Playing in the Rain

Playing in the Rain

I was meeting one of my good buddies early one morning this week at a coffee shop to catch up on life and sharpen iron before the days activities began.  The alarm woke me up a little before 6AM and as I rolled out of bed I heard the rain hitting the roof.  When rain hits Atlanta you might as well double your commute time… never fails.  I hurried my morning routine, pulled out of the neighborhood and headed to the interestate.  Not a mile down interstate 400 did I see the sea of red across all 6 lanes as commuters begain tapping their brakes.  Frustration settled in a little but I turned on some music to help pass the time.

Breakfast was at one of my favorite spots in the Perimeter area, a French-style restaurant called La Madeleine.  I’ve been going here for close to 12 years.  A mentor of mine invited me there for the first time in my final semester of college as I was looking for my first job.  Before 7:30 in the morning it is filled with the movers and shakers of the business world.  As I left the restaurant I was surprised to hear a piano being played and looked next to the front doors.  There was a young girl wearing headphones and was completely lost in the music as her fingers danced over the keys.  Unbeknownst to me, there was a piano donated to the restaurant and sat outside for anyone’s use.  I chuckled at how long that must have been sitting there without me knowing.

I got in my car and rolled down the windows so I could hear her play – it was beautiful.  I wished I hadn’t had to jet for another meeting.  It would’ve been nice to sit there and listen to her a little longer while the rain came down on my windshield.  As I drove away I started thinking about her playing that piano in the middle of the rain and was really encouraged.  It was 8AM on a Tuesday morning.  Wet, rainy, drab, and grey.  Most of us (myself included) can begin to look at the day through a negative lens when the weather is unfavorable.  Not for this girl.  She was lighting up that parking lot with music and probably touching a lot of lives.  I have no idea who she was but I’m grateful she was playing that piano.

It reminded me to create beauty even when situations and circumstances are unfavorable.  It doesn’t take much most of the time… just a little creativity and having the right positive mental attitude.  I don’t know what season you find yourself in as we head into the holidays but maybe we can all take a little lesson from this girl.  Go play in the rain and inspire beauty and joy despite what might be going on around you.  It’s silly, now that I think about it.  That piano may have been there for years and I’ve walked right past it.  I can’t play a lick but now that I know it’s there, I might have to go play a few keys the next time I go to breakfast.  Is there a “piano” you need to play over the holidays?  Don’t forget to play in the rain.  And the great thing is, the sun always comes back out again.

-SD-

Season Change

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“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”  -2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

 

I’m sitting in my office today watching the last of the rain pass and admiring the beautiful bursts of color in the trees that seems to have manifested overnight.  The cloudy weather has only amplified the colors and made them more exquisite.  Yellows, hints of orange and burgundy, deep maroons, and brilliant reds.  Make no mistake, there is still a lot of green out there.  The transformation has started earlier for some than others, but they’ll all get there eventually.

What season of change do you find yourself in today?  Is it a good one?  Are you waking up with a bounce in your step and refreshed energy because things seem to be going your way?  Maybe you acheived a big goal, paid off some debt, closed that large deal, found some news friends, got some great news from a doctor, or seem to be excelling in work and ministry?  Or have you been caught off guard and find yourself defeated, exhausted, and frazzled?  Financial woes, a job loss, family dissension, marital strife, a sudden illness or health setback, spiritual exhaustion/fatigue, moving and loss of friendships can have a significant impact on our outlook.

Here’s the good news.  Everyone goes through change – no one is immune.  It may be easy to look around at everyone’s “perfect life” and wonder why you’ve been dealt all the bad cards.  But you know as well as I do, that is all a lie.  The book of Ecclesiastes talks about this alot.  The author, Solomon, came to the conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun and that everyone is impacted both positively and negatively.  This isn’t very comforting when are are in the valley.  It’s also not very comforting when you are on the mountain top either.  Kate and I have had to deal with thoughts of fear during the times when things are just going our way.  Afraid that we are one phone call or email away from something going awefully wrong.  We kept wondering, “how long is this season going to last before the bottom drops out”?

We need to be reminded and take comfort in knowing that our point of reference and “hope” is not in what we see around us.  Our achor is Christ.  He will use these season changes, if we allow Him, to mold, shape, and transform us into His glorious image.  What does that mean?  We will begin to reflect the attributes of God more in our life, despite what is going on.  Instead of FEAR, we will be prone to PEACE and rest.  Instead of WORRY, we will TRUST His goodness and timing.  Instead of ANGER, we will sense JOY welling up within us – even when there is not natural reason why it should be there.  Instead of JEALOUSY, we will find ourselves CONTENT with all things.

God’s image is much more glorious than anything we could ever possibly create on our own.  Yielding to his Spirit’s power will not only empower us to walk through whatever season of change we find ourselves in, but will also radiate beautiful colors to those around around us.  I sometimes think about God in heaven looking down on His children.  I wonder… might he possibly see all of us, in our various stages of change and transformation, like the autumn leaves that we see in the midst of fall?  A glorious and beautiful bouquet of all shapes, colors, and sizes.  He’s smiling at you, and he wants to radiate through you.  All you have to do is let Him.

 

-SD

 

Time Away

Time Away

When’s the last time you truly got away… and I don’t just mean heading out for a weekend trip (although those quick getaways are sometimes just what the doctor ordered)…

I’m talking about phone silence, email abstinence, abstaining from chores, relishing in late breakfasts over mimosas, long quiet walks, getting lost in a good book, doing a unique family activity, getting lost gazing into a fire, spending too much time in a hottub, cooking a massive meal with plenty of leftovers, star gazing late at night once the kids are asleep, or cuddle under a blanket with the person of your dreams.

Are you building this into your schedule?  Are you making time for what’s truly important in life?  I’d be able to retire in my 30’s If only I had a dollar for every time someone says how fast the “time flies by”.  Time is precious and we can’t control the amount of it that we’ll be given.  Carpe Diem (seize the day) is one of my favorite slogans from Robin William’s “Dead Poet’s Society” film… seize every moment my friends – don’t let a minute go by without thoughtfully planning how to maximize it to the fullest!

Summertime is the perfect time to take that much needed time away.  Spend the money, you won’t regret it.  And if your boss is not “cool” with you leaving your laptop at the house so you can enjoy some much needed time off… well, maybe it’s time to start looking elsewhere.  I recognize that limited communication/monitoring of the business might be needed if you are an executive or CEO… but come on people, you know you’ll be refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle challenges after a time of isolation.  I guarantee that if you compromise this area of your life, you will suffer dearly in all other areas – albeit emotional, relational, physical, spiritual, etc.

My job requires me to interface with counterparts around the world… I’m always jealous when I receive out of office messages from my colleagues in India, Europe, etc.  Many of them taking a solid 4 weeks off to recharge with friend and loved ones.

So… what are you going to do in your current situation?  My advice (whether merited or not)… turn the phone off, shut the laptop down, put in the vacation days, pull some extra cash out of the bank that you’ve worked hard for, and grab the hand of the person you love most and go off the grid… disappear for awhile… live life to the the fullest.  I promise you’ll never regret that decision.

SJD

What are the Keys to a High Performance Marriage?

What are the Keys to a High Performance Marriage?

Last December, we had the unique opportunity to sit down with Ted Lowe from MarriePeople as we discussed a few concepts from our upcoming book.  This site provides amazing tools to couples of any age as it navigates today’s biggest topics while providing simple ways for couples to make marriag more real, fun, and simple.  We hope you’re encouraged, challenged, and inspired to create something exceptional.

 

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST – “What are the keys to a high performance marriage?”

(repost from the MarriedPeople podcast)

*Your one simple thing this week*

Pick one of the three characteristics of a high-performance marriage and work on it together.

  • Dream: Write down one goal that you want to accomplish in your marriage during the next 10 years.
  • Grow: Pray together so you can grow deeper as a couple.
  • Date: Do something you’ve never done before on a date night.

 

Blessings,

Steve

I’ll Hold The Umbrella

I’ll Hold The Umbrella

Tennis is a fascinating sport.  I seldom watch it at home but ironically it is the one thing I leave on the hotel TV when traveling.  I love watching all the court staff, ball boys/girls, and referees that surround the 2 marquee players in any given match.  There is so much going on before and after ever set in order to maintain order, etiquette, and minimize downtime between serves.

In 2014, there was a rain delay in the first-round match at the 2014 French Open that lasted for just over 10 minutes.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  But what happened in those 10 minutes is something that any leader, aspiring leader, husband, wife, or friend can learn from.  One of the world’s best, Novak Djokovic, sat down to tend to his gear while the ball boy silently held an umbrella over Novak’s head to keep him dry.  Without hesitation, Novak broke from typical tradition by inviting the boy to sit with him and reversed roles by holding the umbrella for him.  The boy’s countenance immediately changed, and his elation could no doubt be seen in the farthest seats of the arena.  Small, private discussions continued as Novak handed over his racket and a water bottle from his bag.  The investment made in that boy will be felt for his lifetime.  It’s a story he’ll never stop telling.  In that moment, the leader, the global icon, and arguably one of the most powerful people in that arena took on the role of a servant.  He held the umbrella.

I’ve listened to business executives say that they’ll take hire candidates out to dinner in order to solely watch their interactions with the restaurant staff and servers.  How we treat the people around us says a lot about our character.  Have you paused recently to look around at all the people who are holding the umbrella for you?  For me, it’s my wife… first and foremost.  There are so many things (both visible and invisible) that she does on a daily basis in order to remove barriers and distractions so i can accomplish my goals.  My boss.  He holds an umbrella for me and my teammates while simultaneously shielding us from situations and communications that could be stressful and burdensome.  My family, mentors, church leadership, and friends do this as well.  Not to mention the restaurant servers, dry cleaning people, car washers, mechanics, financial advisors, baristas, plumbers, gutter cleaners, law enforcement, teachers, lawn maintenance, trash people, and babysitters that take care of the rain so I can focus on the match ahead of me.

When’s the last time you have held the umbrella?  When’s the last time you’ve done it for your wife?  What a crazy, cool ting to actually serve the person that thought they were serving you.  I make it a priority to look for ways to serve Kate that she is not expecting.  She gives 110% every day to our family, friends, community, and ministry.  It is so rewarding to hold the umbrella for her so she can take a break, sit down, relax, and get a reprieve from her duties.  Jesus said that He didn’t come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).  This is a value we should embrace daily.

I challenge you to become more aware and to notice the hundreds if not thousands of things done for each of us every single month by people whom we may never know their names or stories.  Make an effort to go out of your way to be appreciative.  And for those individuals who are intimately involved in our daily lives, the onus is even greater to find ways to humble ourselves, and place those people’s interests and needs above our own.  True leadership is modeled by servanthood.  Follower-ship is gained by selflessness and service.  Who are you going to hold the umbrella for this week?

SD

What’s Certain About Uncertainty

I read a great article the other day from the Atlanta Business Chronicle called “7 Habits of Amazing Successful Sales People (Terry Brock, Contributing Writer)”and one of the habits seemed to jump off the page at me: Hustle when others hunker down.  When uncertainty or tough times come about (and they always do) the winners and leaders take a different approach than the average person – they jump into hustle mode while others want to stay under the radar and not rock the boat.

We all like certainty and security.  It makes us feel good, relaxed, and less anxious.  Predictability is a good thing and the desire for comfort is fundamental to our human nature!  However, one of the only certain [assured/guaranteed/definite]things in this life is that uncertainty will always be present! The deal fell through, the boss you love has left, family relations took at drastic change, sickness struck without warning, a friend left you hanging, that promise was broken, the money didn’t come in, that trip didn’t happen, that dream won’t be fulfilled.  What do you do in this moment and how do you react when met with hardship and unexpected circumstances?  Do you retreat, let life beat you down, dwell on the negatives, assume the worst, abandon your dreams and aspirations?  Or do you get back on your feet, look at what you can control in your life (emotions, time, energy, thoughts), fight, work hard, keep the right attitude, and determine to move forward?  The latter find a way to use their challenges as a springboard to success. Don’t allow it to crush your spirit or discourage you from using your gifts and talents.  Success can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people – only you can determine what that looks like for you personally.

Those of us who have faith in Christ Jesus know that His ways are above our ways and that we should count it all joy when we fall into various trials.  This doesn’t mean that we should be happy about the hardship… it means that we can get excited about what the trials will produce in us ifwe allow God to work through us.  Just as you go to a gym to workout and literally tear your muscles in order to get stronger, so God allows/uses the trials and uncertainties of this life to build character, perseverance, and spiritual faith.  When we are weak, He will be strong in us.

Don’t take your foot off the accelerator, don’t hunker down, don’t look for an easy way out, don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, and don’t throw away your dream.  Uncertainty is certain, but what you do during those uncertain times will greatly alter the outcome of your life and those around you.

-SJD

http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/how-to/marketing/2014/12/7-habits-of-amazingly-successful-salespeople.html

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“Remember who you are” –J. Mingee

 

Me vs. You

Me vs. You

Lately, my wife and I have been talking about the various seasons of life people find themselves in and specifically the season we are in – young kids, school, new home, work, small group, and a busy schedule with even more things to do and less time to do them!

I think almost anyone you talk to will respond in a similar way, although the circumstances may be different – maybe you’re trying to get into college, land that first job, keep that girlfriend/boyfriend, work up the money to buy an engagement ring and propose, buy your first house, upgrade the car, deal with a challenging work environment, losing a job, changing careers, starting a family, increased finances, loss of finances, growing your marriage, trying to repair a damaged one, personal tragedy, sickness, family problems, raising kids, watching your kids leave the nest, grandchildren, retirement, death of a spouse or family member… the list is endless.  With so much going on at any given moment it is hard to stop, to pause, and just be.  We are busy, busy, busy… time may be our most valuable asset but sadly it is probably the most abused.

We live in a culture that thrives on endless connectivity (there is a lot more to say about this but I’ll reserve for another time), the internet, social media, Facebook, phones, apps, news, NetFlix, Hulu, entertainment, reality TV, music, eCommerce, money, materialism, sports, fashion, etc.  Unfortunately most of these activities center around, cater to, satisfy, and serve ME.  I don’t have time for YOU… did you see the list mentioned above and all the other demands/challenges/to-do’s that I did not have time to write about?  I’m struggling just to take care of and maintain ME, let alone anyone else outside of my immediate family.

When’s the last time you held the door for someone, bought the person’s coffee behind you in the Starbucks drive through, prayed for someone else’s needs instead of your own, gave of your time and money for a cause greater than yourself, spent time mentoring the next generation of leaders, really focused on your spouse’s needs/desires and did it with no strings attached, cancelled that golfing outing to spend time with your kids, wrote a friend a letter, asked a neighbor if they needed help, gave a gift to someone who has been influential in your life, served in your church or charity, or really took time to get to know the people that work for you in your organization?  This is not meant to be a guilt trip but to make us all stop and pause long enough to see how selfish we may have become and to find ways in our daily life to move the spotlight off of ME and onto YOU.  Whether you are a Jesus follower or not, our world would be a much better place if more people asked, “What can I do for you?”, instead of “What’s in it for me?”

I challenge you to broaden your view and fight the tendency to become narrowly and selfishly-minded.  On one paticular Sunday, our pastor mentioned that when worry grips us the best thing to do is immediately pray for someone else’s need.  This will not only put our own circumstances/challenges in perspective but will also help us trust God with our own needs.  Make a difference in someone else’s life today.  Be a light.  Be an encouragement.  Be compassionate.  Be generous.  Be caring.  Be sympathetic.  Be hospitable.  Be a blessing.  Be a servant.  Be YOU-focused outwardly.

Matthew 25:34-40 (NLT)

34 “Then the King [Jesus] will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f]you were doing it to me!’