Guest Blog! Hannah Root

At the start of each year, I attempt to make some sort of decided effort to pray about my future. I state this lightly, because I usually don’t even come close to the grand “seeking of the Lord” that I intended to. Sure, I might think/pray about things when I’m driving to work and I guess I’ll just sort of “pray” about things whenever my pastor is really on fire some Sunday, but still I find myself avoiding any real and tangible future thinking. Let’s be honest, the future can be a scary place.

Upon realizing my fear of the future this year, I began to ask God where fear might have started. Immediately, I began thinking about a series of events involving my dad’s failed business. Those years were filled bankruptcy, shame for having a failed business, and then years of bill collectors calling again and again. I’d watch my mom cry in bathroom and try to explain to her mother on the phone that she didn’t make a mistake marrying my dad. I think somewhere along the line, I saw my dad’s ambition to be an entrepreneur as a sign of weakness. Why have hope or drive for something when God will do what He will do anyway?

Ah, there it was. I thought hope was bad.

Well maybe not bad, but unrealistic and childish at least and definitely something that only children and really “spiritual” Christians have. Us average citizens you see, we are grounded, realistic, and wise. There is no reason to ask for grand things when you know there is no money for them. Stop asking, stop dreaming, “Your mother and I can’t buy you those things and you know that!”

It’s incredible how Satan can take the things that happened to us as children and somehow twist them into a reflection of how we see God.  Hope deferred makes the heart sick, right? Then why have hope?

I was recently flying home from my beginning of the year vacation, arguing with God about the purpose of hope, and feeling sorry for myself. As I was in the midst of fighting back bitterness, the Lord interrupted me for the briefest of milliseconds.  Clear as day, I felt Him say “give me a chance to show you what hope really looks like, Hannah- Ask me for something.”

“Alright, I said, then let me have the entire row to myself and I will sit here and hope that you will give it to me, deal?”

“Deal” He said.

So I waited. Passenger after passenger walked by my row, the plane slowly started to fill up and not one person sat down. “This is great” I thought, “This actually might happen!” Very soon after thinking this, someone sat right down beside me. But before I could even start feeling sad, I felt the Lord strongly tell me to keep your heart hopeful; there is another seat beside you. So I waited again and kept my heart hopeful. The attendants started the do the safety procedures and not one person sat down. As I closed my eyes to celebrate my answered prayer, I felt a tap on my shoulder; it was the final passenger on the plane, my row was completely full.

 

Here is why the Lord is so kind to me, if I would have had an answered prayer in that moment, it may have been a great story to tell and I might have hope for a few other things in my life, but I would have missed the point. That day, the Lord set up a foundation of hope that I have been carrying with me these last few months. While I waited for the Lord on that plane, I believed in His goodness throughout. My heart remained hopeful that the Lord wanted to give me good things, even when I could see that my odds were slim. After, everything was over, I wasn’t bitter or angry, I still had hope! Years of believing that I shouldn’t ask for things, because they were unrealistic, began to heal in that moment.  I felt like the Lord was asking me to start dreaming with Him again, for me to start having hope for my own future, and to remember that even if my plans don’t pan out the way I think they should, that God still has good things in store for me.

If my heart turns hard when things don’t work out, then I keep myself in one place, never looking to hope for anything, and I stay comfortable. But, if I keep my heart hopeful, then I can give the Lord space to work in my life and take risks without fear of the future. For me, hope isn’t really about the result, but more of trusting that the Lord is faithful in the midst of a want or need.  Psalm 37:4 has been so impactful for me recently “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I’ve even been contemplating Matthew 7:11 when I battle being discouraged: “if you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

I hope you are able to delight yourself in the Lord today; He is trustworthy for my future and yours.

 

Hannah Root is a dear friend and colleague of mine. As a  former missionary to Ireland, she worked with Youth with a Mission to unite two opposite points of view of the nation by teaching the value of reconciliation. She currently works at Focus on the Family’s Digital Outreach. You can follow Hannah on Instagram @rannahoot 

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If they have one…

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It was  a summer golf championship, one of the few that I was able to catch on TV. I was dozing on a Sunday afternoon whilst the melodic drone of the announcers voices served as a perfect backdrop for light REM’s. I happened to catch the last few holes, and at the time, Tiger Woods was in his prime.

As he walked off the last green, and winning the championship, he walked directly over to his coach, they embraced, and he walked on to the clubhouse to record his score.

The announcers made a quick statement about the exchange between the player and the coach, however, of all that I semi-consciously watched that afternoon, this was the scene that impacted me the most.

I thought, “If the number one player in the world needs a coach in a game that doesn’t have eternal impact, then how much more do I need a coach in life, where things matter so much more?”
This began my journey to seek out help in life. Although I felt as though things were going along at a semi-relatively-easy pace, there were things that I wanted to accomplish, and honestly, didn’t know how to start.

Enter Daniel Webb. Daniel is a life-coach, linguist, world traveler, entrepreneur, and all around family man, (and a man’s man). Daniel and I began to meet on a weekly basis, where he took me through the Strength Finders, and People Acuity, and basic life coaching, setting goals, and how to hold myself accountable to those goals.

This process began slowly, but I was eager to learn, and embrace the pain of self-reflection by allowing all the emotions to have a place, and deal with them as they came.

Since then, I have learned the importance of vulnerability and transparency in everyday life and as my friends Charlie Kim and Meghan Messenger say, “No LHFing!” That is to say: Lying, Hiding, Faking.

Everyone of us deal with LHFing  on a daily basis. We have lost the art of healthy and vitriol (most honest) feedback from people that we work and live with. This changed for me when I met Daniel. He encouraged me to pursue what I could see, and put people around me to speak into the areas where I could not see. We all have blind spots, and we need people around us to be able to see those, and help us grow in those areas.

Life is an incredible journey. I encourage you to find people that you can be honest and vulnerable with. Find people that love you and have your best interest in mind. These are your coaches, and it doesn’t matter if you’re number one in the world, you still need someone to speak into your life. Even when you’re walking off the last green and winning the championship…

 

Amazon can fail, but maybe not how you think…

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In an all hands meeting, Jeff Bezos stated that the trillion dollar company is not too big to fail.  “Amazon is not too big to fail…In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years.” …and he’s right, Amazon can fail but it may not be the reasons he thinks. Yes, it’s true that most big businesses have about a generation of influence, case in point, Sears, JC Penny, K-Mart, and a slew of other retail and manufacturing companies.

As the business climate in the world changes, so do the needs of business, and the needs of business people, and the needs of people working in the business.

Jeff stated that, “The key to fending off the inevitable, is for Amazon to ‘obsess over customers’ and to avoid looking inward, worrying about itself.” 

At first glance this quote appears to be correct, especially in the service industry. However, Mr. Bezos may be missing the simplest equation to a long term successful company: Deliberately Developing the People of Amazon.

What we learn from the industrial aged business model like Sears and others, is that people are expendable. Hire people who are intelligent enough to read and write, and re-stock, and you will reap the benefits from their hard work, but never reap the long term effects of their wisdom unless they are developed. They are hired to work J.O.B.’s but never developed to discover their life’s WORK. And eventually, this model fails. If Amazon fails, it will be because it never learned to develop their people. 

“If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end,” he said. “We have to try and delay that day for as long as possible.”

I couldn’t disagree more. There is a phrase that Mr. Bezos needs to learn: “A Better Me + A Better You = A Better Us.”

If Amazon is to succeed further than their industrial predecessors, then they need to learn that caring for the internal customer is essential for caring for the external customer. Who is going to care for the care givers? There can never be a Better You (the customer) and certainly never a Better Us (the World) unless there is a Better Me! (your employees) So I would encourage you to focus on yourself! At least recognize the beauty of your employees and develop them. This is what will make Amazon last, and be healthy for generations to come!

Deliberate Developmental companies like Next Jump sees the future with a different lens. They believe that the internal customer is just as important as the external customer. I witnessed this first hand. Before you ask, the answer is yes, it’s not the “normal” way you would run a business. But I would argue that Mr Bezos could learn a lot from the people like Charlie Kim and Meghan Messenger, Co-CEO’s of Next Jump. They are a humble team that recognize each other’s weaknesses and are not afraid of honest feedback. And he would benefit from reading about DDO’s (Deliberately Developmental Organizations)    Jeff, you can order it right off of Amazon!

Just a thought, Mr., Bezos, but Amazon is not too big to succeed! You just have to make the decision to take the time to develop your people, before it’s too late!

 

 

Next Jump

It’s been hailed as the billion dollar company you’ve never heard of. If you “jump”
on their web site, it will take you a few minutes to figure out what they “do”. But more importantly, you will find out what they are “about”. Next Jump is about developing people, plain and simple. Their focus on culture and people development has been featured as one of three companies in “An Everyone Culture:Creating a Deliberately Developmental Organization” I would encourage to pick up a copy, and use it as a manual for people development.

I began to follow Next Jump by hearing about them through a Simon Sinek TED talk about how good leaders make you feel safe. I have always been fascinated by healthy companies and cultures, and Next Jump piqued my curiosity with their “no fire” policy and dedication to creating a healthy culture. Their company mantra: “A Better Me Plus a Better You Equals a Better Us” exemplifies Co-CEO’s Charlie Kim and Meghan Messenger’s life motto. “Let’s do the little things so that others can do the great things they were meant to do.”

Next Jump is the story of a company that is changing the world through changing the workplace. It all starts with transparency and a leadership model that embraces the deliberate development of people; starting with the highest positions in the company.

But Next Jump is not holding these secrets close to their chest. They know that the best way to flourish is to be generous. You can go on their website and they will share with you their “secret weapons” and what makes Next Jump one of the most unique and successful companies in the world. I have learned more in the past year than I have in most of my life in leadership development simply by logging on and listening to the Next Jump Talks. Charlie exemplifies what I knew could be in a CEO, but never saw it modeled. His humility and co-leadership with Meghan, makes Next Jump’s culture balanced and safe.

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Over the last year, I have immersed myself in learning about the culture at Next Jump. I have read, tweeted, followed, and watched just about everything I could on this silently successful company. Charlie and Meghan are transparent with their lives, so I feel as though I know them as friends. What CEO(s) of billion dollar companies can you say that you feel like “you know?” It is rare, if not unheard of.

Next week, my wife and I have the immense pleasure of attending a Next Jump Leadership Academy It was a surreal and exciting feeling to be invited to attend. I felt like I had won the lottery! Over the years, I have been taught to invest in things that I knew would help me develop and grow. This is one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had to see that statement come to life. I am honored, humbled, and even a little nervous (more like butterflies) about attending.

I cannot wait to share three days in New York City with some of the best people on the planet, who have decided to not just get a job, but to find their life’s work; in developing themselves and others, to make the world a greater place!

I Love NY, Too

Rounding the corner off of the expressway, just coming from the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, we found ourselves in the throws of traffic heading into New York City. As we turned to go into the tunnel that would take us into the city, the skyline appeared to us like a mirage in a desert! It was an unexpected site to see. I have seen the NY skyline hundreds of times in pictures and movies, but like most things in life, one must see it in person. It was larger than expected as if we were driving up to MT Rushmore or the Grand Canyon, almost hard to believe!

 

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We found ourselves flowing through the traffic as though we were veterans of the city commute. Driving large trucks in Chicago may have contributed to my ability to adjust quickly, but whatever the case, our voiced guide was leading us to our hotel, just off of  Time Square. Once parked, we settled in to the room and started our adventure, in Times Square.

Times Square was kind of like the eastern version of Vegas. Neither Teresa or I were impressed. But nevertheless it was something that we both wanted to see and experience. All the “eye candy” of lights and shops and street performers, distracted us from our growling stomachs, until we caught the whiff of the hamburgers from the Hard Rock Cafe. We filtered through the traffic of people and sat down to a well overpriced hamburger. Of course, we had to get a sweatshirt as well just to prove that we actually ate there.

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HRCafe

Night was fully engulfing the city and our travel day had caught up with us. It was time to head back to the hotel. My son had a knack of navigating the city like a pro. Without a map or phone to guide him, he felt right at home, and to put it into his words, “Dad, this city makes sense!”

Our next day was loaded with adventures with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Both were breathtaking and historically fascinating. We made sure that we got a tour guide so that we could discover the most out of the day. Worth every penny…

That evening we wanted to make our way to Brooklyn and had heard that Juliana’s was the best place to get pizza in the city…or so many said. So, without thinking much about it, we started to make our way from Battery Park to the Brooklyn Bridge. You know, things look much closer when you are far away, until you have to walk to it! We plodded along, finally making our way to the bridge. BBNYC

If you have never walked across this historical bridge, I highly recommend it! I loved the cyclist, the tourist (such as we were), the locals, and all the vendors who can make a $5 bottle of water sound like a great deal!

Our destination was before us, we had put in about 9 miles of walking up to this point and we were ready for the “best NY pizza in town.”

Juliana’s did not disappoint. luckily we didn’t have to stand in line too long. We were called in and sat at a table tucked in the small but busy pizzeria.

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What does a Chicagoan say about NY pizza? I have to admit, it was pretty good.

We decided that another trip across the bridge was probably not in the best interest of our 16 y/o daughter who happened to wear “cool” but “non-efficient” shoes, and was at her max steps for the day. So we boarded the subway for our first adventure underground!

Our subway delivered us about a block away from our hotel, and as wiped as everyone was, we decided to call it a day.

Our next day was rather random. Since Central Park was close, we wanted to saunter around the most famous park in the world and pretend we were in a movie, like “When Harry Met Sally” or “Hitch”. Once again our stomachs were telling us that walking 4-5 miles before breakfast, however healthy, had to be re-fueled. This is where we found a local breakfast place called “Good Enough to Eat”. Here, I believe, I ate the best bacon I have ever had in my life.

If you are even a little close to this place, it’s a must stop and eat! Image result for good enough to eat

These were the little places that we loved to discover. We liked to find our selves tucked into the culture of NY, and be among the locals. We loved finding places like this and it proved to be some of the best food and conversation we had.

Central Park, 9/11 Memorial, Chinatown, Little Italy, and SOHO captured the rest of our day. We found another gem in Chinatown for the “best dumplings outside of mainland China” at Joe’s Shanghai. Another must for anyone wanting authentic dumplings and Chinese food. Don’t worry about the common seating arrangements. You may meet some of the coolest people during your meal!

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AND THEN…

WICKED!

What can I say…this is a must. If you are in NY, you just have to see a Broadway Show!

Wicked

Afterwards, grab a meal at Juniors or a piece of Cheesecake that can double as a meal!

 

NY, you surprised me. I loved walking your streets and finding myself in your Burroughs, and little nooks and crannies. I loved walking everywhere to get a sense of how people live and work and play. I loved your off the beaten path treasures, and mainline attractions. I loved your history, while discovering a piece of mine. I never thought I’d want to visit you, but now I can’t wait to come back and get to all the places that I didn’t get to see! No wonder people say, “I Love NY”. I think I get it now…Dyers in CP

 

 

 

 

I Love NY!

When I was about 13, my parents moved us to Western New York, in the middle of the Finger Lakes Region. It was a beautiful contrast to the gray skies of NW Indiana which boasted smokestacks and refineries, and replaced it with rolling meadow of hay fields and budding wine vineyards. 18th century Victorian homes dotted the landscape, and vied for architectural attention with the carriage barns that stood in the background as a reminder of a simpler time.  Small highways replaced the major expressways that we were used to, and the skies and lakes had a hew of blue that I had not encountered up to this point.

As we drove our mid-sized Ford sedan to what would be our home for the next 6 years, I recall many a bumper sticker and billboard that read “I Love NY!” Of course the Love was actually a red heart, and as a young naive kid,  I read it as “I Heart NY!” I thought, “What an odd thing…who would (heart) love a state?” It’s certainly not something we would ever see on a car in NW Indiana.

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When I would tell someone that I was from NY, they always, without fail, would ask me what it was like to live in a huge city, or what was the Statue of Liberty like, or had I been to Central Park? Before I let them get too far ahead of themselves, I would always interrupt and say, “No, I’m from upstate!” “You know, where there’s land and farms and lakes and hills and trees!!”  Little did I know that even that phrase meant something entirely different than “Western NY!”

I love NY. Still such an odd statement to me, at least from a marketers point of view. Who knew that this little phrase would transcend time and still be one of the biggest and most successful tourist promotions in NY’s history? It almost hails as the states mantra since it was introduced in 1977, with a song to accompany it!

NY is diverse, there is no doubt about that. From religion and politics, concrete jungles to family owned farms, there is hardly a state that can boast it’s differing opinions about everything, and if you doubt this, just ask a New Yorker!

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Fast forward about 30 years. My family and I always try and make it a priority to take a family vacation every summer, and with my own children getting older and starting lives of their own, we realize the importance of this more and more as each summer creeps upon us.

This year, we decided to take a trip to my sister’s home town of Penfield, a beautiful community tucked in the path of the Erie Canal. Lots of history, and small Eastern-town- like atmosphere competing with big box super centers like the rest of Americana. Nights were spent around real bonfires (we don’t get to have these too often in Colorado) chatting and talking about the past and the future as well. My nephew had just graduated from HS and my parents were celebrating their 50th anniversary, so we combined the two into a fun filled weekend.

Sunday morning was met with a smell of coffee and bacon wafting in the morning mist, as my sister, wife and mom were all busy working on their craft in their respective breakfast specialties. We gathered around the kitchen table in my sisters almost 150 year old home, which I don’t think the builders had intended for so many people to occupy! Although cozy, we found ourselves laughing and sharing even more stories, and loving our time together.

This was just the first leg of our journey. Teresa and I had rented a car in Rochester to make our way down to NYC. In all the years I had lived in NY, I had never been to the Big Apple. As a matter of fact, when someone in Western NY talked about NYC, they would tell you they wanted to take a chainsaw to it, cut it off the main land, and let it float away in the Atlantic!!
We punched the hotel address that we were staying at just off of Times Square into the map app, and headed south to the City that Never Sleeps! I was super excited to drive, as anyone in my family can attest, and was ready for the 6 hour ride!!

We found ourselves heading south, through some of the Eastern seaboards most luscious hills of New York and Pennsylvania. We went through the Poconos and even took a little detour to avoid some heavy traffic which landed us in a little off the beaten path town where we were able to re-fuel and get snacks.

New Jersey was on the horizon and traffic almost instantly slowed to a crawl. We knew that we were getting close…

 

*Stayed tuned for part two of “I Love NY”*

Mijas and G42

Tucked in the Southern part of Spain where you can see Gibraltar and the Mountains of Northern Africa on a clear day, is a little village called Mijas. Here, you can walk the cobblestone one-way streets and shop the authentic Spanish shops and sip the best Spanish wine all within about a 3 mile loop. The whitewashed buildings are only accented by the blue pots hanging from the sides of the walls as if they were holding on to the very tapestry from which they were born.

In the middle of all of this slow paced life is a school. It’s not an ordinary school. It’s a leadership school. But it’s like no other leadership school that you may have been associated with. It’s called G42. “G42 stands for the 42nd Generation, and describes people who choose to “become like Christ” in how they live and love others.  We believe God is looking for people who will partner with Him, become like Him, and help Him get His family back. They are called the 42nd Generation.”

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A gentle warrior by the name of Andrew Shearman looked for a place to establish and call G42 home. After hearing Holy Spirit through a clear sign, G42 was birthed in the mountain pueblo of Mijas, Spain. His vision was to raise up a generation of believers and passionate lovers of Jesus who could be “God with skin on.” The students go through a three month intense “unraveling” of themselves, live in tight knit communities with others, and hear world class teachers that share their passions with Andrew and the rest of the staff. After their first three months, they are then sent on a “practicum” which means they leave the small village and go to another country to “practice” and apply what they have learned. While in these other locations, they learn what it is like to live in missional community.  They then return to the school to spend their last three months, almost by divine coordination, to help refine and teach the incoming students the culture of G42 and share more in the teachings that are offered. This allows for perpetual confluence of new and experienced people colliding at the same time.

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The students that attend the school have mostly come from The World Race. It’s a mission trip unlike any other. They go to 11 nations in 11 months. They experience the nations through a lens that has changed their lives. I say this to let you know that G42 is comprised of young people about or around their mid to late 20’s, that have seen the world, literally, and now are wanting to take the next steps to “fleshing out” what they have seen and heard.

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I had the distinct privilege of teaching at G42 this past week. I came with a melting pot of ideas and expectations of what to teach, and how to present what I had to offer. As a speaker, I wanted to build on succinct topics that were Spirit filled and practical at the same time. I knew that they had heard from the some of the best teachers on subjects like, Victorious Eschatology, Old and New Covenant, Creative Worship, and many others.

Teresa and I snuck into a class a bit early on one of the classes. We were met with curious eyes and warm smiles. I felt right at home when I sunk into a well worn leather couch with over sized pillows. For a moment I am sure my eyes closed and I drifted away with the sound of the teacher ringing in the room.

I wasn’t going to start teaching until the next Monday (this was on a Wednesday the prior week) and already I was getting the speaker jitters. In my mind I knew what I wanted to bring. But then something shifted. I decided to put aside my agenda and ask Holy Spirit what he wanted. This is always a good place to start. He told me that he was going to let me know and it mixed perfectly with what I wanted to share.

It was now Saturday night and I was invited to go and watch FC Madrid take on Liverpool for a big soccer game. It was amazing. Andrew has set out some cheese and meats, (a Spanish staple) wine, and the best spirit of fellowship. We cheered and talked through the night, which for me ended with a wee dram of “covenant scotch” Laphroaig. Andrew raised the glass and toasted the community of believers that we get to impact. A kiss and a hug sealed the deal for me as I knew that I had met a man that had given his life and heart to the kingdom.

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My Monday began with brief introductions of my life and family. I spoke on the scripture “perhaps God” that really propelled Teresa and I to start a church in Colorado. The week was off to a great start. I was getting to know names and the places from which all the students had come.

The surprising thing about teaching with this caliber of people is not only all that I got to give, but also, all that I was able to receive. We would meet for lunch for one on one’s and I would just ask them, “What’s your story?” I am in constant amazement of what you can learn when you learn to listen. I loved to listen to their stories and the places they had been. I spoke with people that had worked with top firms in places like New York and Hawaii, but felt that urge to go into the nations. I shared stories with people that had multiple degrees,  and yet still felt empty in their souls.

My days at G42 would usually end with a great meal and of course a Spanish wine. The ambiance of Mijas in the evening is just as magical, if not more so, than in the daylight. Conversations around my friends table overlooking the Mediterranean provided a great place to share and download the day.

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I taught, but I was transformed. I came, yet I was changed. I met, yet I was greeted as family. I was expectant, but my expectations were exceeded.

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Dear G42ers. Thank you for receiving what Holy Spirit wanted to download to us this past week. I was changed as I hope you were. I wanted to leave you with not more information, but rather impartation . I trust your week was as alive as mine. Thank you for your hearts, your stories, and your unconditional love…I can’t wait to see you again. 

Lonny

 

Mijas and Malaga

A short trip down to the southern part of Spain is little village called Mijas. I know that experience is always better than information, and such was the case with this little gem of a place. My closest friends, Gary and Lisa Black live here and have told the magical and sometimes hard to believe stories that come from this tiny pueblo. They shared the cafes, bakeries, and hidden garden restaurants that are tucked away on the one lane cobblestone streets with Teresa and me.

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We had just come from the bustling city of Barcelona, and Mijas stood in stark contrast of the large city that never seemed to sleep. The cobble stoned streets were lined with whitewashed homes and apartments, that were decorated in the famous blue potted flowers that stand in perfect harmony with their background. Homeowners would come out in the early morning hours and wash their front porches that double as sidewalks for the many pedestrians. Horse drawn carriages and donkey rides allowed people to experience Mijas like it needs to be, slow and intentional.

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Teresa and I explored Mijas and felt we had encountered a piece of history with every new lane we ventured down. We felt at times we were transported back in time at the pace of life and the warm smiles that came from the town folk. The single lane streets bustled with life from tourist from all over the world, perhaps to experience a simpler life. The shopkeepers were kind and patient as we tried to communicate in our best Spanish that we had long forgotten since our High School days. They were proud of their Spanish heritage and wanted to make sure that we knew that the products we were considering were made “right here in Spain!”

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Our adventure continued as we found ourselves on an arboretum path of sorts. Plants, shrubs, and trees were identified with small signs that took me back to my study of horticulture in college. The decorative concrete walkway boasted some of the greatest views of the Mediterranean and on a clear day you can see Gibraltar and the mountains of North Africa. Cliffs and water falls were also part of the surprise and we imagined ourselves climbing the rocks using the chains and pegs from climbers over the years. This led us to the only remaining bull fighting ring in Spain. Although this practice has become all but obsolete in the country, here you can still capture a piece of history, and in the right season, see a piece of Spain’s heritage played out in the ring.

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Mijas was filled with surprises and was always more to her than met the eye. We thought we would pass a small restaurant and it would turn out to be a hidden garden filled with people and conversation. Our favorite place was actually called, The Secret Garden where we had our first dinner. The wine was second to none, and the food was amazing. Everything from Mediterranean cuisine to Spanish barbecue. Teresa and I had thoughts and conversations of home, kids, family, and our 26 years together. We found a gem. We loved it!

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There was more to Mijas to discover. One of the shops featured a local award winning artist that took pictures from all over the world. We spent almost a full hour in this place and had our minds wander all over the planet as we experienced his lens of humanity from Africa, Spain, Nepal, India, and other parts of Europe. I found myself in tears at some of the art work, of women with babies suckling and an automatic rifle around her neck. It left me speechless at the struggle for life around the planet, and what we take for granted. Pictures of kids struggling to get a glimpse of school books so they can learn a language, and struggles in life altogether left me speechless…

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I could have spent all day in this shop and mourned over aspects of humanity and celebrated this man’s work. It left me impressed to do more with my life and resources, and encourage others to do the same.

Every morning Teresa and I would go to a square where we would have coffee and talks about our adventure. We sat and admired the views and the history of Mijas, and watched the elders of the village hurry to their favorite spots on the square. These are the people I hope to communicate with someday. The stories they could share of the people and places they have seen. It is so rare to see elders of communities any more. These are the unspoken beautiful things that you have to slow down for. The elders of Mijas is one of them.

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On our last day together, Teresa and I headed with our friends to Malaga. This is was a great city a bit north of Mijas where once again the warm Mediterranean breeze kissed our faces. We toured the cathedral of Malaga, tasted the best port I have ever had, ate Italian food on the streets where Spanish dancers were sharing their art with the foodies. We had hoped to have more time in Malaga, as it was a city full of life and culture. It reminded us of a small Barcelona where life and family seemed to collide on all sides. The boardwalk along the sea was teaming with life in the open air markets and small tapas and wine bars dotted our path. We were walking rather quickly now as Teresa was about to head back to the states via London. Gary kept telling us we were walking too slowly and needed to hurry. Teresa always walks fast, but in Spain, she seemed to blend in with the rhythms of the people and culture and enjoyed every step she took. I kept pace with Gary, and would look behind me to see Teresa engaged in deep and meaningful conversation with Lisa. It put a smile on my face.

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We loved our time here and as I mentioned in the previous blog, Spain has captured a little piece of our hearts. We fell in love with the people, the culture, and a nation that we knew not. I was reminded of a verse that I have kept close to my heart for about 15 years:

“Surely you will summon a nation that you know not, and a nation that does not know you will hasten to you because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel has endowed you with splendor.” Isaiah 55:5

We love you Spain. We see the glory of God all over you. Who knows what God may do? Perhaps God….

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My Next blog: My time with G42

Barcelona…

Teresa and I will be married for 26 years in June. We had made plans to go to Hawaii for our 25th, but due to the loss of her dad, we sadly had to postpone our quarter century celebration. It was worth the wait.

Our plane landed in England and as a foreshadowing for the rest of the trip, was 5 hours late. We sprinted to our connecting flight to Barcelona, only to discover that the connector was also late. We boarded and were on our way!

We landed in Barcelona and took a taxi to our friends apartment where we had great conversations with two of their sons. They showed us the best places to shop, eat, and buy famous Spanish pastries. They also showed us the “Metro”, Barcelona’s extensive underground rail system. This was the start of our adventure!

Teresa and I freshened up, and took on the Metro as our first outing. Obviously, we didn’t quite get it right. We popped up and found ourselves in a busy intersection of town where every corner boasted of the best tapas, wines, and cafes. I could tell that I was going to like Barcelona. The architecture made me wonder if France stole it from Spain or Spain stole it from France! Ancient Roman aqueducts stood in the Gothic Quarter as a reminder of that great empires influence. The gates and towers of the city’s entrance still stand as well, and we could almost see the generations of old selling their wares and bustling through the city. I touched as many stones as I could. I could imagine the men that built them, and the time it took to carve, assemble, and place each stone in it’s place. Something moves me about time, history, and knowing where we come from.

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St George the Dragon Slayer is the patron saint of Barcelona. I was intrigued of history and you can find many architectural manifestations of the people celebrating him throughout the city.

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The Cathedral of Barcelona reminds me of the incredible pains our ancestors took to honor God with the works of their hands.

The attention to detail, and the beauty of which builders took time in crafting their architecture is second to none. Grand courtyards and marketplaces drew large crowds of people to share in the wealth and culture of the city,  (everything from old Spanish coins to Rolling Stones albums) were offered as we perused the open air tents of the vendors.

One day, while we were roaming around the Gothic Quarter, we thought the choir was singing in the cathedral with a professional soprano at the lead. It happened to be an operatic street singer that was moving people to tears with her voice. It was incredible. This happened every day. We would be surprised by every corner, every street, and every person.

I met a guy in an old Jewish pub there who said, “Barcelona cannot be experienced with the mind.” He was right. Barcelona get’s into your spirit and soul. It connects our past and present, and forces us to slow down and look around. When you realize there are streets and walls and facades that are older than our nation, it puts things into perspective for us.

We were fortunate in that every evening we were treated to another section of Barcelona by our friends that lived there. Tom and Emily Davis were our tour guides and let us in on the best kept secrets of the city. One of my favorite memories is of Tom and I shaking fresh oranges off of trees that lined one of the city streets. Although they were unfit to eat, they were a lot of fun to harvest. Every evening was an adventure in finding the secrets of the city and enjoying the friends to share it with.

We visited the Picasso Museum, La Sagrada Familia, and found as many cafes and little off the wall pubs and restaurants as we could. We walked along the Mediterranean Sea and had the best seafood of my life. One night, we ran into a perpetual celebration of second Easter. This included a myriad of bands and singers and dancers that went on into the night and never seemed to end. There were grandpas and grandmas dancing and singing with generations apart. This showed me the true nature of Barcelona’s family culture.

Every night was alive with people and family’s bridging the gap of generations. I could tell they were telling stories of ancestors and honoring the past as well as celebrating the present. We saw billion dollar yachts along with simple fishing vessels, all seemingly living along side of each other in beautiful harmony. It didn’t seem people were jealous of what another had.  I had a sense that people were content with their lives and culture, and were not ashamed to share it with whomever passed by.

We walked the Rambla,  a large tree-lined pathway that celebrates Barcelona’s architecture and open markets. There were places that were selling lobsters so fresh, they were still crawling on ice!

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Teresa and I kept imagining what it would be like to live along such a lively part of the city. The architecture kept coming up in conversation as we continued our discussion of how timeless and beautiful it was. It is hard to walk fast in Barcelona. Everything is designed for you to enjoy the moment, of course, our American way was always showing it’s culture of fast and now. When you are in Spain, you learn to go slow, eat slow, sip, slow, and enjoy all the city has to offer.

One of our most special places that we visited was the La Sagrada Famila. I had heard so much of this architectural marvel that I had no idea how I would respond when I was finally able to see it with my own eyes.

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Its hard to express what I felt as I walked in. Tears came to my eyes as I was witnessing one man’s vision of putting the gospel in building form…

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It is impossible to express the beauty and revolutionary design of this Basilica’s architecture. It was another thing to realize that this has been in process for over 100 years. I tried to put in perspective that one man’s vision has carried on for generations. He realized he would only see one facade completed, but like so many wise men before him, he would “Plant trees under who’s shade he would not rest”. It reminds me of real discipleship. People who get this understand that even the Sagrada’s designer has disciples. Gaudi’s design was impossible to complete in his lifetime. Our’s should be too.

Dear Barcelona, You captured our hearts. Your people, your culture, your life, your passion, and your beauty has forever been engraved in us. You’ve made a deep impression upon us, and we cannot wait to return to your streets, your cafes and hidden gems that are tucked into the most discreet places. Your history and future excite us. I know that you are not without your own problems, but we will return soon to kiss your face and embrace your people!  

Last night I asked Teresa what she thought about Barcelona. She said…”We needed more time!” I couldn’t agree more.

Next Blog…Mijas and Malaga. Our adventure in Southern Spain.

The way I see

 

How I see

Growing up on an upstate NY farm, bailing hay, feeding cows, and working the earth, my worldview was very simple, “pray for rain when we need the hay and crops to grow, and pray for sun when you want to harvest them.” What I saw was pretty black and white. That is not what usually happened. It would rain when the hay was cut and trying to dry, and rain when we were trying to get the crops in. The life of a farmer. So many things were out of our control, and we simply had to adjust to the weather.

Having left farming life a long time ago, those memories still mold my thoughts in today’s culture. I see things as I saw them in the days of my youth. It will rain and it will shine, that is a guarantee, and our job is to adjust to the conditions to make our product work. I see this happening in our world, however deeply divided it may seem. In my mind, it is either going to rain or shine, and in our civilization our job is to adjust to make it work.

I am not sure there are many former farmers on this site, however, I think that the point I am making can cross into any “field”. Whether we are talking about immigration or gun control, there has to be a middle ground for people to come together on. I think that the product of 24/7 news has made millions of dollars for some, and we have been the duped audience. The one side battles the other for ratings, and it seems the ratings are based on how much we disagree rather than on how much we agree.

When it’s time to make a decision, we tend to blame the other side rather than come together with the other side to come up with a solution. What if the gun issues or immigration issue would become a problem to solve rather than an issue to divide? What if we came together and worked the problem versus blaming the other side to boost our ratings?

I made a decision quite a while a go to not listen to a talking head that didn’t have any solutions. As you can imagine, this limited my media intake. I guess my farming days once again come into play. I can’t yell at the sky for raining, or for shining. I simply have to make the adjustments and solve the problem. Likewise, I can’t seem to stomach someone who wants to blame rather than solve.

In the business that I am in now, I work with lots of people from lots of different points of view. Some are conservative and some are liberal. This doesn’t seem to matter when we come to the table with the sole purpose of solving a problem. It’s amazing when we apply disciplines like active listening or common respect to one another. I may still be a naive farm boy from NY, but I am pretty sure this will still work with the massive issues that we are facing today.

Thanks for reading. Let’s make this our time to solve some of the greatest issues facing our culture. Let’s come to the table again, have a meal, and share our concerns. Let’s meet our neighbors again, and have them over for a beer and conversation. Let’s not forget, that we agree on much more than we disagree on…