Category Archives: Friends

Connecting with people: lessons from the photoshoot

Photographer
Image via Wikipedia

I joined my friend Jessica Beebe from Remembrancer Photography for a photo shoot today.  We’re getting some photos ready for a new blog I’m developing.  (I’ll keep you in the loop as launch day arrives.)

I posed and pretended to be America’s Next Top Model.  We laughed and strutted down the hallway of our beautiful church building.  As she shot moment after moment, I learned some things about connecting with people.

1.  Lean in :

     It physically shows your interest.  You become engaging and open to the conversation or event before you. 

2.  Lean back:

     It physically shows a lack of interest, an aloofness, even a superiority.

This caused me to wonder if the same holds true in one-on-one conversations.  Sometimes, I sit back to listen to someone because I’m more comfortable.  Do I seem aloof or uninterested?  That’s not my wish.

With my children, I occasionally stand over them and dictate the days events.  Granted, as a parent a certain amount of superiority helps move things along, but if I want them to know I’m really interested in what they say and what they think, will the simple act of leaning in convey my inner thoughts?

This will require investigation. 

Have you noticed other types of body language cues that help you connect better with others?

My choice today:

Lean in to the conversations which really matter.

 

 

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What lense are you using?

I’ve started to learn how to improve my photography because of a website called Digital Photography School.  Each week I receive an email with a weekly photographic assignment.  This week’s task involves perspectives.

Instead of taking pictures while standing upright, the task of the week includes searching for unusual angles on everyday things.  On the website, many people submitted their beautiful photos and I felt inspired.   My hunt began.

My oldest daughter takes these challenges with me.  We motivate one another to think broadly and search for unusual photographic angles.

This approach to photos also applies to life. 

Instead of staring into our problems head-on, what if we pause and attempt to think differently. 

As parents, we tend to repeat the same patterns of discipline and reward on our children, even though the response we receive doesn’t match what we want.  On the job hunt, many people have experienced rejection where once acceptance met them.  In dating or marital relationships,  taking an alternate approach could also prove helpful. 

Adjusting our photographic lense involves sitting or standing or even lying down while looking at the same subject.  In life, we do this by trying to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.  What would they tell us?  We can even invite others into our story.  What if we ask what they would do or what they see from their perspective?  They could be helpful or not, but we’ll never know if we don’t ask. 

Check out how my daughter and I approached photos of the same light from differing directions.  The difference lies in our individual perspectives.  Each holds its own beauty, but I wouldn’t be open her angle, if she weren’t invited to share.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)

My choice today:

Re-aim the lense of my life, seek a new perspective.

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 Jezabel.com 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 Jezabel.com 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. 

Question therapy

question mark
Image via Wikipedia

How many questions do you ask in the course of day?  Not internally, but out loud.

If I really allow myself to think it through, many parts of my day include questions.  What’s the best time of day to buy gas?  When will the sun go down? How much is that? Why are my children screaming in the other room?

But how often do we genuinely ask what’s on our mind?

I sat down one day with a lovely lady who wanted to get to know me better.  I also wanted to know her.  She began by expressing interest in what I’ve done in the past.  I found myself sharing.  As I shared, her intrigue grew, she asked another question.  Not prodding or in any way annoying, she genuinely wanted to know more about me.

When our time together had finished, she had learned much about me and I felt great, but I knew so little about her.  I didn’t ask the proper questions.  I didn’t ask much at all.  It made me wonder how she felt when we finished talking.

Now I sit in my home, near the most precious people in the world to me.  Have I asked them good questions today?  There’s an art to good questions.  They flow from our experiences without being predetermined.  One question ignites the next because of our genuine care and concern for others.

If my girls and my husband are to know how much I value them, I must ask questions.  The more I inquire, the better I’ll become at the art of question asking.  I’ve seen this within my home already.

This might make you think you’ll never get to share your stuff.  Maybe.  But so far, I’ve seen quite the opposite.  The better and more caring my questions become, the more they inspire questions from my children, just like my friend inspired me.

Let’s imagine this experience as life continues.  The more questions I ask, the better I get at asking questions.  The more my family shares, the better we know each other.  We become closer.  We understand each other more.  We converse on multiple topics without fear throughout our lives.

Now that’s how a family should work, don’t you think?

If this is something you struggle with, take the challenge with me today.  Make a plan to ask more questions than you answer.  At first it might be difficult, because you haven’t had much practice.  But in the same way we learn to walk and spit our watermelon seeds, we can do this.

My choice today:

Ask more questions than I answer. 

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You’re welcome, no really, you are

Welcome
Image by alborzshawn via Flickr

We toss that expression out our mouths so fast.  Something happens, a kindness, a smile, allowing someone to pass us in the grocery line, and we say, “You’re welcome.”  But are they?

For some of us this is a skill, welcoming I mean.  I’ve known outrageously welcoming people.  One of my friends is so welcoming, she redesigned her home to make it more comfortable for others to visit.

I know people who greet you and smile and embrace each and every moment.  They are a blast to hang with.   It’s not like they hit servant mode or anything, they just make you feel good in their presence.  They invite people into their space regularly and enjoy it.

I want to be like them, but it doesn’t come easy.

For some people this is a natural skill, a spiritual gift possibly.  But all of us are designed to exist within a community.  We need it and want it, but don’t always know how to start.   I’m one of those non-natural starters, but that’s not going to deter me.  Don’t let it stop you either.

I want an open door attitude, in my house and in my heart.  The best way to start is to start.  Maybe I’m clunky and awkward, but hey, so was walking.  But now, I can prance down the street effortlessly.  This hospitality gig doesn’t have to intimidate.

I started learning how to welcome people.  While I don’t have it wired yet, I’m toddling better each day.  You can do it too.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1.  Invite people over, even if it feels uncomfortable.  You’ll get over it.

2.  Understand that people decline invitations all the time, this isn’t a knock on you. A busy world creates busy people.

3.  Smile.  Whether the house is perfectly clean or the meal perfectly finished, smile.

4.  Remember the mantra, “If at first you don’t succeed,” a burnt meal is better than no meal at all, and Pizza Hut delivers.

5.  Be the welcome wagon. Don’t wait for invitations, you may end up just waiting.  Take initiative and risk opening your home.

The Bible gives us great examples of this which have stuck in my head, and it pulls me out of my lethargy when I’m tempted to shut the doors and hide in my abode.  You knew I was going to bring the Bible into this, didn’t you?

The apostle Paul welcomed people:

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.” (Acts 28:30, NIV)

This is why he did it:

“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT)

For those of us who struggle with a welcoming attitude, the question is clear.  Do we love enough to really share ourselves?

I say, “Discomfort be darned.  You are welcome, you really are.”

Want to live your life on death row?

Folsom Prison s520
Image by uvw916a via Flickr

Harsh right?  Why would anyone want to do this?  It does happen.

Imagine what it would look like.

Death row sentence

You know you’re guilty, though you fought it.  You don’t want anyone to view you in light of your guilt, but there it sits like the pink lawn flamingo in the Pasadena suburb.  You argue and rail at those who’ve accused you, in spite of your self-acknowledged guilt.  The sentence passes and you walk through the doors of the jail knowing you will not leave on your own two feet.

You have to survive and want to enjoy the moments you have.  You pick your place in society or its chosen for you.  Still, you must follow rules.  You must do everything you’re told or suffer instant consequences.  You attempt to forget the reason for your new housing status.

You tell yourself, it’s free room and board.  You decide orange is your color, and you’ve always wanted to wear flip-flops, every day.  You seek a sense of happiness in spite of the space.  You are king of your cubicle.

But you know death is near.  You hear it, see it, smell it and taste it.  In the back of your brain sits the knowledge that you lack control.  Fear finds a home in your heart, whether you let anyone in on the secret or not.

But what would you do if you knew pardon was an option?  A real option.

The pardon 

Would you want the pardon option?

Well, yeah.

You’d do whatever it took to secure that pardon, wouldn’t you.  You’d make calls, dream dreams, write letters, you’d probably put on an orange polka-dotted tutu and dance the Macarena in front of all the other prisoners, if you knew you could leave this dream abode.

What if you weren’t told about the pardon possibility?  Others knew, but didn’t tell you because you were so cool and kingly.  They refused to offer you the option because they feared you’d become angry at the offer.  Really.  People do that.

This is real

What if what I’m writing isn’t just an exercise in imagination?  What if this was your life or the life of someone you know?

It is.

You’re wondering how that’s possible, right? You never visited Folsom Prison, let alone death row.

Those of us who know Jesus live in the daily knowledge of His forgiveness and love.  We have received the pardon.  I’ve received it.  Hopefully, you have too.

Our death sentence became a life sentence because Jesus offered to take the electrocution Himself.  Think pictorially, I know He’d died on a cross, but that doesn’t happen much today and I thought I’d offer a more recent image.

Jesus said, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)

I see you shaking your head saying, it isn’t the same as death row. Let me explain.

Sinful life= Death row

If you were unaware, the word “sin” means “to miss the mark”.  Think of Robin Hood with the arrow in that famous contest.  The arrow has to hit bulls-eye to land “on the mark”.  God hits the mark every time, He is sinless and perfect. 

No matter how far from center we land, if we miss the mark, we sin.  Let’s face it, we all miss the bulls-eye of life.  I miss it so often, it’s as if I’m shooting in the air and landing a mile away in some strangers car tire.  Sorry.

What happens to all of us who miss that center sweet spot?

The Bible puts it this way (not my words, the Bible):

“The wages of sin is death…”

That’s where the death row image comes into play.  The pay we receive for continually missing God’s mark is life on death row.  But He doesn’t leave us there to wallow in our issues.  The same verse finishes this way:

“….but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 

The pardon is available and it isn’t just for us.  The pardon is a gift.  Imagine, it’s sitting at the prison’s front gate.  You’ve been sent a note and the guards permit you to go and get this gift.  When you open it in all it’s beauty, you can leave and live the life God has for you.  Would you go?

I would and I did. 

Once free, it’s your responsibility to place that gift at the gate again and offer it to as many prisoners as you can, so that they too can secure freedom.  It’s easily the best gift they’ll ever receive, and you get the privilege of giving it.  Will you?

Are you currently the prisoner or the pardoned one?  What are you doing to secure your freedom or offer it to others?

Do you hear me now?

Human ear
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of their own voice?  You know the type.  They start a conversation on one item then continue to another, then another, barely breathing.  The mouth moves and it’s as if they’ve recorded each detail of every day in its totality.  When you get together, they push the play button and recite each moment as it happened.

You like this person.  They aren’t mean or anything like that, just chatty.  Actually they aren’t just chatty, they verbally vomit their day onto the least suspecting person.  Sorry, it’s true.

The listener

What can we do with a friend like this?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Exercise compassion.  They probably don’t realize their capacity to recall daily details.

2.  Recognize loneliness when you see it.  If they saved up all day, maybe no one connected or attempted to connect with them prior to you.   Maybe they spend much time alone and have lost conversational skill practice.

3.  Know the flow is coming and mentally set a timer.  They probably repeat this pattern, so you might as well recognize playback season for what it is. They will reach a finishing point, believe it or not.

4.  Make an effort to connect more regularly.  Yes, that’s what I said. More is better.  By having more regular contact with others,  the loneliness dissipates and true conversations can begin.

The speaker 

As you read this, perhaps you see something in yourself, maybe it’s you who has become the verbal vomit specialist.  How can you redirect and build better friends?

1. Ask questions first.  Before you play your recording, come up with questions you really want to ask other people.  When you ask, bite your lip and allow them to press play on their day.

2.  Listen more than you talk.  This will take great effort because the lips have had more practice than the ears, but there are two of them and maybe they need more use.  There is a danger though.  Listen with the purpose of truly hearing what the other person says, not just waiting for your chance to speak.

3.  Seek to know your friends better.  True friendships develop because we care about one another.  Your friends need to know you care about who they are not just their ears.

4.  Apologize early and often.  As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is realizing you have a problem.  If your friends know you are working on this area of your life, they’ll be inclined to support and encourage you and maybe even listen more.

And what’s the Bible connect to all this listening and talking stuff?  Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:9)  Funny, He never said, “Whoever has a mouth, let them talk.”  Just something to think about.

By the way, if I haven’t said it lately,  “I am sorry.”

The danger and beauty of thistle people

Milk thistle flowerhead
Image via Wikipedia

Have you seen a thistle up close?  They are nasty looking.  This green spined weed visually displays its ability to defend itself from one and all.  With a tiny wisp of purple rising above the flowered spines, one can image inner beauty but why investigate more? When other flowers hold outer beauty and wonderful smells, it would seem silly to waste time on a thistle.  But maybe not.

Thistle people

Sound like anyone you know?  Thistle people throw barbs at others effectively creating a distant relationship.  You know the type, any time you get too close, it’s as if a spear pierces your heart and you back up, relationally speaking.

Sometimes their rough exterior holds people back.  They don’t dress a certain way or talk appropriately.

One great image of a thistle person came in Murphy Brown.  Do you know or remember the show, circa 1980 something?  If not, allow me to inform you.

Murphy Brown worked as an investigative reporter.  She rose to the top of her profession.  No question too tough for her to ask, no topic to difficult to cover.  Her work environment contained a variety of personalities.  Ultimately these people served as her only real friends and yet they described her this way, “The first time I met Murphy, I thought she was beautiful.  Then, she opened her mouth.”

Another thistle person shows up in George Lopez, savez que, you know what I mean?  A thistle person could be someone like Lady Gaga.  Her outward appearance can be off-putting to some people.

Do you know a thistle? 

Maybe you know a thistle person or you are a thistle person.  Your very demeanor screams, “Don’t come any closer!”

Why would anyone want to do that? Why hold out barriers to friendship?

What is it protecting?

I wondered about that uninviting weed.  After research, I discovered what it was protecting. Milk thistle helps people with multiple ailments.  For years, it’s been used by various practitioners to help treat liver malfunction, hepatitis C, gallstones, high cholesterol and cancer.

I’m not advocating a medicine, but examining a plant.  With so much potential contained within its highly protected body, maybe the thistle knows what it’s guarding.  Ignoring any hippie dippie thoughts, something of value is worth protecting.

Steps to know a thistle person

Thistle people guard their true self carefully and cautiously.  They know the value they hold, on some level, they know.  Perhaps they’ve been damaged previously, but the inner beauty remains.

What can we do?  Exercise caution.  Spines hurt, no matter what beauty lies within.  As a snake handler knows the pain of the bite, so those of us who want to see the inner beauty of a thistle need to use caution and respect.

Seek the beauty and let them know you see it.  Maybe, with each kind word, with each positive action, the spines can shrivel and show the true beauty within.

For those patient enough to appreciate a thistle, the reward is great.

The great weed lover 

Jesus did that for us.  He sought us out and didn’t let our spines push Him away.  He took everything we could dish out at him because He knows and sees our beauty.  He took a beating because He saw our beauty and wanted to give us friendship.  He died at the hand of people like ourselves.  Yet, He knew we were worth the trouble.  So are all the other thistle people. 

He told us how to react and treat the thistles in our lives:

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

 

If you have a story of a thistle person you love, please share it here.  Don’t forget to anonymously rate this article (thumbs up or down).