Change Starts By Asking Questions

“Asking questions is the first way to begin change.”

Kubbra Sait

When was the last time you took time to get to know someone?

I’m not talking about a two minute exchange of name, occupation, and a few other surface level pieces of information. I’m asking about sitting down for a longer stretch of time and having a conversation that goes deeper.

In our busy, hectic, me-focused world, we too often brush by opportunities to get to know others.

I’m guilty of this, and I’m guessing many of you are guilty as well.

Yesterday afternoon, I had an hour long ride with an Uber driver on my way back home from Bethlehem, PA (why I was in Bethlehem in need of a ride home is a whole other story). An hour is a long time to spend with someone you don’t know (at least that’s what I was thinking when I first sat down in the passenger seat of the car). I could have popped in my earbuds and listened to podcasts the whole time. I could have simply kept my mouth shut and enjoyed the scenery out the window. I could have wasted the opportunity to get to know the Uber driver I may never meet again.

Instead, I decided to talk to my driver. I decided to ask him questions and to listen to his story.

“Curiosity is the process of asking questions, genuine questions, that are not leading to an ask for something in return.”

Brian Grazer

My driver’s name was Mohammed. He is 26 years old, he is from Northern Pakistan – near Afghanistan. He came to the United States four or five years ago. He now calls Nazareth, PA is home although he is living in a one bedroom apartment near Lehigh University where he is currently studying political science. He plans on going to law school after he graduates from Lehigh in another year and a half. To help save money, he attended community college for his first two years of college. That’s the surface level stuff.

As our drive continued, we began to broach deeper topics which included the differences between living in Pakistan and living in the United States. We talked about his family (he is one of seven children). He shared about his love for Pakistani food (particularly lamb and goat). I learned a little bit about his childhood about the fears associated with living where terrorism was a “regular” part of life.

Closer to my home, we began to talk about faith and religion. He asked me about my religion, and I then learned that he was a non-practicing Muslim. He was raised Muslim, and he is now in the process of reading the Koran and trying to determine his own path regarding this faith.

Before I knew it, we were pulling into my driveway. I think we could have talked for another hour or two – maybe longer.

The conversation was sparked by questions. We both asked each other questions as we drove on the highways and back roads to my home.

Mohammed and I are obviously very different – in our age, in our upbringing, in our faith. It would be easy to linger silently and uncomfortably because of these differences. Silence only leads to ignorance, and ignorance leads to stagnation and often conflict.

If we want to see positive change in this world, we must seek knowledge. In order to get knowledge, we must speak up, we must ask questions, and we must listen and learn to the answers we receive.

I’m so thankful for my Uber ride with Mohammed yesterday.

Imagine a world in which everyone asked questions to truly gain understanding. Imagine the change we would experience.

Change starts with you and me. Change starts by taking off our me-focused blinders. Change starts when we take time to listen and learn.

When was the last time you took time to get to know someone?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Jesus – Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

You Are In Trouble

“The hottest place in hell will be reserved for those who said nothing during times of trouble.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

I saw this quote at the end of a Rotary email I was reading yesterday afternoon. Then my wife and I went on a date last night and saw Harriet, a new movie about Harriet Tubman. The meaning of this quote echoed through my mind as I left the theater.

Harriet recognized she was living in a time of trouble in which slavery was alive and well and human life and freedom was not recognized as an equal right. Instead of enjoying freedom in Philadelphia once she escaped her own slavery in Maryland, she dedicated her life to helping others find freedom. She took action risking her life for the freedom of others.

The quote and the movie begs these questions:

Where do I see trouble happening around me? And what am I doing about it?

These aren’t questions to brush over.

Where do you see trouble happening around you? And what are you doing about it?

It’s easy to keep wearing our blinders – to keep our eyes and ears only on things in our “perfect” and “controlled” world. If we keep wearing our blindfolds and our earplugs, we can’t be accused of failing to act on what we didn’t see or hear.

It’s time to remove the blindfolds from our eyes and the earplugs from our ears. We are called to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Perhaps it’s climate change, and we need to be more like Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old Swedish teenager who is speaking up and taking action to bring attention to this trouble.

Perhaps it’s violence and life, and we need to be more like Shane Claiborne, the 44 year-old Philadelphia social activist who is taking action to end gun violence and to broaden the perspective on what it really means to be pro-life.

Perhaps it’s injustice being done to those in areas of conflict, and we need to be more like Bob Goff, the 60 year-old San Diego lawyer who is taking action around the world to help kids and women who are being impacted by conflict.

Imagine with me for a minute. Imagine how different the world would be if we began to really see and understand the trouble going on around us and if we began to take action to end the trouble we found.

I imagine a world where human life is valued – every human life from conception to the grave. I imagine a world where people take care of each other. I imagine a world where there is unity and collaboration. I imagine a world where people are more open to God because of how His people have shown them His love.

God, help us all to be alert to the trouble going on in our homes, in our communities, and in our world. And give us the clarity and the courage to take action.

Where do you see trouble happening around you? And what are you going to do about it?

What To Do When Your Routine Is Interrupted

“If your habits don’t line up with your dream, then you need to either change your habits or change your dream.”

John Maxwell

I was on a more consistent writing streak until I hit two weekends in a row of travel and I failed to write a blog post. This weekend, I’m back home, and I’m excited to get back to writing!

We all get derailed from time to time. In other words, something or someone comes along that interrupts our routine or our habit.

“Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have.”

Dale Carnegie

Sometimes a break in routine can provide the refreshment and inspiration we need to keep going. And sometimes a break in routine totally throws us for a loop or even causes us to go down a completely different path all together.

What do you do when your routine or habit is interrupted?

  1. Recognize that it’s going to be okay. A break from your routine or habit can actually be healthy especially if keeping the habit is consuming you. A broken habit or routine is not the end of the world.
  2. Decide whether or not you want to resume the routine or habit. Take time to reflect on your routine or habit. Is it beneficial? Is it good for you and for those around you? Is it consuming you? What have you learned as a result of keeping this routine or habit? What might you do differently should you decide to resume this routine or habit?
  3. If you decide to resume the routine or habit, get at it the next day or opportunity. Don’t sit around feeling guilty that you missed a day or two (or more). Get back to it!
  4. If you decide not to resume the routine or habit, let it go. You can always revisit it later. Don’t sit around feeling guilty that you stopped a routine or habit. The end of a routine or habit can often provide space to pick up something new in your routine.
  5. Don’t look back! Life is too short to live a life of second guessing.

The opportunity to get back to writing today is just what I needed. It has given me the chance to tap into a part of my brain that isn’t used during my work week. Writing has given me the opportunity to slow down and to think. And hopefully, writing today provided encouragement to someone reading this post.

What do you do when you experience an interruption in your routine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

This is the day the Lord has brought about.
We will be happy and rejoice in it.

Psalm 118:24 (NET Bible)

When Your Face Lights Up

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”

Oprah Winfrey

Work has been pretty intense lately. I’m in the process of helping my department finish out the fiscal year. In addition, this is also the time for annual performance reviews. On top of that, we are concentrating on building our staff to address the growing workload.

I’m pretty serious about my business, and sometimes the stress and seriousness of my job is worn on my face. In other words, my eyes can show the fatigue I’m experiencing in my leadership role, and my mouth shows a frown more frequently than a smile.

Last week, I had the opportunity to do something different. I traveled to Grove City College to participate in their annual career fair. At the career fair, I met so many bright students who are preparing to leave their mark on this world. I was able to share with passion and enthusiasm about the benefits of working for my company.

I also had the opportunity to connect with engineering teaching staff. We discussed ways to help students be better prepared to enter the working world. These conversations included the possibility of sponsoring a senior design project and the possibility of teaching as an adjunct professor.

I came back home exhausted from the travel, but I also came back exhilarated by the experience and the conversations with students, business leaders and recruiters, and college teaching staff.

On Friday afternoon, I was sharing my experiences at Grove City College with a co-worker when she stopped me. She said, “You are smiling! You are so happy! When you started sharing about your experiences and future opportunities your face lit up!”

Her words left a mark on me.

Too often, we go about life failing to find and follow the things that really light us up. We operate under a sense of duty or even under a sense of desperation. We miss out on living life to the fullest, and we miss out doing the things that make us smile and make us happy.

Work is a four lettered word, but it doesn’t have to be a four letter word in a bad sense. Our work is an opportunity to live out our passion, to bring glory to God, and to impact the world.

I have heard it said (and I’ve even said it myself) that work isn’t called fun for a reason – it’s called work. I think we may be missing the mark when we fall into the trap of repeating this and believing this perspective.

Our work should bring us joy. It should be something that brings us a sense of satisfaction and a sense of purpose.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

When we re-position our perspective on work, we will rediscover our passion and purpose for our jobs. When we work for the Lord, we find passion and pu-rpose that matters.

What happens when our job is challenging? What happens when we are discouraged with our job? Mel Lawrenz provides some excellent insight:

“Do you have a difficult and discouraging job? Many do. Genesis 3:17-19 tells us that our work sometimes is not like tending a nice garden, but working the difficult, stubborn fields full of thorns. If you feel sometimes as though you slog through your job just to put bread on the table, know this: there is dignity in accomplishing just that.”

Mel Lawrenz, Work in the Bible—Thoughts for Labor Day Weekend

Sometimes a difficult and discouraging job can also be an indication that we need a change. It may be time to find a new job all together, or it may be time to find something else to add to your work. In either case, I think it’s healthy to take time to learn more about what lights you up.

This is where I would recommend experimenting with different types of work. I’d also recommend talking to those around you – they will tell you things about yourself you never realized. They will be able to see your face light up when you land on the right thing.

As you head into this new week, I want to encourage you to consider your current job. Does it light you up? If so, great! Keep at it!

If your job doesn’t light you up. Begin to ask why. Begin the process of figuring out what does light you up. Once you’ve figured that out then take the next step to make it happen. In my case, I’m beginning the process of writing a syllabus or two for courses I may teach as an adjunct professor.

Figure out what lights you up, and take steps to make it happen.

Imagine a world where more people were working in their areas of passion. Imagine a world where people did work that brought light to their faces. We would have more people finding happiness. We would see an impact on the world – a world illuminated.

Sunday Night Stretch

For the past few months, I have been sending out a weekly email called the Sunday Night Stretch. I typically send the email out on Sunday night (although I may have sent one out on Monday one week).

These emails provide an encouraging message and more personal update from me. The emails have sparked more exchange between my readers and me.

If you’d like to get on the list to receive these weekly Sunday Night Stretch emails, you simply need to fill out the form below. I’d love to connect with you on a deeper level.

I’ll be sending out a new Sunday Night Stretch email tonight. Sign up now, so you don’t miss another one of these weekly messages.

Identity Identified

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.

Henri Nouwen

Who are you?

Last week, I was on a call with a couple of other colleagues from Mexico and the United States. We get together virtually once a month to encourage each other and to help each other navigate the leadership gantlet we all find ourselves in as leaders in our company.

During the call, one of the leaders confessed she was so consumed by her work that she had absolutely no life outside of work. She shared she was somewhat jealous of me, because of the active life I lead outside of my job. She has been an employee of the company for 25 years, and her work has become her identity.

What do you do?

It’s not uncommon for men to ask this question whenever they run into someone they don’t really know. What do you do?

Maybe you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a preacher, an engineer, a businessman, an entrepreneur, a manager, or something else.

Who are you?

Here’s my initial answer to this question. I’m a husband, a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, an engineer, a manager, a leader, a writer, a speaker, a philanthropist, a Toastmaster, a Rotarian, a Pennsylvanian, an American, a friend. This list could go on.

Who are you really?

What would happen if these things were taken away from me? How would I define myself?

When we define ourselves by our activities, our careers, our titles, our positions, our geographical homes, etc. we limit ourselves. This is not who we really are. We are more!

Recently, I saw Overcomer, the latest movie from the Kendrick Brothers. The movie encouraged me to look at my identity from a better angle. In the movie, one of the characters is encouraged to read Ephesians 1 and 2 to see who we really are through Christ.

Here’s what I discovered (or rediscovered) as a result of this exercise:

  • I am God’s holy person.
  • I am faithful in Christ Jesus.
  • I am God’s son – His child.
  • I am blessed.
  • I am chosen.
  • I am blameless in God’s sight.
  • I am loved.
  • I am redeemed.
  • I am forgiven.
  • I am saved.
  • I am marked with God’s seal.
  • I am included.
  • I am remembered.
  • I am called.
  • I am God’s handiwork.
  • I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

This is my identity!

When your identity is found in Christ, your identity never changes. You are always a child of God.

Tim Tebow

Let me ask you again. Who are you? How do you identify yourself? What defines you? Better yet, who defines you?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

The Last Time I Cried

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

Washington Irving

Many of those close to me know I like to play the “Hot Seat Game” with people. The game works best when there is a small group of people has some type of relationship with each other, and it’s important for there to be a commitment to confidentiality when a small group decides to play the “Hot Seat Game.”

In the game, an individual is put on the “Hot Seat.” The rules of the game permit anyone else to ask absolutely any question of the person in the Hot Seat. And the rules of the game also permit the person in the Hot Seat to please the fifth (or not answer) any question.

Typically, the “Hot Seat Game” starts with pretty basic questions: What’s your favorite color? Where were you born? How many pets have you had in your life?

From there the “Hot Seat Game” gets a little deeper: What are your biggest weaknesses? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Have you ever done anything illegal?

Finally, the “Hot Seat Game” can go right to the jugular: How is your spiritual life right now? How is your marriage? What is your biggest personal struggle with sin? And here is my favorite: When was the last time you cried and why?

I have witnessed grown men break down in tears as they have answered this last question. They’ve told stories of losing loved ones, of dealing with divorce, of missed opportunities with children.

I’m not a big crier. I just don’t cry all that often. I cried when I lost my grandparents. I shed tears when I we had to put our family dog to sleep. And I’ve admittedly shed a couple of tears at the end of a television show or a meaningful movie – like It’s A Wonderful Life.

I think lots of men are afraid to shed tears or they simply don’t know how to let down their guards – to expose their hearts.

As I reflect back on times when I have cried, I realize the tears actually brought relief. They gave expression to the grief, the stress, the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the thrill, the euphoria that I was experiencing at the time.

When was the last time I cried?

Friday night.

Yep. It was just a couple days ago when I had a small river of tears flowing down my left cheek.

The past few weeks have been an extremely busy, stressful, and exhausting time in my life. I have been battling a variety of challenging situations at work, and Leanne and I have been working together through a couple of tough transitions at home (don’t worry…our marriage is rock solid).

When I made it to Friday night, I suppose I was a bit more fragile than I realized. Leanne and I went to see the new Kendrick Brothers movie, Overcomer. The movie tells the story of a basketball/cross-country coach and a cross-country runner who are both struggling with their identities. Leanne and I both agree that the movie was fairly predictable, but we also agree that we would see it again (and again). The messages in the movie were pretty powerful.

At any rate, towards the end of the movie, tears started flowing down my left cheek. In a way, it was a sacred moment. The emotion evoked by the movie provided a place to release some of the other emotion from the past few weeks that had been bottled up inside me – emotion unexplained in words.

Crying is cleansing. There’s a reason for tears, happiness or sadness.

Dionne Warwick

Crying is cleansing. I like that. Life can be so challenging, so diverse, so amazing and so difficult at the same time. Our tears help to wash and polish our lives. They bring definition and meaning to things we simply cannot express in any other way.

So here’s my question for you:

When was the last time you cried and why?

Figure it out for yourself. Write it down. Ponder this experience. Reflect. Then feel free to leave a comment if you are willing to share.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

I Would Walk 500…

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

In April of 2018, I started a streak.

I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps that day. 12,721 steps.

The next day, I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps again. 12,806 steps.

Then, I did it again for three days in a row. 13,515 steps.

The streak continues, and today I hit a significant milestone – 500 DAYS IN A ROW! (I have 14,460 steps as I type this, and I’m getting ready to go on a walk with Leanne.)

That’s right. For the past 500 days, I have walked at least 10,000 steps every day.

Some of those steps have taken place on a treadmill. Some of happened in airports throughout terminals and even around baggage claim carousels. I’ve walked in my basement. I’ve walked in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Guatemala. I’ve walked in rain, snow, sunshine, moonlight, and complete darkness. I’ve walked inside and outside. I’ve walked in extreme heat and extreme cold.

I’ve kept the streak alive one step at a time.

Walking every day has given me the opportunity to think, to listen, to enjoy God’ creation, to talk to other people (in person or on the phone), to learn, and to find money (I’ve probably found over $20 during these walks).

The Proclaimers recorded a song that is fitting for today – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles):

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

Charles S. Reid & Craig M. Reid – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers

https://youtu.be/tbNlMtqrYS0

500 days of walking is just the beginning. I don’t know how long the streak will last, but I know it has been a great benefit for my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I will walk 500 more!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

What habit do you need to start today? What habit do you need to quit today? And what habit do you need to do again tomorrow?

Both Sides of the Story

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.
We listen to reply.

Stephen R. Covey

I’ve recently been on a Phil Collins kick. Collins got his start with the band Genesis as their drummer and eventual lead vocalist. Invisible Touch is one of my favorite Genesis albums. He eventually became a solo artist, and his musical work is diverse and amazing (in my opinion). He was especially popular during my junior high and high school years, but I believe his music is still relevant 25-30 years later. (He is still touring if you want to hear some fantastic live music!)

As I was listening to the Phil Collins artist channel on Spotify this week, I heard the song for which I titled this post – Both Sides of the Story.

In the song, Collins uses story telling and song writing to remind listeners that everyone has a story:

Find yourself in the gutter in a lonely part of town
Where death waits in the darkness with a weapon to cut some stranger down
Sleeping with an empty bottle, he’s a sad and an empty hearted man
All he needs is a job, and a little respect, so he can get out while he can

We always need to hear both sides of the story
Both sides of the story

Phillip David Charles Collins (Both Sides of the Story)

I don’t think I’m alone when I say there seems to be a growing chasm between people in our country (and perhaps the world). Without getting political, you can see it in U.S. politics where view points seem so polarized, and there seems little effort on anyone’s part to get to understand why someone else would have a contrary viewpoint. We see it when it comes to perspectives on race, economy, guns, drugs, sexual identity, poverty, etc.

People have a strong viewpoint on many of these issues, and they are often not afraid to state their viewpoint – especially on social media where there is an increase in boldness and a decrease in respect. While having these strong viewpoints, people generally are unwilling to listen to the other side of the story.

When the lights are all on, the world is watching now
People looking for truth, we must not fail them now
Be sure, before we close our eyes
Don’t walk away from here
‘Til you see both sides

Phillip David Charles Collins (Both Sides of the Story)

Our news media doesn’t help from what I can find. News networks like CNN and FOXNews build stories around their viewpoints. They widen the chasm by telling only one side of the story. Despite what they proclaim, they don’t really provide a “fair and balanced” look into the “news.”

Before I let you believe this is the problem of others, let me confess that I need to do a better job getting both sides of the story. I’m quick to shutdown others who don’t share my perspective or to those who simply seem to be adding to the noise and the chasm. I need to listen to both sides of the story too!

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

James 1:19-20

Imagine a world where people listened to the other side of the story. Imagine a world where people approached things with a desire to understand. Imagine a world where disagreements were handled with respect and empathy.

Listening to the other side of the story takes time, humility, closed mouths, and open ears, hearts, and minds.

As we head into a new week, I want to challenge you to stretch yourself. Find ways to respectfully engage with others who are different than you – with people who are coming from a different perspective – with people who have another side to the story. Take time to listen. Work hard to understand. Without compromising your beliefs, find common ground and commit to keep listening and engaging to both sides of the story.

What steps can you take this week to hear the other side of the story?

Godspeed

The other day while I was driving with my wife, I noticed a sign that said “Godspeed” on it along with two other greetings. The sign marked the exit out of a specific township and entry into the adjacent township. For some reason, the word stood out to me.

What in the world is “Godspeed“?

Godspeed is not a word you hear or read every day.

My initial guess would be incredibly fast, God-like speed – like millions of miles an hour. Like a fast rocket ship or a really fast motorcycle or something way faster than I can imagine.

I’m guessing that’s not what the sign meant. I don’t think they were telling me to go really, really fast as I drove out of their community.

So what could it mean when they wrote “Godspeed” on their sign?

I looked it up (naturally). The word “Godspeed” comes from old English, and it is a blessing or a wishing of success along ones journey. In other words, the sign was wishing travelers like me success as we journey beyond the boundaries of the township. (To see what Miriam-Webster has to say about Godspeed, click here.)

Wow! That’s pretty nice!

Today marks the return of our daughter, Hannah, to college for her final year at Messiah College. Leanne and I dropped her off this afternoon for the start of cross-country camp and the beginning of her academic year.

It was a bit sad and a bit exciting all at the same time. We are sad that Hannah’s transition from “childhood” or irresponsible youth is rapidly coming to a close. We are sad that she will be missing from our house for the school year and most likely beyond. But we are also excited. We are excited about the “empty nest” we find ourselves in now that both kids are away at college. We are also excited for the journey that lies ahead of Hannah as she finishes college and launches into her career and into her future.

As we said goodbye to Hannah this afternoon, I didn’t wish her “Godspeed” – although I think that would have been appropriate. I did wish her success and blessings on her year ahead. I hope and pray she will have a fabulous year – academically, socially, athletically, and spiritually.

You and I are also on a journey. We are getting ready to head into a new week that is sure to bring lots of adventures, some challenges, and hopefully plenty of success.

As you head into a new week, I wish you Godspeed.

May God go with you and grant you success on your journey!

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