & Steve Jobs

untitledIMG_0223Photo Credit: Amazon.com (l) & Deb Mills (r)

Dave, the husband in my story, has always pointed me in the direction of transformative books and learning experiences. That path converged with this year’s Global Leadership Summit and Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc.

Bill Hybels interviewed Ed Catmull about his role in co-founding Pixar Animation Studios and pioneering the field of computer animation. Now President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, he has an extraordinary story to tell of leading creatives in innovative film-making. Mr. Catmull’s wisdom and humility can be well-applied in any workplace situation.Blog - GLobal Leadership Summit - Ed Catmull by brainpickings.orgPhoto Credit: brainpickings.org

“Science and art are not incongruous. Art isn’t about drawing; it’s about learning to see. Which business or professions do you not want to have enhanced ability to see?”

During this interview at GLS15, he talked about the business processes he uses in film-making. We can relate this level and quality of  accountability in any organization or company:

  1. Teams working together (using a Brain Trust – a group of colleagues all acting as peers, with vested interest, giving feedback;
  2. When failures happen in production – embracing [failure] but at the same time dealing with it with both total candor and kindness; and
  3. Operating within constraints (a budget) – actually pushes creativity higher and delivers better outcomes.

“Stories influence the world. We want to use story-telling for good.”

Listening to Ed Catmull talk about leading at Pixar and Disney whetted our appetites to read his book Creativity, Inc.

Originally, Mr. Catmull worked in the computer graphics department of Lucasfilm, in the beginning years of computer animation. In his book, he tells about his incredible journey in those early years right through to today. It was a wildly bumpy road at first and the work was almost sidelined had it not been for Steve Jobs buying Pixar from Lucasfilm.

Toward the end of the book, Catmull writes about Steve Jobs. They worked together for over 25 years, and the Jobs he knew was a much more complex and lovely man than who we knew through other media. A tribute full of “candor and kindness” – as much about how Ed Catmull sees people as about the amazing leader that was Steve Jobs.

Whatever your work, you want to read this book. Catmull describes how he modeled openness, confidence in, and care for his employees. There are trust builders and wide gates for innovation woven into Pixar’s business processes. Whatever our sphere of influence is, we can all learn to be more effective leaders as we think through how Catmull leads.

At the end of Creativity, Inc., there are 5 pages of bulleted principles that Mr. Catmull encourages as starting points for critical thinking. Here are just a few:

  • If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources. Inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.
  • It’s isn’t enough merely to be open to ideas from others. Engaging the collective brainpower of the people you work with is an active, ongoing process. As a manager, you must coax ideas out of your staff and constantly push them to contribute.
  • There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.
  • If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.
  • Change and uncertainty are part of life. Our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to recover when unexpected events occur. If you don’t always try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

Creativity, Inc. is not just a book for whom we now consider “creatives”. It’s a book for any of us who want to employ and empower people to grow personally and in community and to produce in ways that yield great products/services.

We all have stories that can influence the world for good…if we grow a work culture where those stories matter and can be freely explored.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

YouTube Video – Steve Jobs Remembered by Larry Ellison and Pixar’s Ed Catmull

YouTube Video – Ed Catmull: Keep Your Crises Small

Grit – When You’re Hurtin’ But Not Quittin’ – the Role of Personal Resolve and a Team Alongside

131118-Z-WM549-015Photo Credit: Pacific News Center

Diligence is a word that defined my many years in learning Arabic while we lived overseas. Keeping at it, even when I wanted to quit, helped immensely. The joy of living life in a second language is worth all the work. Diligence is a great assist to staying on course, but it is not “grit”.

I saw grit at work recently in a group of servicemen, in Virginia Beach, doing their morning exercise. [Not the picture above but that image has its own neat story of grit]. We had taken a couple of days away from the city to get our breath, by the ocean. Walking on the boardwalk early in the morning, we encountered this small group of airmen from the nearby Naval Base, doing a group jog. We saw them starting the run and saw them again coming back – 6 miles total. Most of them were young, thin, and fit.

What caught our eye, in particular, were two men in mid-life, carrying a bit of weight, bringing up the rear. Approaching the end of that run, they looked like they were hurting, but they definitely weren’t quitting. I’m sure to stay as fit as the rest of the group was, a certain measure of grit was at play…but these two, in this snapshot of life, showed the grit that brought me to write today.

Wikipedia.org defines grit as a character trait  of applying passion and perseverance over time toward a goal, end state or objective. Grit goes beyond ability and can withstand failure, keeping the end goal in sight, and pushing through to it.Blog - Grit - Definition 2

Bill Hybels, at the Global Leadership Summit 2015*, talked about grit as “one of the greatest indicators of success”. Gritty people, he said, are the ones who “play hurt” and rarely ever give up. “They expect progress to be difficult, but believe with their whole being that they can be successful if they don’t quit.” It’s “The Little Engine That Could”. Abraham Lincoln. Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Martin Luther King. Hybels also encouraged the audience that grit can be developed. From childhood through adulthood.

Jon Acuff (author of Do Over) defines grit as “stubbornness in the face of fear“.  In his book, he gives a short list of what’s needed in making gritty decisions (in the “hustle” of work):

  • Time – we think the world “hustle” has to mean fast, but it can also mean focus, intention, pace.
  • Counsel – Lean on your relationships. Some of the worst decisions are made alone. Who are your advocates? Have you given them time to reflect on it or are you rushing right by the wisdom they have to offer? Let them speak into it. A year from now, looking back on the decision, you’ll be glad you made it as a team.
  • Questions – Always ask awesome opportunities, awesome questions. We skimp on due diligence. “What am I not seeing right now?”
  • Kindness – Give yourself permission to make the wrong decision, because…you’re going to. Break the tension of feeling like you’re going to be perfect by giving yourself some kindness from the outset.
  • Honesty – When you look back on a decision, remember that you made that decision with the best information you had at the time.

As we saw those two older heavyset men running just behind their younger airmen colleagues, we saw men with a goal in mind. There was also something more – the cadence to the group’s run that seemed to work to keep them all together. Whether at work or in family relationships, we want to do all we can to help those gritty ones be successful. Their resolve may get them to the goal anyway, but we all benefit when we are able to “stay on course” together.

Have you “grown gritty” over your lifetime? Are there gritty folks in your life who you love to champion? Tell us about them below.

*Session 1: Bill Hybels Opening Session – Global Leadership Summit

Wikipedia Article on Grit

The Truth About Grit

The Grit Test

Jon Acuff on the Role of Hustle in Taking Hold of Career Opportunities – Notes & Quotes – Part 5 of Do Over Series

How to Make Grit Decisions and Built a Grit List by Jon Acuff

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff

Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?