Journey into the unknown

Spaceship parking

Have you ever felt completely out of your wheelhouse? Or thought that you knew something and then it turns out, you actually knew nothing? That is exactly how I felt at my first Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. It was a journey into the unknown, stretching me to new limits.

In 2015 I remember leaving Memphis, where the conference was held, feeling like I had been hit by a truck. So many things bumped up against what I had been taught, against the status quo. It was earth-shattering, mind-blowing and more than I could digest in 3 days.

Yet, I was so moved by Dr. John Perkins and Coach Wayne Gordon’s Bible study every morning, my heart was opening to the possibilities. I was also overwhelmed. What could one person do to turn the tides against hatred, racism, injustice and a host of other wrongs in the world?

This CCDA thing was so much bigger than I realized, so much more personal than I realized. My empathy grew. My heart ached for people to the point of tears. My soul cried out to God, “why does it have to be this way?”  God still hasn’t answered that one, just in case you were wondering. But I keep asking.

I had to accept that as Christians we had gotten much of God’s mission for us wrong. This kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven part of the plan, we had messed it up. I saw too much hate, intolerance, persecution, pain, and injustice in the church as man has made it across the ages, the ON EARTH part of the equation was non-existent. That was a hard pill to swallow. It hurt to know that as a Christian those who look to me, see hate, intolerance, persecution, and pain, they do not see Jesus. They see the hurt that was put on them by me and others like me. I am not very Christ-like, I will never be, but I am trying. I am convicted.

I mean, who hasn’t been hurt by church? More and more people are stating that they are just DONE with religion and organized church. Why? Hurt in one form or another. But does it have to be this way? No. We can help create that Heaven on Earth, be good and loving to one another.

How? I realized this journey is one of love. Love is the key to it ALL, and that love lives within me. I can change the world, one smile at a time. The challenge is to LOVE EVERYONE, even if they don’t love me, even if they don’t look like me, act like me, worship like me, believe like me, even if I don’t agree, even if I am on opposite side of the debate or the aisle, LOVE MATTERS. Love is never insignificant.

Does that mean we will all gather together and sing Kumbaya, My Lord? Not even close. Too many times we think of love as a soft, warm fuzzy. Anyone who has truly loved knows it’s hard. It is not all sunshine and rainbows. It is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. And you will fail occasionally. Sometimes you have to do it from a distance. The key is to keep trying. To listen, to respect, to try to see the other side and love even when it doesn’t make sense.

Friends, a word of warning, it is impossible to show love when all you can see and feel is judgment. I grew up under constant judgment, spoken and unspoken, and it has a way of wearing you down until you feel completely insignificant. It is hard to love or be loved from that place.

A place of insignificance is where my journey began. I understood it, and I felt comfortable in my insignificance. I felt I could do nothing to change the course of things, so why try, who would listen to me? Insignificance kept me captive. Love set me free.

Do I have the answer to life’s burning questions? That would be a big, fat NO.

I have long believed judgment should never be mine, that is the Lord’s job, and one WAY too big for me. Rather than judge, I choose to love and to smile.

Can you make someone else’s day brighter with a smile? I challenge you to step out into the unknown and share a smile or a laugh with someone new. I know for your introverts, that will be hard.

You will be amazed at how it will improve your life, reduce your stress levels and begin to build bridges to others who are not like you. Your world will expand and their world will be brightened. You are the light of the world, a city on a hill that can not be hidden.

You may not be able to right the wrongs of someone’s past with a smile, but at least they will see something in you that brings them in, makes them feel a bit better and maybe, just maybe, they will see a glimpse of Jesus in you.

 

If you are interested in learning more about Christian Community Development, I encourage you to follow @iamccda on twitter or https://www.facebook.com/iamccda/ on Facebook. CCDA principles can be found in the book Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development
by Wayne Gordon et al.
Link: http://a.co/0O7tjak

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Are you a toon?

Woody and Jess Pez I love cartoons and puppets. I always have. Maybe it comes from my love art, drawing, and doodling or from growing up on Sesame Street, but cartoons and puppets have always made me smile. On a dreary day or when I’m in a bad mood nothing can lift my spirits and bring me out of the dark places like an episode of the Muppets, Despicable Me, Minions, or old episodes of Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs or just good ole’ Looney Tunes.

I have always been a bit of a toon myself. Over the years, many of my friends have said so. Andy, my hubby, agrees with the statement too, he even thinks I’m part Muppet. He says he can tell when I’m really mad because I get “Muppet lips.” Except for Janice on the Muppets, they don’t have lips. So, I guess that means my lips disappear. He knows I can’t stay mad when he tells me I have “Muppet lips.” I can’t seem to keep myself from laughing when he says it.

I am blessed that I have a husband that loves cartoons as much as I do. There have been many times when Andy and I were the only adults in the theater without children with us. We even had one little boy, barely able to see over the seat, turn around and say, “Where are your kids? What are you doing here?” He just couldn’t wrap his little mind around the fact that we were there to see the movie with just as much excitement as he had. Often times when asked what the last movie we saw together was, we received a strange look when Andy and I both name whatever the last cartoon released on the big screen.

It wasn’t until we moved with the Army to Germany in the late 90s that I realized I wasn’t the only toon in the family. Most people don’t see it, but my husband is quite the toon himself. If you have never met my husband, here is the visual… Andy is 6 feet tall and weighs about a buck forty-five soaking wet. He is lean and mean and still wears the same clothes he had in high school. He wears his hair Army short. He never wears anything but cowboy boots and jeans. His idea of dressing up is a big silver belt buckle and a western shirt to go along with the boots and jeans. He tops it all off with a straw cowboy hat. I fell in love with the guy in that cowboy hat.

One afternoon we made our way across post housing in Bad Kreuznach, Germany where we lived at the time, to barbecue with friends. As we walked closer to the playground where the barbecue area was, our friends 4-year-old son yells across the play ground in a crystal clear voice, “Woody!”

At that time, “Toy Story” was the latest Disney movie and 4-year-old Shane, thought Andy was the cartoon character come-to-life. Well, from that moment on every kid in the neighborhood and most of the adults called him “Woody.” Sometimes, I still do. I even have a little Woody figurine that sits on my computer desk at work to remind me of the toon that I love the most.

Shane is all grown now, and probably doesn’t even remember “Woody” but we will never forget that adorable little 4-year-old and the cartoon legacy he left with Andy.

Are you a toon? Maybe you just need to let your inner toon free. Trust me, it will make you smile, even if you don’t want to. If you could be a toon, which one would it be?

🙂

Thanks for reading.

Reposted from January 2011.

Grande Event Center and the NKBPA

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The Grande Event Center members of the North Knoxville Business and Professional Association. Art Mearns talks about how much he enjoys the networking and business group. The Grande Event Center offers exceptional service for events both large and small. Spectacular venues from weddings and receptions to small business meetings, catering, decorating and over the top service, you owe it to yourself to check out what the Grande Event Center has to offer. 5441 Clinton Hwy, Knoxville, TN 37912
(865) 243-3100 or visit their website at http://www.knoxgrande.com

Motivational Stepping Stones

Stepping stones
Stepping stone photo courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

Stepping stones keep you out of the mire and the muck. They lift you up and give you direction. 
I have used events in my life as motivational stepping stones to give my life direction and keep me out things that could otherwise muck things up.
I love to learn new things. I have always been the type of person that sees something of interest in everything. I often see things, and think I could do that. If offered the opportunity, I would try, just to see if I could accomplish the task. 
My success rate has varied in degrees between great success and failing miserably. Yet, even when I failed, I learned something new, something about myself I didn’t know before. Each success and each failure I used as a motivational stepping stone to guide my next step. 
Does that mean I do everything well? Definitely not, but hopefully by gaining new knowledge about myself and the world around me I gain an appreciation for those who can do things I can’t. That appreciation helps me build great relationships with people who have different talents. In life you need people who can do the jobs you can’t. 
You have heard the phrase, “No man is an island.” That is very true.
For example, I know I will never be an accountant. Numbers hate me. I could however, become a ceramic tile layer. While numbers may hate me, angles love me. In my mind, accounting tends to be more statistical, numbers in rows and rows, while the geometry of measurements and angles are alive, more relational. I love relationships. You would think, math is math, but it’s very different. 
If I had listened to those who said, you’ve never done that, or you can’t do that, I would have missed out on learning a very satisfying hobby. By the same token, I know I have to be very careful when I balance my checkbook. Lucky for me, I have a relationship with someone who is great with numbers to help me. Just because you have learned how to do a task, does not mean it comes easy to you, or it is something you should pursue. But now I know that is a direction I don’t want to go.
Sometimes the events placed in your path change your direction. Many people would allow that change to stop them, but I propose that you use your negative to create a positive. Sometimes negative motivation can lead you in a positive direction.
You would think, as someone who loves to learn new things, I would have attended a multitude of accredited colleges or universities. Alas, I have not. I have an ongoing education in LIFE. I have to say, I’m a survivor and I’m very proud of that.
When I was 19, life crashed in and I had no choice but to learn how to take care of myself. I was in design school, with a promising future ahead and a new husband. Life was perfect until he became very ill. 
As a new wife, I did what needed to be done, I left school and spent the next year with my husband in and out of the hospital as he fought severe complications from juvenile diabetes. Just before my 20th birthday, the unthinkable happened, he passed away. 
On my own, I had to work just to survive and keep a roof above my head, a car to drive, basic survival; there was no time to go back to school. I had BILLS. 
There were so many people in my life, telling me I would never get a job that amounted to anything because I didn’t finish school. If I had listened to them, I’d still be at Burger Queen today. 

As it turned out, I kept applying and my persistence and talent got me in the door to my first design job at age 20, before most of my peers were even out of school. I worked diligently to learn everything I could about the business I was in. That is a habit I have retained even now. 

My philosophy, and it’s served me very well, never be afraid to try something above your pay grade. My first “real” design job was is screen printing. I designed wearable art for colleges all across the US. I was very good at my job, I took instruction well, paid attention to the details and had a way with customers. My art director saw something in me and encouraged it, he relied on me to get things done and help in areas he where he was overwhelmed. 
Because I was able to bridge a gap between creative and sales/customer service our parent company in Nashville promoted me to train other artists in screen printing techniques and be a liaison between the sales staff and the art department. I was also offered the opportunity to learn computer graphics, which I immediately jumped on. 

My desire to learn served as a stepping stone to my first promotion, and my next, and then to my next position and my next.
Every job I have ever had was there to teach me something valuable. Never discount experience, good or bad. Good shows you are making progress, bad teaches you to go in another direction. Each job offers opportunities to learn great things and expand your skill set. 
My point is, by being willing to try something new, I gained potential for greater things. A motivational stepping stone, that launched me into my next career phase. I’m not knocking a good degree, I believe education is very important, but sometimes experience and willingness speak volumes more. 
Never let anyone knock you down because of education, or lack of it. The world is a very diverse place, don’t limit yourself to negative view of it.
There are employers out there who think outside of the box and are willing to see the potential in others. Don’t be afraid to try for something better. When an opportunity arises, work hard and show your capacity and willingness to learn and excel. A good work ethic can be priceless in business.
Look for those motivational stepping stones, step out and learn something new. Who knows, you might find a gift you never knew you had.

The Hatchet Lady

Hatchet on wood
Picture of a hatchet: Microsoft Clipart

Running a business can be full of life lessons. Shortly after I became the managing editor of the Knoxville Focus Newspaper, I learned a very valuable lesson. A great team is worth more than gold, and that one bad apple, can spoil the whole basket.

It was a hard lesson to learn, but it has served me well over the years. I had been in management roles before, but I was never in control of who to hire and who to fire. This was my first foray into that aspect of Human Resources. I inherited a good team and everything went great for a while; but as we grew and things changed, people left for one reason or another and I found myself needing to replace team members.

After a long time employee left the front desk position, I had to begin the search for someone to fill that very important position. The person had to be good with people, able to multitask, take classified ads, invoice customers, do collections and work with route carriers, all with a pleasant attitude.

After going through countless resumes, I thought I had found the perfect candidate. On paper she had the skills, her background came back clean, she interviewed wonderfully. I thought I had found the missing piece of the puzzle.

Sometimes, what seems to be, and what actually are, can be very different things. After training was complete and a few months of settling into the position, she became comfortable, too comfortable. The nice portion of her facade began to crack away and something witchy, this way came.

At first I tried to be tactful and ask if there was a problem, then I tried to counsel, finally a write up. Other members of my team were complaining about invoices and tearsheets going to the wrong people, messages not getting to them and worse, leads not getting to them. The writing was on the wall, I was going to have to lower the ax.

It was just after Thanksgiving, and being the nice person I am, I felt that if I could just hold off until after the holidays it wouldn’t be so hard on the lady. I mean who wants to get fired at Christmas?

It just wasn’t meant to be. After walking in the office and hearing a very loud, rude conversation with a customer, I fired her on the spot and escorted her from the building. I felt horrible. I was Ebeneezer Scrooge!

Thankfully, the rest of my team breathed a collective sigh of relief and rallied around me. It was then, that I knew I had done the right thing for the business and the team.

It wasn’t until Christmas week that I knew how deeply this bad apple had actually effected everyone else.I believe in open and honest communication, so I encouraged dialog. I needed to know where I had gone wrong. Things came to light that no one wanted to talk about before, I learned a few things. we cleared the air and started fresh.

Christmas eve, my sales manager walked into my office with a gift from her and her husband. She snickered as she handed me the box. She had an air of childish mischief about her and I knew it couldn’t be good. Much to my surprise, I opened the box to find a gleaming hatchet with a huge red bow on it. Seems she had told her husband about it all and he figured that if I was going to have to give people the ax, I needed the proper equipment.

I laughed so hard I cried.

Then I hung it on the wall above my desk.

For my next 4 years at the paper, everyone I interviewed had sit across the desk from me and look at that hatchet adorned with a big red bow.

It was a constant reminder to me that sometimes you have to do the hard things, prune the deadwood from an organization, for the good of the whole vine, too keep things growing and going in the right direction.

When a prospective employee would eventually look up on the wall, I could literally see the question forming. “Why do you have a hatchet with a big red bow hanging on your wall?”

I would smile and say with a giggle, “I’m the hatchet lady.” Then in the way of explanation I told them something along the lines of, “With business management comes responsibility, and if a person’s actions harm the business the team is trying to grow, they have to be cut, regardless of the season.”

They either got the symbolism in the conversation or they left thinking I was an ax murder. Since things went really smooth after that, I’d like to think they got the symbolism.

I’m way too nice to be an ax murder, I’m just the hatchet lady.

Sidebar: For those of you who don’t know me. I’m harmless, really, with a nerdy sense of humor. Honest. 🙂