Food for Thought-Gratitude on a Clear Irish Night

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As the sun has set on a clear Irish night, I’m writing into my Moleskine these things for which I am grateful…

I am grateful for the blue sky and sunshine.

I am grateful for the fresh air.

I am grateful for being told thank you by one of our girls.

I am grateful for the privilege of making lunches.

I am grateful that our community  recycles every other Friday.

I am grateful for the salad I had for lunch.

I am grateful that our older daughter and I discussed the impact of Keynes’ theories on the treaty of Versailles.

I am grateful for my wife and all that she does for me and our family.

I am grateful for our children and their sense of fun and adventure.

I am grateful for my parents and their love and support.

I am grateful for Ruby.  The day isn’t the same without her.

I am grateful for our extended families.

I am grateful for our friends both near and far.

I am grateful for the congregations I serve and their witness for justice and love.

I am grateful for our new friends in both communities I serve.

I am grateful for the volunteers in both churches who know why they do what they do.

I am grateful for the chance to pursue my calling each day in this time and place.

I am grateful to be a servant leader.

I am grateful for our home, it’s warmth, shelter, and clean water.

I am grateful for the food we share as a family.

I am grateful we have easy access to food that is affordable.

I am grateful we live free from fear of persecution.

I am grateful for my health and well-being.

I am grateful for the health and well-being of my wife and children.

I am grateful that my parents are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

I am grateful for being made to slow down and see what’s really important in the moment.

I am grateful for all the life I see around me.

Food for Thought-3 Leadership Lessons from the Gruffalo

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The Gruffalo is a modern classic work of Children’s literature that touches on so many human emotions.  The story’s basic premise deals with a little mouse, who is trying to bluff his way passed a variety of predators by telling the snakes, foxes, and the like about a mythical beast he is eating lunch with, a Gruffalo.  The concept of the Gruffalo is far too frightening for any of the mouse’s natural enemies to hang around so they go on the way.  The problem starts to develop when the mouse realizes that the mythical Gruffalo isn’t imaginary after all.  What all the other animals were afraid of and he only thought of in his mind is indeed real.  Haven’t all leaders been in a place where fear suddenly becomes tangible?  Is the Gruffalo the original Black Swan?  What can the Gruffalo teach us about fear and the unexpected?

1.  Some of our fears seem very real even if you have no confirmation of their validity.  None of the animals of the deep dark wood had ever met a Gruffalo.  They relied solely on the depiction of the little mouse and their own imaginations.  What happens next?  What if the money dries up?  We know there might be something like a Gruffalo out there, though we never seen it, but yet we spend so much of our precious emotional energy worrying about things that might, in the end, be mythical.

2.  When we confront our fears (when the mythical becomes real) we are able to go past any number of obstacles that we would could have never done before.  In fact we travel with our fears, we face and defeat our obstacles in a most convincing manner.  The little mouse walked right past the snake, the fox, and everyone else who was intent on eating him for lunch.

3.  The things that we fear most are sometimes things that need our compassion, care, and love.  In the end, the Gruffalo needed a friend and he needed lunch, real food-something that would fill him up in a way that one little mouse would never do.  Gruffalo crumble was the only long term answer.  What are the long term answers in our organizations?

Food for Thought-Gratitude on a Clear Blue Thursday Irish Evening

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As the sun sets on a clear blue Thursday Irish night, I’m marking into my Moleskine these things for which I am grateful…

I am grateful for the beautiful blue sky and the sunshine.

I am grateful for spending time with my colleagues.

I am grateful our children feel comfortable inviting their friends over to play.

I am grateful for my conversation with Jim.

I am grateful for the ever slight way that one can tell the change of seasons.

I am grateful for the opportunity to witness history.

I am grateful for my wife.  She is my best friend and partner in service.

I am grateful for our children.  They are the heart and soul of our daily lives.  It is never dull.

I am grateful for Ruby.  She is the Sea of Tranquility on our Lunar surface.

I am grateful for my parents.  They do for us as no one else does.

I am grateful for our friends both near and far.

I am grateful for our extended families.

I am grateful for those here in our communities who are our friends and neighbors.

I am grateful to be a servant leader in this time and place.

I am grateful to be following my calling among the people of Northern Ireland in this moment in time

I am grateful for the volunteers in my church community who know why they do what they do.

I am grateful for both of my congregations; outposts of justice and humanity in a world of injustice and inhumanity.

I am grateful for my calling that provides a home that offers warmth, shelter, and clean water.

I am grateful we have food to share as a family.

I am grateful that we are close by to our resources and they are relatively cheap.

I am grateful that we live from fear of persecution.

I am grateful for my health and well-being.

I am grateful for the health and well-being of my wife and children.

I am grateful that my parents are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

I am grateful for the opportunity to slow down and learn some things aren’t really that big of a deal.

I am grateful for all the life I see around me.

Food for Thought-3 Leadership Lessons from Amartya Sen

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1.  Examine the problems and then start asking the right questions.  Sen is a trained economist.  His Nobel prize is in Economics.  However, he realized that in order to address the larger questions of poverty and inequality he saw in places like South Asia, he couldn’t rely on numbers alone.  He needed philosophy and other disciplines to begin to ask the right questions on how best make better decisions about the poorest people in the world.  How closely are we looking at the problems we face?  Whether in a committee of seven, an organization of one or one hundred?  Are we asking the right questions?

2.  Go where the questions lead you.  The questions may lead you somewhere uncomfortable.  You could be sent toward a mirror and end up asking yourself questions.  You might be asking people questions that don’t want to make the causal links and jumps you think are obvious.  Those same people might be the ones on our own committees and teams.  Go where the questions lead you.  Ask them.   The answers matter.

3.  Within our organizations, the people we lead are only as willing to do things as we are willing to empower them to be involved.   For people to volunteer in my religious community, they must feel welcome, be able to physically get there, and be well-informed so they can integrate into the life of the larger community.  It is very easy to take this process for granted.  What are we taking for granted, believing that everyone knows they can participate in but can’t and as such they are inhibited from  being fully present?

Food for Thought-Gratitude on a Dry Irish Night

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At the close of a dry Irish day, on the cusp of windy Irish night, I’m writing about these things for which I am grateful…

I am grateful that two of our daughters told me goodbye when they left our house this morning.

I am grateful for our youngest daughter not being to ashamed to wave when she sees me with her classmates.

I am grateful for seeing my neighbors out having fun at the library.

I am grateful for the sunshine and blue skies.  I cannot say that enough.

I am grateful for the fresh breezes that enliven my day.

I am grateful I was able to give away my parking pass.

I am grateful for the smiles I saw when I said good morning to the people who looked like they might be having a bad day.

I am grateful I was able to laugh at myself when my hat blew off my head and into the street.

I am grateful I wasn’t injured when I went back to get it.

I am grateful for my wife.  She is my partner and my best friend.  She makes me happy.

I am grateful for our children.  Their unique personalities go together to form the unique picture that makes up who we are.  We are not the same without them.

I am grateful for my parents.  Without them, none of this could have ever happened.

I am grateful for our extended families.

I am grateful for our friends both near and far.

I am grateful for the Black Lab named Ruby.  She never stops surprising us with her energy and love.  She is our black lab and we are her humans.

I am grateful for each of the friends and acquaintances we know here in the communities we serve. 

I am grateful for the chance to chase my calling in this time and place.

I am grateful to work with a dedicated team of volunteers who understand why we do what we do.

I am grateful for both of the congregations I work with, outposts for justice and humanity in a world full of injustice and inhumanity.

I am grateful for my calling and that it provides a home with warmth, shelter, and clean water.

I am grateful that we have food to share as a family.

I am grateful that our resources close by and relatively cheap.

I am grateful that we live without fear of persecution.

I am grateful for my health and well-being.

I am grateful for the health and well-being of my wife and children.

I am grateful that my parents are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

I am grateful for being made to slow down at times and realize things aren’t worth being upset over.

I am grateful for all of the life I see around me.

Food for Thought-3 Leadership Questions for Your Inner Composer

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Whether you realize it or not, everyone has some musical ability.  This ability may not manifest itself in a traditional form but in a variety of different ways.  I’m certain that if you look hard enough, you will see it is there.  We all have a song we can sing or play on our instrument.  The piano may be in your heart or the saxophone may be in your head.  Perhaps it’s that long dormant guitar in your gut.  Regardless of the instrument, there is something from within you that can make the day sing or those around you start to hum.  You words and actions can have the same emotional and physical  impact on your team, friends, and family as a snippet of their favorite song-calming, reassuring, affirming, motivating, or laughing.

1.  What is your instrument?

Many of the greatest composers wrote for more than one instrument.  Do we need to write for more than instrument to connect with the variety of people who surround us?

2.  What will be your song?

Will we be the composer or will we sing the work of another composer?

3.  Will you play your song today?

Is your reed fresh?  Have you checked your strings on the cello?  Is the bow rosin in the case?  Do you have all you need to play your song?  Do you have all you need to be a leader today?

Food for Thought-Gratitude as the Sun Sets on a Clear and Cold Irish Night

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As the sun sets on a clear and cold Irish night, I’m marking into the Moleskine these notes of gratitude…

I am grateful for sharing breakfast with my neighbors.

I am always grateful for the sunshine.

I am grateful for the blue skies that follow the sunshine.

I am also grateful for the moments of rain.

I am grateful when everyone comes home from school safe and happy.

I am grateful when someone calls and I am able to pick them up from school early.

I am grateful for new ideas and plans for the future, even if the future is only later today or tomorrow.

I am grateful for the good salad I had for lunch.

I am grateful for my wife.  She listens, she responds, she engages and helps me to be a better man each day.

I am grateful for our children.  They are the three parts of our life on which everything else rests.

I am grateful for my parents.  They love us unconditionally.

I am grateful for Ruby.  She is the life of our party we call life.

I am grateful for our friends both near and far.

I am grateful for our extended families.

I am grateful for our friends and acquaintances in the communities I serve.

I am grateful for our congregations.  They are outposts of justice and humanity in a world of injustice and inhumanity.

I am grateful for the volunteers I serve beside each day.

I am grateful to be able to chase my calling each day in unique ways in this time and place.

I am grateful to be a servant leader in the communities I serve.

I am grateful that my calling provides us with a home that offers warmth, shelter, and clean water.

I am grateful for the food we share as a family.

I am grateful that our resources are close by and relatively cheap.

I am grateful that we live free from the fear of persecution.

I am grateful for my health and well-being.

I am grateful for the health and well-being for my wife and daughters.

I am grateful that my parents are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

I am grateful  for shared good news.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be forced to slow down.

I am grateful for the life I see around me.

Food for Thought-3 Leadership Lessons from John of the Cross

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1.  The Dark Night of the Soul is a poem by a 16th century Spanish mystic, John of the Cross.  The term has become  synonymous with someone in a time of despair and doubt.  However, the Dark Night of the Soul doesn’t have to about depression, loneliness, or isolation.  While we tend to hear the terms “darkness”, “night”, and “soul” with gloomy melodramatic connotations they can also be those times when the world around us is at its most hushed, when distractions are at their least, and we can focus on what is going on inside ourselves.  Often times, good things can result from such voyages of discovery.

2.  When you’re in that “Dark Night” period it means you’re living by radical trust not radical worry.  If you are living in a time of  darkness, you have to have faith in whatever higher power you believe in or the friend or friends you’ve surrounded yourself with in help walk with and guide you.  If they are there, if you have faith in them and you trust them implicitly much of our worries about moving through the darkness should begin to evaporate.  Radical darkness and radical worry have no power over radical faith and trust.

3.  Why are we there?  More often than not we place ourselves in the “Dark Night” periods.  Our actions, either willful or unconscious place in situations where we are forced to reflect on our intentions and motivations for why we do what we do.  Regardless of the reason why we’ve arrived in the Darkness, who are we going to find to help us move forward and what are we going to do differently on the other side.

Food for Thought-Gratitude on a Cold Irish Evening

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At the close of a cold Irish evening, I’m marking into my Moleskine the these gratitude points…

I am grateful for seeing our youngest daughter as soon as she comes home from school.

I am grateful to be able to ask, “how was school today?”

I am grateful to hear about her friends and her schoolwork.

I am grateful for the man I met while I was in town today.

I am grateful for the wonderful conversation.

I am grateful for the opportunity to help someone who has a need.

I am grateful for the warmer weather during the day and the intermittent sunshine.

I am grateful for the late afternoon rain.

I am grateful for my wife.   She listens, she works, she cares, she loves.

I am grateful for each of the children and their own unique ways they compliment our lives as a family.

I am grateful for my parents.  Their love, care, and support knows no bounds.

I am grateful for Ruby.  She is our Black Labrador of Love.

I am grateful for our friends both near and far.

I am grateful for our extended families.

I am grateful for those I know and call friends in the communities I serve.

I am grateful for the new friends I make in unique places each day.

I am grateful for the opportunity to chase my calling each day in this time and place.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a servant leader in the communities I serve.

I am grateful to work with committed volunteers.

I am grateful that my calling provides our family with a home that offers warmth, shelter, and clean water.

I am grateful for the food we share as a family.

I am grateful that our resources are close by and relatively cheap.

I am grateful that we do not live in fear of persecution.

I am grateful for my health and well-being.

I am grateful for the health and well-being of my wife and children.

I am grateful that my parents are healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

I am grateful for being made to slow down.

I am grateful for the life I see around me.

Food for Thought-3 Leadership Lessons from Guess How Much I Love You

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1.  Our most important questions often come when we are most vulnerable.   The Little Nutbrown Hare was preparing for bed, hold for dear life to his father’s ears, because he wanted to be heard.  He was about to ask him the most important question of his young life.  “Guess how much I love you?”  Only at this vulnerable moment before sleep and by placing himself in such a precarious position, was the Little Nutbrown Hare certain he would be heard.

2.  We all want to know we are loved.  This may be the most important question in the world.  People have been asking it of each other for centuries.  In Guess How Much I Love You, the Little Nutbrown Hare knows that his dad is fully aware that he loves him.  What he wants to know if he is aware “how much” he loves him?  So many people in our lives, whether in our families (spouses, children) or in our organizations know that we love and appreciate them.  The question is, do they know “how much” we love or appreciate them?  How do we show them?  How do we tell them?  Do we have to hop as high as we can?

3.  How much you love or appreciate someone is immeasurable.  Ultimately you can’t measure emotions in a definitive way.  It’s only by combining what we say, how we describe how we feel with the lives we lead that the true “much” of our love becomes visible.