Monday, December 8, 2008
So many voices: Did you get this done yet? Are those mailed? Is that written? Did I forget anyone? Am I busy that day? Did I call them back? What do I need to bring? Are travel plans complete? What’s the name of that song? Is this the recipe I used last year? Did it work out? Where are those ornaments? Oh look, another catalogue! ...How ironic is it that the season in which we celebrate peace’s arrival has become one of the busiest times of the year?
And yet somewhere amid the clang and commotion, an echo lingers from the angel chorus’ joyous cry: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Like the last note of a concert that hangs in the air, you can hear it… you just have a take a minute to tune out the rest of the cacophony.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the noise. There *is* such a thing as a happy din. I happen to love the white noise of a family gathering (and of course, family isn’t always defined by shared DNA). I love the conversation and sharing and laughter….
So I’m just trying to help defend the Christmas season from the clatter. I want to help protect (and project) the voice of that angel choir, and remember that we celebrate Christmas because of the hope and peace that Christ brought. It was no small miracle that took place in that stable in Bethlehem, and we give to each other because God first gave to us.
Wait…there it is again… Do you hear what I hear?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I have realized that we are not shallow or uniformed or insensitive about the heaviness that is also in the world. But we can look at all of that through the lens and from the foundation of our shared faith and values. Beneath the laughter, there is something else: community and love. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these people with whom I laugh, are also the ones with whom I can cry. They will be there. They’ll band together and give a different kind of support. (And of course, we’ll find a way to laugh about it later. *wink*)
So…laughter…something for which I am deeply grateful for during this season of remembering what makes family so fantastic -- both the family we were born into, and the family we choose.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Thursday, October 30, 2008
This morning I hoped to pop over to Nissan, get things diagnosed and fixed, and get myself back on the road. But this was not to be a “just add water and microwave” sort of day.
To start with…my car wouldn’t start! I deduced that it was my extra security feature gone wrong. (Hooray technology, right?) But after a brief phone conference, I figured out how to change out a relay on my car and be on my way. …Feeling very car-savvy I might add.
I got to the service center, checked in, and found a spot in the waiting room. And I waited….and waited… and realized that this was not going to be a quick fix day.
When my service advisor finally came around to talk with me, she opened by saying “I have some bad news.” LOL! Gotta love how they put you at ease right? And then she told me: I have a blown gasket. And though it’s the word she used, “blown” may be a little exaggerated. Nevertheless, the gasket isn’t working correctly. Coolant is leaking into the engine…blah blah blah…it needs to be fixed.
Such a tiny thing (relatively), but a very costly repair. You see, it’s not just the gasket that has to be addressed. They also have to reprogram the car’s computer after the repair – it’s called “Reset and Relearn.” But the silver lining is that the “Service Engine Soon” light probably saved my engine.
Either way, I’ve pretty much lost a day of work. I’m car-less until Tuesday. and I’m going to have an unexpected bill to pay. (Silver lining #2: I’ve been really aggressive about saving lately. So while it’s not the way I wanted to spend that money, I’ll still be able to cover the expense.)
As I sat in the lovely Nissan waiting room, my mind started mulling over the idea of blowing a gasket. Somewhere along the way, that phrase has come to be used for more than just car diagnostics. It’s also a word picture we use for someone who explodes in anger. And bottom line, whether we’re talking about car-land or life in general:
It’s always costly.
How’s your “engine” running? When heated or stressed moments happen, do you have a healthy way of cooling off? Can your self-control handle the pressure without blowing? Do you have things (or people) that act as warning lights? Do you pay attention to them? Are the relational bank accounts in your life deep enough to cover the expense following an outburst?
Just a few questions brought to you by my ailing car…
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11)
Saturday, October 25, 2008
It's part of a church that is on the waterfront in Gulfport, Mississippi. It survived Katrina, but as you can see, the bottom portion of the walls of the chapel didn't. But what's really great is that even though the bottom layer has been washed away, the rest of the chapel remained unscathed, including the stained glass and center chandelier. The pictures don’t do them justice. The windows were beautiful. When our group was there, the sun was shining, and….yeah….stunning.
I was part of a mission trip group that used this church for an impromptu meeting. It was the end of our week there and we do this thing where we make a big circle, and then each person gets turn to sit in the center. Then, everyone on the perimeter gets a chance to affirm and encourage that person. It's very moving. Many laughs and tears were shared in the hour or two it took us to go around our circle. It was over two years ago now (amazing how time flies), and I can still remember the encouragement I received that day.
As a side note: I was actually surprised by the demeanor of all the people we met in Gulfport. They had certainly been through a lot, and had more challenges waiting in their future, but it seemed like all they needed was someone to care and to be interested in their story. Because every time they had the chance to tell their story, the lit up and jumped at the opportunity. I imagine this chapel represents a similar desire and joy. Because at the heart of it all, I think part of what God wants from us is for us to care, to be interested…so he can tell us his story.
My blog world is kind of small….but here are the blogs I would like to highlight. (No passing on is necessary, just enjoy the free bit of love! *grin*)
Spun by Me... - I love getting to see pictures of family, being blessed with stories from old pictures, and being wowed by all the creativity that comes from my friend Marie. I truly love this friendship that has emerged because of blog-land.
BillSimmonsLive - My favorite posts from PB are always the ones that have to do with family. I miss having him and Renee close by, and I love little anecdotes he shares on his blog…usually accompanied by phone pictures. Love it!
2Slicks Good Times and The Peters and the Point. - These two blogs are kept by friends I have had since my church brat days. I am consistently encouraged by their marriages and their stories. April and Terri...You guys rock!
Storie Delle Sorelle - This book club has it going on! It's always fun to hear what they've been up to, what book they're reading next, and what new idea they've decided to integrate.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I rediscovered something about myself: I’m human. Seems silly right? But the inner superwoman in me hates to admit it. Not only do I hate to admit it, but it really irks me to have to stand back, and evaluate the things that I’m pursuing so I can maintain some sort of sanity. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The past several months have been insane. I think one of my late-night, bonus-time quotes says it best: “Some days are like isometric exercise. You feel like you're pushing against a brick wall, but really you're building muscle.” However, in this season of my life I haven’t felt as though I’m pushing the wall as much as I am trying to just hold it up and keep it from falling on my head. It takes a lot for me to feel overwhelmed. Genuinely, thoroughly, overwhelmed. But I reached that point and realized that I had to do something about it.
You want to know one of my most poignant barometer checks? Even in the areas of my life that are going well, I have only been meeting expectations. Why is that bad? Because I don’t meet expectations, I exceed them. I love to do that unexpected thing that takes something from good to great. As they say in Cajun country: “Lagniappe” -- doing a little bit extra. But I haven’t had that little bit extra to give. The wall hasn’t fallen. I’m still tenaciously holding it up. But my arms have been shaking and I haven’t been making headway.
A friend gave me a fantastic mental image (warning: geek moment ahead) – It is possible to run so many applications on your computer, that even though it has the system resources to do them all, it dramatically slows down the response time. You can even end up crashing your system, though in theory you’re staying within its capabilities. – This has been one of my mental struggles. I can do all this things. I have the capability. In theory, I even have the time. But my friend gently pointed out that perhaps my system would run better if I wasn’t juggling so many open applications.
Spurred by a school assignment and a great conversation, I revisited my mission statement and core values. Then I did a mental tally of the things that are drawing at my time, and made list of the things that are currently closest to my heart.
(By the way – It’s really powerful to take some time and really articulate those things for yourself. What *do* you want your life to say? What are the values you want to direct your life? …and Does your life accurately reflect the pursuit of them?)
I discovered that some of my most energy drawing obligations weren’t at the top of the list.
Amazing, right? I'm a puppy who forgot what she was supposed to be chasing. (Which is easy because this puppy has lots of natural talent and a nearly insatiable curiosity).
In any case…How does a woman who is an overachiever, who knows she *can* do all these things, deal with her pride and expectations, and make some changes?
My favorite birthday card reminds me to “live deep.” But I can only grow deep roots by trimming back branches. Don’t get me wrong. I like my branches. But a tree can only take so much energy from the soil, and those nutrients can only go so far. Which is better, quantity or quality of fruit? (Rhetorical question).
As any scrap booker knows, cropping pictures is hard. (I’m looking at cropping as a type of pruning. You know…getting rid of the excess to get to the heart of the image? Run with it, ok?) Part of your mind is scared that you’ll mess up the cut, or that you’ll end up wanting more of the picture later. And once you make that cut, there’s no going back. It’s a commitment.
So what if I choose to cut and prune the wrong things? Because once I set some things in motion, there’s no going back. (Well, there might be, but it would take some doing…).
Insert gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit here in the form of a ‘verse of the day’ – “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
Grant me a willing spirit. I don’t think the phrasing of that verse is arbitrary. I, for one, need to be “granted” a willing spirit. Willing to pause. Willing to examine. Willing to prune. Willing to admit limitation. Willing to change my pursuit. That’s a lot of willingness. But what’s amazing is that when I do ask, God always follows through.
So I prayed. And listened. And cut. …and I’ve gone from feeling frantic, to feeling peaceful. I’m not exactly back to normal yet, but I am being restored.
That isn’t to say that I’m slowing down. I still plan on giving all I have. But I want to give where it matters. I want to deeply invest in those things that made it to the top of my list. I am cutting away the excess to get back to the heart of the collage that is my life.
Now, I’m self-aware enough to know that it will be a challenge to keep my prioritized focus, and to not be too hard on myself from backing down from some things. But that’s the power of a personal road map. I can always return to that mission statement and those core values to see if I’m on the right path. And let’s face it; a road map is only good if you follow it. (And if you have the humility to redirect once you realize you’ve gone off course.)
So there you have it. I am not a superwoman. But I am a driven woman. And thanks to some faithful anchors and some uncomfortable cuts, this puppy is on the right track again.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Thoughts for my Granddaughter on her Birthday
Never stop learning, playing, or finding wonder in the world around you.
Live the length of your life, but live the depth of it as well.
There is no use carrying around worry and regret. They only weigh you down.
Always keep yourself open to hope and to love. They give us wings.
In yourself and others. Imperfections keep things interesting.
They’re the cracks where the light shines through.
Own Beautiful Things
And not just to keep in the drawer, tucked away for a perfect day.
Surround yourself with things that make you happy, that remind you of the beauty all around us if we only keep our eyes open to it.
Follow detours. Sometimes it takes an unexpected turn to help us find the life that is waiting for us around the bend.
Trust yourself and the path that is meant for you.
Take Care of Yourself
And sometimes that means you need the ice cream.
Be good to your body, but also to your mind and spirit. You’re the only one who can.
And always, always know you are loved
You are a gift to this world and a blessing to me.
And that will never change.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I feel for Martha because I am a server myself -- a take charge, what needs to be done, let’s do it, kind of girl. And I think we need people like Martha -- who are concerned with preparations, and who set the stage and empower others to just sit and listen.
But recently I looked at this story through a different lens, and it opened a whole new thought for me.
Gary Chapmen pioneered this fantastic theory of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. In this story, I honestly believe that Martha was functioning from her love language -- Acts of Service. (Granted, she got a little flustered, and so was not operating perfectly. But I can’t fault her just for being human.) I can relate to this love language. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I feel re-charged and re-invigorated when I get a chance to serve. It’s not a drain. Rather, it’s an act of love.
But here’s the revelation: love languages aren’t just about us. They’re also about the person we love. Maybe Jesus is cluing Martha into the fact that Mary recognized what He needed—Quality Time.
Jesus was fully God, right? The same God that chose to speak to Elijah in a gentle whisper and not the wind, earthquake, or fire? I remember hearing a sermon that pointed out that we would love to hear God’s voice in the earthquake. We want him to shout over the cacophony of our lives and get our attention. But that’s not how it works. We have to take time to “be still and know” – God wants to speak to us through quality time.
It’s an amazing thought that Jesus was simply craving some quality time with the people he loved. Mary recognized it, maybe because quality time was her primary love language. And I can certainly digest (and be challenged by) the thought of Jesus pointing out Mary’s better choice because she was recognizing that it wasn’t about her…it was about Him, and what He needed at that moment.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
But in my reading today for grad school, I came upon this passage by Helen Keller: “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mightly shoves of its heros, but the the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
So maybe right now I have to be happy with the tiny pushes: a stolen moment, a heartfelt hug, a brief conversation, a well-timed text message, whatever the diversion before I have to run back to the demands of my schedule. But maybe those tiny pushes, even though they’re small, can be significant. Maybe if I’m intentional with how I engage people, I can maintain my roots even if my branches need a little help.
Maybe, by being a good steward of the tiny moments I am given, I can be a world changer.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Then one man took the stand (I believe he was a father of one of the victims), and he said something different. He was a taller man, with a huge Father Christmas beard, and steady voice. Instead of yelling, he spoke slowly with his voice full of emotion and intention. He said something very close to: “You make living out my faith very hard. Because God just doesn’t tell us to forgive some, he tells us to forgive all. So I want to let you know, sir, that you are forgiven.”
When the camera cut back over to the defense stand, gone was the hard walled demeanor of the defendant. Instead, he was hiding his face and wiping tears away from his eyes. One man had the courage and grace, not to excuse the actions of this vicious man, but to extend a message of forgiveness in spite of it. The father still carried a burden of grief, but you could tell that he was not bound by it. His forgiveness had given him freedom, and it was overwhelmingly apparent that the same forgiveness stirred something very deep in the heart of the Green River Killer.
The moment didn’t last very long. The next person who took the stand yelled and railed and name called….and the defendant was once again a picture of cool calculation and indifference.
But for a moment I saw the power that genuine unsolicited forgiveness can have on the hardest heart.
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psa 32:1)
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Much bru-ha-ha has been made about Michael Phelps…and rightly so. I can’t help but be proud of a local Baltimore boy setting a goal and then making it happen. It’s awesome to watch him swim. If he were a man of faith like Eric Liddell, I could hear him saying, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I swim, I feel his pleasure.”
But for me, the biggest Olympic moment wasn’t brought to me by Michael. It was brought to me by the anchor leg of the men’s 4-by-100 relay that was swum by Jason Lezak.
Jason started his leg with lots of ground to make up. The man he was tasked to catch is the world record holder at that distance…and in all honesty, it didn’t look like Jason was going to be able to make up the gap. A lot was riding on this race…including potential heartbreak for Michael Phelps, and American pride after some smack talk by the French team. But after the turn, it was like something broke loose, and Jason started gaining. He said later in an interview that he thought to himself, “This is ridiculous. This is the Olympics. I can do this.” And he reached down somewhere and found the speed to swim the fastest 100-split of relay history at 46.06 seconds.
Because of Jason Lezak, the USA won the relay, kept Michael’s dream of eight gold medals alive, and demolished the old world record. But what makes the moment stand out to me (besides the incredible impossibility of it all) was Jason’s humility. He knew that the spotlight would shift right back to Michael and his quest for gold, and he was ok with that. Jason was quoted later saying, “I'm part of a team, and today was no different. I got with the guys and said, ‘We're not a 4-by-100 team. We're all one.’”
Now granted, I have a soft spot for team sports, and for side-kicks…but let’s face it: That amazing anchor leg, winning by a touch after making up a seemingly impossible margin…
That’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
And in God’s wonderful sense of humor/timing, I have been hit with one of the most stressful work weeks of my time at CSC. Holding on the calm has been an exercise in self control and perspective…though not necessarily a bad one. And I truthfully don’t know if I have risen to the challenge or not. I certainly have been feeling like I dove (or was thrown) straight into the deep end. To those of you who know me better than others, you’ll know it’s been bad when I say that I have honestly been overwhelmed and stopped in my tracks.
Where am I going with this? Well, since my life is a musical, I’ve had the following stuck in my head for the better part of the last week:
Breathe on me breath of God. Love and life that makes me free. Breathe on me breath of God. Fan the flame within me. Teach my heart. Heal my soul. Speak the words that in Christ we know. Take me to your sanctuary. Breathe on me. (Probably because of the “sanctuary” part.)
Comfortable silence. Just breathing.
*ahem* Also the lyrics “If you’re going through hell, keep on moving. Don’t slow down. If you’re scared don’t show it. You might get out before the Devil even knows you’re there.”…but that has less to do with the rest of the ramble.*
I took a break from the stress and made time to go to 49 West with Christine to hear Kate sing some jazz music. It was delightfully reinvigorating to just sit and let the music swirl around me. I remember a Bible teacher somewhere in my education telling us that God has a funny way of redeeming the time when we carve time out of the craziness to be still and have quiet time with him. Now granted, my “quiet” time was full of sound, and I was around lots of people, but it in a bizarre way it was just me and Him in that coffee house that night.
The interesting thing about silence is that it can unearth as many questions as it answers. Between time at the beach and sitting in the coffee house, I can honestly say that I have been able to settle some things that have been bouncing crazily around in my head and at the same time discover things about myself that I didn’t know were there. But regardless of the answers or the questions, I have a renewed sense of camaraderie with my traveling buddy; and while I may not be entirely sure where the road is going, I’m ok with walking arm in arm with Him and enjoying the journey…regardless of how crazy the traffic may be at this particular moment.
After all, the trick to keeping one’s head above water is keeping one’s focus in the right place…right?
So here’s to finding a wee bit of silence, even in the deep end of the pool.
Monday, August 4, 2008
And from the depths of me I answer
The depth of stories held in stone
Built by the men of old
Behind the cracked and ivy’d walls
Their narrative unfolds
Beyond the marble arches
Among the engraved halls
Their grandeur orders silence
I am humbled by depth’s call
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
Through the frailty of a flower
The strength of mountain peaks
The mystery of galaxies
The voice of nature speaks
Mighty, crashing ocean waves
Graceful rainbow skies
Reflections of a designer
Right here before my eyes
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
Songs left behind by artisans
Who penned their angst and joy
These architects gave works of sound
That prompt me to add my voice
The dancing notes that capture life
Without having to use words
Within dissonance and harmony
The inscrutable occurs
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
A symphony of stories
Seen through other people’s eyes
I have traveled far and journeyed wide
By sharing in their lives
Who knows what treasures lay beneath
The walls you hide behind
Betrayed by way of kindred hearts
Our deepness intertwines
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
The art found in a smile
The danger of a glance
In the beauty of relationship
I revel in depth’s dance
The disarming power of a hug
The healing of a laugh
I look behind your eyes
Where deep speaks on your behalf
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
While I have not traveled far
Bestow on me your grace
My quest is onward toward depth’s call
I’m devoted to this race
Don’t define me by the place I stand
Or what I’ve done so far
Define me by my hopes and dreams
The ambitions in my heart
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
The alluring beauty of the deep
Is there is always more detail
Mysteries long to be discovered
Waiting just beyond the veil
Depth is a journey and a goal
I will linger where depth leads
Help me look beyond the surface
And answer from the deepest part of me
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
Let my answer to the deep
Be causing change in those I reach
Leaving legacy, not memories
Calling you to deep with me
You have so much potential
If you could only see in part
Let me challenge you to grow
Awaken dreams within your heart
I cry out to the deep in you
And beckon it to answer
A walking, breathing legacy
Not defined by works and walls
Lifting you up pushes me to deep
And I triumph in depth’s call
So this would be my victory
Calling others to the deep
Finding marvelous in everyday
And it remains for me…
Deep cries out to deep
And from the depths of me I answer
~ 2007 ~
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
During the early church explosion in the book of Acts, the believers are described as being “in one accord” (Acts 2:1). Pastors will joke and clarify that the passage means that the believers were unified in spirit and purpose, not that they were all crammed into a single Honda Accord. However, the analogy of a group of people in a car is a good one when talking about organizational goals and effectiveness.
In addition to people, the basic components of a good road trip are: a working vehicle (structure), gas (propellant), a destination (goal), a map (plan), and a radio (culture). The vehicle should be large enough to fit all the passengers going on the trip. It also be functional and should work well enough to make it successfully to the destination. In the same way, organizational structure needs to be able to support the number of people and their needs. It should also be functional and “strong” enough to support an organization as it produces its outcomes—whether those outcomes are products or services. The gas propelling an organization forward is the motivation of its people. “Leaders get the best from others not by building fires under people but by building the fire within them.” What makes people want to participate? It is an understanding of “why” their part is important and “how” what they do makes a difference both in their organization and in their community. It also does no good to have a working car and a full tank of gas if there is no destination to go to. Similarly, organizations are useless without a goal and a plan (map) to get there. With a map, it is possible to detect if the car is headed in the right direction and whether or not the group is “making good time.”
But what makes road trips fun (and interesting) is the radio. What kind of music to the passengers prefer? Do they channel surf? Do they play a CD? Which one? Do they listen to music or to an audio book? Are they more likely to tune into a rock station or into National Public Radio? No two people are the same. They come from different backgrounds. They have different life experiences. They have wildly diverse personalities. They also come from completely different cultures. Nothing brings out the different “cultures” in the car better than the radio. And even if every other component of a road trip is in perfect harmony and working order, a fight over the radio (a culture clash) can change everything. It can affect morale and motivation. Passengers may want to bail on the trip and go back home. A fight can cause the navigator to miss a turn and in turn cause the car to be off course. In the same way, a culture clash can cause unnecessary organizational tension and cause things to go off course.
In the book of Acts, road trips took the form of missionary journeys. For a long time, Paul traveled with Barnabas and Mark (Acts 12:24). For some reason Mark did not travel with the other two on the missionary trip to Pamphylia. When they asked him to rejoin their traveling team, scripture states, “There occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:39). All the men shared a passion for the gospel—they had the same goals and the same vision. There was no radio to fight over, but there was some personality or style conflict that caused the ancient “road trippers” to part ways.
The problem does not lie in one particular culture being better or worse than the other. Rather, the problem lies in a lack of proper perspective and compromise. Good leadership is not about getting one’s own way; it is about helping one’s team to make a shared vision into reality. Organizations do not exist for people to have their own way. They exist to make a product or to provide a service in the best way possible.
Greatest Strength in Compromise
When two points of view differ, the one with more authority or power usually gets its way. Therefore, members of this culture have fulfilled expectations. And it follows that with every situation/decision that favors one way of thinking, members of another “culture” have unfulfilled expectations. These unfulfilled expectations lead to dissatisfaction, decreased participation and ultimately departure from the organization altogether.
As with any clash, the best solution is compromise. For example, the church is an institution that experiences a clash of cultures, the most obvious of which is a clash between older “traditional” style worshippers and younger “contemporary” worshippers. Both believe that their way is the best way, and very seldom is either side open to debate on the subject. The church’s solution to this clash is to separate the two groups and allow them to have separate worship services. However, this is not really a solution, it just places distance on the conflict. The best way to solve the clash is for both sides to become a little less self-focused and find ways to compromise. In the case of the church, each culture needs to remember that the goal of the church is to be culturally relevant. Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (I Cor 9:22). When members of each culture focus on the goal of the institution as whole—reaching unbelievers—instead of their goals as individual cultures—having church “my way”—the whole institution becomes more effective.
Coming back to the analogy of the road trip, it is possible to find peace in the car even after a fight over the radio. Everyone can agree to have a turn controlling the radio. And if there is a common crisis (e.g. bad traffic, extreme weather), the entire group can agree to put aside individual preferences and listen to a local news station. From the earlier scripture example, Mark and Paul reconciled and forgave each other after their disagreement (Col 4:10). While scripture does not mention them traveling together again, Mark is referred to with fondness several times in Paul’s letters. This same Paul admonished the church to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:3, 15-16). Each organizational member—regardless of their cultural background—has something to contribute to the organization as a whole.
At the end of the day, leaders must help their organizations to win (to be effective). Effective leadership is the product of good relationships, and so is an effective organization. If each member of the organization can be a little more selfless and focus on creating the best products and services possible rather than always doing things their own way, the quality of relationships and overall effectiveness of the organization will be improved. The sky is the limit.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Flowers are pretty amazing little things. They can grow almost anywhere.
Surrounded by rocks
Out of stagnant muck
On a volcano
In the desert
In a garden
It really doesn’t matter to them. They take nutrients from wherever they are, and bloom. What I love about them is that smell so good. It’s the first thing you do when you see a flower right? See what it smells like?
Here’s my deep thought for the day: Flowers change the atmosphere that surrounds them just by being what they were created to be.
I want to do that. To take something from whatever place I happen to be planted in, and change the atmosphere. Whether things are a little rocky, a little heated, or a little crappy…whether things seem stagnant, or dry, or perfect… to take it, work with it, and bloom where I’m planted…and make the world smell a bit better in the process.
I think that idea will make a great sonnet one day.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
* Eating salad at Cheesecake Factory
* Workplace art
* Slavonic Dance #8
* Dancing to ring tones
* An ending jam at a contra dance
* Late night phone calls
* Tin Hat moments
* The “just finished a book” feeling
* Goat cheese on home-grown sliced tomatoes
* Driving past the NRA and breaking out into Eddie Izzard improv
* Hugs that touch the heart
* Gummy bear butts
* Waking up before the alarm
* Strawberry Pretzel Salad
* Being an undercover metal head who freaks out about finding DreamTheater on sale
* Having a dog who believes in naps as much as you do
* Chain-mail earrings
* Finding what you were looking for in your purse without having to empty the entire thing
* Cooperative hair
* The word "skadoosh"
* Looking forward with pleasure, and backward without remorse.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
But then I grew up a little and someone actually explained that a truer meaning of “intercession” is to “ask on someone’s behalf” or “mediate.” Hmmm….well, that makes a bit more sense and opens up a world of other activity options than trying to keep up with a laundry list. I remember the first time I experienced intercessory worship. Whoa…talk about a life changing night. We praised and worshipped on behalf of the people in our lives who didn’t have a personal relationship with God or who were in a place in their life when they couldn’t praise. I don’t know that I can fully articulate in words what transpired for us that night…but it will stay with me for the rest of my life…
Back to the ramble: I got a text message today telling me about a long-time friend who is back in a bad place in their life and who is contemplating suicide. And it made me think about intercession. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transfer some of our peace and joy to people who needed it? I’ve been told before that I have the curse of the silver lining. Maybe that’s true. But I wish I could share it.
But have you ever talked to someone who is truly depressed…or angry…or hurt….or at a loss? Words stink. And they don’t want to hear about changing perspective or trying to find any hint of lining, silver or otherwise. It's hard enough to find the right words just to be supportive. (And we all know that sometimes just being there is the best thing to do...no words at all.)
I want to believe that I can intercede for them. That somehow I can stand in the gap and pray for things they may not be able to pray for themselves. Part of me always wonders at the effectiveness of prayers like that. And I suppose that’s where faith takes over. But just the same, I wish there was an easy way to take the excess from my life and give it to my loved ones who need it.
Monday, July 21, 2008
God promised Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you” (Gen 12:2). Abraham was like us and had trouble being patient, and he tried to make that promise come about his own way. (*cough* Hagar and Ishmael *cough*). But God didn’t change his mind or give up on Abraham. He said: “I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers” (Gen 17:2). It was after this that Sarah became pregnant way past her child-bearing years and gave birth to Isaac. And here on the mountaintop Abraham is standing at another crossroads. He’s staring at a legitimate miracle baby and he’s got his arm raised ready to sacrifice his miracle on the altar. His faith wasn’t an intangible thing. It was seen by his raised arm. And it’s in that moment, when Abraham is certainly in a place of great confusion, that he shows astonishing commitment. It’s then that the angel of the Lord stays Abraham’s hand and the ram is found in a nearby thicket. After all that, I wondered….do I have commitment like that?
A split second later, I thought about one of the literary characters I adore for his steadfastness and commitment. His name is Joscelin and one of his trademark statements is: “Every day I stand at the crossroads and choose.”
After those quick -- though very full -- seconds, I wanted to take a line from another man who showed incredible faith: “Lord, I believe (I’m committed) help my unbelief” (help me stand through moments when I waver).
I hope that every day I too can stand at the crossroads and choose.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Usually you’ll hear a nice motivating speech about being flexible. The only problem with this analogy is that no matter how flexible something is, it will always reach a breaking point. Being fluid is a little different. It’s about going with the flow. When I was first introduced to this mindset I was told to picture a river. No matter what gets thrown in a river’s path, it will find a way around it. It finds the path of least resistance and goes with the flow. Being fluid is also about adapting. Liquid has this amazing ability to immediately conform to and fill the container in which it is placed. That’s more than just being flexible!
If I was in super snarky mode, I’d point out that even if something is flexible, it will ultimately return to its starting position. In contrast, being fluid implies moving forward…constant change…continuous improvement. And a river is a change agent and great source of power in its own right.
Ready for the geeky side track? Brace yourself and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Eru (“The One”) or Iluvatar (“Father of All”) created Middle Earth—the world of the Lord of the Rings saga. The cool thing is that he created through music. His song brought things into being. The first beings he created (the rough equivalent to angels) were called Ainur and were invited to join in the music and help Eru with the whole creation process. Of course one of them (Melkor) was a nasty fellow, and kept adding dissonant notes into the otherwise lovely chords. But instead of marring or de-railing the song, Eru kept finding ways to take the dissonance and turn it into something harmonious. This of course frustrated Melkor, but it takes me back to the idea of being adaptive…being fluid…and not letting one “wrong” note ruin something beautiful. In fact, I find that some of the most beautiful moments in music are resolved out of some kind of dissonance.
Anyway, the next time you feel like you’re bending under pressure, that your camel can’t take any more straws, or you experience the wonderful surprise of an unexpected obstacle or addition into your regularly scheduled program.... change your mental picture.
Don’t be flexible. Be fluid.
You might just end up with something beautiful.
Monday, July 7, 2008
But the NPR guy didn’t stop there. The second part of the sentence: “Unwilling to dialogue with different points of view.” And I thought to myself. ‘That breaks my heart.’ Because isn’t dialogue the whole point? If I really believe in the “hope that lies within me” how am I supposed to spread it about if I don’t engage other people in some sort of conversation?
No one has it perfect, and no one has all the answers. We’ve all got learning and growing to do. I wonder how much more we would learn about life, the universe, and everything if we took the time to listen to another point of view. Just because it doesn’t look just like our own doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some truth in it. But how are we ever going to find common ground if we don’t even look at the terrain?
Part of following in the footsteps of Christ is being a witness. A witness is a person who was there…who has first hand knowledge. In a courtroom they sit there and answer questions they are asked by both the prosecution and the defense. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived a life that caused people to ask questions? It would be a great way to start a dialogue…
“I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.” Isaiah 43:11-12
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I am not going to try and figure out why things like that happen, but I have been pondering the question: “Where is God in all of this?”
There’s a song on the radio by Brooks and Dunn. The chorus goes: “I know in the big picture I'm just a speck of sand and God's got better things to do than look out for one man. I know he's heard my prayers cause he hears everything, he just ain't answered back or he'd bring you back to me. God must be busy.”
I think God is busy, but it’s not because he’s off somewhere else. I think he’s constantly at work through the relationships that we have with each other. I mean, God only cares about three things right? (Thank you PB.) I think he’s in the embrace between two people. He’s in the phone calls that alert an entire network of people in just a few hours. He’s in the loving, angry, raw, honest letter written from a mother to her son that is read at his funeral. He’s in the simple fact that people who live busy separate lives will band together when something happens. If you want to find God, just look for his body.
“In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5)
This is true outside of tragic events as well. You know that feeling you get telling you to call that person…to buy that gift…to make time for that dinner…to help your friend fix that broken thing…or even to confront an issue that needs attention? … I think that’s part of God keeping busy.
Not that he needs us to do his job. God can certainly show his presence in other ways. But I can certainly attest to feeling God’s presence through the support of other people when I need them most. And I know that as I’m grieving with my friends this week, God is grieving too, and is giving me a chance to be his hands extended in their lives.
P.S. - On a completely different note….death is part of what makes life so precious and valuable. So embrace it. Love people while you can. And live the depth of your life as well as the breadth of it.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
But sometimes, I think I’m the star of my own life movie for another reason. Sometimes I feel like just kind of watching things play out in the screening room behind my eyes. And you know those moments when you watch a movie and you just want to yell at the characters for the decisions they’re making? Yeah, totally have those…but with myself. Sometimes I think my personality, or just the things I let gain momentum run away with me, and I want to fuss at this character and go “What are you doing?”
I hope that just like the movies, this character I’m watching can figure out a way to temper her flaws, make good choices, and earn her triumphant happy music at the end.
(On a silly note, if my life was a movie, it would definitely be a musical. And it would have at least one corny montage.)
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Dancing (2007) ~ Regina
My hair swirls in time with the music
As I spin free, yet secure within your frame
For a brief moment I am not alone in my adventure
We are on this journey together
Moving with the ebb and flow of the song
Following your lead as we traverse the floor
We are the center of attention
Yet all else fades from view
And we are the only ones in the room
Right now, I’m not clumsy or confused
I am sure in your arms, graceful in your lead
And confident in your path
Embracing and embodying the joy of the music
We are the song
The voices of brass and percussion
Come to a gallant conclusion…and fade to silence…
Time stands still and for this brief eternity I am content
But then the moment ends
Our paths separate
And I am left to walk alone again
There are lots of times when my relationship with God feels just like that. However, the more that I walk with him and learn more about him…the more our dance feels like a lindy hop. There’s structure, but we’re certainly not bound by it. I never know what to expect next. I have to constantly keep in mind what I know about the “rules” but I have to be ready at any moment for a crazy move or mischievous moment. I am constantly learning that for as much as God is regal and holy…he’s also joyful and playful. But either way, the heart of the poem is true: “worship” or “life” or whatever label you want to call it, is about embracing the moment and just being the song.
The best part? The more often you dance with someone, the more familiar you become with who they are and their dance language…and the more fun you can have together. It’s a beautiful thing to watch a well-established partnership out on the floor just doing their thing.
Dancing truly is a dialogue between two partners. It takes as much strength to lead as it does to follow, because the leader can propose a move, but the follower has the choice of where or not to come along for the ride (Thank you Antonio Banderas).
So perhaps it follows that the strength of my faith can be seen in how I trust and follow the lead I am given. Can I embrace it…even if it’s something I don’t expect, or something I’ve never seen? How well do I know my partner? How much do I trust him?
How much fun can I have with him figuring it out?
Monday, June 23, 2008
After imposing on the gracious patience of several friends, I decided that the time had come for two things: 1) I am going to try to be a contributing writer to a couple post-modern magazines, and 2) I am going to spare my friend's ears and mailboxes and vent my thoughts in a blog.
And as usual, I think God has a sense of humor. I have been reaching a boiling point lately. So much so that I wrote the following during a BSO concert:
They burst forth at random moments
And splatter on deaf ears
I am feeding a giant lake
Already dark and deep
Does God's spirit hover over these waters?
Reaching out only to grasp air
Digging deep only to find more mystery
I am frustrated with this cocophany
I fear the dam I am already building
Attempting to keep the chaos in check
Sparing my unsuspecting victims
I feel like a cracked pot
Or maybe a fractured dam
The secret is to fracture with purpose
Give a dam a vent and it has power
Enough to sustain a community
Not just to hold back, but to create
One doesn't have to fully grasp a mystery
For it to be used for good.
The very next day I "randomly" visited Faith Community Church. I walked in and felt at home during worship for the first time in a while. They were playing the song "From the Inside Out"...which I deeply connect with. Then the guest pastor got up and talked about the role of an Artist as a Missionary in our culture. My ears immediately perked up. Some highlights from his talk: Jesus could have totally thrown down theology like no other (being God and all), but instead he chose to speak through stories. And often his stories didn't end in nice little bows. He left people with a sense of "huh?" that caused them ask questions. He said something else that stuck out too: Did you know that the #1 export in our country is our culture? There's an idea to mull over for a little while. Anyway, I'm rambling.
He was from a group called "Creative Paradox." And I had a nice chat with both him, and a member of the worship team after the service. I profoundly connected with the things they had to say, the values that they uphold, and the dreams they envision coming true. Between trying to polish and articulate some of my crazy thoughts, I think networking with these people may be the outlet I've been looking for. So hooray for God's sense of humor...and his timing as well.