Stereotypes

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Homecoming

I love people watching. One activity I enjoy in particular is, at airports and train stations, watching the welcoming of those who’ve been away.

There are welcome home signs, flowers, screams filled with glee, leaps in the air into a loved one’s arms, children sprinting into a parent’s arms and then there’s the standard hug ‘n long kiss of two lovers who’ve missed each other.

I also recall the warm hugs of the old ladies at Atlanta’s Hartfield Airport welcoming troops from deployments; fulfilling a long held promise never to mistreat returning troops the way it occurred following the Vietnam war.

It’s a great feeling to be welcomed and to see loved ones after an extended absence.

I’ve also seen some not so good homecomings. Recently I witnessed a homecoming at an airport in W/Africa. Family members rushed to greet a young man who’d just gone through customs only to be greeted with his cold shoulder. He even refused to let them carry his suitcase. I wondered what would prompt such a cold response? Was he ashamed of them? Was it a feeling of disappointment that he’d failed in his mission? Did he want to temper their expectations that he had nothing to offer in his one suitcase? It was awkward to say the least.

We want to be wanted. We want to be missed. It speaks to our sense of belonging. It affirms our sense of being.

It reminds me of the story Christ tells of the prodigal son. A father throws a party to celebrate the homecoming of a wayward son. The party speaks to the father’s unconditional love and acceptance of His son. Not everyone is in a celebratory mood but it is the Father’s opinion of His son that counts.

When it seems like your homecoming will be met with anything but joy and celebration; know that there’s a Father who’s been waiting with open arms to reconnect with you.

Come home.

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13: A Coming of Age

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Today my oldest son turns 13!

Some of you have raised teens and understand fully what a challenge that can be. All the changes that attaining that age implies. Even scarier, is what it means today. Someone even coined the term “triskaidekaphobia”: the fear parents face with a child turning 13. Yes, there’s a word for that too. Smh. Not sure I would call what I’m feeling “fear.”

It wasn’t an age I looked forward to growing up. I’d already been an independent youth attending military school for 2 years.

There was no online bullying…it was all in your face. My life was structured by a regimented discipline controlled by “seniors”.

There was no “interweb” to flood my sense and sensibilities with images that numbed my emotions.

It’s a new environment and a different culture all together. He’s already been exposed to much more. It can be scary for parents today.  And for some, maybe it’s triskaidekaphobia scary.

There are so many conversations he and I need to have. Some reiterations of previous talks. Some new ones. I’m hopeful though because of the foundation his mum and I have set. And the reinforcement we get from the extended family: grandparents, uncles, family friends…pretty much the whole “village.”

He will learn some lessons the hard way like we all do (as much as we hate to admit it). He will discover new things and learn some harsh realities. He will learn hurt, shame, ridicule, acceptance, rejection and more importantly, I hope he learns more about the love his family has for him and the unconditional love of God.

I pray he learns that when those he desperately seeks acceptance from reject him one way or another, that there’s a  God who sees and accepts him just as he is.

Son: you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Everything about you has been designed by the Master for His glory. You are named after a King and the plans God has for you are beyond our wildest imagination. I pray this milestone is just another marker in your journey to fulfill that divine design.

3-2-1 Go!

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Heard Today…

Heard an amazing quote today; had to share it:

“The tongue is the ambassador of the heart.”

Enough said…let that sink in.

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The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

Scott Dannemiller Headshot

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. After covering important topics, like disparaging each other’s mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane.

“So, how’s work going?” he asked.

For those of you who don’t know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America. My wife says it’s all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories.

I plead the fifth.

I answered my buddy’s question with,

“Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy.”

The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonald’s.

But it was a lie.

Now, before you start taking up a collection for the “Feed the Dannemillers” fund, allow me to explain. Based on last year’s quest to go twelve months without buying anything, you may have the impression that our family is subsisting on Ramen noodles and free chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant. Not to worry, we are not in dire straits.

Last year was the best year yet for my business.

Things are looking busy in 2014.

But that is not a blessing.

I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the “amen” at the end of a prayer.

“This new car is such a blessing.”

“Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.”

“Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.”

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do?

No.

As I reflected on my “feeling blessed” comment, two thoughts came to mind. I realize I’m splitting hairs here, creating an argument over semantics. But bear with me, because I believe it is critically important. It’s one of those things we can’t see because it’s so culturally engrained that it has become normal.

But it has to stop. And here’s why.

First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I can’t help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&M’s to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and it’s for our own good. But positive reinforcement?

God is not a behavioral psychologist.

Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar “blessing” per day.

During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor.

The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.

I’ll take door number three, please.

If we’re looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,

 

2 And He began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. That’s where the disciples responded by saying:

12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about “blessed art thou comfortable,” or 12b “blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?”

12c And Jesus said unto them, “Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut.”

So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word “blessed” to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith.

And we have to stop playing that game.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It’s beyond comprehension. But I certainly don’t believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It’s not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don’t believe Jesus will call me blessed.

He will call me “burdened.”

He will ask,

“What will you do with it?”

“Will you use it for yourself?”

“Will you use it to help?”

“Will you hold it close for comfort?”

“Will you share it?”

So many hard choices. So few easy answers.

So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It’s not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living.

No.

My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us.

And for this blessing, may our response always be,

“Use me.”

Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, “I’m grateful.” Would love to hear your thoughts.

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Scott Dannemiller is a writer, blogger, worship leader and former missionary with the Presbyterian Church. He writes the blog The Accidental Missionary, where this post first appeared.

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Honoring an Icon

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” — Albert Pine

Icon: A person or thing regarded as a symbol of a belief, nation, community, or cultural movement. (Collins English Dictionary)

I’ve written a bit on this blog about my parents. After a 5-year absence, I recently returned home and on Tuesday dad presented his autobiography and formally unveiled his foundation. The non-profit, non-governmental organization is dedicated to uplifting and empowering marginalized rural dwellers through education, capacity dwelling and entrepreneurship development. I sat in amazement and with deep pride as I watched close friends and prominent members of society, many who’ve known dad for up to 50 years, honor him as an icon.

Wow! It’s hard to see your dad as an “icon” when all you know him as is just dad. He’s always been my mentor and still is. I could sit and listen to him for hours. Many others have and still do.

They spoke of his deep friendship, his loyalty, his humility, calm demeanor, and incredible memory. They heaped praises on mum for being the “awe” behind his “awesome” for over 4 decades. I watched them on stage and I could see a disguised discomfort, but deep humility.

He laughed at the jokes about his detailed record keeping. He closed his eyes as a citation was read. He was probably recalling his time at Marshall, Texas while a student in the early 60s as some of the first sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement were occurring.

He probably recalled the old lady who gave him room and board in Eugene, Oregon as he worked odd jobs to pay his way through undergraduate and graduate schools.

He smiled as he recalled meeting mum in Lincoln, Nebraska; their courtship and eventual wedding after both families had consented. The narrator highlighted his sojourns through Anchorage, Alaska and California and his eventual return to his homeland.

Again, I noted his humility as many spoke of his contributions locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. They spoke of his quiet philanthropy now made public. Many in the room were also beneficiaries of dad’s goodwill. He’d never talk about it or toot his own horn. So why write an autobiography?

The culture of my ancestors has depended completely on oral tradition to tell its story. Dad’s generation, and those who went before him, lacked the western education to record events. Years ago, I encouraged dad to tell his own story. To leave a legacy behind for his grandchildren, for those whose lives he’d touched, and for his people.

I am blessed to be part of that legacy. I am blessed to have been there for the event. It meant a lot to mum and dad and I’m better for it.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬:‭12‬ NIV)

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Thanksgiving & Community

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Homecoming: Serenity in Chaos

In the background I hear the steady hum of the generator supplying power to the air condition in the room. I watch the boys sleeping soundly. It’s humid outside but mum has made sure we’re all comfortable. There’s even a cordless fan ready in case power goes out. Oh yes, the automatic generator is also fueled and ready.

I hear a sound I haven’t heard in years: a rooster’s crow–nature’s alarm. The rooster, on cue, repeats himself until he believes he’s been heard. This signals the rising of a society.

This particular society, densely overpopulated with about 20 million people, rises with a visible force. Roads are divided by neatly painted lanes but no one pays attention. Drivers go wherever their cars can fit into. The phrase “go-slow” captures the ensuing traffic chaos. It was this same chaos that made the 30-min ride from the airport take almost two hours.

Along the way you can tell where society’s focus has turned: The FIFA World Cup, entertainers, mobile phone data plans, and energy drinks. Not the Chibok girls, not terrorism, not malaria, not poverty.

I haven’t been here in 5 years. It’s changed a lot since then. I drive by luxury apartments, shopping malls, movie theaters, and a Spar grocery store and start to wonder where I really am. Then I approach familiar surroundings; crowded outdoor traders, traffic sellers (those who hawk goods during traffic), flooded buildings, and the smell of roasted corn and roasted pears. It is here that my world slows to a crawl and I sense a serene moment in time. It is here that my accent changes and I sound like an indigene again as I order some roasted corn and pears.

I take a moment and appreciate the blessing of this story (it’s still being written). I am grateful for the legacy the boys are gaining as they spend time with their grandparents. I am spoiled by the serenity of being home in the midst of the chaos.

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Mulligans

Ever had one of those moments in your life where you realize you need a personal mulligan? For the none golfers, where the word is commonly used, a mulligan is a “do-over”. A second chance to play the shot.

Life doesn’t give us too many mulligans. A phrase like “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” just haunts you as you imagine showing up to an interview and tripping on the rug as you walk in to take your seat. Wouldn’t a mulligan come in handy just then?

Imagine that date that didn’t go as expected. The food wasn’t good, the movie bombed, and your friends lied to you about your dancing skills. Oh to have a second chance to prove you don’t have two left feet and can actually move to the drum beat and not the guitar. 🙂

How about that friendship that just didn’t workout for whatever reason. Those are tough too, especially where the heart is concerned. So sometimes rather than mulligans, we just take the penalty and keep on moving.

Here’s what I think about mulligans in my own life:

1. Life may not give us many mulligans but God does.
2. Everyday I wake up feels like God giving me a mulligan…it’s simply called “Grace”.
3. It is an unmerited favor He grants me despite the awful shots I’ve made.
4. It humbles me to my core (why would anyone grant me mulligans knowing how much I suck?!).
5. Many times I’m reduced to tears by it because I simply can’t fathom a love so unconditional.
6. It motivates me to take better shots although His grace isn’t tied to my good shots. His mulligan to me is despite my shots all together and granted because of his love for me.
7. I’m inspired to give mulligans too.

After a stretch that lasted months of being consumed by work, I realized I was masking some inner pain and hadn’t fully grieved my brother’s death. In those months I had slacked off on my fitness regimen (CrossFit), stayed up until real late to do more work, ate and hydrated poorly and just didn’t really feel like I was taking “good shots”. What made it difficult to realize was that I was performing well and receiving high praise at work. Oh yeah, my clothes noticed the changes and collectively decided to shrink all of a sudden. 🙂

In a moment of solitude, I reflected on “Grace”, “Do-Overs”, and “Mulligans”. I wasn’t really alone. I felt strengthened by the realization that a mulligan had long been provided. I began the march out of my funk and it’s been an amazing journey thus far.

Do you need a mulligan in your life? There’s one available…it’s free too.

PS: I haven’t played golf in over 7 years…maybe time to dust off the clubs.20140611-214447-78287329.jpg

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English Isn’t As Easy As You Think.

Had to share this. Author has a point.

Add to the list: Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?

http://m.tickld.com/x/english-isnt-as-easy-as-you-think

You think English is easy?

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture..

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

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For Mum…Our Song

Sweet Mother
by Prince Nico Mbarga
[click link to hear the song]

Sweet mother I no go forget you
For de suffer wey you suffer for me yeah [2x]

When i dey cry my mother go carry me
She go say my pikin wetin you dey cry yeah yeah
Stop stop! stop stop!! stop stop!!!
Make you no cry again oo

When i wan sleep my mother go pet me
She go lie me well-well for bed
She go cover me cloth say make you sleep
Sleep sleep my pikin oooo

When i dey hungry my mother go run up and down
She dey find me somthing wey i go chop
Sweet mother eeeeee..sweet mother oooo..eee

When i dey sick my mother go cry cry cry
She go say instead wey i go die make she die
She go beg God, God help me, God help me, my pikin oo

If i no sleep, my mother no go sleep
If i no chop, my mother no go chop
She no dey tire ooo
Sweet mother i no go forget dey suffer wey you suffer for me yeah yeah
Sweet mother eeeeeeeeeeee
Sweet mother oooo….eeeee

interlude…instrumental…

You fit get another wife
you fit get another husband
but you fit get another mother? No!

interlude…instrumental…

Sweet mother aaaaaaaaaaaaa
Sweet mother eeee..ooooooo
Sweet mother aaaaaaaaaaaaa
Sweet mother eeee..ooooooo

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Thoughts on Leadership (Part I)

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What inspires followership in any group? What is it about your leader that inspires you to serve him or her daily? Is it their charisma? Their ability to communicate? Their steadiness under pressure? Their fairness? Or is it all of the above?

I’ve led teams for a long time. Teams of 6, 10, 300, and 1,100. I’ve also been led as a member of a team. What has stood out for me in every case almost sounds like a cliché.

Here are a few lessons:

“People don’t care how much you know, they just want to know you care.”

“Your ability to connect with members of your team is tied directly to how they connect with your vision and direction.”

“How you communicate, orally and in writing, reflects positively on the teams productivity.”

“Your words matter. Choose them carefully.”

“Listen twice as much as you speak. That’s why you have two ears and only one mouth.”

“Public speaking is a job standard. Get good at it.”

“Leading people is not a black or white endeavor. A lot occurs in the grey.”

“People rise to the level of expectation and standards you set.”

“People appreciate leaders who are willing to get their hands dirty.”

“You’re not the smartest person in the room. Don’t act like it.”

“Praise in public, chastise in private.”

“Attribute success to your people. Own the failures.”

“Apply Abraham Lincoln’s practice of MBWA–management by walking around. Get out from behind the desk and be seen.”

“There will be bad news…be the first to get over it. Your people are watching your reaction.”

“Strive for excellence; perfection is hard to sustain where people are concerned.”

“Teach something, learn something, have fun daily.”

“Success without a successor is shortsighted. Groom your #2. [Dad taught me that]

“Give clear and constructive feedback without delay.”

“Be mindful of the “cringe factor” with direct reports. When a subordinate’s performance or actions make you cringe, it’s time to replace him or her.”

“Trust your gut!”

“Be decisive!”

“Sometimes you’ll make the wrong call. Own it. Learn from it.”

“Read voraciously. Others have been where you are.”

“Protect your signature. Your credibility hinges on it.”

“You have no job security. You are replaceable.”
[NBA Coach Mark Jackson was recently fired by the Golden State Warriors after two successful seasons getting the team to the playoffs]

There are so many more clichés I could list. Thousands of books have been written on leadership. Want more clichès…read them!

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Wisdom from Yoda

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Trusting our Kids

“If we don’t start trusting our children, how will they ever become trustworthy” — Randy Quaid, Footloose, 2011

We do so much to protect them. We give them everything we didn’t have and yet, forget to give them what we did have. It’s hard to teach hard work to children who have everything.

I was 8 when I took my first unaccompanied flight from Lagos to Oslo. I can only imagine all it took for my mum to agree to let me go. She had to trust an airline she’d never flown before. She also had to trust that her 8 year old was good at following directions and obeying authority.

For all the negative things we hear about today’s youth, the real question is whether we’ve instilled enough in them to trust them. And if they make mistakes, isn’t that what life is about…learning from our mistakes.

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Plans vs. Reality

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