focus

Road Closed

by Larry Hehn on July 30, 2014

Road ClosedThe road to my office was closed today, as workers replaced the railroad tracks that cross it. The intersection leading into the work area was marked with pylons, a large electronic sign, and detour markers to keep drivers from wandering into a dead end.

Despite the visible warnings and suggested alternate route, I was amazed at how many drivers ignored them and continued down the doomed path.

When they reached the trench where the railroad tracks used to be, it became clear. Yep, that “ROAD CLOSED” sign really meant the road was closed.

Go figure.

To be honest, I’ve done that many times myself. Whether it be challenging a real life “ROAD CLOSED” sign and almost getting stuck in knee-high sand, or simply ignoring God’s direction at different points in my life and choosing my own way instead.

There are good reasons for both the literal and figurative “ROAD CLOSED” signs in our life.

Yes, I am thankful for the truth behind that old cliché that says God allows U-turns. But the older I get, the more I hope to notice – and heed – his “ROAD CLOSED” signs when they first appear.

And not wind up on the wrong side of the tracks.

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. – Proverbs 14:12

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.” – Robert Frost

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Do you hear what I hear?

by Larry Hehn on June 15, 2014

grandfather clockMy sister-in-law and her family own a grandfather clock. Its Westminster chimes sound each quarter hour. The soothing tones echo through the spacious foyer and fill the house.

But without my hearing aid, I can’t hear them.

There are certain frequencies I simply cannot, and do not, hear without the aid of technology.

Before I was equipped with a hearing aid, you would have been hard pressed to convince me chimes were coming from that clock every fifteen minutes.

No matter how well you described them or related your experience of hearing them to me, I would swear you were nuts. Clearly, from my perspective, the only sound coming from the clock was a steady tick, tock, tick, tock.

Which one of us would be “right”?

After all these years I’ve finally started to figure out – that’s the wrong question.

Empathy has never been my strong suit. I have trouble seeing and hearing things through a set of eyes and ears other than my own.

But I’m learning.

I’ve always placed high value on being right. It’s just how I’m wired. After reading Integrity by Henry Cloud (a highly recommended read, by the way), and not hearing the Westminster chimes one night, it dawned on me that I and those around me could benefit from me dialing that down.

As Cloud describes it, “Being right is not [an empathetic person’s] highest value. Understanding and connecting with others is.”

Let me tell you, I’d much rather have my tombstone read “He understood and connected with others” than “He always had to be right”. The former sure is a lot more Christ-like.

So, do you hear what I hear?

“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.” – C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

“To empathize and validate what someone is experiencing does not mean that you always agree or even think the other person is right. It just means that you see it as valid in that it is really their experience, and true for that person, and you show them that you understand what they are thinking and feeling.” – Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity

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cristinas tortina shopWalk into Cristina’s Tortina Shop in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and right away you’ll notice there’s something special.

It’s not just the lively pink-with-brown-polka-dots décor.

It’s not just the picture frames along the east wall that showcase the staff and their dreams.

It’s not just the stunning selection of scrumptious cupcakes (if you happen to get there before they’re sold out!).

What you’ll notice above all else is the atmosphere.

Because the people on both sides of the counter can’t help but be excited about what owner Mary Iusso and her daughter Cristina helped launch just a few short months ago.

When Cristina was born, doctors were surprised to discover she had Down syndrome. They approached Mary and her husband with a list of things she would not be able to do.

Fortunately, in the true spirit of Things that are Excellent, Cristina’s family instead chose to focus on what she could do.

This led, just a few years later, to the opening of Mary’s brainchild: a cupcakery that “creates equal employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome, Autism and other Special Needs.”

Cristina’s Tortina Shop is so much more than a place that makes and sells outstanding desserts.

It is a place that, as their tagline suggests, showcases capabilities.

There has been quite a buzz about the shop on local media, and the word is spreading. When I visited a couple of Sundays ago, Mary shared that they were getting emails from around the world.

In the early days, they donated leftovers to a local women’s shelter. But these days there aren’t any leftovers. Cristina’s now regularly sells out of cupcakes long before closing.

The cupcakes are incredibly good (the Cioccolata is Cristina’s favorite and mine too!), but you’ll want to make the trip just to see what a difference the right attitude can make.

For more of the story and a quick peek in the shop, enjoy this video:

Yes, Cristina’s Tortina Shop is doing more than just serving up delicious desserts. They’re changing the world, one cupcake at a time.

Click here to link with them on Twitter and Facebook.

What is your favorite cupcake flavor?

Things that are Excellent is a regular feature that celebrates “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). If you have a feature idea or a guest post that you would like to submit, let us know in the comments below or email your ideas to: excellent@larryhehn.com

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