Category Archives: In the news

choices total strangers make, I can learn from them

Stand, Ask, Deliver

A friend on Facebook shared this video of a guy who got to play piano with Billy Joel. In the video, I noticed some great stuff than any writer will appreciate. This student apparently loves Billy Joel songs, specifically New York State of Mind.

Maybe he plays them on public pianos whenever he goes somewhere.  He probably has accompanied many people, singers at his school perhaps.  He’s definitely practiced like crazy.  I know because we can’t just do stuff.  We all need practice.

Billy Joel came to his school, Vanderbilt University, and invited people to ask him questions. Michael Pollack’s friends all pointed toward him. As he speaks, you can hear the fear trembling through his vocal chords, but when Billy calls on him he stands up.

Michael then asks the question he’s probably thought about asking ever since he heard that Billy Joel would visit his school.  “I was wondering if I could play it (New York State of Mind) with you?”

What a gutsy guy! How many of us have wanted to ask something like this, but never even stood up to make the ask? We often psyche ourselves out before anyone could point the finger our way.

If you keep watching the video, you’ll see something else.  Billy Joel says, “Ok.”

That’s generous.  He has no idea what kind of skills this guy has. Most singers prefer accompanists who make them look good.

Then, Billy opens his book and lets Michael see his score. At this point, our jaws drop open.

Michael’s fingers tickle the tops of the keys adeptly, and Billy let’s him take the show.  While they don’t have the seasoned sound of people who tour together for months on end, Michael holds up his part of the song with strength and ease.

He was gutsy enough to stand and ask, but smart and thorough enough to have practiced well for this day.  Bravo Michael.  Thanks for the inspiration.

It’s time to get back to proofing my book.  I want to be ready to follow through when it’s my time to stand and make the ask.


Go ahead, bite the shark!

A great white shark at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico....
Image via Wikipedia

Have you heard the old expression, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”?

Clearly, a dog in Australia knows it well.

If you’ve seen a shark and a dog beside one another, no matter what the dog’s size, it’s obvious the shark’s mouth holds more teeth, expands bigger, and it’s not worth encountering.  Don’t tell that to the dog in a recent viral video entitled, “Dog has ride on a shark”. 

No one told him he couldn’t do it, so he did it.  That simple.

Maybe you feel like a dog in a world of sharks.  Do you find yourself nervously swimming expecting to get bit at any time?  What if you looked at your situation from a different light.

You’ve got money troubles and need wisdom and cash.  Or, relationships stress you out, and you feel like your stuck in a slimy pit with slippery walls and no rope.  Or, your kids hit your batty button daily, you scream your head off, feel guilty, wish it could stop, but it doesn’t, and the roller coaster continues.  Feel stuck?

You sense you’ve been given a tiny mouth, and your swimming in the vast ocean with sharks who could and probably will swallow you whole at any time. 

King Hezekiah knew that feeling.  A powerful army from the country of Assyria invaded the land of Judah.  He and his people were under siege and it seemed hopeless.  The king of that country shouted taunts, made fun of God, professed his ability and power (which he clearly and successfully held in his hand).  Here’s Hezekiah’s response to the sharks in his ocean: 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” 2 Chronicles 32:7 and 8a  Read the story by clicking here.

The situation felt perilous and stressful.  It didn’t make sense to have hope, but they did.  They trusted God in spite of evidence to the contrary, and they won.

The news preaches doom and gloom, our pocket books dwindle, our homes or cars break, why shouldn’t we give up?

Because all this stuff is merely an “arm of flesh”, it has no strength by itself.  God grants strength where He wants it, and He is much more capable than we can imagine.  He takes our tiny canine bicuspids and grants us courage and skill we never knew we had.

You think you’re just a dog and the world is full of sharks?  Take inspiration from a dog who knows he’s got more fight in him than the sharks swimming by his feet.  Go ahead, bite the shark.

My choice today:

View my abilities through God’s eyes, not mine.


Warning on pointless arguments, someone always gets stabbed

toms shoes, pic 2
Image by _tar0_ via Flickr

Have you heard of TOMS shoes?  If not, you should.

This amazing company started by Blake Mycoskie has delivered shoes to needy children around the world because of a simple premise.  One for one.  For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, one will be given to a child in need.

The idea started because of a trip Mycoskie took to Argentina in 2006.  He became friends with children who owned no shoes.  Aware that soil contamination spreads disease, Blake found his cause.  He started TOMS shoes and one year later arrived to deliver 10,000 shoes in Argentina.

I met Blake at a conference I attended in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007.  He didn’t present any theological discussions or enter any philosophical debates.  As he stood behind a simple table at the TOMS booth, he spoke of kids in need and ways to help.  That’s it.

Today, his official title with the company, which has expanded world-wide and sells shoes at my local Whole Foods Store, is Chief Shoe Giver.  He attends conferences, speaks before diverse people groups and shares the vision of “One for One”.  I’m certain he makes a living at this role, but his purpose remains clear.  As his quote on the TOMS website states, “Giving is what fuel us.  Giving is our future.”

Having said these things, it surprised me to see that Blake found himself under attack because of a group he addressed.  He accepted the invitation to speak before Focus on the Family.  While it’s clear FOTF holds to a Christian and political agenda, Blake’s purpose remains continual and pointed.  One for One.

The more people who give, from whatever background, the more people receive.  The business model sits on center stage as simplicity in action.

Irin Carmon from called out Blake for addressing Focus on the Family because of their political and faith stances.  In an effort to keep the peace, as givers often do, Blake apologized on his blog.  This blog moment has received 400+ comments, some questioning Blake’s integrity on the topic.

Am I missing something here?  Isn’t the topic helping people?

Why argue about who can hear the message?  Why create dispute on this topic in the first place?

The only people who will lose in the end are the children. 

Focus on the Family listened and gave.  Those on the attack listened and gave.  People from assorted walks of life give to the cause of helping because generosity is contagious.  People long to become part of something bigger than themselves and make a difference.

We can find ourselves grumbling about who serves alongside us or we can allow an important project to grow.  What a concept if the readers of and the followers of Focus on the Family happen to agree on something.  Both enjoy helping others.  Amazing!

Instead of letting emotions connected to topics of disagreement become the center, we need to step back sometimes and take in the whole picture.  Perhaps even give ourselves an emotional time out.  So what if we don’t like someone else or what they stand for.  If we value the same mission, we need to put up with and appreciate the heart of others who differ from us.

This attitude applies in business, at home, and within friendships.  Beware, fighting for fighting’s sake leaves someone hurt, but we don’t get to decide who it will be.

My choice today:

Take a breath and pause if emotions stir, then decide if an argument  is worth engaging. 

You can learn more about Blake by liking him on Facebook.  If you agree with his vision, give him a note of encouragement, I’m sure he could use it.  His book “Start something that matters” comes out in September.  TOMS is expanding its “One for One” policy to eyeglasses and books. 

6 reasons to see Cars 2

250 px
Image via Wikipedia

Our family made a plan, we read an online listing telling what to expect in movies this summer.  Only one caught the mutual family eye.  That’s right, one

Cars 2.

Since movies have become so amazingly expensive, we don’t want to catch gazillion mediocre flicks.  One good one will do.  Of course that places serious pressure on the movie to come through.  I mean, mathematically speaking, even at an early play time, watching the regular version (no IMAX or 3D), if you include the snacks for the family, the event cost us $67.00.

Can I hear a Mater-like, “DANG”?

Again, that flick better rock.  And it did.

Here are our family’s reasons for enjoying CARS 2:

1.  It’s family history.  We own the original CARS and love the music and the characters. Continuing the journey ignites the engine of our family.

2.  Action and adventure.  From the moment the pictures began dancing on the big screen, we saw chases, mystery, intrigue and a CARS take on Tokyo, Paris and London.  (Let’s just say Lightning McQueen vacuum cleaner ads in lights)

3.  Friendship factor.  Much like the first CARS, this one holds true to the value of friendship.  In spite of previous lessons learned, you can take those same cars and put them into a different space and the lesson becomes new.

4.  Tension hugs.  As the action picked up, our kids clung close to mom and dad.  They felt the tension and sought parental security.  We happily obliged.

5.  Roaring laughter.  Pixar knows that perfect balance with tension and release as they help kids to enjoy learning vital lessons.  When the release came, our munchkins burst out with outrageous giggles worth bottling and selling.

6.  Memories.  When all was said and done, our youngest informed us that we will, of course, need to buy this movie when it comes out on DVD.  Thus the memories continue.

(other less noteworthy reasons for parents to like this one: no bad language, mediocre violence, same great characters with extras added, great relationship building skills.)

As you can tell, we enjoy our movie fun, but if you aren’t movie people, check that list again.  These are vital criteria for any family experience worth doing.

My choice today:

Have fun with my family that uniquely fits my family.

Happy freedom weekend!

Independence Day fireworks in San Diego, Calif...
Image via Wikipedia

Over this weekend our hearts will find themselves drawn toward issues of freedom.  Our soldiers abroad tug at our hearts.  Family functions occupy our time.  We raise the flag, watch fireworks, swim in pools and hide in the shadows to avoid the heat.  Whatever your experience, you won’t be able to avoid thinking about freedom.  Today, let’s choose to share with one another our thoughts.  Take a moment to answer the poll and spread your thoughts freely.

Ashton Kutcher and the power of influence

Ashton Kutcher at Time 100 Gala
Image via Wikipedia

Actor, producer, writer and humanitarian Ashton Kutcher often brings to mind his famous character from “That 70’s Show”.  He usually plays the goofy guy whose lamps don’t reach full wattage.  But there’s much more to this Nikon advertiser’s dream. 

Back in the early days of twitter, Ashton jumped on board and started a huge following.  As the first tweeter to reach 1 million followers, his ranks  now extend past 7 million.  We’re talking double what CNN gets and only one million short of those following President Obama.

Are  you wondering why this choice chicka’s spending quality words on the Punk’d dude? 

Let’s face it, the guy’s got influence.  He’s a regular tweet-a-holic and people care what he says.

It’d be easy become entirely self-centered and think of this whole following deal as one gigantic narcissistic ride, but not so with Kutcher.  He makes a point of using his fame to influence people in positive ways.  Okay, sometime he’s narcissistic, but aren’t we all.

Yesterday, he had what some have called a twitter fit.  I’d venture to say, he spoke his mind and people listened.  He and Demi Moore have created a foundation to eliminate child sex slavery and human trafficking called the Demi and Ashton Foundation, or DNA, for short.  Their goal is to build awareness.  DNA stands for donate, notify others, and action.

They have videos running on with titles like “Real men don’t buy girls”.  Several of Hollywood’s leading men have helped create these videos.  Are you catching the influence factor?

Whether you agree with everything he’s done over the course of his career isn’t the topic at hand.  The question is influence.  If you had it, what would you do?

Guess what, you do have influence.  Maybe your followers don’t number in the millions, neither do mine.  But your influence still matters.  We can simply sit back and not share the lessons we learn, or we can become part of an important conversation.

If you have children or friends, someone’s watching you.  They want to know what you think.  They long to learn something from your point of view.  What do you want to share?

My choice today:

Use my influence to help others.

Thanks for being an influence Ashton. 

It’s officially May 21st and I’m still here, are you?

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m sure you’ve heard the end times tale.  This is the final day for planet earth, give or take an hour or a day.  Yet, here I sit at midnight writing,  because I just thought it would be fun to do so.

Did you wonder, why weren’t more Christians condemning the statements or commenting on them or something?  There are just so many people who do this over time, it almost becomes a joke, but clearly to those who agree or sit confused it isn’t.

Allow me to clarify.  My grandfather loved Jesus deeply and lived his life sharing Christ with people wherever he went.  He cared for his invalid wife, my grandmother, without complaint.  As the year 2000 approached, he began listening to sermons by a pastor named Van Empe.

That pastor told people the end of the world would happen in the year 2000.  We heard much disturbance and confusion as 2000 approached.  Computer people told us it could all fall apart and we thought some catastrophe would occur.  We called it Y2K.  My grandfather’s health wasn’t its best and all he longed to see in life was the end of life.

Sounds weird, right?  He wanted to see Jesus return.  Well, 2000 came and went, we remained.  A bit later my grandfather did see Jesus, but not in the way he thought.

So, please bear with those of us who’ve seen these conversations previously.  The question has arisen since before Jesus walked with the disciples.  As a matter of fact, the disciples requested detailed knowledge of the earth’s last days.  Here’s Jesus response:  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. ” Matthew 24:42-44

One choice we can make now is to live as if we will face our Creator’s judgement today or tomorrow.  We stand  ready and willing to meet our maker.  But we should also prepare for the long haul, if He doesn’t.  After all, He’s God, not me.

In the midst of the media hoopla, my favorite quote was a tweet from Pastor Dudley of Shepherd of the Hills.  He said, “If the world ends tomorrow, I’m ready.  Are you?”

What do you think of all this end of the world stuff?

How did that happen?

give up...or should I say, to God what is God's.
Image by abradyb via Flickr

Is there a rhyme or reason to the pluses in people’s lives?  Some people seem to receive much while others experience little.  I look at our country and wonder about our wealth.  Over the generations we’ve given much and received much.  How does that happen?  Who receives the credit?

In the business world, people call it “reciprocity”.  When we give generously, we receive generously. Many have tested and observed this relationship.  It’s what the rest of us call the freebie moment.  A store or person gives something for free and when we arrive to pick up that freebie, we feel a responsibility to give back and often do.

The marketing plan works.  But is it really so simple?

What if we look at this principle in a different light?  Could it be that God designed us to give and receive?  He placed a desire to serve within us and we either cooperate with His plan or we don’t.

We can’t turn on the radio or T.V. without hearing about the poor U.S. or world economy, but a couple of weeks ago I witnessed fabulous generosity.

People from multiple churches and denominations grouped together to pack meals for kids who live in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Uganda and Malawi.  The goal:  pack one million meals.

It can be overwhelming to imagine such a task, but they did it, in one day.  Actually, they packed 1,000,512 meals.  We’re talking people of all walks of life: some with money, some without, some with time, some without, some with energy, well you get the point.

If we believe God is the boss of our lives and our provider, anything we have to give first came from Him. Anything.  God supplies our time, money, physical energy, capacity to pray, all of it.

When we give what we have to give without holding back, what we receive in return may not be same for same, but we do receive.  King David looked over all he’d acquired, all he and the people if Israel had done and had this to say to God:

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?  Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:14

The picture says, “Give up” another way to look at it is “Give to God what is God’s”.

Today, let us choose to be generous with whatever God has given.  What has God given you which you could give to others?  We are limited only by our imaginations. Share your comment click here.