Sweet Lorraine

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Imagine being married for 75 years.

75 years of good times, hard times, confusing times and well, just about every experience you can imagine. For Fred Stobaugh, being married to his wife Lorraine was the best part of his life:

“That was a wonderful 75 years. I often think I was dreaming or something, but it was real,” Fred Stobaugh said. “She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw. I just fell in love with her right there.”

When Lorraine died Fred was 96 years old and he did something most people his age don’t do…he wrote a song about Lorraine and entered it in a songwriting contest. The Brisbane Courier noted:

“Soon after Lorraine’s death, the Illinois man penned a song in his wife’s memory. He then, on impulse, sent the song into Green Shoe Studio’s singer-songwriter contest after he saw an ad for the competition in a local paper. The content required participants to upload songs onto the internet but Fred just sent the song in on paper and via snail-mail. He also knew that he couldn’t sing a note. At Green Shoe Studios, the song caught the attention of Jacob Colgan, who was so moved by Fred’s tribute that he decided to produce it.”

It is stories like these that our soul longs for…

It is stories like these that remind us that love and commitment are not only possible, but necessary…

It’s stories like these that redeem our understanding of love in a culture that equates love to a sexual impulse rather than the aquifer of all things good, beautiful and true.

Watch the video, you will be glad you did.

A Letter From Fred from Green Shoe Studio on Vimeo.

The Leaders Toolbox: Committment

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I typed the letters of the word into the search bar…There were over 208 million hits, and  at the top of the results page was a definition:

com·mit·ment/kəˈmitmənt/
noun
  1. the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc..
    “the company’s commitment to quality”
  2. an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.
    “business commitments.”

    synonyms: responsibilityobligationdutytieliability;

I like the synonyms; dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty…each of those words conveys a larger story deep within as we articulate and ruminate on them. I think of images such as an impenetrable wall, a solid foundation, an alliance of people in the fox-hole together. The second definition caused me to pause…no, I do not like those words. Nails on the chalk-board, a high-pitched sonic tone piercing my inner ear or feeling of being “tazed” (not that I have experienced that) I don’t like words like; obligation, or restricts freedom and actions. I love my freedom. I want my choice. I long for the right to act how and whenever I want to to…but this commitment seems to be able to limit that which rules my soul.

There is definitely a love-hate relationship with the concept. Even in Jesus day there was a struggle.

There were over 5,000 hungry people in the middle of nowhere…

One little boy has five barley loaves and two small fish…

The miracle worker says “feed them”…

A  disciple’s trembling hand reaches into the bag afraid of what he won’t find…

But is astounded at what he does find…

A never-ending supply of bread and fish…

The people are full, but of the wrong type of food…

Jesus the leader speaks about the cost of following Him…

His words are confounding…

He is the real bread?

Himself?

Savor Him?

Digest God?

He was not talking about cannibalism..He was talking about commitment, a life that so embraced the Messiah that the soul would feed and find her sustenance on the divine bread.

That story found in the Gospel of John, chapter 6 speaks of both the delicious side of commitment and the side that creates a gut-check…

It is both.

Great leaders demonstrate what commitment means, if they didn’t, they would have few followers.

5 Truths About Commitment

1. Commitment is a product of choices not circumstances.

You always have a choice, even when you think you are out of options. The choices you make determine the life you live. The people who lives as victims of circumstances rarely have a deep level of commitment because they don’t think they have a choice. When we consistently choose to do the right things even when it hurts or has a cost, we are seen as leaders with a deep level of commitment.

2. Commitment endures when it is founded upon something bigger than you.

What are you committed to? Does it have value? Does it have significance? Is it bigger than you, or beyond you? Does the thing you are committed to have value beyond the tangible or the material? When you are committed to something or someone bigger than you, it will last. If your commitment is founded on you, or your wants only, it will be short-lived and will ultimately fade away.

3. Commitment is forged in adversity.

It has been said that “Great leaders are not born, only babies.” No one is born with a high level of commitment, we are born with a high level of self-preservation. Commitment doesn’t come easy, it is a nirvana moment found on the mountaintop, it is forged in the trenches when you want to cut and run, when you are giving more than you are receiving, when the path before you is self-sacrifice and not self-fulfillment. If you avoid adversity, you will never become a person of commitment and your leadership will hit a low ceiling.

4. Commitment takes courage.

Making a strong commitment is never easy. You will need to breathe deeply, pray hard, and act when you are not sure of the outcome. This takes courage, integrity and faith.

5. Commitment reveals what you value.

You you take a stand, when you make a commitment and stick to it, you are telling the world what matters to you. When people know what matters to you, they are able to decide if you are worth following. When the things that matter to you are bigger than you, and you consistently live according to your beliefs, your values will attract people who also have a deep sense of commitment as well.

4 Practices Of A Committed Leader

1. Walking The Talk.

The leader who acts with integrity and honesty will create a committed team. Key questions to ask, “Am I living out what I am expecting from others?” “Is my private live reflected in my public life?” “Is my yes, yes and my no, no?” “Can people count on my actions to follow my promises?” When we walk the talk, it reveals and reinforces our commitment.

2. Collaboration.

Collaboration is perhaps the most needed skill in organizations today. When we become silos of competition, we compete for resources and atta-boys all the while failing to share what we have. This negatively affects the bottom line and the organization fails to succeed or reach a fuller potential. Committed leaders care more about the team or organizational goals than about elevating themselves. Collaborating raises the game for everyone.

3. Building Up Others.

The leader who inspires, builds-up and motivates others tends to be motivated herself. When leaders get stuck in the accomplishments of tasks, solely, and fail to build up others, will limit the success of their team. When leaders encourage, inspire and help others develop new skills and increase their abilities, they are developing a highly committed team.

4. Practicing Vulnerability.

The days of pretending to be someone or something that you are not are over. In todays marketplace, great leaders are honest, authentic and are able to show some vulnerability.  Everyone knows you are not Superman, so when you pretend that you are, you lose their respect and commitment. Get real, get honest, and get results!

Great leaders cultivate their soul, when their soul is healthy they lead well and show their commitment. When others know they are committed, the field is ripe for amazing things to happen.

Love and Marriage: SNQuotes 7/1/12

We have entered full swing into the wedding season. From mid-May through September I receive numerous requests asking me to perform a wedding. This is a season of excitement, stress and maxed out credit cards! However, beneath it all busy hum is the ongoing declarations of love between two people who long to share their covenant decision with friends and family. So, in honor of the season, here are some great thoughts and quotes about love and marriage…

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When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
~Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I love being married.  It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.  ~Rita Rudner

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.  ~Emily Brontë

Grow old with me!  The best is yet to be.  ~Robert Browning

When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels desert heaven and come and sit in that house and sing for joy.  ~The Brahma Sutras

We’re all a little weird.  And life is a little weird.  And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.
~Robert Fulghum,True Love

At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet  ~ Plato

My beloved is mine and I am his   ~ Song of Songs

You are always new, the last of your kisses was ever the sweetest.
~ John Keats

By all means marry. If you get a good wife you will become happy, and if you get a bad one you will become a philosopher.  ~ Socrates

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.  ~ Lao Tzo

For years my wedding ring has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband numerous times at parties that it’s time to go home. It has been a source of relief to a dinner companion. It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward.  ~Erma Bombeck

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.  ~ Dr. Seuss

Immature love says: “I love you because I need you.”  Mature love says: “I need you because I love you.”  ~ Erich Fromm

Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile.   ~ Elizabeth Browning

Love is like playing the piano. 
First you must learn to play by the rules, 
then you must forget the rules 
and play from your heart.
~ Anonymous

Kissing is like drinking salted water.
You drink, and your thirst increases.
 ~ Chinese Proverb

Nothing can come close to the sheer joy
I feel in marrying my best friend
~ Anonymous

I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
when the winds are breathing low,
and the stars are shining bright. 
 ~ Percy Byssthe Shelley

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.   ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alzheimer’s and ethics

You might not know it, but today is  “World Alzheimer’s Day.” This day is spearheaded by an organization called The Global Voice on Dementia. You can check them out at:  http://www.alz.co.uk/  This has become a global concern that even the UN has taken notice of, and this week they are addressing it for the second year in a row.

The most recent stats claim that there are currently 30 million people who suffer from dementia, and there will be an estimated 100 million people by the year 2050.

If Alzheimer’s has not affected you or your family, there is truly no way to adequately communicate how painful, hard and devastating it is on the whole family. As the days go by, there seems to be less and less of the person you knew and loved “at home” in their body. To live through the deterioration causes you to ask God some serious questions. Walking through the effects of Alzheimer’s when it came to visit my family, has left all of us changed…it was a very long and hard journey.

I think that is why I had such an instantaneous reaction to Pat Robertson’s remark about Alzheimer’s this week. A man whose wife had Alz indicated that since his wife was no longer “there” he was moving on with his life, and wondered if it was okay to divorce her since there was not a tangible relationship anymore.

While Pat has made some pretty embarrassing news remarks over the years, which have often given Christianity a black eye, when he said it was okay for this man to divorce his wife since Alzheimer’s is a “kind of death” I was speechless.

When we reduce love and commitment to a formula that says, ” I am only in this as long as my needs are met, we have absolutely missed what it means to follow Christ with our actions and choices.

This kind of ethic-less thinking means that if you are not able to do for me what I want, regardless of a medical diagnosis, then I have no moral or ethical responsibility to stay in a relationship with you. Unfortunately I have actually witnessed couples divorcing months after a marriage began because one spouse got cancer, and the leaving spouse knew his sexual needs wouldn’t get met.

Amazing…bad form…wrong…selfish…ugly…

This reveals how me-centric we have the capacity of being, and how desperately we need God to help transform us into men and women who choose truth and sacrifice over self, ease or comfortability.

Do you remember the old “Lifeboat” analogy we grew up with…where there was a diverse group of people in a rescue boat, from teachers and lawyers, to disabled and jobless. The Lifeboat dilemma was that the boat was overloaded and some of the people had to go…the question to process through was…which life was truly worth saving. Welcome to ethics 101, and throw in a dash of situation ethics as well.

When we think life can be trimmed down to easy answers and flippantly decide which people deserve our love; which people deserve our unconditional commitment, and what is the loop-hole I can deploy when life get tough, we reduce our humanity to something more animalistic.

The man who Pat gave a get-out-of-marriage free card to, might have felt some relief for a while, but I think soon he will be flooded with other feelings that are not quite so life-giving. I know the weight and burden the loved ones of Alz patients carry is immense, but life isn’t devoid of pain. Instead of running from the pain and the feelings, real life it’s about who we are becoming through the pain.

You see God has placed His own source code into the hearts of us all. While we are good at tricking ourselves, living in denial or avoiding the questions of the soul…when the night spaces come, our heart is crying out the questions unleashed by the divine DNA within us, and we know that there are truths that exist beyond our comfort zones and our ability  to justify.

Every life matters because every life has its genesis in the creative imagination of God. We have the opportunity to most reflect the God-reality within us when we choose love, life, to invest in those considered un-worthy, to love those who seem un-lovable, and to stay committed to those who we made a covenant with and are unable to reciprocate because of something as devastating as Alzheimer’s.

In a very real way, God demonstrates the opposite advice that Pat gave. As God looked at broken humanity that struggled with a complete disconnect from the divine, He could have said, “Well, their sin situation is kind of a death, so I don’t need to stick around.” Fortunately for us He didn’t. In fact in Romans 5:8 we read:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were       still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Then in chapter 6 verse 23 Paul reminds us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So when we were considered “dead” that is when God’s extravagant love went into overdrive, not into a me-centric justification for non-involvement.

The life-giving model we see in the choices of the Father and the Son is to preserve the beauty and sanctity of life…not look for loop holes to disengage.

May we raise our awareness, compassion and love and stay committed to the ones we love, especially those with whom we said, “Til Death do us part.”

Dei Gratia…Monty