W.A.L. Weekly October 19, 2017

Co-working and co-living spaces are a new trend. As more people do not choose a traditional path for their life and work, new opportunities for working and living with others have been created. Check out Roam Coliving to learn more about how they are connecting people around the world. I know nothing about this company other than finding them on the internet and being fascinated by their concept. I think this could provide some creative ideas for people of faith looking to create community in different ways or for those of you who want to live out your calling in this world literally moving around the world.

Not so long ago, nobody met a partner online. Then, in the 1990s, came the first dating websites.

Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further. Today, more than one-third of marriages start online.

Clearly, these sites have had a huge impact on dating behavior. But now the first evidence is emerging that their effect is much more profound.

A surprisingly poetic description of social-anxiety disorder can be found in the DSM — that is, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, sometimes referred to as psychiatry’s “bible”: It’s an “illness of lost opportunities.” Much has been said about the trendiness of boasting online about your reclusive tendencies — about your relief over canceled plans, or your belief that “staying in is the new going out.” Everyone needs to retreat from the world from time to time, but for some, a tendency to avoid social situations can become debilitating.

Shortly before our wedding, someone gave me and my husband this advice: “Marriage is good. It’s hard—and sometimes you’ll want out, but it’s worth it.” I remember thinking that was an odd thing to say to a couple about to get married. It seemed like such a bleak view of marriage.

Since then, I’ve heard plenty of other people say similar things to engaged and newlywed couples. I’ve heard pastors say it during weddings. I’ve heard parents say it at receptions. I’ve heard couples say it within a year of their own weddings. I’ve seen marriage books, blog posts, magazine articles and anniversary posts on social media say it: Marriage is hard.

Introversion, thanks largely to Susan Cain’s 2012 best seller Quiet, is having something of a cultural moment. Once a mostly misunderstood personality trait — and often considered a behavioral defect when it was considered at all — it’s now the subject of countless other books and online listicles (and, more recently, parodies of listicles). And as more regular, non-scientist types started to talk about introversion, psychologist Jonathan Cheek began to notice something: The way many introverts defined the trait was different from the way he and most of his academic colleagues did.


“Paint Your Ox”*

“i notice everything i do not have

and decide it is beautiful”
– rupi kaur


The words of this poem have been haunting me all week. Their truth has pierced me as I’ve found myself, for no good reason, being extremely unkind to myself lately. I sat on a different bicycle in my cycle class this week that had a different view from what I normally see of myself. Instead of seeing the strong body that has lost 39.5 pounds since mid May, I saw all the parts of me that were moving around that I wanted to be gone!

Why is it that I do not attribute beauty to so many of my own qualities?

And this is not just a beauty problem. It runs pervasive in our culture. We are so used to seeing the world through our unique perspective, offering our gifts and strengths into the world, that we no longer see them as strengths. They seem common to us. The really good qualities, the strong qualities, the intelligent qualities are those possessed by others.

I work with people using personality assessments to write their resumes. Over and over again people spend more of their energy trying to hide what they see as negative. I’m not a detail oriented person and so that must be what they want and so I spend lots of energy proving that I am a detail oriented person. This only gets you a job that is not a good fit for you.

Just because you possess a trait, have a certain quality, possess a certain perspective does not immediately mean that it is common. We have to stop spending more time working to improve the things we do not see as valuable, the things we see as a deficit, and spend more time improving, growing and embracing what we do have to offer the world.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert tells the following story:

“I once encountered a man in India who owned nothing of value but an ox. The ox had two handsome horns. In order to celebrate his ox, the man had painted one of the horns hot pink and the other turquoise blue. He then glued little bells to the tips of each horn, so that when the ox shook its head, its flash pink and blue horns made a cheerful tinkling sound. 

This hardworking and financially stressed man had only one valuable possession, but he had embellished it to the max, using whatever materials he could get his hands on-a bit of house paint, a touch of glue, and some bells. As a result of his creativity, he now possessed the most interesting looking ox in town. For what? Just because. Because a decorated ox is better than a non-decorated ox, obviously!” (p. 157 *which is also where the title for this post was taken)

We all have an ox, we just have to figure out what it is and know how to paint it. We have to stop naming traits beautiful, intelligent, important just because we do not possess them.

  • Find someone who can speak honestly about your strengths. Take a personality assessment, ask for a job evaluation, etc. Name your ox.
  • Find out how to best paint it. Work with a coach to develop your strengths, to name and claim what it is you have to offer and what you value in the world. Seek out leadership development opportunities and experiences to develop your strengths. Clearly name what kind of work, what kind of opportunities, what kind of relationships are the best fit and work to make those the reality in your life.

Now, stop being so critical at the image in the mirror, in the negative comments of others and get busy painting that ox.

W.A.L. Weekly October 12, 2017

“There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self-help book every written: What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

What do you love even more than you love your own ego?

How fierce is your trust in that love?” – Elizabeth Gilbert,  Big Magic

  1. Up First
    I have come to rely on this quick news source almost every month. This podcast, produced by NPR, gives you the headlines from around the world in about fifteen minutes. Perfect dog walking time. I have found it to be global, not just focusing on the United States, and to include quick interviews with reporters from around the world who are experiencing things first hand.

2. The New Midlife Crisis

 The complaints of well-educated, middle- and upper-middle class women are easy to dismiss as temporary, or not really a crisis, or #FirstWorldProblems. America, in the grand scheme of things, is still a rich, relatively safe country. (Syrian refugees do not have the luxury of waking up in the middle of the night worried about credit card bills.) Although many women are trying to make it on minimum-wage, split-shift jobs (and arguably don’t have so much a midlife crisis as an ongoing crisis), women overall are closing the wage gap. Men do more at home. We deal with less sexism than our mothers and grandmothers, and have far more opportunities. Insert your Reason Why We Don’t Deserve to Feel Lousy here.

Fine. Let’s agree that this particular slice of Generation X women shouldn’t feel bad. And yet, many do: Nearly 60 percent of Gen Xers describe themselves as stressed out. A 2009 analysis of General Social Survey data showed that women’s happiness “declined both absolutely and relative to men” from the early ’70s to the mid-2000s. More than one in five women are on antidepressants. An awful lot of middle-aged women are furious and overwhelmed. What we don’t talk about enough is how the deck is stacked against them feeling any other way.

3. A Simple Way to Take Your Relationships Up a Notch

Five to one: According to one of the most prominent social scientists in the field of romantic relationships, John Gottman, that’s the ratio of positive to negative interactions in stable relationships. Couples were significantly less likely to get a divorce when they had about five positive interactions for every negative interaction they had.

How does that ratio compare with your own relationships, romantic and otherwise? More specifically, how often do you put conscious effort into fostering positive interactions? How often do you tell people when you’re enjoying something they’re doing, or when they’ve made you happy, or when you’re feeling appreciative of them? It’s easy to save up all your gratitude and positive feedback for their next birthday card or for Thanksgiving, but you have so many more opportunities than that to get closer to someone, and all it takes is sharing your positive feelings about them in real time.

4. Massive New Study Shows White Christians in Sharp Decline in the U.S.

In what’s being heralded as the “largest survey of American religious and denominational identity” ever conducted, PRRI found that historic shifts have taken place in the nation’s religious identity over the past few years, and suggests that the coming years are going to look very different for its religious landscape.

White Christians, who comprised 80 percent of the country just four decades ago, now make up just 43 percent of the U.S. In 2006, white Protestants accounted for nearly a full quarter of the American population. Today, they make up just 17 percent. Black protestants, in the meantime, make up abut 8 percent of the country, and have generally been holding at a much steadier rate than white Christians have.


What Is Most Important?

I have a chalkboard in the front hallway of my house and on it I write little sayings, inspirations, words, questions, mantras that I need to focus on and remember. Right now, it still has the words I wrote this summer as I began working to lose weight and eating healthier, “This is not apple fritter season.” On my birthday in June I discovered a local bakery that made gluten free doughnuts and apple fritter pastries. I haven’t had an apple fritter with their fried, crunchy edges in seven years since going gluten free and it was heaven. As I fought to make healthy decisions, I could almost taste the crunchy goodness and I had to fight myself from giving in to paying them a visit. I just said to myself one day, right out loud because you know I talk to myself at home, “This is not apple fritter season.” My health was the most important thing at that moment and I knew I had to be singularly focused on that as I began this journey. That was most important.

We make decisions everyday about what is most important whether we do so intentionally or not.

–  Is saving or enjoying a vacation most important?
– Is spending time with family and friends most important?
– Is exercise and eating healthy even when things get stressful most important?
– Is advancing my career or staying in the same city most important?

Daily Decide What Is Most Important

Each morning, or perhaps at the beginning of the week use the “What Is Most Important?” question to frame your day. Use it to guide your schedule making, guide your meal planning, guide your spending plan. When you make a conscious decision about what is most important it is easier to keep your priorities when life happens.

With each yes you make, there will have to be a no. With everything you choose, you have to let something go. These may be priorities, something on your to do list, even a value that you still honor but decide something else has greater value now. My sister sent me a meme once that said, “You can’t be who you are going to be and who you used to be at the same time.”

It may be that today being able to go with the flow, have enough energy to make it through the day, start new work, spend time with friends, etc is more important than making it to that exercise class, eating 1000 calories or going for a run.

It may be that today you look at your to do list and decide that something is going to have to take a back seat. One work project is just more important that another.

Whatever it is, once you have set your intention, you can do your best to build your life, day, schedule around it to make it happen.

Seasonally Decide What Is Most Important

When you spend energy to decide every day what is most important, you are able to occasionally take a thirty thousand foot view of your choices. Sometimes the decisions we make in the moment when we feel like we are just trying to dog paddle through life, are not the decisions we need to make for a sustaining future.

Things have gone unsaid, conflicts have been avoided because we decided it was most important to keep the peace for that day.

We have spent too much and realize that we have to save for the future.

We have closed others out in order to have control of our lives and realize in the bigger picture, we need relationships.

We have avoided making career changes, tough decisions about work or avoided more education because it seemed too complicated at the time.

When you’ve made a conscious decision about what is most important on a smaller size, you are able to make an intentional decision that best serves what is most important for your future. You can change course at any time because you are clear about the course you are on now.

Practical Steps

  1. Look at your next week, look at tomorrow and decide for yourself what is most important? What has to happen? What do you need to say no to? What will be your priority? What will it take to make that happen? Write it in your calendar, or your bathroom mirror, or on a post-it you can place somewhere as a reminder. Do everything in your power to honor your priorities.
  2. Ask yourself what is most important for the next month? What is most important for the next six months? The next year? Write it in your calendar, or your bathroom mirror, or on a post-it you can place somewhere as a reminder.
  3. Set a time on your calendar, write a reminder, to take a long view back at the end of the next month about what is most important at that point? How did you do with your priorities? Have your priorities been skewed in an unhealthy manner? Is there something you can do to create change at this moment? To change your direction? Are you honoring what you say is most important? As you look at your six months, one year and beyond goals, do they need to shift?


Here’s to knowing there will be seasons for apple fritters, but being clear about what is most important right now.


W.A.L. Weekly #4

This morning, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton, released a new song to raise support for Puerto Rico. As I listened to the song, “Almost Like Praying,” I couldn’t help but think of the different types of chants and musical prayers that are offered. I think this song does not have to be almost like praying, but it is praying when crying out to God.

This song can be purchased alone but also appears on a spotify playlist created by Miranda. He does this regularly, creates new versions of the old school “mix tapes” he used to make. Anyone can create a playlist and share for others to listen to and can be a great way of expanding your outreach, influence and ministry. You can create playlists for seasons of the year as Middle Collegiate Church in New York City has done for specials seasons like Advent and special days of worship during Holy Week. Playlists could be created to connect around particular issues going on in our world, giving voice to people who feel like they have no voice. Creating playlists can connect with younger people and the act of creating them could be an opportunity for someone more artistic to find a leadership role as they create playlists that speak to what is happening in our world. Music can give us the words that become our prayers. (This is our Number 1 resource for the week)

2. D.C. Church Changes Worship from Passive to Participatory

“‘Someone told me, ‘For every decision and every penny that’s ever been spent on this place, it was all leading up to that point where Melissa could put her head on your shoulder,’” Goff said.

“I needed that moment, too,” Goff added. “She didn’t know that, but I did.”

Such moments typify Sundays at Church of the Pilgrims, where vulnerability is a virtue and worship is an innovative and deeply collaborative experience between clergy and congregants. Liturgy means “work of the people,” and at Pilgrims, the people truly share in the work of worship. They help plan each liturgical season and share the pulpit nearly every week, offering personal stories of pain and healing, celebration and reflection, awakening and transformation.”

3. How Does Terrorism End?

The current spasm of international terrorism, an age-old tactic of warfare, is often traced to a bomb mailed from New York by the anti-Castro group El Poder Cubano, or Cuban Power, that exploded in a Havana post office, on January 9, 1968. Five people were seriously injured. Since then, almost four hundred thousand people have died in terrorist attacks worldwide, on airplanes and trains, in shopping malls, schools, embassies, cinemas, apartment blocks, government offices, and businesses, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The deadliest remains the 9/11 attack, sixteen years ago this week, which killed almost three thousand people—and in turn triggered a war that has become America’s longest.

I’ve covered dozens of these terrorist attacks on four continents over that half century. After the Barcelona attack and the U.S. decision to send more troops to fight the Taliban, I began to wonder how terrorism ends—or how militant groups evolve. In her landmark study of more than four hundred and fifty terrorist groups, Audrey Kurth Cronin found that the average life span of an extremist movement is about eight years. Cuban Power carried out several other bombings, but, in the end, it didn’t last a whole year.”

4. Resilience Alone Won’t Get Us Through-We’ll Need To Open Up to Each Other

“It turned out that she had anxiety, too, so we traded coping tips and gallows humor, and tried, with moderate success, to get each other to give ourselves some credit for what we had accomplished by leaving the house that day. And then I went home with a new coffee that I didn’t drop and a willingness to once again consider that venturing out of my apartment isn’t a nonstop parade of pain and humiliation.

“You ate the potato,” my husband declared when I told him about my day. But I’m not convinced that this is a story about resilience at all. The thing that really saved me, besides a desire for more coffee, was a willingness to admit I wasn’t okay. Being openly vulnerable in public — even just a little vulnerable to a friendly near-stranger — was what helped me at every step of my post-spill day. I let myself be miserable and embarrassed and admit that I felt that way to another person. I didn’t try to shrug it off or minimize how disproportionately hard it felt for me, and I didn’t try to put a more positive spin on it. If she hadn’t responded in anxiety-ridden solidarity — even if she’d laughed at me or made that mildly polite face normal people have been making at me and my unique verbal tangents for most of my life — I still would have felt relieved that I wasn’t holding onto that by myself any longer.”

In Memoriam – Durham Davis

This week is going to be a little off-brand. This week marks the one year anniversary of my grandfather’s death. I tried writing about him a year ago as I had memorialized others. With them it helped me to heal, with Grandaddy it just felt too raw to put it out into the world. And it still fears raw, and I feel like my words can never do justice to just how special he was and how much I loved him. Never the less, I write to honor him and the special spark he brought to the world.  fullsizeoutput_2bf

Whenever I am at a gas station and someone gets out talking on their cell phone while pumping their gas, I feel sad for them.  They did’t have a granddaddy who told them not to do that.  No one who told them it was dangerous. I’ve seen the myth busters episode that debunked the possibility of sparking a fire with your cell phone like this, but I still can’t bring myself to do it. Grandaddy warned me of the dangers literally every time I talked with him on the phone.

My Grandaddy always had advice to protect me.  Before most cars had auto lock it was always, “lock your doors.” For years, even in our last longer conversations, he would tell me I needed to wear a hat, like a truckers hat, when I was driving alone. He did not like that I drove long distances by myself and he told me if I wore a hat they would think I was a man and leave me alone.  Every time I would respond with, “Grandaddy, if all it takes for them to think that I am a man is to wear a hat, we have bigger problems,”  and every time he would offer the advice the next time we spoke.

Thirteen years ago I spent a month in Guadalajara, Mexico. The first two weeks I was in the city by myself. The sheer fact that I was alone in Mexico worried my Granddaddy to no end. Every time he would talk to my mother he would ask about me.  I decided to call him once to prove to him that I was fine, hoping he would calm down. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how busy the street would get as I called him from the pay phone. That only heightened his anxiety and for over a decade after that every time we would speak of where I was traveling to next, he would always add, “But you’re not going to Mexico again, right?”  We joked that if I ever went to Mexico again, I was going to have to take him with me.

Sharon BaptistMy granddaddy was always taking care of others. He had to drop out of school in the eighth grade to take care of the family farm to provide for his family. He took care of my nana for years as she suffered from migraines and later heart issues. He was such a strong man with these big hands but he was always tender with her as she depended on him for everything in her last years of life.

When I was a child I wasn’t so sure about my grandaddy. He would take those strong hands and grab my arm with a force he didn’t know he had and give me a loving shake. I would pick beans and potatoes from his garden with him when I came to visit for the summer. He would take me riding on his riding lawnmower and on really special visits, he would take me for a ride on his huge John Deere tractor. After Nana died in my junior year of college, Grandaddy and I became closer.lawnmower

He was a people person. He was famous for starting up a conversation with anyone that was near him. It would take just a few minutes before he knew their life story. He never met a stranger. Mom said that in his last few months as she was taking him to doctor’s appointments, he was always waving at other people in the cars at stoplights.

He had a rotation of clichés, most original to him, that he was fond of saying. One of his favorite sayings was, “It only takes a little more to go first class.” Mind you, this was a man who would brag about his socks that he bought from the dollar general but it has stuck as a family saying.

Perhaps the best thing about my granddaddy was his love for singing. He would break out into song almost every time I called him. His favorites were a rotation of “How Much is that Doggy in the Window,” “Chattanooga Choo-Choo, “One Day at a Time,” “I Bowed on my Knees and Cried Holy,” and “Que Sera, Sera.” He called me every year on my birthday to sing to me.running in dc

His last few months, he spent much of his time in doctors offices. One day when he had two appointments, he began feeling bad during the first visit. As he sat waiting with my mom at the second doctor’s office, he said, “You know, I was feeling really bad back there but I feel better now. I think I want to sing.” And so he did. He just serenaded the whole office. By this point, an infection had taken most of his hearing but he still had a song in his heart he wanted to share with others.

He was at my high school plays, college graduation, my commissioning service when I started divinity school, my divinity school graduation, my installation service when I became a pastor. I knew he was always there for me.Grandaddy and Daisy

What aches the most is knowing that now that he is gone, I will never be loved that way again. I will never be loved in the special way that only my Granddaddy could love me.

The world will never be the same now that he is gone. He brought a spark, a strength, a joy to life where ever he went.  I feel challenged to live my life as joyfully, committed to those I love and strangers I meet and to always carry a song in my heart that spills out of my mouth.

W.A.L. Weekly #3

Happy Thursday everyone-

What are you reading these days? I’m working through Canoeing the Mountains and Brene Brown’s new book, Braving the Wilderness. I look forward to writing some reviews and take aways in upcoming blog posts.

1. Skip The Small Talk
     This is an interesting organization out of Boston that I have recently become aware of. I follow them on social media and have enjoyed the articles they post and reading about upcoming events. I think there is much we can learn from this group! Here is their description of themselves: “You know when you’re talking to someone late at night and for some reason, you feel like you can talk about the things that actually matter? We think those conversations are a pretty good way to make genuine connection happen. We use insights from psychology research to design interactions that help you get closer to having access to those connection-building conversations in any situation, at any time, with anyone.”

2. The Art of the Awkward 1:1
The 1:1 is a sacred space. It’s intimate. It’s dedicated to just you and the other person. It’s super high bandwidth for complex and uncertain content, especially emotions, hopes, and fears. It’s also the most inefficient way you can devise to disseminate non-controversial info.

Very often, people waste most of the 1:1s potential. You might make a little agenda, and then give some updates, some light feedback, and share some complaints. It’s helpful and valuable and nice. But, ask yourself: is the conversation hard? Are you a little nervous or unsure how to get out what you’re trying to say? Is it awkward?

3. We Should Expect To Work Much Longer
“The notion that you’re born, go to school, get a job, retire, die — that’s gone,” he said. “You’re not going to do that anymore.” He said technology will likely keep humans healthier longer, enabling us to live decades beyond our current lifespans — “meaning you may very well live to 110 or 120.”

He continued: “You’re going to work until you’re 75, 85, 95, 105. And don’t worry about it. It’s not as horrific as it sounds, because you’re going to want to do that.”

4. How To Be Heard When Talking With a Chronic Interrupter
From Kanye to cable-news pundits to Senators, we live in a culture where interrupting is both common and commonly accepted. Being interrupted is frustrating for anyone, but if you’re a shy, soft-spoken, or introverted person, it can make it especially difficult to communicate.

That’s because, whether the interrupter realizes it or not, cutting in while someone else is speaking can be a way of asserting dominance over them. “Interrupting is a way to demonstrate power in interpersonal situations,” explains Dr. Joel Minden, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at California State University, Chico.