Astonish Me

I read a riveting Fast Company Co.Design article about Alexey Brodovitch, the long-term art director for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, the other week.  Brodovitch was a pioneer in graphic design who would not be confined by perceived limitations. He was brilliant.

Photo credit: www.fastcodesign.com

By no means am I a fashionista, or even an art expert… so more than Brodovitch’s accolades and accomplishments, I was captivated by his desire to exceed expectations. In fact, he constantly challenged  his colleagues to “Astonish me.” He saw the expected and went beyond that. He wasn’t satisfied with industry standards. Rather than get caught up in the deliverables, he cultivated ‘bold-thinking’ and visioneered something bigger than himself.

The  article transitioned to a business-focus where the author spoke on how Brodovitchian thinking has infiltrated his experience with big and small design firms. It’s a fascinating article. Near the end, he continues with what he feels the difference factor is:

What sets famous, successful brands apart from obscure, struggling ones can be reduced to one fundamental value: ambition. Not the Porsche-driving, Rolex-wearing, eighties kind of ambition, but the kind that says, “We are only going to be here for a while, so why don’t we invest everything we do with real meaning? Why don’t we make every communication we put out there a gift? Why don’t we stop waiting for ‘the perfect opportunity’ and make this one as perfect as it can possibly be? Why don’t we stop making excuses for our mediocrity and use our talents and our influence to make this package, this commercial, this poster something special?”

Solid, right?

Translating this into our own lives…

1. Be present and engaged with my family. Give them my voice and attention — they deserve it.
2. Are my words kind, affirming, and encouraging?
3. How can I be intentional where I am right now (instead of waiting for the ‘perfect opportunity’)?
4. Live in your gifts.

On top of all this, as believers we have another ‘difference factor’: Christ in us, the hope of glory. We don’t have to rely on our own strength to do any of this. We trust in a God who sustains, loves, and provides at all costs.

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How can you astonish someone this week?
Do you have a favorite piece of art? 

 

When Bloggers Unite


On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to hang out with countless other bloggers at the annual, pre-Catalyst Bloggers Meetup.

Not only did we all get the chance to break out of our internet-only shells, but we also were given the opportunity to put faces with names, laugh it up with like-minded people, and take silly pictures like the one above.

Above is picture of myself, Ben, Sonny, and Moe. What Moe is doing, we may never know… (may be another story for another time).

One of the coolest things about blogging is just this: participating in a community that cultivates friendships. These dudes are solid dudes, and I’m grateful to have gotten to know them over the last nine months.

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Who would you love to meet “IRL”?
What on earth is Moe doing? 

 

Tozer on Complacency

In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer begins by encouraging fellow believers to “follow hard after God”.

From the beginning, he talks about being deliberate to encourage this longing–but also recognizes that there are “foes” that seek to stunt this process. He writes:

“The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.”

Photo credit: Eduardo Amorim (Creative Commons)

In the early stages in my walk with Christ, I was not deliberate with my faith. I felt “close” only when it was most convenient to me.

I’ve learned over the years, however, that sometimes my faith can struggle, doubt, and wrestle… and still be focused on Christ. That is okay.

Tozer then goes on to write that “faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze [at God]”. Our faith is a work in progress; continually being transformed into His image.

Personally, complacency is one area that seems to re-surface in my life — probably because I don’t always see it coming. When complacency sinks in, you don’t necessarily see that anything is wrong (and that can be deadly!).

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What “deadly foe” have you been faced with in your life?

Stop and Smell the Roses

Atlanta sunrise.

I took this picture on my phone last week from my office in Atlanta. The view was stunning; I had to stop and capture the moment.

Most days follow the same routine: make the commute in, park in the deck, take the elevator up, and walk to my desk. I do all this with my eyes down, focused on what is immediately ahead of me.

Last Friday, however, I was reminded of one thing: I forget to stop and smell the roses.

With work especially I can get so single-minded; so zeroed-in on one goal.

I see what’s ahead of me (a task, an ambition, an objective) and blur out the things around me that I can experience along the way.

I noticed this same trend as I was hiking in Morocco earlier this month. I became so fixed on my steps that I failed to reflect on my surroundings. I soon realized there was a measure of intentionality that I needed to realize in those situations. When I stopped and looked around, it was refreshing.

God wants to show us His beauty everyday. Where are we setting our sights?

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In what area do you need to just “stop” and look around?

Descending Down Your Mountains

Trekking up a mountain is a big deal (even Shaun King is doing it!).

I didn’t realize the magnitude of that statement until I actually reached the summit of Mt. Toubkal in Morocco.

But what I didn’t expect was that the descent down the mountain would be just as hard (if not harder).

After reaching the summit (13,671 ft), I assumed it to be smooth-sailing from there on out. I mean, the difficult part had to be over? Right?

Wrong.

Um.. big deal!

The journey back down to camp was just as draining — both physically and mentally.

The slopes seemed steeper, the rocks seemed bigger and the backpack seemed heavier.

Yes, I had accomplished my “goal” of reaching the summit, but was that really my end-goal?

My vision was short-sighted and I didn’t see the entire picture.

I forget sometimes that when I climb a “mountain”, I still need to make the trek back down.

I’ve had a few mountains that I’ve had to ‘descend’ in the past: mission trips, projects at work, family conflicts that needed resolution.

All require focus, intentionality, perseverance and a few band-aids.

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Tell us about a “mountain” have you descended down.

Reflections After The Hike

For those of you who read my post a few weeks back, and who might follow on Twitter or FB, I went to Morocco to hike up the tallest mountain in North Africa. Admitedly, that is not something I would normally choose to do during my sparetime. Hello–I’m a nerd, not a mountaineer!

While the trip was a ‘work function’ (team building), I feel that I approached it with a set of different eyes than the rest of my team. As I mentioned before heading out, I wanted to experience God’s beauty in a part of the world that, chances are, I won’t get to see again.

I was able to spend time in the center of a big city (both Marrakech and Casablanca) along with the beauty of a tiny mountain town (Imlil). Both unique, both spectacular!

Mt. Toubkal was actually behind that mountain!

Looking back at my reflections before the hike, I wanted to circle back around and see if my experience met my expectations.

Take risks. Simply by participating on this trip, I was able to cross this point off. I can definitely mark this off as something out of the ordinary for me.

Real time community. While it wasn’t the norm, one night of the hike included all 21 of us sleeping in a single room like sardines. Who knew I would sleep next to our CEO and one of our VPs?

Endure. I’ve completed a marathon. I’ve had sleepless nights (hello fatherhood!). Both require unbelievable endurance, but trekking up a mountain was something on a whole different level. Maybe it was that I truly didn’t know what to expect? A few hours into the hike, lugging a heavy backpack, I soon realized ‘one foot in front of the other’ will be my mantra for the next couple days. Also, I figured going up would be the hardest part — but going down required so much more mental activity.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. The goal of the trip (building unity across a global organization) was a success. But on top of that, I was able to actively reflect on the beauty of God’s creation. At times I had to be intentional about stopping to look up, because going up (especially) I became so intent on pinpointing my steps. I didn’t want to be so focused on the activity that I failed to reflect on my surroundings.

Lastly, thanks for those fantastic guest bloggers to ‘holding down the fort’ in my absense. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Justin, Tony, and Keri’s individual blogs. Also, in case you missed it, my wife graciously shared her amazing writing (“I Am From”) the week after I returned. Great stuff.

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Describe an experience in your life where you learned about ‘endurance’.

Stonecreek Church Hosts “An Evening with John Eldredge”

I’ve read a few John Eldredge books – Wild at Heart, Waking the Dead, and Love & War. To be quite honest, Love & War was one of the best books on marriage I’ve ever read. It was insightful, practical and full of questions that spark conversation. I’ve gone through it in a small group setting (highly recommend!) and also personally by reading the book. If you want a book that challenges you at a personal level while giving granular advice that is very basic (in a good way!), I can’t say enough good things about that book.

On another note, I’ve excited to announce the church I attend and serve at is hosting an evening with John Eldredge next month. I’m excited to learn more about his new book, Beautiful Outlaw! If you happen to be in the area, I hope to see you there! (Details below.)

Stonecreek Church will host Beautiful Outlaw: An Evening with John Eldredge, Tuesday, October 11, 7 p.m. in the main auditorium. The event is the first stop in Eldredge’s four-city tour to celebrate the release of his new book.

Eldredge shares, “Beautiful Outlaw is a book I’ve just written about the personality of Jesus–His playful, disruptive, scandalous, dangerous, beautiful personality. There is nothing more that matters than Jesus; to have His life, His joy, His friendship, His love. To know Him is to have the greatest treasure in all worlds.”

Seating is limited and this event will sell out quickly. Tickets are $5 each. There is no childcare for this event.

Tickets for Stonecreek Church leaders and attendees may be purchased, here.

Tickets for the General Public may be purchased, here.

For more on Beautiful Outlaw, visit Ransomed Heart’s Web site, here.

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Have you read an Eldredge book? If so, thoughts?

I Am From

Today I have the honor of having my wife Jen share a part of her story with you. What she shares offers a glimpse into a life that has been captivated by the love of Christ. Not going to lie: it’s moving and quite touching. Hope you enjoy.

Photo credit: Michael Menard (Creative Commons)

I believe that culture is a way of life, grounded in beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions. All of these experiences point to the our greatest need of all… Christ. Through His perfect life, ministry, and death on the cross, He continues to teach me and bless me through the body of Christ. This poem was written nine years ago, and is still a work in progress.

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I Am From

I am from between two worlds
With a family of African Americans and Filipinos
Who view life and its experiences through a wide-angle lense.
My father is Bruce —strong and proud—he believes in education as the great equalizer, but I can see that he grows tired sometimes.
He is tired of carrying the weight of a foreign name,
Who is this “Mason” that we call ourselves?
My mother is Estrellita —a little star who’s light can be seen from Atlanta to Lubang.
She is a small voice, but a relentless one—she believes in the “American Dream”
but is not naïve to its consequences.
She can be whoever the boss needs her to be
But inside she is still “Etey”
She is still a small island with lots of green and little electricity
She is still a country girl,
With big dreams  and a few pesos
Poor in materials, rich in family.

I am from Mom’s extended family that is knit so tightly we are busting from the seams,
A house filled with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Weekends of food and familiar faces—“you had better bring a pillow because we’re not leaving until the morning”.
Filipino American Association of Rockland, birthday parties, anniversary parties, holidays, graduation parties, and just parties—any excuse to get the family together.
Titos and Titas, Kuyas and Ates, everyone is your relative and it doesn’t matter if you’ve only known them for a minute
A family that is immigrating one person at a time,
Welcomed into a community that you can call “home”.

I am from Dad’s family who has found their sunshine in Texas, their snowdrifts in Denver, and their ambiance in Washington D.C.
Our circuit is built in a different way—the phone rings once a week, right on time,
I always know when it’s Uncle Otis… “How’s my favorite niece?”
“Haha Uncle, I’m your only niece.” Seven cousins, five boys, one baby girl.
A 60th wedding anniversary brings us home to Grandma and Grandpa
Who remind us that humble beginnings have always been what we’ve come back to
Marshall, Texas
where everyone knows your name, your second cousin, and your last boyfriend
A place you can call “home”.

I am from great expectations and lots of room to fail,
A mom who was so expressive it made me cry,
A dad who had the same face for every occasion.
Arguments with mom that would end in a trail of tears and hurt feelings—
“I was never like that to my mother, I had respect”
to
“What is her problem?”
Dad would play the mediator and I would retreat upstairs
He is trying to explain to Mom that “things are different in American culture, kids are different”.
I don’t know who changed, was it me or her?
There were days when I thought that I could never do enough to change his face,
To make him smile,
Should I make better grades? Should I clean my room more often?
I felt the sting of disappointment
I couldn’t see that he had been smiling all along,
on the inside.

I am from “Filipino Time” and “American Time”
Mom said it was customary- “there is no party without the people”
Dad opted for the punctual approach- “it said 7 o’clock on the invitation”
We figured it out some way or another.

I am from the red autumns and sandy snowdrifts of Nyack, New York
A town striped with colors of the nations,
Where my best friends were like a national geographic magazine at best—
from Taiwan, Indonesia, Peru, and India.
Local shops, dead end streets, and sprinklers in the summertime
Then my world became the flip-side—
An unexpected promotion took us to peach trees and pollen clouds,
Suwanee, Georgia
Big business, cookie cutter homes, and a Starbucks on every corner
And we thought we were moving to the country…. HELLO suburbia

I am from memories that I’ve tried to forget
When this thing called “color” started to matter
Where brown was never black enough
But was brown enough to lose the South Pacific
Enough! LOVE is more than enough
Flushed cheeks, sweaty palms, and shifty eyes
Wondering
Why am I so different?

I remember the gentle voice of my teacher when she pulled me outside and into the hall
“Jennifer, do you consider yourself black? Because there is this Black Achievement Award that I wanted to nominate you for…”
Uncomfortable, Awkward
I remember Demetri’s piercing eyes when he looked at me,
he was not pleased, “you’re not really black, you act white.”
Embarrassed, Ashamed
I remember laughing at the lunch table
Talking about the funny things that parents do,
“I think your dad is really white” James said
Stunned, Frustrated
I remember dialogue at dinner tables about stereotypes and a bunch of nothing,
Thankful that God doesn’t view others through our cracked lense.
Redeemed, Restored

I am from two languages,
Tagalog began with Lola and Lolo-
Bringing some of the islands to 37 Laurel Rd.
A sweet sound that makes everything else seem so empty sometimes
It’s hard for me to speak now, but I can understand.
The richness of language
Standard American English–“Your dad speaks so ‘proper’
I used to laugh at his “emptying the receptacles” and careful not to “puncture the membrane”
The language of school, work, all things “American”
The power of words

I am from a window left open for a world to look in
See the scars of imperfection
Warm memories, stinging tears
Difficult moments, trembling laughter
Just a glimpse-do you see me?

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Where are you from?

Tears and Tonka Trucks

While I’m out this week, I’ve lined up some serious ‘guest posters’ this week. I’ve gotten to know Keri over the last 8 months via blogging. She lives in the Greater Seattle area with her husband and three boys. She loves to read, watch movies, listen to new music, and blog. You can find her at her blog Pop Parables and Twitter.

Photo credit: Steve Johnson (Creative Commons)

One morning, I was frantically scrubbing away at the dishes, overwhelmed with the numerous tasks involved with maintaining a household.

Enter Lukas, stage left, my {almost} 5 year old.

With tears streaming down his face, he eeks out the words, “I can’t find my garbage truck.”  The pain of the loss stabs him in the chest.

He steadies himself, sucks in all the air in his 3 foot space, and summons his big boy face.

“Will you help me find it, Mommy?”

In frustration I muttered something about kids in Africa never losing their toys.  And, really, how can someone misplace something that is eighteen inches long, six inches wide, bright orange, that screams “Tonka Sanitation Ready for Pick Up…Tonka Sanitation Ready for Pick Up!”

Through gritted teeth I respond, “Well, did you look for it?”

“I did, Mommy!  I did!”  {Now we’ve entered full on ugly cry mode, and are rapidly approaching melt down.}

“Well, you’ve got other trucks, why don’t you play with another truck?  Mommy’s busy right now.  I can help you find it later.”

He leaves the kitchen, chin to chest, shoulders drooped.

Happy to return to my task at hand, I turn the faucet back on.

Then, God nudged my heart.

He reminded me of David’s plea when he was captured by the Philistines,

You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?  {Psalm 56:8}

Here’s the image David’s painting:  our Heavenly Father is a collector.

He is with me at each turn, seizing the moments that can be used to create an anthology of His work in me.

He captures each tear, collects them, drop by drop, recognizing the value in each individual globule, gently placing them in His bottle.

And, when the bottle is full, He says, “I can do something with this.”

He has the panoramic view of my life, when I get stymied by the myopic.

He offers me a new perspective, filled with His grace, mercy, patience, and love.

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I turned the faucet back off, and went in search of my son.

Of course, the garbage truck was sitting in the middle of the living room.

“Lukas, I found it!  I found it!”

“Mommy, you did!”  He wraps his gangly arms around my waist.

“Thanks, Mommy.  I just didn’t see it there.”

Fresh eyes, that’s all he needed.

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How has His fresh perspective changed a situation in your life?