What Makes Your Heart Sing?


Apart from my first priority to care for my family, what is my purpose? I am uniquely made, so what sets my particular heart alight? What makes it ache? What makes it sing?

As I walk through this spectacular yet broken world, there are 2 things that I long for most – grace and compassion. I want to spend my energy bringing more of those 2 things into the world and encourage others to do the same.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” -Frederich Buechner

I find my deep gladness when I meet with the world’s deep hunger for grace and compassion. And so it is there that I will invest whatever skills that I have out of my immense love and appreciation for my fellow human beings.

The song below tells a story that represents the way I long to walk through my days – where giving grace and showing kindness to those in my path is the natural response to the unfathomable grace that has already been given to me.

In my younger years, I had a simplistic and worldly view of success. I saw it as measurable in terms of numbers – money, public acceptance, accolades, followers. That no longer works for me. It was another passage by Buechner that flipped the switch. Any guess who my favorite author is?

From The Hungering Dark:

As we move around this world and as we act with kindness, perhaps, or with indifference, or with hostility, toward the people we meet, we too are setting the great spider web a-tremble. The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt. Our lives are linked together. No man is an island.”

The success of my life’s work – my relational work, my professional work – is not linear at all! It is connected to the great web of humanity – a web that will last far after my physical life is over. I have no right to know, no way to know, the true measure of my impact.

A social-media-savvy guru can put out baloney to millions of people and not effect a single heart, while one private act of compassion can heal and set a life off in a direction that will eventually change the world. WE DON’T GET TO CONTROL THE OUTCOME!

The only thing that is in my power is how I choose to interact with the present moments I am offered. How do I use my time? How do I interact with the random people that connect with me in this great web of life?

From a professional standpoint, I feel called to work out this purpose in 4 ways:

1.Writing – Sometimes things come into my head and heart that I know I am called to share to the best of my ability. It is up to me to be clear, concise, accessible, encouraging, and engaging through the use of words.

2. Reading – I love to read, and I spend a lot of time doing it. Wise authors change me and say certain things that I could not possibly say better. Absorbing their wisdom and encouraging others to do the same through writing inviting reviews is a particular way I would like to put my writing skills to use.

3. Music – Setting lyrically crafted words to melody is a privilege. In my experience, these things arrive on the doorstep of my mind. It is my job to honor their arrival by working hard to improve in my ability to put them together.

4. Photography – Capturing the astonishing beauty of creation is my favorite hobby. Connecting these images with words of wisdom holds a synergistic power that allows truth to sink deeper into the heart and mind.

This is what I set out to do. I am working out the details. Many days I stumble, or doubt myself, or feel lazy. Some days, I forget about the mystery of the great web and get rattled by the linear thinking set by the world’s standards. And that’s OK. The point is to get back to it as soon as I realize my error. It is all sourced from love- that’s where the grace and compassion originate. If love is my source, the outcome of my work will be exactly what is intended.

From Elizabeth Gilbert’s kick-in-the-butt book Big Magic:

“Do what you love to do, and do it with both seriousness and lightness. At least then you will know that you have tried and that—whatever the outcome—you have traveled a noble path.”

So, my dear handful of readers, what makes your heart ache, and what makes your heart sing? Where are you in this beautiful web of life? Putting this on paper (screen) helped me. I would encourage you to do the same – and to share it. Sharing provides the accountability that encourages us not to give up.

Media Fix


I have seen many Facebook feeds of friends and acquaintances declaring various forms of media fasts.  I’m all for it. Looking back over the past year, I seem to have put myself on a media diet.  Maybe the fast and furious no longer hold my attention.  Maybe it all feels monotonous.  I have gone a month and half on 3 separate occasions where I have paid for Netflix DVD service while the 2 unwatched selections gather dust next to my T.V.  My DVR is filled to the brim with kid stuf – Top Gear and Phineus and Ferb – but my personal list has shrunk dramatically.

That said, I must confess that media is often just as big of a fix for me as it is a hinderance.  One of my favorite self-mending techniques is making a “house cleaning playlist” and sing my heart out all day long w/out noticing that I have my hands in a toilet or that I’m sneezing every 10 seconds from the dust.

This can’t just be any old song – it’s gotta make me move and sing.  And if it tempts me to cry, it better be tears of redemption or connection or understanding.  Artists that often show up on such lists: The Haad and the Heart, Uncle Lucius, Of Monsters and Men, Boy & Bear, The Avett Brothers, Brett Dennen, The Guggenheim Grotto, WALK THE MOON,  U2, Counting Crows, Colin Hay, Griffin House, David Wilcox, Little Big Town, Jason Spooner, Modest Mouse, Cake, Bob Schneider, alt-J,The Lumineers, Imagine Dragons, Brandi Carlile, The Shins, Sarah Jarosz.  Just typing those names makes me want to vacuum!

Yep, I’m into the music. Listening, creating, playing, collaborating.  My life’s passion, for better or worse.  But if you really want a media-mend, you gotta go for the films. Just try watching these movies without being moved and/or cheered.  I’m going to try for 30 here – whatever comes to mind first.  I’d love to see what movies my readers would add.

The Princess Bride (Wuv, twu wuv)


Finding Nemo

The Breakfast Club

Independence Day (U!S!A!)

Sense and Sensibility

Groundhog Day (Every young mother should watch this once a year.)

Babette’s Feast (subtitled, not dubbed!)

Love Actually

Star Wars Episode 6 (Ewoks – come on.)


Napoleon Dynamite

Sixteen Candles

Chariots of Fire

About a Boy (OK, there’s a Hugh Grant thing going on here)

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Best in Show

When Harry Met Sally



My Fair Lady



Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

School of Rock


Hot Fuzz

Forest Gump

Guardians of the Galaxy


Parent Trap (original please)

Roman Holiday

Sweet Home Alabama  (if you live south of Virginia)

Pride & Prejudice

Apollo 13 (They get home every time I watch it.)

OK, 35.  That’s pretty good for off the top of my head. Seriously, if you are blue, just watch one every 2 or 3 days and see if it doesn’t lift things just a bit.  I feel a little lift just writing about it.

What’s on your list? Give me 5 off the top of your head – GO!

Playlist, Bookshelf, and In the Queue

Songs at the top of my list this week:


Black Sun – Death Cab for Cutie – They continue to amaze.

Lonely Daze – Kate Tempest – A true poet.

Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes – Raising their own bar.

The Labyrinth Song – Asaf Avidan – New to me this week.

River – Ibeyi – Twins make it twice as nice.

False Hope – Laura Marling – Love her voice, gets under my skin.


I’m slowly digesting The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison. Insightful does not do this writing justice.  It is bold, razor-sharp, and downright jarring sometimes. This is NOT a Max Lucado book – do some investigating before you pick it up. Here is a taste. “I keep thinking I’ll communicate my pain most effectively by expressing my desire for the things that might dissolve it.”

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When I have a little quiet morning space, I read a chapter of Frederick Buechner’s Secrets in the Dark.  “Power, success, happiness, as the world knows them, are his who will fight for them hard enough; but peace, love, joy are only from God.” That has been bouncing around in my head this week. I’m also about to start his novel, Son of Laughter – his story based on the Jacob narratives from the Old Testament. I have a feeling I’m in for a treat.

In the Queue (I’m a little behind) – Boyhood and Begin Again. I’m also slowly making my way through Doctor Who so I can better keep up with my 15 year old son. Almost through season 3 and pleasantly surprised.

What about your lists?  I would love to know what has your attention and why. I need to read something that is entertaining, preferable fiction and not full of sorrow. Recommendations?