The Art of Making a Home

Making a Home

Making a Home

A friend recently shared an article on “stress free homemaking.” Well, admittedly, I didn’t know there was such a thing as the stress free variety! But that is not the thing that caught my attention. It was the word “homemaking.”

Homemaking is severely underrated and under-appreciated. We often hear the term “stay-at-home-mom” and such, but I think we just try to relabel it to acquire some sort of legitimacy. But, no window dressing is needed. Making a home is hard work and it comes with stress – but the good kind of stress. Making a home isn’t cleaning the house, it isn’t cooking dinner, it isn’t taking care of the kids – necessarily, although some of those things might be included.

Making a home is putting your arms around your husband or wife and holding them tight. Making a home is not losing your temper when your spouse does something to annoy you or disappoints you. Why should it annoy you – you are on their team – your job is to provide an assist whenever needed. Making a home is keeping priorities straight – God, family, work, and everything else down the line. Making a home is staying up late, getting up early, making the umpteenth PB&J, going to school programs or homeschool activities, and a thousand thankless tasks every day.

Homemaking isn’t an easy way out, it is the dearest sacrifice you will ever make – but, strangely, it won’t feel like a sacrifice because it is what you chose to do. Mom, dad, grandparent, whomever the homemaker in your home is – know that the work you do is the most important work to be done. So, do it well. The results will speak for themselves!

Image Credit: pixabay.com, Public Domain CC0

Chest Beating and the Decline of Culture

unsettling of americaI was recently reading a review of a work about author Wendell Berry and it described him as being a man who is concerned about “living in good faith, in our places and with our neighbors.”–Ellen F. Davis

Ms. Davis is right, Berry is a gracious man who writes about faith, responsibility, and the wonder of God’s creation.

Berry is a cultured common-man, a man who is more concerned with how to make the world a better place. However, it is an unfortunate truth that society has degraded culture. To say that one is cultured is no longer an aspiration to refined, reflective taste but rather a vulgar display of self. Chest-beating is in vogue. Humility is not.

Click HERE to find out more about Berry’s book, The Unsettling of America.

Visionary of Awsomeness!

successful man athlete

Not a Real Consultant

Have you ever noticed that when coaches, life leaders, gurus, and other flotsam and jetsam promote themselves, their title generator seems to go into overdrive?

Every once in a while I will take a look on LinkedIn to see what topics are trending. I’m interested in topics such as leadership, marketing, public relations, etc., so my article feed usually includes posts from various individuals promoting their awesome potential to me, a pretty much un-awesome person.

Typically, there is a handsome headshot, smiling with perfect teeth, and they usually appear as though they are ready to break into a success-inspired laugh at any moment. If I just knew what they know, I would be brimming with excitement and be about to burst at the seams too.

Their tag lines (i.e. supposed job title) are something like this: Visionary Thought Leader, Change Agent, Success Consultant, Life Leader, Energetic Something-or-Other, and various other gobbledygook pseudo descriptors.

Translation: they don’t have a day job. Their job is to teach you how to be like them. It is to teach you to teach others to teach them to teach others to be a teacher of people like them.

Whatever happened to just plain ol’ consultants? Old fashioned, rock-ribbed consultants? The beautiful people are creating an industry to create more beautiful people. It’s window dressing. If I need advice it is generally on how to do something I don’t already know how to do. Ok, truth be told, I don’t know how to be a beautiful person, but that’s not my main concern.

I’m concerned with adding value, creating something, doing something better, or adding a little bit to humanity. Sometimes that looks like work. So, wannabe consultant, teach me how to do something. Show me how to improve my web site’s SEO, how to do a split test with my latest email campaign, how to paint, or draw, or wrap presents better. Something, just teach me something! That would be truly beautiful!

Image Credit: stockimages, through www.freedigitalphotos.net

Careful, Intolerance Ahead

intolerantWe live in a culture that thrives on disrespect. For the last decade or so, reality TV has educated us on how to kick someone off the island, drop game show contestants through a trap door, and shame wannabe stars by insulting and humiliating them on a national stage. We can easily blame Hollywood producers or talent show judges, but in reality Hollywood only gives the crowd what they crave. Lions only appear in the Coliseum because people demand lions.

All of this leads to an incredibly self-centric ethic; we are happiest when we vicariously triumph over other aspirants, albeit from the sanitized safety of our living room. We have blinders on and all we tend to see is our way, our wants, and our worldview. We think everyone would benefit if only they saw things our way.

Which brings me to how people are perceived by others when they do not share their faith, or lack thereof. For example, Christians are often criticized by non-Christians as being closed minded, bigoted, and uncharitable. If we Christians would just practice what we profess, non-Christians charge, the world would somehow be more loving, accepting, and tolerant. For some reason, they think that the God in whom they do not believe is somehow the embodiment of love, although they do not think God’s people are very loving.

Of course, it is relatively easy to find a Christian straw man to knock down and critics do not suffer from lack of opportunity. They may point a finger at the Rev. Pat Robertson who famously suggested that earthquakes in Haiti were due to Haiti’s historical link with voodoo. Or, perhaps it is misguided activists from a church in Kansas protesting at soldiers’ funerals. Mix in a few snake handlers and shoutin’ fundamentalists and you have the perfect recipe for hate mongering and caustic criticism. However, the caricature of hateful Christians is largely a statistical artifact. Yes, there are hateful Christians but there are also hateful non-Christians. But the good news is that hateful people are a minority on both sides.

What non-Christians may not realize is that they suffer from the same disease as those whom they criticize. Non-Christians want Christians to be more accepting, even affirming, of non-Christian practices. They want Christians to be OK with drinking, gambling, alternate lifestyles, and a general disregard for moral values, but non-believers are not very comfortable accepting persons of faith.

Why not ask non-Christians to be accepting of abstinence, temperance, family values, and regular church attendance? Is it more harmful to society to be a drinker or non-drinker? I’ve never seen a tragic story in the newspaper lamenting the fact that another traffic fatality was due to a sober driver. We don’t give tickets for driving under the non-influence. Abortion doesn’t save a life and gambling doesn’t bring families closer together. If we are concerned about reducing harm, perhaps we should focus on reducing harmful behavior.

But, we realize in our heart that it is not about reducing harm, it is about personal liberty. People, in general, do what they want to do and do not want others telling them they are wrong. To be “intolerant” of socially liberal ideas seems worse than being an axe murderer.

If one reverses the order, one can see that those who espouse tolerance are themselves intolerant. Non-Christians want acceptance and affirmation of their choices but are not willing to return the favor. Christians can’t pray at high school ballgames because it might “offend” one non-Christian in the audience, but when is the last time a movie theatre cancelled the showing of an R rated movie because a Christian in the audience might be offended? When have we heard for a general call for society to accept women wearing modest clothing or for rock-n-roll enthusiasts to embrace their inner gospel singer? The sick are criticizing the physician and we Christians are all too willing to accept the distorted portrayals and embrace the martyr attitude.

Christian, wake up and stand up! It may be true when non-Christians accuse Christians of letting their faith influence their actions (or at least I hope it is true). However, non-Christians are equally guilty of letting their non-faith influence their own behavior. Non-Christians have become the thing they hate the most – intolerant. Non-Christians routinely let their non-faith influence decisions on whom they hire, promote, do business with, and so on. How is this any more virtuous than the Christian whom they criticize.

Of course, the rhetorical answer is, “it isn’t.”

Greg L. Lowhorn

Download of A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God

The Pursuit of God

The Pursuit of God

For a few days, A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, is available as a free Kindle download for a limited time. If the deal has expired, you can still download it at low cost.

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Click HERE to see if the offer is still running.

Can you make someone care (or should you even try)?

appreciate care duality

Image Credit: pixabay.com

One of the frustrating things about management is that we cannot get people to care as much as we care. Try as we may, we cannot instill the same level of commitment and determination we have into others. But, it’s not for lack of trying.

One of the most effective ways of accomplishing a task is to codify it – break it down into sequential steps and develop a procedure in order to accomplish it. Monkey see, monkey do. It is terribly effective in reproducing results, and that is the attraction and appeal of extending this method to everything.

It seems to just makes sense. If I can codify how to weld two pieces of metal together, I can practice and learn how to do this task very well. I can repeat it seemingly forever and can be very successful in replicating this defined result. In many situations, this is success – achieving a well-defined result using a well-defined procedure.

The temptation is to codify caring. We believe we can make people care by making them replicate our actions. An early attempt to understand this phenomenon was the use of Trait Theory. In trait theory we study the personal traits of a person with the hopes of replicating their results. It is very precise, very scientific; square pegs fit into square holes and we congratulate ourselves on being carbon copies of our heroes.

However, history and experience have taught us that everyone is an original; no true carbon copies of people exist. Try as we may, we cannot replicate or imitate everything in someone’s life because so much of life is secret; it is out of view and intensely personal. Even if I move to Omaha and drink Cherry Coke, it doesn’t mean I will have the investing acumen of Warren Buffet. I can require that someone tell me that they love me but that doesn’t mean they will love me. I can mandate that someone respect me but they will not. Love and respect cannot be codified because they are necessarily secret, out of view and intensely personal.

This reminds me of wanting to make someone care. Managers specialize in accomplishing tasks and replicating results – and appropriately so. However, caring is like love and respect in that we cannot mandate them because we cannot codify them. Even though I can say all the right things and do all the right things, it doesn’t make someone love or respect me. And, even though I can mandate actions consistent with caring it will not guarantee that someone, in fact, cares.

Why does someone love or respect someone else? I believe it is because the person that is loved or respected touches someone on a deeper level and allows the other person to express themselves. The person we love allows us to express ourselves according to our needs. You will never love in a way you do not understand; it is secret and intensely personal.

So, why do we care? We care because caring is an expression of who we are. Caring is an expression of our inner self and it satisfies our need to do something meaningful. We do what we care about, not what someone else cares about. Caring, like love and respect, can never be commanded because it can only be given.

Greg L. Lowhorn

Sometimes, sound can behave so strangely

singer

Photo Credit: Anthony Maragou

Have you ever considered the tonal sound of language as being an integral part to understanding that language? Dr. Diana Deutsch does work in the psychology of music, but what she has discovered about tone and pitch has a lot to do with the epistemology of language. Often we hear words spoken and we do not think much about it, so it passes in and out of our memory quite easily.

However, at other times, we hear words or a phrase in our mind over and over as though it was embedded there by some strange force. Have you ever gone through the day singing a song over and over in your head? That may be because it has a memorable sing-song quality to it or it has an unusually appealing sound, easy to remember because it fits into a rhythmic pattern in your mind. Language can behave similarly – and can have a sing-song cadence or musical attraction that loops continuously in our head. Some quotes are memorable, not just for the import of the message, but also because of the rhythmic appeal that lends itself to memorization. Think of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Bells,” or the urban staccato of Gwendolyn Brook’s “We Real Cool.”

By designing our communication with tone and pitch in mind we may be able to increase it’s recall. It is reported that someone once asked Charles Spurgeon, the esteemed and memorable English preacher of the 19th century, what made him so quotable. His response was that he read authors who were quotable! What Spurgeon may not have understood was that memorable speech has a certain form and sound, and by studying those speakers and writers he was able to replicate the qualities of memorable speech.

There is a reason our teachers wanted us to practice our speech before an audience and a singer tries out new songs on a small audience first. Words are best spoken, not written, and only when speaking can we hear the still small voice of the musical muse within each of us.

Listen to Radio Lab’s interview with Diana Deutsch and hear for yourself how sound sometimes behaves so strangely!

Photo Credit: Anthony Maragou

Doing research the old fashioned way

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Credit: Anna Langova

Bob Bly has a great article in the Jan/Feb, 2015 issue of Target Marketing on using “old school” methods when researching a writing assignment. Mr. Bly writes mainly about doing research for writing copy for ads, fund-raising letters, and such, but his suggestions are well taken for any kind of writing.

At first blush, some readers may be surprised that copywriters need to do research. Yes, at its most fundamental level, research is just discovering what has already been written about a topic. No need to reinvent the wheel, but also no need to restate something that has already been stated, perhaps in a clearer and more concise manner.

The part of Bly’s article that piqued my interest was his admonition to do some research the old fashioned way, by actively reading print copies, browsing library stacks, or just thumbing through magazines at hand. Often, you will find gems of wisdom – and a treasure trove of ideas – seemingly by accident. For example, I was recently flipping through a volume of essays by Wendell Berry (one of my favorite commentators on man’s place in the world) and I came across an essay on the life of Nate Shaw, a quite remarkable man of integrity and uncommon wisdom. From that essay, I gleaned several good ideas, which produced thoughts that were later developed into points in a college lecture I gave on making good economic choices.

If I had not carved out time to do some “leisurely” reading, I would never have come across this material and my lecture would have been lacking. Writing, lecturing, or speaking of any sort, is intellectual work and must be built with intellectual material. Acquiring that material takes time and effort but it is well worth the effort. As a writer or speaker you are not wasting time browsing through libraries, bookstores, or the stack of magazines by your chair. The logger must fell some trees before the miller can saw them into lumber and the builder can build the house. As a producer of intellectual work you must be the logger, miller, and builder – which is sometimes exhausting but worth it if it is a labor of love.

NOTE: You can read Bob Bly’s original article HERE.
Picture Credit: publicdomainpictures.net

Two poems richer

Credit: See-Ming Lee

Credit: See-Ming Lee

I don’t know why I did it, other than because I wanted to, but I read a poem by William Carlos Williams to my economics class. I rationalized it because we were discussing economic policy during the Great Depression, and I remembered a poem by Williams, “To a Poor Old Woman,” and I just needed to share it that day. That reason was good enough, so I read it to them.

It did fit with the lecture, but what I wanted to accomplish was more than bring the Depression into view, I wanted to provide stark relief. And, I wanted to share some art. So, I told them about the poem, how Williams wrote it during the Depression, and how its simplicity allowed the reader to feel the goodness of a simple pleasure, by a simple woman. In my mind, it is simply a beautiful poem.

There is a hint that Williams is somewhat condescending to the poor old woman and her simplicity, but I think he more or less is just relating what he sees; he sees a poor old woman enjoying a cheap pleasure, a bag of plums, which is probably the greatest luxury she can afford.

The poem, like most poems, is best when read aloud, so I read it to my class. I saw that the students could smell and taste the plums too. It is a powerful poem. Its words evoke sights and sounds that can really be enjoyed.

One of my students liked the poem well enough that he went to the library and pulled a collection of Williams’ poems off the shelf. He read through them and liked some, didn’t like others.

But, I asked him If he found any poems he liked. And, he said that he did find two poems he liked. “Great,” I said, “you are now two poems richer.”

Don’t be troubled by a few missteps; no one bats a thousand all the time.

Photo Credit: See-Ming Lee, Plums at the NY Farmers’ Market, Creative Commons ASA License 3.0