Tag Archives: Poetry

Monday Morning Moment – Poet Langston Hughes on Life and America

Photo Credit: The Wisdom Daily

American poet Langston Hughes was born in 1902. His life as a black man in such a time as this gave voice to that of many in America. Especially blacks, but to others as well who also found themselves marginalized by the powerful and influential of their day. He died much too young at 65.

I discovered his poetry in 2020…very late to the party or revolution.

Raised by a loving, Godly mom, I was taught to be color-blind regarding races of people. It turns out that didn’t prove to be healing to black friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street. Blacks whose lives had been deeply and darkly affected by a racism I simply had not learned or experienced. How could that be? Yet, it is true.

[My mom had a pure heart; I’m sure of this. She wanted to believe that there was only one race, the human race. She grew up poor, worked hard all her life, mostly making minimum wage, held her family together, and kept her faith. Much like the black women who lived in that distant, unknown part of town. She just didn’t know what was happening in government and the private sector that divided us…and diminished some. All of us, by degrees.]

Racism is wrong and must be exposed and wrestled down. I don’t believe that what has happened in the US over 2020 will move us in that direction.  I could be wrong. For sure.

Still…I’m so thankful for people who, despite the wrongs done to them or around them, have flourished. Like the rising tide, raising all boats in its wake. My desire is to recognize and support those who resist street-level thuggery and use platforms that don’t divide but draw us all in.

Langston Hughes is an example of that sort of person. [Now, he died during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement, a year before Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. Had he lived longer, I don’t know how his thinking or poetry would have changed.]

I’d like to let just a few of Langston Hughes’ words speak for him:

“Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you–
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.”
“I swear to the Lord,I still can’t see,Why Democracy means,Everybody but me. ”

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
Langston Hughes

On this day, commemorating Hughes’ birthday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the two following poems (one by Walt Whitman followed by a poem of response by Langston Hughes):

I Hear America Singing – Walt Whitman – 1819-1892

*I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”*

I, Too – Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.”*

Hughes wrote about America and life as a black person in America. Especially as it related to freedom of expression:

“This is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America — this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible...Then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority — may the Lord be praised!…These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself.” – Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues

Here, on the first day of Black History Month, in a more somber America 2021, I salute the great poet Langston Hughes. May we learn from him and from each other.

[May we also beware of those who “seem to be influential” in our culture today – those who would divide and diminish us – when we have the capacity and capability to help each other flourish…all of us. – This warning coming of all places from my reading in the Bible this early snowy morning, Galatians 2.]

I’d like to close with just an excerpt of the powerful Hughes poem “Let America Be America Again” (recited in full in the YouTube video above):

“O, let America be America again– The land that never has been yet– And yet must be–the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME– Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose– The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain– All, all the stretch of these great green states– And make America again! “

I Dream a World – Langston Hughes

*Poets – Lesson plan, which features poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Elizabeth Alexander

10 of Langston Hughes’ Most Popular Poems – Rachel Chang

The Bold Wisdom Within Langston Hughes’ Poems – Ellen Levitt

Black Lives Mattered to Langston Hughes – Robin Bates

5 Friday Faves – A #COVID Walk with a Friend, Monopoly Money, Thanksgiving Memory Making, and Back to School (Please)

1) A #COVID Walk with a Friend – We planned a walk and then my friend thought of the conference she had attended days before, and decided it was safer for me, potentially, for us to walk together “remotely”. It was lovely.

We did our walks in our own neighborhoods while talking on the phone with each other.

Took selfies after the walk in our respective neighborhoods – not our best look but exhilarating the time outside and “with” each other

What have you done to stay in touch with friends/family during these days of COVID? Please comment below. I saw just this week how one extended family connects over zoom once a month, playing games they have adapted to a screen. Seems we can come up with lots of memorable ways to stay closer in touch. We await your ideas.

2) Christmas Commercials (Adverts) – Some of the best ads are the ones that pop up over Christmas. Greetings from stores, companies, and other organizations. Here are just a few (have a cup of tea/coffee sometime and do an internet search for these (both past and present). Lovely, some funny, some nostalgic – all commentate on culture as well, through the years.

So much Santa Claus (sigh…) but had to include this one also – longish but beautiful visuals and a determined dad:

Do you have favorite Christmas adverts? Please share in Comments.

3) Monopoly Money – It wasn’t so long ago that special grants of money for disaster response from the government measured in the millions. Those days are long gone. Now we talk trillions.

For some time now, I have at the top of my issues for the Office of President these three: Life/Abortion, Supreme Court, and national debt. Now, our debt seems completely off the radar. Whew…

Some of us were talking about this issue and the phrase “Monopoly Money” came up. That’s what it’s like…as money poured out, in response to the COVID-induced economic response, to almost everyone in the US, regardless of need. Where does that money even come from?

Our current President didn’t seem to have national debt on the top of his promises (many of which he kept), and certainly our President-elect isn’t concerned with debt by all the very expensive promises he is making. The whole idea of targeting the wealthy for tax increases is short-sighted. The wealthy aren’t stupid. They can move their operations where the tax base will be more in their favor. If the highest-eschelon wealth-owners (the supposed “1%” in the US) care about those in need, they are already assisting in their own ways.

End of rant. Note the links below. Fascinating.

Coronavirus Is Going to Be Expensive. Too Bad the Government Is Already in Massive Debt – Eric Boehm

How the Federal Reserve Literally Makes Money – William J. Luther

Be Informed: National Debt

4) Thanksgiving Memory Making – Masks on and physical distancing, it was a tender time.

Lewis Ginter GardenFest of Lights with as many of the grands as were available:

Then Thanksgiving Eve, we did our annual crazy family picture experience (thankful for friends who provided the behind the camera entertainment for the children). Here’s just one of the many pics taken. Our kiddos. The rest of the pics wait for Christmas.

On schedule the Christmas cactus begins to bloom. 

Thanksgiving morning, we had brunch with our kids. They did all the cooking. It was splendid – both the food and the time together. I will never take that for granted.

Then onto Delaware to spend the rest of the holiday with Dave’s mom and brother’s family. Sweet times on the Eastern Shore.

MomMom with her two boys.

The grandson who had to miss because of work came for a visit still.

Facetime with the big and little cousins:

#TurkeyLoveliness the day after Thanksgiving:

Home again – sunrise over the Eastern Shore and then Christmas lights that night back home in Richmond:

10 Ways to Connect Deeply at Thanksgiving – Ken Sande

5) Back to School (Please) – Both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci agree that students need to be back in school. We all probably have very strong feelings about this. We don’t want our children to lose a school year with online learning (with the best efforts of their children). Nor do we want them infecting school staff or bringing the disease home. If we “follow the science”, it seems our concerns regarding COVID are unfounded. What do you think?

Save the Children – Kevin Roche

In-Person School During COVID-19 – Healthy Children

It’s Not Just ABCs – Preschool Parents Worry Their Kids Are Missing Out on Critical Social Skills During the Pandemic – Michele L. Stites & Susan Sonnenschein

Operating Schools During COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations

Photo Credit: The Micro Mama, Facebook

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Hope your weekend is relaxing and full of good health and sweet times. Thanks for stopping by here.

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Bonuses:

How to Get Smarter Every Day, According to Neuroscience – Jeff Haden

Feeding Nashville – feeding those in need and putting restaurant employees, whose jobs have been affected by COVID, back to work

Covid-19: Politicisation, “Corruption”, and Suppression of Science

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Prayers in Time of Infectious Disease

Prayer in Time of Plague

Prayers Amidst Coronavirus Crisis – The London Oratory

A Prayer in the Time of Plague – Rabbi Martin S. Cohen

Below is a Facebook thread from a friend of mine – she spoke with exquisite clarity on what it is for Christians in the US right now if we are not aligned politically with what is deemed the most popular opinion at the moment:

2020 US Presidential Election – tucking this in here at the bottom of Bonuses. No matter our political party, this election was the first one in my adult life when some of the states just stopped counting the votes election night. That was confusing, with no real rationale.

When to Expect Election Results in Every State – Fascinating graphics

Anyway, it’s been a strange ride for all of us. The certification of all the states’ votes is in process as is are the legal cases involving some of them. I do believe we will have a peaceful transition of power if President-Elect Biden continues to hold that position. It doesn’t hurt that our electoral process is being scrutinized. As a nation, we must all be able to trust our electoral process. It’s fundamental to our values in the US.

Reasons Why the 2020 Presidential Election Is Deeply Puzzling – Patrick Basham

Anomalies in Vote Counts and Their Effects on the 2020 Election

Fact Check: Vote Spikes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania Do Not Prove Election Fraud

5 Friday Faves – Assassin’s Creed on Guitar, Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership Development, Snow Days, Internet Discoveries, and the Cost of Security

Snow day!!! On a Friday. Do I need to say more?

Hope you are well, warm, and safe.

Here are my Friday faves from this week.

1) Assassin’s Creed on GuitarGuitarist Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangement of the main theme from Assassin’s Creed IV.

If you’re like me, you might not know what that even means – Assassin’s Creed. It’s a popular videogame set in the Caribbean during the 18th century. Lots of swashbuckling, sword-wielding pirates, I suppose. The best part of this game for me (since I never played)? This guy playing this arrangement on this guitar:

Follow Beyond the Guitar here. Every week, more music, just for us.

2) Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership DevelopmentCarey Nieuwhof is a pastor, writer, podcaster, and leadership coach. His thinking on  leadership development goes beyond the church straight into the secular workplace. He has much to offer to anyone wanting to raise up qualified leaders. His own wisdom and experience as a leader and student of leadership make him a worthy mentor. Then there are also his choices of leader interviews for his podcast. I’d like to point you to two he interviewed and then posted among his Top 10 Podcasts of 2017.

They are Todd Adkins and Craig Groeschel.

Adkins on intentionality: Leadership development requires intentionality. If you think that leadership development is going to naturally happen over time, you’re wrong. Usually leaders are also ambitious doers, and striking a healthy balance between doing and developing is only something that happens with intentionality.

Adkins on building leaders from within the organization: Are you building people or buying them? If you look at your staff and realize that you bought most or all of them, then it’s time to reevaluate your leadership development culture. There is a time or a place to buy staff, but a healthy leadership culture also produces leaders from within.

Groeschel on feedback: Create a culture where feedback is craved rather than avoided. The higher you rise in any form of leadership, the harder it is for people to tell you the truth. As a leader, your posture sets the tone throughout the organization. If you don’t ask for feedback and receive it well, you’re limiting your own growth and the growth of everyone working around you. Not only will people refrain from telling you what they think, they will also fail to hear constructive criticism for themselves.

Groeschel on delegating: Delegating empowers other leaders in your church. Lead pastors try to hold on to too much because of issues with trust and control. But delegating empowers other leaders and breaks down the limitations that come with one person carrying the load. Overtime, pastors should give up more than they could ever think possible.

7 Ways to Grow Church Attendance by Increasing Engagement – Carey Nieuwhof – There is so much wisdom here, not just about church attendance but about how to get folks engaged. With the tension of disengagement and productivity in the workplace, Nieuwhof gives sound counsel on how we can demonstrate valuing and increase engagement.

 Photo Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

5 Things Every Church Leader Should Unlearn in 2018 (if You Want to Stay Relevant) – Carey Nieuwhof

3) Snow Days – Love snow days. The sparkle of sun-lit snow. The profound quiet. How all the other colors around us pop against the white background. The breaking up of routine. The pot of a favorite hot on the stove. Movies, books, fires in the fireplace. Mmmmmm.

Thankful also for all those folks out there who keep working – you medical and emergency staff, you power and water company employees, you whoever you are who still get out there in the deep cold. Thank you!

4) Internet Discoveries –The internet is replete with fascinating subject matter. The danger is being drawn off task by chasing rabbits that pop up during a “quick check” of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Here is one that happened to me this week and, as it happens, enriched my life (even momentarily). Photography is my hobby, so when the Master Class with Annie Leibovitz came up in my Facebook feed, I watched the teaser. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the video, she talked about photographing Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Penn Warren. He had cancer at the time and would later die from it. If you love poetry, maybe you know his work. Or that of his daughter, Rosanna Warren. I didn’t know them until now.

Studying some of Robert Penn Warren’s biography and reading father’s and daughter’s  poetry was a highlight of this week’s finds.

Poetry inspires me but I am not a student of poetry. This was a momentary, fascinating find. Have you had one of those finds this week – incidental, serendipitous? Please share with us (Comments below).

5) Cost of Security – Anyone who travels on airlines (especially since the 2001 9-11 bombings) knows something of the cost of security. There have been too many other public attacks since then, moving us to give up personal privacy and freedom for the sake of safety and security. We have all been in these conversations; some of us even in on the decision-making related to security protocol.

So what makes this a find of the week? This statement made around a table of friends earlier this week: “Convenience and habits are the enemies of security.” It got me to thinking about what we are willing to give up, in terms of convenience and routines, to fortify our security (and the security of others, actually). Things like passwords and keys are not easy to keep up with, but they are essential in today’s world. Photo Credit: Slideshare

Routines or habits that make us more vulnerable might need changing. Like going back and forth to work the same time/way every day. Or running alone. Or being the last one out of the building. When we have routines in our public life, we tend to become less situationally aware. If we all do the work of assessing our own security situation and become more in tune to potential hazards, then we may avoid losing more personal freedom and privacy to other agencies given the task of keeping us safe.

Something to think about…and I have this week. Tightening up some habits and tweaking some routines.

Why Convenience Is the Enemy of Security – PC World

Situational Awareness – It Could Save Your Life…or Someone Else’s – Deb Mills Writer

Hope your weekend looms happily ahead of you…with time with those you love. Blessings and Happy New Year!

Oh…and please leave some of your own finds in the Comments below for us all to learn from you.

Bonuses

NegotiatingThe Art of Letting Other People Have Your Way: Negotiating Secrets From Chris Voss – Podcast – Farnam Street Blog

EmpathyGet the Gift of Empathy to Innovate and Digitally Transform Your Organization – Brian Solis

  • “True leaders don’t invest in followers; they empower others to become leaders.” – Brian Solis

Your Body After You Stop SmokingPhoto Credit: WebMD Facebook page

Shyndigz – a dessert restaurant (always a pleasure, not just for the sweets but the surroundings. A beautiful experience. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Shyndigz website

Gel Pens – Celebrating these wonderful little inventions. About the time our daughter moved from pencil to pen, we were living in Cairo, Egypt. In the Korba district of the city, we found a lovely little gift shop called EveryMan’s. This was the place and the season, mid-90s, that we discovered gel pens. I was reminded of the wonder they are this week during our mid-week small group meeting. We were all women in attendance with just Dave as our only guy (which was unusual). At some point, the conversation turned to gel pens (oh, we were writing New Year’s resolutions), and we all sang their praises. Dave commented, “I feel like we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there were more guys here.” Probably…their loss, his gain to be in our mix that night.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Adam Grant’s Book List for 2018

Photo Credit: Grant Snider, Karen Swallow Prior

Worship Wednesday – You Are Worthy of Your Glory – Jon Shirley (Austin Stone Worship)

“Consider how the lilies grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these.” – Luke 12:27

“When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?” – Psalm 8:3-4

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:19-20

On Sunday at Movement Church, we sang a song new to me that continues to move my heart to worship this week. Jon Shirley of Austin Stone Worship is the writer-composer of this song You Are Worthy. In the Story Behind the Song video, he mentions how a Victorian poet’s words inspired him to write the song.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God” changed, in the song, to “The earth is charged with Your great grandeur.”

During the Victorian era (following the Industrial Revolution), Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote poetry that extolled the glory of God as experienced in His creation. This was a time of tremendous prosperity and invention, where people were enamored with their own accomplishments. Hopkins gently shook his culture into awakening again to the astounding creative genius of God.

God’s Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. – Poetry Foundation
Today, we also find ourselves in an age of booming technology. So impressed with ourselves. Yet, when we clear our minds and re-orient to the extraordinary beauty and wonder of creation, we can do no other than worship the One who spoke it into being. Worship the One who fashioned us into His image. Worship the God who still wants a relationship with us in all our smallness, bowing down to our own inventions and missing the God of the universe. This Creator God is worthy of glory; worthy of a world of worship.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

How Has God Revealed Himself Through Nature? – Don Stewart

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin

Worship with me, through this little song that celebrates such a great God:

The earth is charged with Your great grandeur
The stars above shine for You
And the world below responds in wonder, God!
And we’re all lost in You
In all You say and do

You are worthy of Your glory
God Almighty, You are Lord – forever
You’re robed in honor, You’re armed with power
God forever, You are Lord – forever

The waves resound, they pound Your praises
The flowers bloom, and stretch to You
Let everything you’ve made now praise You, God
Let all creation sing!

Awake my soul and sing
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, You are Lord
Forever Lord!*

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die.

Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects foreigners
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever;
Zion, your God reigns for all generations.
Hallelujah! – Psalm 146

*Lyrics – Written by Jon Shirley – Austin Stone Worship

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – You Are Worthy – Jon Shirley

A Short Analysis of Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur”

Analysis of Poem “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins – Andrew Spacey

Gerard Manley Hopkins – 1844-1889

Victorian Era Crisis of Faith – Veronica Johnson

5 Friday Faves – Spoken Word, Final Fantasy Guitar Arrangement, Kindness, Becoming a Super Achiever, and Acts of Service

Friday Faves is a highlight of my week. Just like my reading and life experiences are enriched by other writers’ weekly favorite finds, I take pleasure in thinking mine also encourage and even delight you as well sometimes. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks, I’ve run out of steam by week’s end. Travel is part of the drag on my writing, and some grieving over a very ill dad. Not many words to float my faves. Thanks to you who continue to stop by. It means the world to me. Following are five of my favorites for this week…enjoy…

1) Spoken Word – A poetry form, spoken word is defined as “an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play, intonation, and voice inflection – includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including hip-hop, jazz poetry, and traditional poetry readings”.  Glen Scrivener is poet and performer of spoken word. He’s Australian now living in the UK, so he’s got the accent and all.  He also has to be a very cool minister, given his gift with words that grab the heart. I just discovered him this week as one of his videos crossed my Facebook news-feed. It is entitled Santa Vs. Jesus and follows:

He Came Down and Christmas in Dark Places are two others that will minister to your heart…especially if life isn’t going as you thought it would. You can read more about Glen here and here.Photo Credit: Mackellars

2) Final Fantasy Guitar ArrangementNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has added another haunting arrangement to his guitar repertoire. His inspiration this time was the main theme (“Somnus”) of the video-game Final Fantasy XV. Nathan is an accomplished classical guitarist who has also applied his craft to arranging themes from movies, TV shows, and video games – music he’s loved over the years. I am still astounded at the beauty of these pieces when they are rendered through his skill, heart, and classical guitar. So lovely.

3) Kindness – When you are distracted by the stresses of life, and you’re just not yourself…every kindness is a great mercy. I’ve certainly experienced many over the last year during the illness of my dad. This week was not an exception. Traveling to Georgia to help care for dad, I was struck again at all the kindnesses extended to him by other family members, hospice staff, and friends. His pastor has become a pastor to me even. It got me thinking again of how we teach kindness to our children… I have the book Each Kindness by  Jacquelin Woodson and E. B. Lewis about a young girl, new to a school, who didn’t quite fit in. Although she was kind herself, she was shunned by other children. That tension and the story’s resolution captured so much about the transforming nature of kindness.

Modeling kindness is foundational as children see and then do. Reading about kindness can also strengthen that message. Joanna Goddard and her commenters have listed a treasure trove of books on kindness lessons for children.  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead is a sweet story about a man caring uniquely for various animals in the zoo. Also The Empty Pot by Demi speaks of both kindness and truthfulness. Lastly, Mo Willems’ My Friend Is Sad speaks to a tenderness found between true friends. 

What books or experiences do you recommend to help young ones learn to be kind? Please comment below.

4) Becoming a Super Achiever – Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield have authored a book on how any of us might become a “super achiever” – The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Swell. I have not read this book yet (nowhere near a superachiever in this skin…yet). However, thanks to Forbes writer Tanya Prive, we have a great intro to the subject in a quick list of 10.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Sweeney and Gosfield interviewed several highly successful individuals across many fields and discovered ten practices common to “super achievers”. They are:

  • Good Storytelling
  • Dedication to a Vision
  • Listening and Remaining Open
  • Pursuing Happiness
  • Intelligent Persistence
  • Testing Ideas in the Market
  • Fostering a Community
  • Constantly Evolving
  • Managing Emotions
  • Practicing Patience

Read more on each of these from Prive’s article, or better yet, check out the book. From the reviews so far on Amazon, it’s less a “how-to” for us and more a “how they did it” – as a myriad of super achievers tell their stories to the authors…worth the read for me to hear those stories.

5) Acts of Service – Years ago, I read this book 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He talks about how we express and receive love in five major ways – time, touch, gifts, words of affirmation and acts of service. My husband, Dave, and I both experience love most deeply through words of affirmation and acts of service. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Christmas is a huge gift-giving holiday in our culture. I’m not the best at that, BUT I understand it, especially for those who experience love most happily through receiving gifts (our youngest son, for example). For me…acts of service and words of affirmation. Now…that can come through gift making or buying. [I need socks, etc., like everyone else.] Or, it can come through the raw work of serving. Dave has taken on a much harder job of giving me a requested act of service for Christmas, and the time he’s putting into it is already like receiving this gift every day, even before Christmas arrives. I won’t go into details, but we are both “pilers“. It’s just hard for us to expediently go through and get rid of stuff we’re no longer using. Order is a lovely thing, and as we get older, it is even more calming to a stressed and tired mind. He is giving the gift of “order” to me this Christmas…and hasn’t even asked the same from me. What love!!Photo Credit: DawsonandDawsonInc

So….there you have it…another Five Friday Faves…and on a Saturday. That’s just the kind of week it’s been. Enjoy the rest of your weekend…and receive every kindness as the gift it’s meant to be.

Worship Wednesday – You Don’t Miss a Thing – Bethel Music – This One’s For You in That Hard Place

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Bethel Music Worship LeadersPhoto Credit: Bethel Music

“For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, for we also are His children. Acts 17:28

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.Psalm 139:7-8

This one’s for you, Dear Heart…when you can’t see your way out of this situation…or the way out is too painful to imagine than even where you are right now.

Amidst all the great joys and reveries of life, our lives are sometimes interrupted by seasons of hopelessness and confusion. Things don’t add up. We can’t ascribe meaning to what’s happening. Nor can we even prescribe some imprint of God on the matter. We are without words. We did not prepare ourselves for this. Even in our worship of and walk with God, it appears we have stayed in the shallows, unprepared for the deep of right now.

Take heart, Child (Husband, Son, Daughter, Friend). Who could have imagined this day, this season? God calls us to come to Him as children…He doesn’t mean for us to have it all figured out. He is not surprised by faith that falters. He is faithful still.

One of His greatest gifts to us is His Word. We find Him there. We also find the strength of His hand and the beauty of His love and truth for the journey…there. How fortunate we are that every generation has its psalmists – its song-writers who He has equipped to put words to our need and His supply.

Bethel Music is a collective of worship leaders who write songs for us to experience who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. Amanda Cook is part of this collective and brings to us today’s song: You Don’t Miss a Thing.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Amanda CookPhoto Credit: Bethel Music

In an interview with Kevin Davis, Cook talks about this song:

“For me, I’ve always been stunned by the very thought of God. The thought of God makes me pause and wonder. If I wonder long enough, I wonder about His greatness and Him being God. It starts to transform my thinking about any situation and thought, or patterns that I am in. It prioritizes everything. With the imaginative language of picturing the slightest movements of God and being completely complete in Himself, full of love and kindness and never stepping outside of those attributes, the slightest movement by God or whisper of God’s voice creates an earth shattering reality for myself as a human being. I wanted to express that to Him, kind of like a personal psalm.”

She then talks about the Psalms and the language of the psalm-writers – all the descriptions of the mighty nature of God and how He moves in our world and in our lives. Nothing is beyond His notice and even His smallest touch is widely transforming. As we gain our senses about how gloriously big God is, we put what we’re facing into perspective…not that it is small. It may be huge for us…but He sees. He doesn’t miss a thing. We can stand in that – in the light of His love for us and His provision.

“This song is about placing myself as a human being before the Lord of Lords and being drawn into the reality that even though He’s so Majestic and Big, He’s Emmanuel, He’s with me and He doesn’t miss a thing. He’s so God, and yet He’s so present. That’s the mystery for me, living in the tension of that, throwing myself into that mystery and knowing that I am seen and known— to be discovered by Him and discover Him and spend the rest of my life pursuing that reality.”Amanda Cook

This dark place…this hard time is not beyond the reach of God. He is near and He is sufficient for this moment, for your need. For healing. For hope. Because He is God, and He loves you.

Worship with me:

When You stand
I feel the floor of Heaven tremble
As You breathe
We live and have our being
When You speak
Oh I feel it in my chest
When You sing
All my fears are put to rest

What a wondrous thing
I can stand to sing
Cause when I fall to my knees,
You’re the One who pulls me up again

What a mystery
That You notice me
And in a crowd of ten thousand
You don’t miss a thing

When You sigh
The wind becomes a sonnet
When You laugh
The storm around me ceases
You whisper
And all my enemies are scattered
You surround me
With angels on assignment

There’s no place I can go that You’re love won’t find me
No place I can hide that You don’t see
No place I could fall and Your love couldn’t catch me
You see it all, You see it all
Through the eyes of love, oh whoa, oh oh

So come and see me, come and know me
Come and search my heart and make me like You, like You
I just want to be like You
Come and see me, come and know me
Come and search my heart, and make me new, make me new
I want it, just like You

Blog - Worshipo Wednesday - You Don't Miss a thingPhoto Credit: YouTube

YouTube Video – You Don’t Miss a Thing – Amanda Cook – We Will Not Be Shaken

You Don’t Miss a Thing by Bethel Music – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – New Release Tuesday

8 Bible Verses About How Big God Is by Ryan Nelson

When Life Doesn’t Turn Out as You Expect: 10 Bible Verses that Remind Us of God’s Love and Care by Claire Musters

Through It All – It is Well With My Soul – with Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

YouTube Video – For Us – John Piper Sermon Jam

Pickup Trucks, Culture, and a TV Commercial Like No Other

Blog - 2016 Nissan Titan XDPhoto Credit: Car and Driver

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Isaac Newton

My dad always owned Ford pickup trucks. He taught me to drive in one of those trucks. Standard transmission and all. Dad said you always need a truck to haul stuff around. Mom loved using rocks to make walls for our yard, and he hauled those home for her.

The very last truck Dad bought was a bright red Dodge Ram pickup. He was in his late 80’s and would stop driving soon after, because of Alzheimer’s. He always wanted a red pickup…and this was his last one. Fancy.Blog - Dodge ram pickupPhoto Credit: The Car Connection

During the post-season of NFL football in the US, new commercials for all sorts of products abound. We football TV watchers actually look for them. Many are geared toward the men in the viewing audience – looking to buy “manly” stuff. Still, most products cross gender lines, and pickups definitely do. This commercial by Nissan promoting the 2016 Titan pickup truck is a huge marketing stand-out. Extraordinary, really.

90 seconds of beauty…poetry…honoring those who’ve gone before.

After watching it a few times already, I am completely enthralled. Who was on the creation team for it? Who came up with the “shoulders of giants” idea? Were they all in their 20’s or was this a multi-generational effort? I want to know these things.

An article from Auto News, gives a bit of the story of how a commercial like this one is born.

It was a bit outside the box when Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, recruited Jeremy Tucker from Disney last fall to head Nissan marketing.

Blog - Nissan Titan pickup truck - Jeremy Tucker

Photo Credit: Auto News

Tucker put the question directly to his future boss.

“I told Fred, I’m not a car guy,” says Tucker. “I’m a consumerist. I love humans. I love marketing. I’m an idea guy. I’m trained as a storyteller. I learned the philosophy of ‘imagineering’ from Disney. So how do you bring together that dreaming and doing?

“And Fred said, ‘That’s exactly what I want.'”

Jeremy Tucker further had this to say about marketing in a field out of his expertise (cars/trucks), “I’m looking at it all through a fresh lens — through the eyes of people and families, and through the lens of passion and engagement. My job is to bring all that together, to bring collaboration and new ideas to build relationships with the consumer.” 

Forbes article points out the uniqueness of one company (Nissan)honoring the greatness of those who went before – Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge. Those “shoulders of giants” for Nissan.

“We wanted to reach out to areas where no man has gone before, and we’ve done just that,” Diaz said. “By showing and acknowledging, or saying thank you to people you’re about to go to battle with, or compete with, is something you just don’t see, and that’s what we needed to do.”

While sure to turn some heads because of its unusual approach, the ad is consistent with what Tucker called “Nissan’s marketing strategy of leveraging big cultural moments”.

When you think of the airing of this commercial during the NFL playoffs and Superbowl, Diaz’ words are packed with meaning, beyond the choice of a pickup truck.

So here’s to the creators of the 2016 Nissan Titan XD and to the creators of its promotional ad. Wow! 30 years ago, my husband bought his very first new vehicle – it was the Nissan D21 Hardbody pickup. When we were overseas, his dad used it and was kind to give it back to Dave now that we’re back. 30 years and still going. That’s what you can expect from a company that learns from the giants who went before…and understands the importance of knowing your culture and telling stories that touch the heart of that culture.Blog - Dave's Nissan Pickup

5 Friday Faves – a Podcast, Communication Helps, a Business Startup, a Song, and a Poem

Blog - Friday Faves

Friday! Winter storm Jonas is behind us here in Richmond, Virginia. It leaves in its wake a heightened gratefulness for heat and electricity, and for those who serve their neighbors by clearing streets and sidewalks. Kids finally went back to school, and work returned to normal. I’m looking forward to getting out tonight to the movies with Dave and our youngest. Finally I will see Star Wars – the Force Awakens which inspired our guitarist middle to do an arrangement of Rey’s Theme. Before proceeding to devour an obscene amount of movie popcorn, here are my 5 faves for this week.

1) Podcast – My favorite podcast this week was Srini Rao‘s interview with Chris Bailey. Rao is the host and founder of Unmistakable Creative where you can hear lots fascinating stories from people who are unmistakably creative (good stuff). Chris Bailey is the author of The Productivity Experiment: Accomplishing More By Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy. I loved both Chris Bailey podcasts – Earlier, Living an Insanely Productive Life with Chris Bailey and this week’s Bridging the Gaps in Our Productivity with Chris Bailey. Bailey makes a critical distinction between just getting a lot of stuff done and real accomplishments. I appreciate that. Check out Chris Bailey’s blog A Life of Productivity where he lists 100 time, energy, and attention hacks (shortcuts) to help us reach higher productivity. Out of this 100, three of my favorites are: Every day, journal one great experience you had. At the start of every day, define three outcomes you want to accomplish (not to-dos; actual outcomes). When you meet with someone in person, shut off your phone completely.Blog - Chris Bailey - ProductivityPhoto Credit: Unmistakable Creative

2) Communication – Brad Hambrick is my go-to counselor guy when I need wisdom or direction in a difficult or complicated relationship. Truth is, I’ve never met him. He is the pastor of counseling at Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  What makes his counsel so easily accessible is that he posts videos online on a wide variety of subjects. His notes for deeper study are also available free of charge via an email to his office. His website bills him as a Counselor for the Church (Summit Church and anyone else who could use his help). Today, I want to point you to Brad’s favorite posts on communication. So helpful. Blog - Brad hambrick - Counselor - CommunicationPhoto Credit: Summit RDU

 3) Business Startup –  I love wood – the smell of it, the look of it. All of it. Wood is timeless. A recent and happy discovery is Wellborn + Wright (a local company founded by Sam Sikes which sells reclaimed wood). Read how they describe themselves (from their website: “Wellborn + Wright is committed to providing timeless high-quality finished products. Our wood is reclaimed from all over the east coast from turn-of-the-century barns in western Pennsylvania all the way to textile mills in Boston. This salvaged wood is saved from landfills and given new life by our skilled team of craftsmen. We utilize sustainable and detail-oriented processing techniques, ensuring that all of our products maintain their character. We work directly with architects, interior designers, and builders. This unique ability allows us to deliver your vision of a consistent aesthetic in both the design and in the integrity of the architectural elements in your project.” Visit their website and you will find a visual feast of old wood brought back to life. My plan is to write more about this young company after a visit there soon. Wonder what I can have made by these craftsmen…makes me smile to think about it.BLog - Small Business - Wellborn Wright - Sam Sikes owner - richmondbizsensePhoto Credit: Richmondbizsense.com

4) A Song – Kenny G’s Over the Rainbow from the album – Classics in the Key of G  – Once upon a time, many years ago, before moving our family to Cairo, Egypt, my husband decided he needed to scale back on his passion for music. We were downsizing in preparation for that move overseas. Dave had a huge music collection and decided that he would leave behind most of his music to focus on being with people more, instead of having his head in his music. Fast forward a few years, living now in Cairo, Egypt. On a shopping trip (for my birthday), he discovered this Kenny G CD at a local market. He bought this one and another by The Temptations. The song “Over the Rainbow” re-kindled his love for music and his music collection would grow again. It turned out to be a very good thing because of what a joy and stress-reliever music is for him. I had forgotten that story until the song came up on a playlist a few days ago, and he reminded me, “That song got me listening to music again.” It is beautiful.

5) A Poem – I am a slave to bits of paper. It’s hard for me to get rid of things, especially treasures with words – like essays my kids wrote, or sweet notes from friends, or poems my mom saved over the years. This one I discovered from a friend on Facebook, and its lesson is timely for anyone who still has their mom or dad. My mom died over 13 years ago, and I still wish we had had more time. Dad has Alzheimer’s and we spend time together…but the days of receiving advice from him are done. Part of saving those bits is like having the people attached near again. Sweet…like this poem.

Blog - Poem - Back Home - Sharon Brooks FB pagePhoto Credit: Facebook

Do you have any favorite finds from this week that you’re willing to share? Use the comments section.

The weekend beckons.