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The Power Of Specificity

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In 1994, psychology professors at Santa Clara University tested a theory they'd been developing about the power of specificity as it relates to compliance.  They called the procedure pique technique. 

The professors enlisted students in the experiment to go to a public place known to be frequented by panhandlers, and begin asking passers by for money.  Some of the students simply asked people for spare change, or for a common amount like a dollar, but others became very specific in their requests.  

Several of the students asked specifically for thirty-seven cents, an odd amount, which would more often than not pique the interest of the people they were asking.  In the end, a greater number of people stopped and inquired of the students why they were asking for thirty-seven cents than stopped for the students who weren't as specific.  

And more often than not, they would give something to the thirty-seven cent students after the exchange--regardless of the reason they students of…

Do Your Best Until You Know Better

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I've been practicing what I preached, and it hasn't been easy.   

I gave my congregation homework to do after the last two sermons that I preached as part of a sermon series we've been doing at my church.  The sermon series is entitled "Under God?" and it's a series focused on exploring how Christians can be peacemakers during times of division and contention. 

In case you weren't aware, we live in a particularly divided culture.  We're divided over politics, religion, social issues and a whole lot more. 

I told my congregation that one of the many ways that we can bridge these gaps is to spend time listening, reading and engaging people with whom we have disagreements.  And I gave them homework to do just that. 

However, it's been a challenge for me to change news outlets, read different authors and try to engage in conversations with people who hold different views than I do on the aforementioned issues. 

But I have learned some things. 

First, I foun…

We Are Made of Stories

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Some years ago, I got the chance to have dinner and chat with the Congressman, who represented my district in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

I was kind of skeptical about meeting him at first because I was diametrically opposed to most of his stances on a variety of social issues.  But he was not at all what I expected. 

To begin with, I quickly learned that I had more than a few points of agreement with him on a surprising number of things.  Sure, he held some views that I disagreed with, but there was also a lot of common ground. 

And then he told us about his efforts to build bridges between an increasingly divided Congress. 

Every month he would hold a dinner at his house in Washington, DC and he would invite members of Congress from both political parties.  Democrats and Republicans would gather to eat at his house, with only one standing rule:  No one could talk politics.

Instead, they had to tell their stories.  They had to share the stories of where they came from, what matter…

What You Love Well, Remains

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I used to draw and paint. 

When I was a kid, someone told my mother I had promise, so she spent money our family didn't have to get me oil painting lessons, and then tutoring with a retired art teacher, who specialized in pencil.

I took lessons all the way through middle school and into high school before I finally convinced my mom to give up.  

You see, I realized that in order to be a truly great artist, I was going to have to work hard at it.  Talent will only get you so far, unless you are a prodigy, and I was no prodigy.  

And I wanted to play sports, hang with my friends, have a girlfriend... So I set aside my paints and pencils and never really picked them up again.  

After my mom passed away, I was going through some of her belongings, trying to determine what to keep, what to store and what to let go.  I had to smile when I  found some of my drawings, and a painting of mine that she'd kept. 

I thought back to those lessons that she couldn't afford.  

She took some of the…

When You Swim Against the Current

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I  was talking with a friend recently, and our conversation turned to reflections on how quickly time passes.  I shared a quote with my friend that I'd heard from somewhere--a quote I've shared in similar conversations:
"The days are long, but the years are short." Afterward, I got to thinking about that quote, and what it means to me.  It's a simple and yet profound idea, isn't it? 

Our days get filled with tasks and appointments---places we have to be, people we need to meet. We often schedule ourselves with very little margin, and then wonder why we are exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed. 

And then there's this...

I don't know about you, but I often find myself at the end of a long day feeling as though there is more left undone than done.  Perhaps you feel the same. 

Maybe what you feel is a sense that if you'd only had more time in your day, you could have done more, which is ridiculous because you went from one thing to another all day long with…

Trust The Process

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Off and on for the past year, I've been reading a little book about architecture written by Matthew Frederick. 

The other day I read a line that resonated with me, but (per usual) I had to sit with it for a while before I began to understand why.  

Frederick wrote about the design process and how frustrating it can be when the solutions to problems aren't immediately evident, or when the ideas aren't flowing well.  This is what he had to say:  
Engage the design process with patience...  Accept uncertainty.  Recognize as normal the feeling of lostness that attends too much of the process.  Don't seek to relieve your anxiety by marrying yourself prematurely to a design solution; design divorces are never pretty.  Today I found myself reflecting on Frederick's words---especially in light of the many challenges swirling around me at the moment.  I  have tasks that need doing, problems to solve, feelings of uncertainty to deal with, things to write...  

And the place I oft…

Ruining Your Canvas With Paint

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Do you have something hanging over your head today that needs to get done?
Are you having a hard time getting started?

Maybe you've had a project that you have been needing to get done, and it is still sitting there in your inbox, on your table, in your garage, on your computer screen...

It sits there accusing you of stuff, like:

"What's the matter with you? Lazy, much?"
"Hey I'm not going to finish my self, Pal."
"You aren't good enough to do this, are you?"
"Why aren't you more like your brother... sister... successful cousin?"
"I'll just be here reminding you of how you never finish things..."

Wow.  That list came pretty easy---too easy.  I'm guessing that there are a few of us out there who resonate with this all too well.

And sometimes the things that we haven't started are transformative actions that we know need doing, but doing them will disrupt our lives too much, turn things upside down, or bring the kin…