29 August 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ Reach ~

"When a ball dreams, it dreams it’s a Frisbee."
~ Stancil Johnson ~ 


I love to play catch... with footballs and Frisbees. Nothing feels more like fall than tossing a football between friends once the weather is cool enough to demand sporting a sweatshirt. And nothing feels feels more like summer than chasing a Frisbee barefoot across a dandelion inundated grassy field in some random park... 

Likewise, throwing and catching footballs and Frisbees are two completely different animals.

Footballs are pretty predictable and precise - and that's good, because you need that in those "fallish" seasons of life.

Frisbees, on the other hand, are anything but. Unlike a ball, they are characteristically capricious. They glide and float, arc and curve; they fly fast, straight and hard or seem to soar, swoop and bounce along with the wind. If you know what you are doing, a flung Frisbee can impersonate a boomerang.

I love watching kids, little ones especially, learn how to throw and catch a Frisbee. But the catching is conspicuously challenging. One moment, little one is so sure and reaches high in an attempt to clap that disk between their hands. Then the Frisbee sways to the right or left... or it drops suddenly... or it bounces just out of reach. Off goes the child, chasing after escaped plastic, often giggling from surprise, excitement and determination to capture that thing the next time.

They'll do this for hours.

So how does it happen that once I grew up, and God launched a few "Frisbees" my direction... yet when I reached, His carrying wind lifted it up and out of my reach... even when I jumped? Then, instead of seeing fun, adventure and another opportunity... instead of giggling, I stomp away, instead of taking off to chase it down?

Sometimes all it takes is a few more steps, before that Frisbee floats right back within grasp.

Linking up with Kate. Won't you join us? What stories come to mind when you see the word, "reach?"

28 August 2014

Are you a "nogwogist?" Would you want to be?

Most who know me know that I'm a special education teacher. I've written several transition plans to help young people move successfully from secondary school into a post secondary school setting, and I care about equal access - not just to education but to life opportunities - for individuals with disabilities.

When I saw this book, I knew I HAD to read it...

The subtitle on the cover of No Greatness without Goodness, by Randy Lewis, pretty well sums it up. The book is all about "how a father's love changed a company and sparked a movement." When Randy and his wife's son Austin received a diagnosis of autism, life changed... drastically. As Randy started considering the future... the next moments... next weeks... next years... next days of life for his son, he decided to do something that would benefit not just his son, but many - and perhaps by example, all - individuals with disabilities. He wanted his son to someday have the security of a job. As the senior executive in Walgreen's, responsible for the functioning of the distribution centers of one of the largest and fastest growing pharmaceutical retailers in the United States, Randy set as his goal the creation of an inclusive workplace where those with disabilities would be employed under the same conditions, held to the same standards, for equal pay and with equal benefits - as their typically abled counterparts.

Not only is the story an authentic glimpse into life with a child like Austin, it is an encouraging and challenging one. The chapters are short and each one has a key point Mr. Lewis wants to make. He succeeds. As I finished the book, I realized that I'd dog-eared at least 20 plus pages where there were quotes, short stories, examples... something I wanted to go back and reread, write down, think on further, etc.

Some of those things I dog-eared?
  • "Look deeper, even into troubles. There is gold to be found everywhere." (p. 27)
  • "Principles are only the starting point. If you want to make a difference in the world, you need to act on what you believe." (p. 50)
  • "The willingness to fail is the first step toward success." (p. 61) 
  • "Compassion stirs us to remove the pain of the world. Justice stirs us to remove its cause." (p. 69)
  • "It's time to ask yourself, 'If we can't, who can? Who else will make greatness and goodness rhyme?'" (p. 81) 
  • "When people say 'best practice,' think best practice so far. If no one has ever done something before, that's an opportunity, not a stop sign." (p. 87)
  • "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood." - a quote of the 19th century architect Daniel Burnham (p. 97)
  • Competence is like money that keeps earning interest. One day you can cash it in for an even bigger prize." (p. 103) 
  • "We were no longer strangers doing a job; we were men and women coming together to do something important... Use every opportunity to help others see meaning in their work. They will be transformed from bricklayers to cathedral builders." (pp. 104,105)
  • "Leaders must work consciously, constantly, and conspicuously to drive out fear... It stands in the way of greatness." (pp. 112,113)
  • "We can delegate authority but not responsibility." (p. 124)
  • "...many of the scenarios we imagine with dread never happen.... There were problems that we didn't anticipate, of course.... Uncertainty makes people jittery. The best question someone brought up at one of our planning meetings was 'What about the problems we haven't thought of?' I assured everyone that unforeseen problems weren't just a possibility but a certainty and that we would address those occasions as they came up.... We were doing something new, with few precedents to guide us. This meant that we would have to deal with uncertainty and depend on discovery along the way. It was more like blazing a new trail than like making the morning commute. Innovation is a journey, not a commute." (pp 126,127)
  • "Doubt and inertia are the status quo's best friends. They always say no to change, risk and innovation." p. 132
  • "Don't let the prospect of difficulty stand in the way of the grand possibility." (p. 135)
  • "Forget about losing face. Worry about what will happen if you don't have the courage to keep going." (p. 141)
  • "[Call] disabilities 'positive distractions' ...[Give] people the freedom to be themselves, with no need to hid their disabilities." (p. 181,182)
  • "The workers at Habitat were men and women with obvious challenges. There was no hiding here. And there was no shame... here a disability was just a distraction from the typical, not a flaw in the person's humanity. Brokenness was not a source of shame, nor were gifts a source of pride. There was no 'worthiness' test." (p. 183)
  • "There is no 'them'; there is just 'us.' Making that idea a reality changes the workplace. And the world." (p. 184) 
  • "Set a clear and elevating goal that inspires and challenges. Focus on what can be, not on what can go wrong." (p. 189) 
  • "It takes longer than you think to overcome history. Cultural change does not happen overnight; it requires years of reinforcement and constant attention. As every athlete knows, it takes more effort to stay in shape than it does to get in shape." (p. 193)
  • "Greatness is proprietary, but goodness can be shared without being diminished." (p. 197) 
  • "Greatness requires continuous energy to maintain and stands at a single point in time. Acts of goodness, in contrast, have a life and energy of their own and touch others in unpredictable ways." (p. 206)
  • "As exhilarating as your own success is, it doesn't compare with the joy of helping others succeed. Everybody wins."
There are even more quote worthy phrases and sentences all throughout the book. This book is so much more than the dry story of the steps Walgreen's took to create an inclusive work environment. It is a gentle but exciting exhortation in the importance of seeing individual people, not objectives... a charismatic challenge to begin making changes, even when uncomfortable, for the benefit of those who've not received benefit before... a resounding reminder that there really is no greatness without goodness.

Are you a nogwogist?

A nogwogist is someone who believes that:
  1. no achievement can be considered great if detrimental to the common good
  2. a leadership philosophy which seeks to maximize the benefit of all who are impacted by its decisions; ethical leadership; selfless leadership: it is about us not me.
  3. a belief that it is possible and desirable seek to reconcile the disparate facets of our lives and embrace the best of all: e.g., achieve excellence, do rewarding work, make a difference and leave the world a better place; to be one person at home and the same person at work; combine good business and good citizenship; do well and do good.

Do you want to be? If so, how will you go about it?

photo credit: John C Abell via photopin cc

26 August 2014

Once upon a time there were two great big red wagon wheels...

Brendan (5 yrs) @ Green Gables Heritage Place, PEI, Canada- Summer, 2000.

Jonathan (9 years) @ Hartwick Pines, Michigan, USA - Summer, 2014

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

You'd never guess they are brothers, would you?

25 August 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ It's your call! ~

I've heard it said this is a true story. I've also heard that the Navy denies it. Scopes says it is one of many versions of a joke that has been circulating since the 1930s. 


It doesn't matter because it still makes a good point, one we'd all be wise to learn and heed,  
Americans: "Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision." 
Canadians: "Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision." 
Americans: "This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course." 
Canadians: "No, I say again, you divert YOUR course." 
Canadians: "This is a lighthouse. Your call."

That story is the first thing that comes to mind, however, each time I read through this passage of Scripture and think about the response of Pharisees.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?" 
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
Reading this account, I wonder what Jesus saw as He looked into the humble, trusting, believing man, committing and confiding his heart and then compared that with the stubborn arrogance, anger and malice of the Pharisees. 

Jesus is a divider (remember John 9.16)... 

The One prophesied...
"He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare." (Isaiah 8.14)
The One announced...
“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel...so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (from Luke 2, Simeon's words)
The Offending Cornerstone...
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and, "A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for. (1 Peter 2.7-8)
That wasn't why He came. Jesus came to be humbled, to walk on this earth as one of us, to die and pay the penalty of our sins, to rise from the dead so that we too could live. Those who rejected Him and what He came to do invited judgment through a self-condemnation.

The same is true today. Those who reject Him and what He came to do invite judgment and thus condemn themselves.

We can see that self-condemnation in the Pharisees. They were convinced they didn't need anything because they could see. They thought they knew God. They were absolutely sure that they had a handle on truth. They decided that Jesus could not come from God. And if He didn't come from God and had such power, He had to be demonic. They were never going to admit that they couldn't see accurately or ably.

They couldn't have been more wrong. 

Their scornful spiritual sightlessness prevented them from actually encountering Jesus even as walked among them, stood and spoke with them.

MacArthur points out several terrifying details about those who are spiritually blind:
  1. They will receive judgment and they condemn themselves.
  2. They refuse to admit blindness.
  3. They reject the offer of light and sight when it is given.
  4. Their insistence on 20/20 spiritual vision only demonstrates the absolute spiritual blindness.
  5. They cannot see the depth and pervasiveness of their own sinfulness.
  6. Often, while the spiritually blind are blind to their own depravity, they are not blind to Truth.
  7. Spiritual blindness results in doom because their sin remains

The beggar seeking charity, the lowly outcast, the searcher longing for sight - I want to be that person.  I think one of the most sobering things in that list above is the fact that while the spiritually blind do not take note of their own need and their own sinfulness, they are not blind to Truth. They recognize it in an abstract way. They can say the right words... even look like they are living a right life... and yet they are blind to the most important fact of all:

We all need a Savior...

How many will miss encountering Him... because of arrogance and willful blindness?

John MacArthur's sermon link

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4762 - 4790)

a baby bobcat! seriously!!!

learning all about using a Chromebook

Rebekah getting to take a CPR/First Aid course

Listening to her make a salad to share with all the ladies

humongous zucchinis out of the garden

a new recipe called flourless zucchini pie and it was not only delightful, it was so easy

lots of hours for Bren at work this week

filming Anna doing her #icebucketchallenge

being so surprised that she was the first one to be called out and that she had the gumption to do it

watching Victoria research how to make her own homemade butter

teenage girls on canoe trips

a gift card to Bob Evans finally used

Jonathan's frenectomy is behind us

funny stories shared by a babysitting daughter

fourth and fifth grade boys hanging out together and the funny things they sometimes do and say

back rubs from my girlies

finally getting my physical behind me (now to schedule all the labs...)

liking the doctor - well, actually nurse practitioner - I went to see

Facebook chat with a new friend from Niger

little girls giggling in the back room

first volleyball tournament of the season

realizing the October vacation I've been looking forward to for several months now is really only weeks away

a friend in the hospital with pneumonia who seems to have turned a corner

seeing the missionaries that who had Ebola have been released and are treasuring time with their families

the miracle of health and healing

looking forward to seeing Nana next weekend

after 8 months, my wedding ring is finally repaired and back on my finger

car rides and friends

surprising our sis/sis-in-law with a birthday cake on her special day

Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

23 August 2014

Longevity in Ministry - If you don't want to shorten your ministry... obediently abide.

Four weeks ago, I started a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement to you, based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending churchThe first post focused on that oxymoron that the God is sovereign, but that men are also responsible. Imagining those two truths as a horseshoe where, as mere humans, only see and comprehend the ends. God, on the other hand, looks at the whole and thus can see how two things that appear contradictory do actually work together. The second post considered one of the ends of that horseshoe: trusting God, not only because He is sovereign - but also because He is sufficient in that sovereignty.

Today's post will look at the other end of that horseshoe: Man's responsibility, which, to put it both succinctly and bluntly, is obedience. 

I have to be honest - this was the part of the sermon which made me most uncomfortable. I'm quite comfortable with working, doing my best, keeping busy and thinking that the success of any project with which I'm involved depends mostly on me - thus ignoring the sovereignty of God. I'm not so comfortable with the idea that I can be working like mad, doing what I think is best, exhausting myself for good causes... only to finally figure out that it has all been well-intentioned, but good intentions, careful planning and hard work have nothing to do with obedience or disobedience.

I think that is a position where exhausted, burning-out missionaries often find themselves.

I was driving to a doctor's appointment the other day. I'd just navigated a four-way stop and was back up to the 35 mph speed limit... cruising along, my thoughts flying along a lot faster than the car was moving. All of a sudden, the car behind me darted around then lurched back in front of me, cutting me off....

Please join me over @ Missionary Mom's Companion, where I'm posting today, part three in a series on longevity in ministry.

22 August 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ I almost changed my mind...


I'm so glad I didn't.

We were expecting a baby. The ultrasound technician had let us know that our little one was a she. We'd already been talking names, but the conversation both focused and intensified once we only had to worry about girl names.

Then came one of those light bulb moments. We could name her Elsie Mae... after her paternal great grandmother Elsie... and her maternal great grandmother Vera Mae. It was unique enough to please me, had significance and was a way to honor our grandmothers, was "normal" enough that it didn't scare my hubby... and it was just cute and fun to say.

We impetuously shared our plan with a few.

"Oh don't do that... Moooooooo... Don't you remember Elsie, the Borden cow?" was the first response we received. I think it was teasing... but still?

People pleaser that I am, my initial instinct was to scrap the name. I seriously started pouring through a well ripped and dog-eared baby name book, considering other names. But nothing else resonated with both of us, and impetuous girl that she is, she arrived a few weeks sooner than expected.

Elsie Mae Brianne she became.

Today, it is hard to imagine a more perfect name, especially now that we've had the joy of knowing this girl for almost 8 years. 

She LOVES milk - most mornings I feel a milk mustache after one of her several kisses. She found it hilarious when we were traveling down south earlier this year and our van passed a truck sporting Elsie on the side. She saw her name immediately, and continued giggling about it on and off for the next week! A Scottish diminutive, her name means "my God is bountiful... my God is a god of plenty." Her energetic and optimistic outlook on life reminds me of that truth almost every single day. Usually smiling, cheerful, singing, skipping, thoughtful, kind (even to her siblings, most of the time) and wanting to be helpful even when her impetuousness has created catastrophe, she's sweet and charming. She loves people and she loves life. Almost every moment is an adventure in fun and her cup is never only half full... It cheerfully bubbles over! I'll never forget one morning a few years back as I kissed her forehead to wake her up after all the big siblings had left for school. She smiled sleepily and whispered, "I must be a princess because I got woken up by a kiss!" And THAT is pretty much the attitude with which she approaches every day.

Yes, there are times that change can be good, beautiful and needed - particularly as we respond to the concerns and needs of others. But there are also times when sticking with the original plan really is the right choice. 

It certainly was when it came to our wonderful girly!

Linking up with Kate for another 5 Minute Friday... and as you can tell,
this week's word was change.


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