Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Focus on Forever

Helpful Hints from Harmony

Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

 Hint #11:  Focus on Forever

How quickly time flies!  Here we are — yet again — at the end of another year.  It’s been an eventful 12 months.  I’ve found much to celebrate.

Our seventh grandchild was born in August, Matthew Nathaniel Farnsworth.  He and his family live on the other side of the country, so we didn’t get to see him until October.  It was sweet to hold him and hug his older sisters and brother, but bittersweet to know that by the time we see them again, they’ll already be so much bigger.  The words to “Turn Around” come to mind:

Turn around and you’re two,
Turn around and you’re four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl [or boy]
Going out of the door.

We had a grand and joyous Thanksgiving in North Carolina with lots of our East-coast family, including four children, three grandchildren, a son-in-law, a sister, a brother-in-law, and a host of cousins.  And of course, lots of good food.

Turn around and you’re tiny.
Turn around and you’re grown.
Turn around and you’re a young wife
With babes of your own

This Christmas, however, only one of our six children will be with us.  Three will be in other states with their families and two will be overseas, in Turkey and Chile.  In their absence, we’ll relive our Christmas traditions from when they were small and close to us, and we’ll marvel at what wonderful grown-ups they’ve become.  All six are pursuing their chosen paths and we’re happy for them.  We just hope they never forget the path that brings them home.

Turn around and they’re young.
Turn around and they’re old.
Turn around and they’re gone
And we’ve no one to hold.

I’m now 61 and I’ve done my share of “turning around” and seeing my children go from young to old to gone.  Fortunately, even though they are away, they are still ours to hold. We trust that will always be so.

With all of life’s changes, we must not lose sight of forever.  Some things in life have lasting value while others are merely transient.  Success depends on knowing the difference and acting accordingly.

I have a list of things that to me are and must remain “Forever.”  Faith, Family, and Friends are at the top of that list.

Faith:  I believe in God the Eternal Father and in His Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost. I honor and respect others’ beliefs.  Life is a gift from God, a journey of faith that ultimately leads back to our heavenly home.

Family:  I believe families can be forever and are not designed merely for mortality.  Indeed, my view of heaven is a continuation of the ideal family, based on our Heavenly Father’s principles of love, respect, compassion, forgiveness, service, and faith.  It wouldn’t be heaven without having those I most love close to me.

Friends:  I believe friendships are lasting, and the same sociality that we enjoy here will be enjoyed in the hereafter.  Quality friends are a treasure beyond measure.  Serving them is a source of great joy to me.  Love is eternal.

There are other things on my list such as Learning, Giving, and Growing, but nothing tops the big three.

It’s important during the holidays, in the midst of all the parties and tinsel and sparking lights, to not lose sight of the things that last forever.  Indeed, celebrating and reinforcing our “Forever List” is one of the best ways I know to honor the true spirit of this season.

So what’s on your “Forever List?”  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Focus on Gratitude, Giving, and Appreciation

Helpful Hints from Harmony

Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

Hint #10:  Focus on Gratitude, Giving, and Appreciation

I call them “The Three Kings of Thanksgiving.”

We’re familiar with the Three Kings of Christmas: the wise men from the East who followed the star to find the Babe of Bethlehem; who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the newborn King; who heeded heavenly dreams and steered clear of Herod on their departure, thus saving Jesus’ life.  It’s hard to imagine how different would be the first Christmas and our Christmases today without them.

But “The Three Kings of Thanksgiving”?, you ask.

That’s my name for Gratitude, Giving, and Appreciation.  This triumvirate has great power to transform our Thanksgiving holiday into a season of exceptional joy.

Gratitude, especially enjoying and appreciating our abundance, creates greater abundance.  “Gratitude is the open door to abundance,” (Yogi Bhajan) and “Gratitude will open your heart as well.” (Dr. Cathy Phillips)

Thoughtful Giving makes a person come alive and develops more substance in the giver.  Thus those who give are more likely to “find themselves” because there is more to be found.  Deep and lasting joy comes from Giving and sharing.  The sweet and ironic arithmetic of mindful Giving is that both the giver and the receiver are added to and edified by the process. 

Thus the happiest people I know consistently give of themselves to address the needs of others.  As they do, they discover that their own needs are abundantly met.

If we give from the heart — regardless of what we give — the very act of giving blesses us in wonderful ways.  The generative, life-enhancing power of giving renews us and invigorates us whether we share our time, talents, compassion, or money. 

Appreciation is the act of expressing or giving gratitude to the people we love.  Of all the things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season, among the most important should be the people in our lives. 

I’m grateful to my dear friend Nancy Kline, author of Time to Think and More Time to Think, for teaching me a simple yet powerful formula for telling a friend, family member, or colleague what I admire or appreciate about them.  She calls it “The Three S’s.”

Succinct:  Don’t go on and on, just say in a sentence or two a quality or character trait of theirs you like.

Sincere:  Speak from the heart; be honest and real and don’t try to overdo it.

Specific:  Vague generalities (“you’re such a nice person.”) don’t carry any weight—say precisely what you admire about them.

Giving gratitude by expressing appreciation is one of the sweetest ways I know to lift with the same motion two lives — mine and the person I appreciate.  What an efficient way to make the world a better place!

Like those other three kings of two millennia ago, the Three Kings of Thanksgiving transform the holiday.  

Gratitude guides us to a place of reverence for the goodness of life; Giving allows us to open our treasures and share them generously, and Appreciation lifts and protects the lives of others.

I have discovered in my own life that there is an incredible synergy when Gratitude, Giving, and Appreciation are used in tandem.  Each one boosts and energizes the others in an ongoing chain reaction of happiness.  Our joy is multiplied as the cycle is perpetuated.

May you and yours be blessed with an abundance of Gratitude, Giving, and Appreciation this Thanksgiving season!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Focus on Creation and Production

Helpful Hints from Harmony
Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

Hint #9:  Focus on Creation and Production

For much of my life I thought of myself as completely un-creative.  After all, I am not the least bit artistic, have no mechanical skills, and am only marginally musical and athletic.  I supposed that “real” creativity must run in one of those channels.

In time, however, I discovered I have a knack for expository writing, professional teaching, and intellectual tool-building.  It turns out that in those areas, I am actually pretty creative.  Over the years I have developed a substantial body of original work, including four published books, dozens of workbooks and manuals, scores of unique and useful tools and processes for professional advisors, and hundreds of engaging workshops, programs, and presentations. 
Not bad for a guy who — at least in his own mind — was totally un-creative.

So what is my secret to creativity?  How was I able to create so many things?  I think it’s a three-part answer.

1.      I learned to be creative in my own way,
2.      I learned to build supportive teams, and
3.      I learned to push ideas through to completion.

Find Your Own Way to be Creative

Many of us have been conditioned to believe, as I did, that creativity has only a few “appropriate” outlets, like art, music, athletics, or mechanical tinkering.  If our set of talents doesn’t match up with the “approved” list, we think we’re out of luck in the creativity department.

That kind of thinking can definitely stymie creativity. 

I now believe it is possible to define creativity much more broadly.  There are thousands of valuable ways to be creative.  In fact, I think every person on the planet was born a creative genius.  Most simply have not yet found their creative niche.  Sadly, many never do.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, too many “die with their music in them.”

So how do we awaken the sleeping creative giant inside each of us?  How do we discover our creative sweet spot?

One way is to spend more time doing the things we do best and that give us great energy when we do them.  That requires identifying those activities where our skills, passion, and sense of purpose intersect.  It requires focusing our efforts and attention there, spending less time doing other things.  I call that being in “Perfect Focus.”

It was only when I concentrated on doing more Perfect Focus activities that I began experiencing creative breakthroughs.  The old saying about a jack of all trades being the master of none applies here.  Diffuse sunlight may produce a warm glow inside but only magnified, focused sunlight can start a fire.

Creative genius comes from being in Perfect Focus.  The key is to do the things we’re great at, the things we love, the things that speak to our soul, and the things that give great value to others.  If we do them consistently and with our own unique style, we’ll open the door to creative genius.
This process can be accelerated by regularly asking ourselves this simple Incisive Question:

“If I knew that within I am a creative genius, how would I go about discovering my creative sweet spot?”

With that question in mind, you must step out of your own way and let your brain go to work. 

Like magic, ideas will start coming to you.  Possibilities will just “show up.”  Allow yourself to follow them. 

Be patient with yourself as those tender shoots of “creative possibility” emerge and begin to grow.  Start small.  Take your time; this is not a race.  Seek out training to nourish your talents.  Fertilize your imagination by spending time with masters in the field.  Weed out self-doubts and ignore naysayers.  Allow the plant to grow and the fruit to ripen.  Over time, you will discover a bounteous harvest of creativity. 

Build a Team

My second great learning was that I needed a great team.  It’s impossible to stay in Perfect Focus without a lot of support.  And in today’s complicated world, most creative endeavors require a collection of talents and abilities.  It’s unlikely that one person can bring all the necessary skills to the table.  A good team is essential to creativity.

Sir Isaac Newton once stated, “If I have seen farther than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”  My creativity did not begin to flourish until I learned to invite giants onto my team and to delegate important responsibilities to them, trusting they would do them better than I. 

Over the years, some enormously talented and dedicated people, all creative in their own right, have worked with me and for me.  That has made all the difference. 

Sometimes they were directly involved in the creative process itself, bringing skills that I did not possess such as graphic or computer skills, book design, or art work.  Sometimes they took responsibilities off my plate so I could be free to concentrate on my Perfect Focus activities.  Either way, they were essential to the creative process.  

Of course my most important team member and collaborator is my wife Marcie, and I thank her for all her support.  For many years, Sharon Greenway, Cyndi Campbell, and Tina Newell were the key members of the core SunBridge team and I must give them much of the credit for my success.

In addition, I have been able to collaborate with some exceptionally talented people on special projects, such as Mike Cummins and Mary Tomlinson on Legacy Planning Associates (www.LegacyPlans.com), and Ryan Ponsford on Main Street Philanthropy (www.MainStreetPhil.org) and Main Street Legacy (www.MainStreetLegacy.com).  

It’s exciting to bring a group with exceptional creative skills together and build something brand-new.  Creative work in a great team is so much fun!

Finish the Job

The third key to successful creation is to be a doer, not just a dreamer.  At the end of the day, it’s not what you can imagine but what you can produce.

I once worked for a guy who had a thousand brilliant ideas every day before lunch.  His mind was designed to think way outside the box.  He saw connections, extensions, overlaps, and new possibilities in everything he looked at.  When I first met him I assumed that he must have been a master creator.  But when I got to know him better, I found he had very little to show for all his amazing ideas.

That’s because imagination doesn’t equal creativity.  He could dream but he couldn’t do. He couldn’t follow through.  He couldn’t turn his ideas into results.  In fact, his daily stream of great possibilities often got in his way; they cluttered up any thoughts he might have had about how to implement his big ideas from the day before and the day before that.

In addition to him, I know lots of very imaginative people who never create much of anything useful.  They aren’t finishers.  They don’t know how to follow through.  Their minds, their desks, their workbenches or their garages are strewn with all sorts of brilliant but half-cooked ideas and uncompleted projects. 

Creativity requires riding herd on an idea from conception to completion.  It requires focus and persistence.  It requires sticking with a task even when it stops being fun, until it starts being fun again.  Follow-through is just as essential to creativity as imagination.

Every successful creative team must have at least one person who has that “git ‘er done” skill-set, someone who can ramrod a great concept to completion.  Without it, even breakthrough ideas will come to naught and the most brilliant thinkers will be left with a long string of stalled projects. 

So that’s my simple recipe for creativity:  Find what you’re good at and love to do, and do more and more of it.  Build a great team around you.  Push great ideas all the way through to completion.  It has certainly worked for me.

How will you manifest your creativity?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Focus on Excellence Rather Than Perfection

Helpful Hints from Harmony
Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

Hint #8:  Focus on Excellence Rather than Perfection

September 11, 2001, was a red-letter date not only for our country but also for my business.  The events of that day directly caused the demise of a predecessor company I shared with four other partners and led to the creation of my own enterprise, SunBridge.

These past 12 years have been quite a ride.  With a team of three people, SunBridge has produced a wide array of tools, processes, and programs:  The Life Circle, The Legacy Circle, Priceless Memories, Priceless Conversations, Selling with Stories, The Level-Three Circle, The Legacy Builder Network, The Legacy Builder Retreat, The Advanced Legacy Builder Retreat, The SunBridge Symposium, The Success-Full Multi-Generational Family, Personal Asset Advisors, Main Street Philanthropy, and most recently, Main Street Legacy and The Family Philanthropic Adventure, to name just a few.

During the same time, I’ve written and published three books — Closing the Gap (in two editions): Like a Library Burning (with my dear friend Peggy Hoyt); and Double Your Sales: An Honest and Authentic Approach to Professional Selling — and dozens of workbooks and study guides.

Recently, a new member of the SunBridge Legacy Builder Network, after reviewing our hub website at www.SunBridgeNetwork.com and browsing the download and store pages of the member-only section of the SunBridge Legacy website, www.SunBridgeLegacy.com, where much of this collection is housed, said he assumed that SunBridge must have a staff of a dozen people.  I assured him that there’s never been more than two part-time employees and me. 

“Then you must do a lot of outsourcing,” he said.

“No, almost all of this was created in-house,” I replied.

With that, he was dumbfounded.  “What’s your secret?” he wanted to know.

“Two things,” I said.  “Most importantly we are passionate about what we do.  Without passion, any job is just a job, and if the passion goes away, it’s time to move on. With passion, you find boundless energy and creativity.

“Second, we focus on excellence rather than perfection.  We want everything we design and build to be wonderful, innovative, effective, polished, and pretty.  But we don’t wait for it to be perfect before we push it out the door.  We concur with Michael J. Fox when he said:

‘I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.’”

I know a lot of people who never get anything done because they can’t deal with their own expectations of perfection.  Some of them just keep tinkering and tweaking, editing and re-writing, in search of the elusive “perfect.”  As a result, nothing ever emerges. 

Others are so intimidated by their need to be “perfect” that they can’t even get started.  They are always on the verge, always, as they say in Mississippi, “fixin’ to,” but can never seem to pull the trigger.

Too many people live their lives this way.  “Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

Over the years I’ve learned that 90% of something is a whole lot more and a whole lot better than 100% of nothing. 

So go ahead.  Summon your courage, jump from the nest, and try your wings.  You’ll discover on the way down that you really do know how to fly.  It’s only by jumping that we learn to soar.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Focus on Spirit Rather than Stuff

Helpful Hints from Harmony

Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

Hint #7:  Focus on Spirit Rather than Stuff

 Is 5 days enough to make a difference? 
Here’s my account of how, in less than a week, we shifted our focus away from mere THINGS and more toward THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER.  Our “Family Philanthropic Adventure” was a transforming experience for us.  Here’s the story, as recorded in my “Make a Difference Log Book.”

Day 1

Monday night.  In our family we call it "Family Home Evening." On that night, we try to do something meaningful and fun, something to help us grow as a family, and grow closer together. 
Tonight my wife Marcie and I started on a five-day Family Philanthropic Adventure with sons Evan and Paul, daughter Sara and her husband Walt, and our good friends Cathy and Ron Borchardt and their 13-year-old son Josh.

We're using the toolkit from Main Street Legacy and we completed the first three steps. 1) Using the beautiful "Make a Difference" or "MAD" cards drawn by my daughter Elisabeth, we identified our areas of charitable interest; 2) we started a small pool of cash called our "Make a Difference Fund" that we'll give away on Friday; and 3) we got to know each other on a deeper level using a fun activity called "Your Life in a Brown Paper Bag." What an amazing group of people!

We decided to divide into three teams to investigate charitable opportunities in our community in the areas of a) family and children services; b) protecting the environment; and c) historic preservation. On Wednesday night we'll reconvene to see what each team has discovered, then decide how to make a charitable investment in a worthwhile cause. This is such a fun and meaningful way to connect families and change lives!

Day 2

 We are all working individually to locate and evaluate worthy causes in our area. Google is a great resource, and also the instructions in the 50-page booklet that walk us step-by-step through the process. It's actually fun to do the research.

In addition, we're gathering up some loose change to add to our "Make a Difference Fund." Cathy Borchardt sent us a lovely comment via email: "Can't wait to hear about the results! Josh is scouring the house for money and putting it in the piggy bank!  Love it!"
I'm looking forward to tomorrow evening when we report our results and make a decision on how to invest our charitable dollars.

Day 3
We met this evening to report the results of our research and to make a decision of how we could best use the funds we have collected. All were there except Paul, who was away on a missionary project.
One of the most exciting things we heard was about 13-year-old Josh's personal fund raising project. All on his own, he created an outline of the 7 steps of our Adventure and a note describing what we were doing.

The last part reads: "Right now we are fundraising. If you would like to donate to this worthy activity, please contact me before Friday noon. We found loose change in the car and in the couch and it added up! Could you do the same? Thanks so much! Josh Borchardt." He put these in bags and left them on the doorsteps of dozens of his neighbors. We were impressed, to say the least.
Then we heard the recommendations of our group of where to donate our "Make a Difference Fund." There was a wide variety of ideas: help buy a mower to maintain trails here in Harmony; support Eagle Scout projects; provide grass carp to maintain the lakes and ponds in Harmony; help an unemployed deaf couple without good shoes and little food; assist the Osceola Council on Aging; and help an organization that coordinates many church groups who care for homeless families and helps them become self-sufficient.

Our discussion in "The Family Pow-Wow" soon focused on how to best leverage our gift. We decided we could best help the deaf couple by helping them get connected with the Osceola Council on Aging for long-term assistance with a case manager while we provided them shoes from Salvation Army and we did a canned food drive for them on our own.
We recognized that by donating to a 501(c)(3) organization we could double our gift through Walt's employer's matching program. So we decided tentatively to give to the coordinator of church groups helping homeless families called “Family Promise of Greater Orlando.” Evan is going to do a site visit today and conduct a qualitative analysis using the questions in the Guidebook.  If they check out we will arrange to deliver our gift to them on Friday afternoon. What an amazing evening!

Day 4
The toolkit we acquired from Main Street Legacy (visit www.MainStreetLegacy.com ) provides a number of useful guides and tips, including simple and easy to follow instructions on how to set up a site visit to a charitable organization and how to interview a representative of such an organization to see if you want to support them with your time, talent, and treasure.

On Wednesday evening we had tentatively determined to support Family Promise of Greater Orlando, an organization that helps homeless families get back on their feet. But because they were new to us (having been discovered online by our youngest member Josh Borchardt) we wanted to check them out. Evan works nearby, so he volunteered to visit their location during his lunch hour, interview the executive director, and then report back to us. He did so and his experience was very positive. (Visit www.FamilyPromiseOrlando.org ).
Family Promise of Greater Orlando works with a very small staff of only three but they multiply their impact by coordinating a huge army of volunteers in a couple of dozen congregations in a wide variety of churches of many denominations. Evan felt our money would be well-spent there, and in fact as a result of his visit decided that he would make a significant personal contribution to our "Make a Difference Fund." He arranged a time for us to come Friday to present our gift.

In the meantime, Josh's fundraiser is going great! We got an excited voicemail from Cathy Borchardt following our Wednesday night gathering that said, "When we got home from your house, there was a bag by our front door that was full of money. The donations are just pouring in."
We have also located the forms we need to plug into Walt's employer's matching gift program, which will allow us to double whatever money we put together. We can't wait to see how much money we will eventually have to give away to a very worthy charity.

But the impact on our families has been just as valuable, in my humble opinion, as the good we will do for homeless families. Isn't that how life works?--what goes around, comes around, and when you cast your bread on the water, it comes back to you multiplied--? We're experiencing that right now in our home! What a marvelous adventure this has become.

 Day 5
We've done a lot of great things with family and friends over the years, but nothing better than this.

Evan Farnsworth's site visit and research confirmed that Family Promise of Greater Orlando was the right choice for us.
Josh's fundraiser raised $70--just from asking friends and neighbors to share their loose change. Here’s a picture of him with all the change he collected from friends and neighbors.

The rest of us pitched in $180, so we had $250 to give. Walt's employer match allowed us to give a $500 check.
We met Mary Alice Fish, the Executive Director, in their second-story walk-up facility donated to them by Florida Hospital. We had scheduling issues so Sara and Walt had to leave before were able to get together, but the rest of us had a great time hearing Mary Alice tell about her work with homeless families (with emphasis on the "family" part) and she listened as we told her of our amazing five day experience in family philanthropy (again, with emphasis on the "family" part).

We finished our journey into the world of giving with such a wonderful sense of joy, and accomplishment.

* * *


So, is five days enough to focus less on the stuff and more on the things that matter most?  I have to say “YES, no doubt about it.”

Here’s my advice to parents and grandparents everywhere:  If you want to discover your family's values, tap into your children and grandchildren's innate desire to do good and make a difference, find great organizations who are trying to help the less fortunate in your community, have rich and meaningful conversations with the people who matter most to you, learn important decision-making and analytical skills, all while having a lot of fun, you should do this activity. The tool kit is available at www.MainStreetLegacy.com . You'll be very glad you did.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Focus on Abundance Rather than Scarcity

Helpful Hints from Harmony
Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

 Hint #6:  Focus on Abundance Rather than Scarcity

As I hiked the beautiful wooded trails of Harmony recently and pondered the subject of abundance, it occurred to me that there are several ways to approach this topic.
I.                   A good way to think about abundance is to appreciate how very much we have, both absolutely and comparatively.  Surely no people on the face of the planet or in the history of the world have ever come close to having as much as do we 21st Century Americans.

In the face of such prosperity, there is no place for a scarcity mind-set.

“People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. [However,] the more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”  (Stephen R. Covey)

We ought to be grateful for our blessings and we ought to enjoy them.  “Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” (Epicurus)  It is a tragedy to fail to appreciate our blessedness. 
I have found that enjoying and appreciating our abundance creates greater abundance.  “Gratitude is the open door to abundance,” (Yogi Bhajan) and “gratitude will open your heart as well.” (Dr. Cathy Phillips)

 II.                A better way to think about abundance is to recognize that its real meaning is not about material things at all.  “Abundance is about being rich, with or without money.” (Suze Orman)
One of the dangers of our unprecedented material wealth is that it may cause us to become blind to the real abundance in our lives.  St. Luke warns: “A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”  Too much “stuff” gets in the way of seeing and enjoying greater treasures.

Michael Beckwith has written:
“There is a lie that acts like a virus within the mind of humanity. And that lie is, ‘There’s not enough good to go around. There’s lack and there’s limitation and there’s just not enough.’  The truth is that there’s more than enough good to go around. There is more than enough creative ideas. There is more than enough power. There is more than enough love. There’s more than enough joy.  There is enough for everyone.”

There are no quotas or limits to the things that matter most in life.
My joy and happiness do not take away from yours, and your joy and happiness do not take away from mine.

My peace and contentment do not diminish yours, nor do yours diminish mine.
Whatever wisdom and understanding either of us has does not limit the other’s.   

I have learned that when we are able to see beyond physical possessions, we recognize that our abundance is potentially infinite and immeasurable.

 III.             To me, the best way to think about abundance is to abandon any notion of having abundance and to focus instead on giving abundantly.
Something incredibly wonderful happens when the key question of our life shifts from “How much can I get?” or “How much do I have?” to “How much can I give?”

When our lust for accumulation gives way to a yearning to share our abundance, we are not content with blessing our family alone, but range through the whole world, anxious to bless the entire human race.
Something even more powerful happens when we recognize that the most important things we have to give are not the things we own, but a part of who we are.  “Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.  “"The only gift is a portion of thyself."

This insight allows us to see that everyone can be an abundant giver and that “no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” Anne Frank.
Here are some of those portion-of-thyself gifts that we can give more abundantly:

Our time
Our attention

Our kindness
Our forgiveness

Our knowledge
Our wisdom

Our understanding
Our stories

Our cheerful attitude
Our encouragement

Our appreciation
Our questions

Our faith
Our courage

Our example
Our music

Our creativity
Our tenacity

Our sense of humor
There is no end to the ways we can be a blessing in others’ lives. 

Then, miraculously, as we give abundantly of ourselves, what we give comes back to us, multiplied.  “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into you.”  Luke 6: 38 
This I have found to be true:  “When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance.”  Joel Osteen.

Focus on abundance rather than scarcity.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Focus on Common Sense Rather than Cleverness


 Helpful Hints From Harmony

Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

Life Lessons from a simpler place and a slower pace.

Hint #5:  Focus on Common Sense Rather than Cleverness

 “Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."

"And he has Brain."

"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything.” A. A. Milne
* * *
This is wild blackberry season here in Harmony.  I love the challenge of gathering them, and I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Last year about this time, we hosted a reception for 100 people to celebrate my son Paul’s leaving for a church mission to Chile.  My wife thought it would be a great idea to serve them wild blackberry cobbler.
What was she thinking?
Do you have any idea how many wild blackberries you have to pick to serve cobbler to 100 people?

A lot!
An awful lot!
So many, in fact, that I attended the reception with a purple index finger and a purple thumb.
I looked like I had just voted in a third-world election.
People asked me, “Why do you go to all the trouble?  It sure seems like a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for a small reward.”
Sometimes I ask myself the same question.  Here are my top four reasons:

1.      They taste good.

2.      They’re free; you don’t even have to grow them.

3.      I love the challenge.

4.      I get back to common sense when I’m out there in the blackberry patch.
I may have the numbers out of order.  Number 4 may be the most important.
Picking blackberries is slow, tedious work.  You can’t rush.  If you try to hurry, you end up hurting yourself. Slowing down, I have learned, does something wondrous for the soul — and the brain.  It takes you back to common sense.
There’s a lot to be said for common sense. In a world of iPhones and Blackberries, Twitter and Facebook, we are awash in information.  We are drowning in data. This can be dangerous.  “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. They listen so much that they forget to be natural.”  Gertrude Stein.
Information overload can produce the result described by the Apostle Paul: "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:7. 
There’s an old Persian proverb that says, “One pound of learning requires ten pounds of common sense to apply it.”  Those long, hot hours in the blackberry patch allow me to review all the learning in my head, connect all the disparate pieces, and turn them into something useful. 
Years ago, someone asked a college professor I admired how she created such wise and masterful lectures.  I’ve long treasured her answer:  “I read myself full and then I think myself straight.”
I suspect she wasn’t a blackberry picker, but I’m certain she had a quiet place where all the ideas and information she had gathered could be sifted, sorted, and straightened.  I’m sure she took the time to ponder, explore new possibilities, and ask herself incisive questions.  And then listen to her own answers.  It takes slow time in a quiet place for that to happen.
It has been my experience that without time in the blackberry patch or on a wooded trail, I get stuck in the immediate and the trivial, and I can’t see the big picture and the grand possibilities. 
However, when I step away from my computer and slow down for a while, I experience breakthrough thinking.  Common sense kicks in and things shift just the way Madeleine d’Engle described it:  "Things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along." 
It happened like that yesterday, right in the middle of a thicket of blackberry bushes.  Riddles I have been wrestling with for weeks were solved and all the pieces of a difficult puzzle fell into place.  The answers had been obvious all along but I couldn’t see them. 
Here’s to common sense.
And blackberries.