He beamed as he told me about the toilets. It is not a subject I typically discuss with others, let alone an African man. Yet, there I was listening intently and beaming along with him, as proud as I’ve ever been.
The toilets were needed in Madutle, a rural village straddling the border of South Africa and Botswana. It would have been easy for us to instruct a professional builder to move into the village, build the toilet facilities in a week and be out of there. Instead, two pastors from the village church took up the challenge to get this building done. They became the foreman-builders and the villagers became their co-laborers. Together they built the much needed toilet facilities. A professional builder would have been embarrassed at how long it took for this small building to be erected, but with this project, time was not the point.
What was the point?
The biker dude scowled at me as I sat next to him. He seemed life-beaten and harsh. To be honest, I felt pretty intimidated by him. Yet, within ten minutes together, something triggered his gentle side. This trigger is available to all of us.
In his biker-dude outfit; leather jacket, tough-soled shoes and messy helmet-hair, he watched me play with my one-year-old grandson. I sat on the sofa keeping an eye on the baby as he practiced his newly found skill of walking – he would venture as far as his courage would take him then turn around and run back into my arms. All the while the biker-dude watched out of the corner of his eye. At one point he got up, fetched himself some coffee and went and stood a few feet away. My grandson followed and stared up at him as only young children can. Then, for no apparent reason, the little one cracked a huge smile. Biker-dude caved. “Darn cute kid,” he said, bent down and cooed, “Hello, buddy.”
There’s something about the tenderness of babies that we all understand and, no matter how tough we become, we intuitively respond with gentleness. We touch them softly, we speak in kind tones and we are protective toward them, eager to look out for their good. We see their immeasurable value and treat them carefully.
Why does this change?
When does this change? Why does it change?
Life is hard. I don’t think it was meant to be anything else. It is in the struggling that we find purpose. Answers to meaningful questions should not loll about at surface level but should be tucked away in obscure nooks, found only by careful thought, eager enquiry and plain old persistence. The search keeps us alive and vital and the answers, when found, are treasured and valued.
A little while ago, when I was feeling completely overwhelmed at work, I was challenged to discover six areas that are vital for me to accomplish in my leadership role and then to concentrate on only those. I wrote many items on my list only to be scratched off and replaced by others. It took a lot longer than I thought it would but in the end it was a fascinating and worthwhile exercise. It set me free from the myriad of burdens leaders sometimes find themselves carrying.
It got me thinking. What about my life outside of work? What are six areas in my personal life that, if I concentrated on only those for a set period, would change my world? It was a life altering exercise for me.
I have honed in on one that I would like to share with you. If adopted, I believe it could improve everything in your life.
The Christmas season is an emotional one. It is full of exciting and bright promises wrapped up in combinations of colorful magic. Yet, it also brings echoes of loneliness and pangs of nostalgia.
I experience a tumble of both. The child near the surface of me delights in the sparkles and embraces every reflected glow. But, the old soul in the deepest depths remembers … she remembers those long gone, those that are far away, those nearby but indifferent and then a moody melancholy mixes with the exuberant child producing an exhausting emotional season.
The Christmas season is over and the New Year is upon us. I realize I’m stating the obvious but sometimes the obvious stares us in the face and for reasons we don’t readily want to admit to, we avoid eye contact with it. I’ve chosen not to look away. I’m staring it right in the eye and I won’t be the first to blink.
So, today, I took down the Christmas tree.
As each ornament was carefully packed away and safely stored for next Christmas, I listened for the child and for the old soul and neither was present. The middle aged me was there, stoically embracing the reality that is was time. Time to move on.
Here are 3 reasons why taking down your Christmas tree early will help you focus, and focus is a good way to start the year:
It’s that time of year when many of us reflect on the year past and ponder on which path to take for the year to come. I’m one of those people that sets goals for myself. One of the most important practices when setting goals is the art of losing myself. I have found it to be pivotal for success.
When it comes to setting goals for the year to come I do not ask,
Rather, I ask:
It was my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone for almost two decades now. On soft, quiet days I can still hear her voice or feel her hand stroke my head or see her blue eyes twinkle in her smile. On those lovely days when I feel her with me, the world seems lighter – like it did when she was here. Now I know (then I did not) that my mother carried the heavy parts.
After I was married I would call my mother every Sunday afternoon on the phone. We would talk about our week. Mostly mine. (I was young and still selfish.) She would listen, laugh, sooth, offer advice – some I took, others I now wish I had. Always she would love me, always more than herself, in that honest and complete way that mothers do.
Life happens. My mother died too young. For her. For me.
Marriage is like a business and like any business the success thereof depends on the partners involved. When entering into a business partnership, smart people meticulously do their homework. They make sure that their business partner has qualities that will help them be successful. If we would quit looking for the nonsense-romance and be more business-like about marriage, we would create societies and cultures with more stable families.
“Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” Proverbs 24:3-5 (The Living Bible)
Here are some common sense qualities that we should seek in a business partner if we wish to be profitable. Each one is equally important if we want to plan wisely for the enterprise of marriage.
There is no shortage of books, blogs and sermons on relationships. As Gary Smalley says, “Life is relationships. The rest is just details.” Unless we become hermits, we have to relate to people. Like me, you probably have your good days and your bad days, and like me, you probably have certain buttons that, when pushed, set off an ugly cycle.
I have been attempting to figure out why I have certain buttons. I don’t like the way I respond when these are pushed and so I set about reading the above-mentioned books, blogs and sermons. I found a lot of good insight and thoughts but I was still not satisfied that my particular buttons were being addressed. I am a contemplative person by nature who finds comfort in prayerful thought. I also find much comfort in praying “The Lord’s prayer”. While praying through this prayer and giving myself to prayerful consideration of “my buttons”, here is what came to my heart:
It all comes down to pride. My buttons are pushed, my pride is hurt and I spring into action.
Here are three “repents” that will help us overcome destructive pride and build better relationships: