Tag Archives: Generosity

5 Friday Faves – Giving, Michael Jr., Classical Guitar Heat, Painter Karen Garner, and Fall

The week has drawn to a close. It’s Friday evening here…and I’m enjoying the quiet of an unfilled block of time. Hope you’re having a time of refreshing as well. Here are five of my favorite finds this week.

1) Giving – We have beggars in our city. It’s heartbreaking really. Often, they stand at busy intersections holding up cardboard signs. When the traffic light is green, I just buzz through, noting them but not having to confront need or the tension to respond. It’s when the traffic light is red, and I’m idling, essentially within reach of this person who has laid out his need very publicly. I know there is a charity that does more harm than good…so it’s not something I want to do. Don’t want to give wrong. Still I am driven to respond. A few years back, author Frank Sonnenberg wrote a compelling piece on giving. Fortunately, I discovered it via social media this week. It’s entitled: Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life. It’s really a very simple message. Essentially, the message is to have an intention toward giving. We can learn to give well and appropriately…unless our hearts have grown hard from the enormous need around us. Don’t let it happen!

Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life

2) Michael Jr. – One of our absolute favorite comedians is Michael Jr.

Photo Credit: Fathom Events

He is touring right now and also has a comedy film out – both entitled More Than Funny. He is just deeply engaged with his audience and with real life. One of the things he talked about in the film (saw it this week) is the whole setup to humor and its punchline. So meaningful how Michael Jr. talks about how life can be setup in order to deliver unexpected joy to other people. It’s our focus…do we operate in such a way that it’s all about us, or do we setup an environment where people can actually help each other intentionally? Odd to have such a meaningful message in the middle of a comedy act! So Michael Jr. [Watch this for the explanation of his “Be the Punchline”.]

Punchliners

3) Classical Guitar Heat – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has posted a couple of his classical guitar arrangements. One is the theme from the TV show Dr. Who.

The other is his rendition of the theme from the video game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

You don’t have to be an enthusiast of either show or video game to love these piece. Nathan brings the heat.

4) Painter Karen GarnerKaren Garner is a friend of mine…an old friend. We have known each other since teen-aged Karen caught the eye of a friend of mine at a youth retreat. They married; we went overseas. Most of our friendship we haven’t lived in the same city, but we are friends. She is a friend and an artist. Years ago I commissioned a work from her for a cancer center in Tennessee. Since then she has painted hundreds of pieces. Her art has been on our walls all these many years and through all the countries we’ve lived. She somehow infuses joy in her art; I’ve always loved it.Photo Credit: “For Pat, the Prince of Tides” – Karen Burnette Garner

Karen was interviewed recently and featured in this article. It’s a quick read and introduces you to Karen…and her beautiful work.

Art and Life with Karen Burnette Garner

5) Fall – This season is my favorite. The colors; the smells; the tastes. It’s the blissful in-between – after the long languishing summer and before the crisp cottaged winter. It’s the season of long walks and short days. Of an early morning fire in the fireplace. Of pink sunsets and fields of pumpkins. Of a myriad of hot beverages and pies we only eat this time of year. It’s Fall…and I love it. How about you?Photo Credit: Humbert Wolfe, AZ Quotes

Happy Weekend! Be gentle with each other…and yourself.

Bonuses:

Quote: “No matter what happens in your life, you can start over.”Keith AndersonPhoto Credit: Keith Anderson, Facebook

Exclusive Interview with Matt Maher – Alanna Boudreau

One of the bloggers I follow – Taking Route – has a series on making a home, as an expat, in various countries. These pieces are so fun…taking the needs of the family into account and blending both the beauty of one’s home country and that of one’s host country. The “global home” below is Kenya but there are 31 total homes to peruse – enjoy!

This Global Home | Day 5: Kenya

Diner Food – “Food that pleases since 1929” – Majestic DIner – a favorite diner in AtlantaPhoto Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – So Taken by the Beauty Around Us – in Music, Nature, Technology, Words, and Community

Friday evening is closing in fast. Here are my five faves of this week – all focusing on the beauty in our lives…or just a bit of it, for sure.

1) Music – So much of our human experience is elevated by music. No matter how lovely life already is, there is something beyond words really that happens to us when music slips in. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

For example, when Nathan, our favorite guitarist, first performed in concerts, I was astonished at the emotion that he could stir in performing on a single guitar. He is less in the concert hall now and more on social media channels, but the emotion is stronger than ever. The quiet yet penetrating sound of a classical guitar has surprised me with its remarkable beauty. Definitely has the imprint of the composer and the luthier (the maker of the instrument). Then there’s the artist.  That one who brings the music and the instrument to life. The one whose heart touches our own in the joy of the moment. For those of you who follow Nathan with me, you know

the experience. I never want to take it for granted. His music.

For those of you who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you’re in very good company (50,000+ company). For you who follow him on social media, all your likes, comments, follows, and shares go a long way. It all makes a difference. Lastly for those who are his patrons, we are in that growing, strongly committed bunch of people who look forward to his creating and performing music today…and in future.

The music industry is complicated, and I’m thankful that Nathan continues to do what it takes to carve out a career in music.

[He’s probably not going to love all this…being I’m his mum and all…but focusing on beauty in this Friday Fave…it is what it is.]

Below are three of his simpler melodies…and some of my favorites.

YouTube Video – Downton Abbey Theme – “The Suite” – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Tale as Old as Time – Beauty and the Beast – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Bioshock Infinite: Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nature – Having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for many years, my perception of beauty has deepened and become sharper. Some see that city as one hot dusty mess of snarled traffic and teeming crowds of people. For me, Cairo was magical. The people so beautiful, and natural world of that city persistent and hardy. Having the Nile River coursing through that urban desert brought life to a dry place.

Anyway, it’s been too long since our life in Cairo, but just as we were surrounded with beauty there, we are here as well. The astounding beauty of even our broken world moves some to pantheism (a worldview so enamored with the excellence of the natural world that a personal god is not even considered). I personally can’t imagine this world without it having been created by God – a God who loves beauty and order and lavishes both on those created.

What do you think as you soak up this world – turning to Spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Or we could just put the thinking aside and rejoice in the sheer beauty of it all.

3) Technology – OK…here I’m going way out of my comfort zone because tech is so not my language. Still… earlier this week, I spent an obscene amount of my life going through pre-digital-age pictures. Photography has been a life-long hobby of mine, leading me to have not just albums upon albums but boxes of pictures and even slides.

Memories…attached to people and places that were moments captured and continents spanned. In photography alone, technology has taken us away from the box cameras of my childhood to digital beauties that pretty much leave us without an excuse on getting that “Kodak moment” (or photo-worthy image for folks who no longer know what Kodak was).

I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks to that husband of mine.

…he still has to help me with much of my technology…but I’m thankful beyond words for what can be accomplished with it.

4) Words – It’s pretty obvious that I love words. Not the cynical, cutting, mean-spirited ones…but those that are life-giving and hold us up when our knees start to buckle. I have had the opportunity to go to a couple of Global Leadership Summits where a diverse group of world-class leaders come together and speak to thousands, in person and via satellite. This year, one of those speakers is actor Denzel Washington. I can’t tell you all his films I’ve seen, but what he says off-screen is even more delightful than his powerful on-screen presence.Photo Credit: Flickr

Check out his commencement speech on putting God first. As well as another on Falling Forward.

Words mean things. We will not get away with killing with words…we will be found out. On the reverse, when we speak life, using words to lift  and marvel, we are known by these as well. The difference is our being known matter…life given through words is what matters. We all are transformed by the beauty of such words.

Quotes About Words

5) Community – Oh the wonder of real community! Of people coming together for something larger than ourselves. To give aid or to just enjoy one another. I have been graced with grand community.

This week, the beauty of people who serve well really resonated. Also, along with that, the intentional care or stewardship of such folks. I came across this stellar article by non-profit leader Joanne Fritz. She posted on Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?

Now few of us serve as volunteers for what we “get out of it”. Still volunteering has its cost. Especially costly is the service given by those who already have tough work lives. To give out of a dry well still needs to happen sometimes. We must remember that could be the case with any one of us…and honor those who serve so sacrificially.

Fritz quotes from a study on volunteers reported by Join In UK. [Click the link for a brilliant graphic going into the detail of the research – on what sustains volunteers.] Below is the summary (using the acronym GIVERS):

G. Personal growth and well-being

I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.

V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.

E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.

R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.

S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.

Making Time – Getting to Givers – Join In UK

Then Fritz prompts 10 observations that can guide us in how to show true care for a community of volunteers:

Volunteers:

  • Want you to be prepared for them.
  • Want to feel welcomed.
  • Want good training.
  • Want to do interesting work.
  • Want to know up front how much time the job will take.
  • Want to be appreciated.
  • Want you to communicate with them well and often.
  • Want to know that they are helping to make the world a better place.
  • Want to be socially connected.
  • Want to learn something new.     Joanne Fritz

Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?Joanne Fritz

Her commentary on each point is very helpful as well.

When we treat volunteers as leaders in training – mentors-in-the-making, we move our attention off the task and onto the person, the community. These beautiful serving ones can take us into the future of our organization and beyond. We can make it both about those we serve and those serving…that’s one of the beauties of life, as we remember to see it that way.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s my look at the beautiful of this week. What beauty has sparked wonder in you this week? Please share in Comments below. Have a safe weekend, and take each moment as the gift it is…with those loves in your life, those people gifts to treasure.

Bonuses:

Like a Child: the Virtue of Children’s Books – Samuel Loncar

Top 5 Ways to Raise a Generous Child at Any Age – Rachael Boyer

The iPad Is a Far Bigger Threat To Our Children Than Anyone Realizes

Do You Choose Convenience Over Principles? – Frank Sonnenberg

6 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t you wonder where the recycling goes? One day I’m doing a field trip, but for today, these were helpful:

Photo Credit: Brené Brown

Quote: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.Thoreau

Photo Credit: Facebook page Humor Is Contagious

Photo Credit: Writing About Writing, Facebook page

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Commercials, Uncommon Generosity, Star Wars – the Last Jedi, Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff Recipe, and Beyond the Guitar’s Latest

Happy Friday, y’all! As we zoom into Christmas weekend, we run into that perfect storm of hope mixed with hype. Looking forward to time with family and friends highlighted by the glow of Christmas lights and the fragrance of mulled cider. At the same time, tamping down those dreaded expectations of yourself or others that steal our peace. As those expectations are again put in check, the missing of those we won’t see this Christmas rises to the surface. Maybe not for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a crazy ride at Christmastime.

Fortunately, woven through all of that is the moment-by-moment epiphany when Jesus breaks through with glimpses of who he is and what he has done for us. That Jesus turns sorrow to joy and calms that stormy sea of thought and memory. Hallelujah!

This week, there are so many favorite finds…but I will keep my list to five. We all have baking to do…and visits to make, and for some, a workday to wrap up before Christmas weekend. Hope your joy is undisturbed and the memories are sweet.

1) Christmas Commercials – For those who don’t have cable or network TV, you miss the Christmas commercials. Check them out on YouTube. Below are some of my favorites – the top 3 are all from the UK. My personal favorite this past year was the #HeathrowBears commercials – this one, in particular and then this one. What are some of your favorite Christmas commercials (please share in Comments)?

John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017

BBC One Christmas 2017

The Fox and the Mouse – 2017

Top 15 Most Touching Christmas Commercials That Will Warm Your Heart

2) Uncommon Generosity – Have you noticed that people actually look at each other in this Christmas season? Smiles of knowing – searching out that special gift or trying to sort out what favorites to cook and buy food accordingly. I find people to be kinder this time of year – both in charitable giving and in the day-to-day just deferring to others. When I was walking with neighbors earlier this week, a box, giftbag and card were posted outside a house, left with the garbage pickup one day, and another beside the recycling the next. So kind to remember, in very tangible ways, people who serve in our community. Also, I had the experience of helping friends move on one of busiest weekends of the Christmas season. Friends and coworkers showed up to help – all smiles and sweet attitudes.

Then there are those lovely people who make Christmas cookies and share plates of them with their neighbors – and their mom and dad.

I’m finding that often what we look for we see. Also blessed this week by other reminders of generosity: a quote from a Writer Kahlil Gibran and a thrift shop t-shirt front (printed with Philippians 2:3-4).

3) Star Wars – the Last Jedi – I LOVED it. The details. The humor. The tears. The fight scenes. It was so well-done. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’m trying to hold loosely to Christmas traditions these days, but going to the movies as a family has been a long-time tradition for us. Of late, it’s been the Star Wars movies. This year it was all the guys and me. Our girls stayed home with the babies, and we missed them. It was a great time though watching this film, my favorite guys and me. A very special memory made.

[I’m ready to babysit for the kiddos, so you two couples can have a date night to see it together.]

[Spoilers in articles below so don’t read if you haven’t seen it.]

The All-Stars of ‘Star Wars’ – Interview with David Itzkoff

The Last Jedi: Have You Seen It? Let’s Talk Spoilers – Gilbert Cruz and Dave Gonzalez

The Best Movies of 2017 – Think Christian

4) Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff – If you like the Starbucks lemon loaf, then you will love the “better than Starbucks” recipe that Erin of Delightful E Made posted at Lil Luna. I made this recipe this week and it was a-mazing!!! A friend of mine had a birthday this week and gave lemon cake as a favorite of hers – she LOVED this cake. It would stick around, just letting you know. Read the comments of the piece above for others’ views on it.Photo Credit: Lil Luna

5) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – Nathan just posted his latest this morning. It is the theme from the Netflix series The Punisher and it is gorgeous.  I won’t be watching the series because it is very much about punishing people who do bad things so there is a lot of blood and very big guns involved. If you have watched it, or if not, you will enjoy this beautiful piece.

That’s it for me. Hope your Christmas weekend is full of joy, and when it’s not, may you experience deep comfort. Much love.

Bonuses:

A Quote from this week: In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”Jack Kornfield

A Christmas Question – a Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, 1859

A Twitter “event” where folks retweet and reply to Sam Altman’s tweet below:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/heres-why-everyone-should-have-sales-job-some-point-halarewich-

A New Holiday Tradition—Better Than Giving Gifts

Seasonal Thrift Store Finds

Monday Morning Moment – Passing the Baton – Building and Leaving a Legacy

Photo Credit: Vimeo

Today, the idea of legacy fills my thoughts. To think of how to build and leave a legacy…to pass a baton well…planting it firmly in the hand of the next runner…how do we prepare for such a thing?

Yesterday, two events stirred my heart and mind in how well we can leave a legacy. In the morning, during their worship service, an older church in Richmond gave its keys to a younger growing church.  Photo Credit: Chris Kollman

Such an example of selfless generosity caps the legacy of this church’s service to this community. Part of legacy, the passing of the baton, is for the second runner to take it and run hard with it…to finish the race…to win the race. For Patterson Ave. Baptist Church (the website is already down), the race is finished…and finished well…for Movement Church, there is still a race to be run. May we finish well, too.

Church Disbands; Donates Building to a Younger Congregation – Tammie Smith

Historic Richmond Church Closing – Bill Nieporte

The End of the Road – Last Service of Patterson Avenue Baptist Church – Bill Nieporte

Worship Wednesday – Even If – MercyMe – Deb Mills Writer

The second event yesterday was a small party for a couple of friends of ours – a celebration of 60 years married. These two have taught usmuch about marriage, but they have also taught us and walked us through to a deeper faith. They are a living legacy to all who are fortunate enough to know them.

So often when we think about legacy, we think of older ones, but legacy building can start in youth. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps started very young. He began as a young athlete pouring into the lives of children who hoped to grow into athletes like him.Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

Phelps was amazing to watch in the 2016 Summer Olympics, winning gold medal after gold medal. Then in the 100m butterfly final, he lost to Joseph Schooling, of Singapore, who met Phelps when Joseph was just 13 years old. 8 years earlier. Michael Phelps’ legacy of 27 gold medals may be what most will remember about him. However, his silver medal will be what Joseph Schooling will remember, after winning the gold medal himself in that event. Michael Phelps is still young and his legacy-building continues.

The Legacy of Michael Phelps Is As Much in two Pictures As It is in 27 Olympic Medals – Jeff Passan

My mom is in Heaven now…for 15 years so far. Her impact in my life and that of many others goes really deep. However, I’m not sure how long my children will remember the incredible good she poured into their lives. Their children won’t even know her. It is what it is with life in our youth-oriented culture. Still…my mom’s legacy is safe with me. I will never be the tireless servant or the big-hearted womanshe was…but it is my endeavor to grow in that direction. As long as my memory endures, her life blends with my own.

Leaving a legacy is on the minds of us moving into our senior years, but building a legacy begins much earlier. I have enjoyed reading about it in preparation for this piece.

Bart Astor wrote a piece on legacy for Forbes. He proposes four ways to leave a legacy:

  1. Provide a family history. – Websites and guides abound on this subject. Asking older family members good questions can start that process. I will never forget when my mom died that it wasn’t 5 minutes before something came up and my immediate response was “Mom would know”. Too late. Ask questions early; label pictures; build a family history. Even if others in the family may not seem interested. It’s worth doing.Photo Credit: Success
  2. Give to charity. –What do you care about? Leaving money to our children may help for a season. Giving to charities during our lives makes a difference in real time. Giving builds a legacy and models legacy-building for our family. We also believe in supporting causes that aren’t necessary considered charities ( crowd-sourcing, for instance, like Patreon helps us support a favorite musician).
  3. Write a legacy letter – In a way, I started blogging with this in mind. Writing a letter as if you knew you were going to die sooner than later may seem morbid, but it is really a beautiful way to speak the words you want to make sure get said before you’re gone. Whether it’s in months…or many years later. A legacy letter can be written over the course of years…almost like a journal. Some things are too precious to leave to an aging memory.
  4. Prepare an ethical will. This is something we can all do, whether young or old. A will is not a document we want to use to punish people or reward some and leave out others. A will is a final blessing we can give to others. Putting off writing a will is not helpful. We’ve encouraged our children to do wills while in their 20s. Wills can always be changed but they are an excellent way to provide for those we love during a terrible time of loss. When writing a will, it’s wise to do all we can to make our intent completely understandable and loving. We have tried to do just that with our wills.

4 Smart Ways to Leave a Legacy – Bart Astor

We do well to mark our position in the race before us…to grip our baton…and then run hard. Our race does not last forever. There comes a time we hand off our baton to that one waiting eagerly to grip the baton at our release. Hopefully that runner has done all she can to be ready for the next leg of the race. Hopefully we have done our part…well…building legacy and leaving it in good hands.

How to Leave a Lasting Legacy – Marelisa Fabrega

Those Top 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old – Lessons Learned in Life – I didn’t resonate with all of these, but some are embedded in my DNA for sure.

11 Quotes About Leaving a Legacy

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Business Principles from One of History’s Richest Men – with Graham Cochrane

Blog - Business Principles - Graham CochranePhoto Credit: Graham Cochrane, Facebook

Mondays are meant for postings on how to make our workplace a great place…and our work life full of purpose and excellence. This post comes to you through my association with a young guitarist and entrepreneur. He is Nathan Mills at Beyond the GuitarNathan Mills - Beyond the Guitar - Ancient StonesPhoto Credit: Beyond the Guitar

…and he’s our son. All last week, he was posting, on Facebook, these videos from Graham Cochrane. I recognized the name because Nathan looks to him as one of his mentors, albeit mostly online. Cochrane is a musician, audio engineer, entrepreneur, and blogger.2013 Shay Cochrane

Graham Cochrane‘s 6-part video course on Facebook Live turns out to be a great study on business practices. He gives winsome, practical, and timely counsel on starting and sustaining a business. However, we can all profit from his content whatever our work situation is. His principles in brief follow and are derived from King Solomon’s Proverbs.

  1. Strive to be generous “One gives freely but grows all the richer.”Proverbs 11:24-25
  2. Grow slowly“Whoever gathers little by little will increase.”Proverbs 13:11
  3. Do great work “A man skillful in his work will stand before kings.”Proverbs 22:29
  4. Don’t devour your profit“A foolish man devours all he has.”Proverbs 21:20
  5. Avoid debt“The borrower is slave of the lender.”Proverbs 22:7
  6. Business is messy“Where there is no oxen the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the work of the ox.”Proverbs 14:4

I hope you take the time to watch/listen to these videos. Fascinating content, whatever your work is. I am always inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit – especially when that passion and willingness to work hard at something you love has a ripple effect for good.

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The Recording Revolution – Graham Cochrane Website

YouTube – The Recording Revolution Channel

How a 32-year-old Freelance Sound Mixer Started Making $75,000 a Month From a Blog – Business Insider

The Go-Giver, Expanded Edition: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea – Bob Burg

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich – Timothy Ferriss

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 007 (2)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

Givers, Takers, or Matchers in the Workplace – Which One Are You? – with Adam Grant

Blog - Givers, Takers, Matchers - Adam GrantPhoto Credit: Chuck Scoggins.com

A smart and gifted friend of mine is going through a taxing time on her new job. Long hours, piling up responsibilities, with no end in sight. She lamented that maybe the problem is that she’s a people-pleaser. That expression seems to communicate a character weakness, and I don’t see that operating so much with this friend of mine. What seems more her dilemma is that she’s what Adam Grant calls a “giver”…which is a good thing. The dilemma for my friend and her workplace is to establish a culture where she, and other givers, can thrive.

Adam Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has also written this great book – Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. I heard him speak at the Global Leadership Summit and bought his book. His take on the three tops of people who make up our work culture was both fascinating and practical.Blog - Give and Take by Adam Grant - cminds.netPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

Grant sees us all as either givers, takers, or matchers. “It’s very hard to judge our own style. What values you live each day is in the eye of the beholder.” We may not necessarily see ourselves in these categories, but our colleagues will. Ask them, if you have the courage. Then you might consider taking what you learn and thinking through how you might use that information to become a more effective employee and valued colleague.

Takers are those who often manage to do the least amount of work yet gaining the most notice. They manage to get “the lion’s share of credit for collective achievements”, notes Grant. The Takers are the shirkers in the workplace. They are not at their desks because they are off schmoozing (oops, I meant networking, right?) in another department. They somehow get their jobs done partly by leaning on the strong work ethic of the Givers.

Givers are the people who simply enjoy helping others – “no strings attached”. They get to work early and stay late, if necessary. Their core values resonate in the quantity and quality of their work.

Matchers are most of us, really, doing our part in the workplace. Matchers can be counted on to keep things “fair” at work. “I’ll do something for you if you do something for me” is their mantra. They believe in “an eye for an eye” and “just worlds”.  They are the “fairness” or “Karma” police in the workplace.

Grant readily admits that we may operate out of all three styles from time to time, but we each have a dominant style at work.

How do givers, takers, and matchers fare in the workplace? Which of these sinks to the bottom in terms of performance and impact?

Givers are the worst performers (but keep reading). “The ones who get the least work done are the ones who help the others and never get their own jobs done”, reports Grant.  “I love helping others” is not the one on top of the heap of performers. “The lowest revenue accrues to the most generous salespeople.”

It’s sad news that givers sink to the bottom. If you want to boost your organization, have more givers….unfortunately the givers do it at their own expense – unless the organization builds a culture that helps the givers to thrive.

Who rises to the top?

If givers are the worst performers, who are the best performers? You think it’s takers? Takers rise quickly, and fall quickly. They often fall at the hands of the Matchers who can use gossip (or, said another way, workplace channels of influence) to call out the abuse of the Takers. Beware, Takers, of the Matchers in the shadows. Also, other Takers can also take down those more abusive, or less-well-liked Takers.

Are the Matchers the best performers? Not usually. The best results belong to the Givers. Wait! How can they also be the best performers? It’s a both/and situation.

Grant encourages: “Helping others can sink your career but it can also accelerate your careers. Hang in there.”

It takes a while for Givers to learn and build connections, but when they do, it’s a win-win for the organization.

How can we build cultures to help Givers be successful?

3 Things We Can Do:

  1. Keep the wrong people off the bus. – Get the right people on the bus. If possible, keep Takers off the bus. “One Taker on the team and paranoia starts to spread.” Put one Giver on the team, and you don’t necessarily have an explosion of generosity. It’s not bringing in the Givers; it’s weeding out the Takers. Matchers follow the norm. Matchers will follow the example of the Givers.
  2. Redefine Giving.   Wisdom is to know who is who in the workplace. Or at least not be thrown off by behaviors vs. motives. Then we can shape our work culture to empower Givers, influence Matchers, and avoid enabling Takers. In an interview with Adam Grant, Thinkers50 spelled this process out very well. For instance, consider Agreeableness vs. Disagreeableness – in Takers, Givers, and Matchers. We usually think Takers are disagreeable, but not necessarily so. Givers aren’t always agreeable either. Just because someone is nice to you (an agreeable Taker) doesn’t mean they care about you (Givers, in general, really care). Adam Grant also talks about the importance of kindness in the workplace. This is a strength of Givers, but it can also push them to over-work and exhaustion. Grant prescribes “5-minute favors (a microloan of your time, skills, or connections). Volunteering – 100 hours a year – is the sweet spot. Greater than 100 hours a year is too much. 2 hours a week.”
  3. Encourage Help-Seekers – A work culture of Help-Seekers will take silos down. “People step up when others say ‘I’m stuck; I need some help’. If no one asks for help, you have a lot of frustrated Givers in your organization.” Grant recommends an exercise called the Reciprocity Ring – Gathering teams together and having each person state a request of something they want or need and then everyone else in the room tries to use their expertise and networks to make it happen. “People are often unbelievably generous if you ask for help. Givers step up. The Takers become more generous. All the offers of help are visible. Takers don’t want to get outed. The Matchers realize that matching is useful, but it’s an inefficient way to run an organization. If you have given help to others without getting back, then you can increase your productivity because you don’t have to just ask those you’ve helped.”

Givers ask the question “How can I be the rising tide that lifts all boats?” We can move our organizations in this direction of maximum impact and satisfaction, by nurturing a Giver culture.  Instead of workplace paranoia, imagine a culture distinguished by a “Pro-noia” – the “delusion” that other people are plotting your wellbeing.  May it not be a delusion but a daily reality.

Give and Take – An Interview with Adam Grant by Thinkers50

Give and Take – A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant

Outward Focused Lives // Givers, Takers, Matchers

Give and Take – An introduction

YouTube Video – Adam Grant, Professor – Givers, Takers, and Matchers

YouTube Video – Adam Grant’s Give and Take Talk at Google

Global Leadership Summit 2015

The Reciprocity Ring

Live Blog: 2015 Leadership Summit – 30 Leadership Quotes from Adam Grant – Brian Dodd on Leadership

The Global Leadership Summit Session Three – Adam Grant – Notes by Chuck Scoggins

Jon Acuff on Character at Work – 9 Quotes & a Challenge – Part 4 of the Do Over Series

Blog - Jon Acuff & wife JennyPhoto Credit: Nancy Ray Photography

Who would have thought reading a business book would become a deeply personal experience? Encouraging. Empowering. Do Over has launched itself in my life. Jon (the writer) and Jenny (the wife) Acuff have become like good friends, in a virtual book-driven way. He’s clearly a funny, risk-taking, keen observer of people in the workplace.  She, on the other hand, seems to both hold his feet to the ground and spur him on to what’s next. I’m pretty certain that Jon’s “do over” has Jenny written all over it. Thank you, Jenny.

When he talks about character (in the section of the book I’m covering today), he compares it to planting fruit trees. Character takes time to grow. Its fruit is worth the work and the wait.

As in previous blogs in this series, Jon will do most of the talking.

9 quotes follow. Also an exercise and a closing challenge. I hope you read the book. It is seriously, or not so much seriously, like grappling with a friend about a deep longing for career. Then receiving the best. advice. ever. Jon’s cool, and all…but his own fight for humility and honesty and his own fears and failures give him a platform. A platform to talk into my life and into the lives of those I love the most – my husband and my adult children. Thank you, Jon.

So here’s a bit of what he says about character and its impact on us in the workplace…especially in considering a Career Jump.Blog - Do Over

“Relationships get you the first gig. Skills get you the second. Character is the reason that people will still want to give you another chance if the first opportunity fails. Character is the mortar between all the other parts [relationships, skills, hustle] of the Career Savings Account. It’s what holds the other things together. “

“Character is also what you need the most when you make a positive, voluntary career transition, or what we’re calling a “Career Jump.” You need it the most then because it will be tested the most when you ‘just go for it’ or ‘chase a dream’.”

“When you make a [career] jump, you will be tempted to cut corners, to quit when the going gets tough and lose your patience when the results you expected don’t immediately happen. It is your character that will push you forward.”

Exercise: This time we don’t use note cards, but a notebook would be handy. Jon asks the question: What’s one character trait, related to your career, that you’d like to grow stronger? That’s where we start. You might still want a friend’s help in this. None of us are perfect, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Just pick one to start.

As part of this exercise, consider those weeds in the workplace that could choke out that character trait you’re planting and nurturing. Jon lists four especially nasty (and all too common) ones:

  • Narcissism – our focus is all on ourselves. Weighing every decision and process in your workplace as it relates to you.
  • Dishonesty – Covering a mistake, embellishing our performance, gossiping, outright lying.
  • Pessimism – That negative cup-half-empty (or even broken) take on how things are going at work. It’s not just a weed in your own orchard but it can seed clouds over your coworkers’ view of work. Pessimism can rob you of the ability to brainstorm and to dream (“two activities that require the optimism of creativity”).
  • Apathy – you’ve gotten to the place you just don’t care anymore. What was once being passive now becomes deeply defiant. Partnered with pessimism, you convince yourself that you don’t have what it takes to do a Career Jump. A dry and dogged inertia can set in, crippling your ability to orchestrate a Career Jump.

Acuff focuses on 3 character traits in particular to grow in your Career Savings Account: Generosity, Empathy, & Being Present.

Generosity is a game-changer. During a Career Jump give generously as a way to beat back the weed of greed. Greed will end up costing you a lot more than you think. Make your definition of generosity bigger by being generous with your skills and time, not just your money.”

Empathy = Understanding someone else’s needs and acting on them. Generosity and empathy are closely intertwined; they go hand in hand. The stronger you get in one, the stronger you’ll get in the other.”

“The simplest thing you can do to be empathetic [is to] show up.”

“If you really want to reinvent your work and get ahead, there are three things you need to deal with – your phone, your computer and your meetings. Be present.”

[You hear this a lot these days – how distracting are our phones and other electronic devices, and how our shortened attention spans have impaired us related to deep thinking and creative, out-of-the-box dreaming and decision-making. The ones who deal with these will be the outliers – the leaders in the fields of our future. It’s laid out there – now for us to take our lives back.]

“You need character the most when you decide to chase a dream. “

“The moment you decide to make any sort of change in your career, you send other areas of your life into chaos. The bigger the change, the bigger the chaos. Wherever you jump, your character jumps with you.”

Challenge: “Is living with the chaos of a decision easy? Not really, but you do get used to it. I try to create [chaos] sometimes as a way to hide from something else I’m afraid of. I’ve discovered that’s a lightning-fast way to drain a Career Savings Account. When real chaos comes…don’t fight it. If anything, lean into it. ‘Easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.”

These Four Character Flaws Can Kill Your Career – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff – Character Archives

The Awesome Career Audit – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff Quotes by Goodreads (different from ones above)

Why I Hate Jon Acuff by Rob Shep

Do Over – Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck – by Jon Acuff – Notes (Part 1)

Worship Wednesday – Greed, Gratefulness, & the Generosity of God

Blog - Tithing pic

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” – Luke 21:1-4

Years ago, an opportunity was afforded to me to teach at a very prestigious university. It would mean relocating to a new city, leaving family and friends, and taking a cut in pay. My current job had allowed me to live very well as a single woman, but I didn’t think a drop in salary would be that much of an adjustment. Unknown to me then was how much higher the cost of living was in the city where I moved. It wasn’t long after beginning life there that my finances were a mess. Running out of money well before the end of the month, I changed as much as I could to pull out of this situation. Eating oatmeal for dinner was one of my get-to-the-end-of-the-month strategies, and stopping giving money through the church was another. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t tithe. It did not improve my situation.

During this time, there was this young graduate student I noticed at church who seemed to eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. As we became friends, he told me that he, too, was challenged financially, living off of a graduate school stipend. However, there was a big difference. When he received his check each month, the first thing he did was write another check…his tithe to the church. Then he lived on the rest, frugally, until the next check came. If I hadn’t noticed his simple meals, which brought us into conversation about finances, he would never have commented on his own situation. It was what it was, and he was grateful.

I would one day marry this young man.

This story was not to put him on any sort of pedestal but to consider three spiritual principles at play here.

1) Greed – Growing up, we probably all heard our parents say, “There is a big difference between want and need.” Along with that, need can turn into greed, if we are not careful in managing our heart’s desires. Through that financial downturn, I experienced great clarity. It was a scramble, but I finally got past that season of debt, bounced checks, and not tithing. Tithing is returning back a portion of our income (10% or more) to the Lord, in obedience to Him, for the sake of others in need. God doesn’t need our tithe. I need the tithe. It is a stewardship of what God has given me – obeying Him in tithing, then obeying Him with the rest of my resources follows.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

Where your treasure is measures where you heart is. Not only that, my husband will say, but you can use your treasure to lead your heart. When you invest your treasure (whether it’s the stock market or to BGR, for example), you are going to pay attention to what’s going on with it. Where we put our treasure is where we tune our hearts. As we remember the heart of God toward those who need Him and toward those with other great needs, the resources He gives us become an extension of His hand of love…as we release them. Somehow, in our obedience (even when our heart is not fully in it), God will change our hearts. Hallelujah!

2) Gratefulness – Our children grew up with VeggieTales. The Madame Blueberry video about thankfulness was one of our favorites. The moral of this cute story was that being greedy can make you grumpy (adult talk: never satisfied). Also, the song goes with the story that “a grateful heart is a happy heart”. There is so much more to life than “the stuff”. Being grateful is a condition of the heart that can be cultivated. There is, after all, so much for which we can be grateful.

3) Generosity of God – God is wholly and perfectly generous toward us. He even challenges us to test His generosity (Malachi 3:10). We have sure found Him faithful. There may be long and difficult times of financial leanness in life. However, as we let go of a tight-fisted control of our money and what we want to do with it, God moves. Not always in ways we may “want” (again, it’s a letting go of control), but in ways that will truly satisfy, changing our hearts to be more like that of Jesus’ heart.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. – 2 Peter 1:2-3

Share Your Story: Tithing – The High Calling

The Open Hands of the Gospel

Generous Giving: Questions about Generosity

Gratefulness and Tithing – Unlocking the Floodgates of Heaven

Tithing – Gratitude or Greed?

Generosity vs. Greed

Tithing, Giving, and Generosity

Be Generous with Your Master’s Money

Generosity Begins at Home

 

 

 

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Finally…Giving Tuesday

Blog - BGR Christmas Gift Catalog

I hate shopping. There was a time I was good at choosing gifts, just right for person or occasion. Those days may be about over. Too many challenges – which electronics and what version…what style, size, color…what does he need that he hasn’t bought already…if not earlier this year, then for sure he bought it this shopper-paradise-post-Thanksgiving weekend…at the best. price. ever.

It is pretty sweet to get that just right Christmas gift for the people you love.  So we stay on the hunt, and work ourselves into a frenzy of trying, once again, to get it right. If only. I would love our kids to tell us exactly what they would like for Christmas, and I would buy it for them. Bag it up and we can all act surprised and pleased when the tissue paper is pulled away. What do they tell me? “Gift cards” pretty much. Ugh…

When I stopped into the post office this morning, on the first day of December, the line of people waiting stopped me in my tracks. All those packages to be weighed…maybe their adult children did tell them what they wanted for Christmas, and these waiting in the post office line went out on Black Friday, bought those presents, and here they are mailing them. Sigh…

I’m thinking that Advent Conspiracy is a good idea.

Oh, we are still buying gifts for each other, but I’m not frantic about it anymore. It’s pretty certain that I won’t be the Queen of Christmas shopping, but that’s O.K. I’m coming to terms with gift cards.

Then there’s #GivingTuesday.

Blog - Giving Tuesday

#GivingTuesday* has only “been around” a couple of years. It’s a global initiative to make generosity a priority this time of year. Not just in giving gifts to those we love, but in giving to those we may never meet. Those in greatest need.

Last year, my daughter gave me some chickens for Christmas. Well, she didn’t give them to me outright. They are laying eggs, hopefully, somewhere in Africa. In fact, although I don’t know what family got those chickens, I feel a Christmas kinship with them. That family. Those chickens. Knowing the gift I received was also received by someone else whose need far surpassed my want…it was definitely a gift that kept giving.

My favorite charity is Baptist Global Response (BGR). Some charitable organizations have disappointed us, with so much of our donations going to administration and fund-raising. I appreciate the low overhead of BGR and the heart of this organization toward the peoples of the world. There are other great non-profits as well (some are listed below), but BGR is my #GivingTuesday focus this year.

Just to be clear, in case my children are reading this, I like presents and enjoy celebrating that part of Christmas together. We already have the best gift of all in Jesus. So everything else is frosting…unless you’re a family who could really use some chickens, or a goat, or a water well.

Black Friday is finished. Cyber Monday is winding down. Now that the spending is done, let the giving begin.

How do you plan to spread Christmas around the world?

Baptist Global Response Christmas Gift Catalog

International Justice Mission (IJM) Gift Catalog

World Vision Gift Catalog

*Photo Credit for #Giving Tuesday

Blog - BGR

Photo Credit – GoBGR