How Easily We Miss It


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It can be so easy to miss things that are evident.


It happens when we misplace something and discover it was right under our noses all the time. It happens when we think the Lord has forgotten our prayers and then He shows up in a way we did not anticipate. It happens when someone we love comments on something we didn’t think he or she had noticed about us or something we have achieved.


The truth is that the most observant of us still miss a great many things. Sometimes we are distracted. Sometimes we are trying to travel at the speed of light and don’t notice what is happening inside of us or around us.


Dan Heath writes about a phenomenon he calls “inattentional blindness” in a new book to be released in March (Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen). I have been blessed to receive an advance reader copy. He defines “inattentional blindness” as follows:


“…a phenomenon in which our careful attention to one task leads us to miss important information that’s unrelated to the task.”


I cannot speak for any of you, but I think we all experience this to varying degrees over the course of our lifetime and a diverse array of tasks whether related to our work or things at home. I think it happens in other ways as well beyond the concrete of tangible.



Have you ever noticed how we seem to look at our relationship with the Lord as one where we are trying to find Him or reach out to Him?


We look to Him in times of trouble most often and it can be so easy to forget that He is the One who initiated the relationship with us at the outset.


He was the One who wanted us to know Him so we would never be separated from Him. He was the One nudging our hearts and spirits to sense that love, care, and grace that He purchased at the cross. We can be pleading with Him to hear us or be near and miss that He is right there in the midst.


“Our faith is not simply about our hands reaching to the Father but, even more so, about His hands reaching to us. It is not just that our eyes are on God but that His eyes are on us. It is not just our prayers to Jesus, but His prayers for us. The prayers of Jesus sustain our faith. It is not our commitment to Him, but His Covenant with us that holds us, it is less about our own faith or our own abilities, and more about His perfect love toward us. Jesus already sees beyond the present testing of our faith and is already holding us up.

He is already speaking Covenant over the inadequacy of our commitment. And in His Covenant, there is hope that goes beyond human understanding. There is a sigh of relief.”

Eric and Kristen Hill


What a great comfort to be reminded of that and how much it resonates despite it not regularly being something we think about unless nudged.


Jesus sees.


He knows.


He is not only cheering us on but cares deeply about what we are in the midst of and sees beyond the trial or testing how He has worked in and through it.


Jesus sees the victory on the other side even though we can easily miss that He is interceding for us and will not ever lose sight of us. He will not let go of us nor allow us to be snatched from His hand.



A Sticky Wicket

Photo by LumenSoft Technologies on Unsplash


Every so often I will hear or use the phrase I chose for today’s title, but there are more than a few metaphors that we may hear or use without information about the origin of that phrase. Choosing this phrase as a title meant I wanted to be sure the way I used it (a difficult situation) was accurate. It was fascinating to learn and before going further, let me share what I learned from The Phrase Dictionary:


“A wicket is, of course, a playing surface used in cricket. This phrase is a direct allusion to the difficulty of playing on a wet and sticky pitch. The earliest citations of the expression refer specifically to cricket…July 1882”


That bit of random information might not be a big deal, but a wordsmith likes to have a handle on the words he or she chooses to write.


The “sticky wicket” that has been occupying my thought since reading the latest book I reviewed (Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath) focuses on our struggle with owning an issue or problem. It’s one of the things the author lists that keeps us thinking by reacting to things (downstream thinking) instead of using systems thinking and processes to anticipate potential problems before they actually show up needing to be solved.


Dan Heath describes this “sticky wicket” issue this way:


“A lack of ownership, though, means that the parties who are capable of addressing a problem are saying, That’s not mine to fix.”


 As I consider the issue, I think it has been around since the beginning of mankind (as in the Garden of Eden). When the serpent met Adam and Eve in that first garden and lied about the prohibition of eating from a certain tree that God had told them, Eve fell prey to the serpent’s wiles. Truth be told, Adam was right there and didn’t jump into that scene to keep Eve from yielding. Then when God asked why he, Adam, ate from the tree, he blamed Eve.



Both Adam and Eve were disobedient, and both were responsible and should have owned the problem, but instead Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve.


For as old as this story is, if you think for a few minutes I think you can recall more than a few examples where something similar takes place. A handy one is always how several children in a family get caught in not following a family rule and who owns the truth that they all knew the rule. But sadly, it doesn’t stop in childhood, in the home, or on the school yard. It happens in most any adult organization, business, or company and we keep using the excuse.


Sometimes we use it out of self-interest. Sometimes we might feel it’s not our place to handle it for any number of reasons. We see it over and over again on the nightly news in one story after another. We see it in politics at every level and the excuse never seems to go out of style no matter what reason we choose for using it.


We hear it when there is a disagreement and we believe we have been offended by someone and then choose not to be the one to initiate a conversation with the person because “it’s their problem to fix.”


One glitch about that is that if I see the problem or issue and the Lord has revealed it to me, does that mean I can ignore that knowledge and not respond to handle the responsibility or at least my part in it?

Photo by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels


Relationally speaking there are very few times when an issue or problem doesn’t have responsibility on both sides. Why?  Because each person is responsible for his or her own action or words he or she says as well as whether they are listening carefully to what has been said. Much of the time responsibility is shared, but we have this “sticky wicket” that happens – we are either prone to not believe it is ours or we take all the responsibility most all of the time.


Maybe it starts with giving up that old “blame game” we are so good at. Perhaps it is laying down our pride of believing we are in the right and have no ownership. Possibly it’s not acknowledging we might have the skill or gifting to see what’s possible and need to put our indifference and complacency to death.


Dan Heath points out a better idea:


“I choose to fix this problem, not because it’s demanded of me, but because I can, and because it’s worth fixing.”


Imagine how this attitude (if it spread) might alter so many aspects of daily life.


As I have reflected on this, a list of biblical references have come to mind that (if accepted and internalized) might make this possible. Here are just a few:


“Every believer is ultimately responsible for his or her own conscience.”

Galatians 6:5 (TPT)


“For one day we will all be openly revealed before Christ on his throne so that each of us will be duly recompensed for our actions done in life, whether good or worthless.”

2 Corinthians 5:10 (TPT)


But perhaps the story Jesus tells in Luke 10:30-37 (NIV) illustrates this kind of self-less responsibility best:


30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii  and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


Clearly, the Samaritan didn’t see this as a “sticky wicket” issue, but it isn’t just a great story. Jesus tells us to go and do likewise – own the problem or issue instead of saying “It’s not mine to fix.”


Photo by Samantha Garrote from Pexels




What We Miss About Log Jams



When you read this title you might think I am off on a tangent about logging in the northwest United States with a point on the end, but I am looking at those log jams that get in the way of moving forward toward a goal that stays just out of reach. Ever since reading the new book I recently reviewed, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath, I have been mulling over some of the things the author wrote about.


It seems there are books, blogs, and articles in abundance on how we get out from under what it is blocking our way or holding us down in some way or another, but the lists and ideas too often leave us without much understanding of the cause. We find ourselves reviewing symptoms instead of thinking upstream and gaining enough data to dissect what we need to address. Without such data we are guessing and taking random shots that may or may not hit what we need.


The problems we wrestle with consume a lot of time and energy so to fail to collect data and keep scrambling with hunches can keep us going in circles.



One of the things all of us often complain about is that we don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough time for a nourishing quiet time. We don’t have enough time to keep a regular exercise routine. We don’t have enough time to plan and prepare healthier meals. We don’t have enough time to make time to nurture our relationships.


But how many of us collect some data to actually see what is happening with those 24 hours of every day of a week? From personal experience making a log for a week can result in more than a few surprises if I am seriously owning the problem and being honest about each of those day’s precious minutes.


Yes, I know that sounds like a pain and it can be because I have done it, but that information will help you see what you can’t see without it.


One of the terms the author of Upstream wrote about is “inattentional blindness.”  That term may be new to you so let me share Dan Heath’s (the author’s) definition:


“…inattentional blindness, a phenomenon in which our careful attention to one task leads us to miss important information that’s unrelated to the task.

Inattentional blindness leads to a lack of peripheral vision.”


As a result, we can get over focused and miss those things swirling around that are affecting more than just the task at hand. Logging our time can help us discover where inattention blindness might be the logjam or at least a part of the issue.


Time a precious gift and once we spend it, we can never get it back.


We read and see reminders all the time about things to help us get healthy. Ads abound for every conceivable device to help us exercise, but too often those devices sit there gathering dust. Maybe what some of us miss is that we do better at any kind of exercise if it is done with someone else. The conversation and fellowship help the time go faster and we soon have added up several miles while walking and talking.



Upstream thinking means we make whatever we choose to do with exercise a part of our calendars just like we do any other important commitment. For me that makes a difference. Recently my husband and I made a commitment to do more physical fitness together. At the end of a week we look at our calendars for next week and find two or three times we can to this together. Sometimes it means a walk on a Saturday morning after which we stop for breakfast. Sometimes we go to a new coffee shop. That decision to put things on the calendar works for us and gets rid of a logjam.


If we want to be healthy spiritually, what upstream thinking can help? And I will give you a hint that going to church is not going to get you very far, but what can help is that week’s log I mentioned early as well as insight into whether you are more of a morning person or an evening person.


Upstream decisions would also include determining a place where you go each day that will have all the things you need already waiting for you. For me that means one of my Bibles, a resource that might give me some insight into what passages I am reading, a journal, pen, post it flags, highlighter, and a coaster for a coffee cup. (My current favorite resource is How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour by Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee.)


Life keeps inching forward and to get the most out of it in these and any other areas means gathering hard data and making some decisions and commitments that go on a calendar (likely on our phone).


What does that mean?


Making that inventory and decision means when life happens and hands us something tough to handle, we are more equipped. It also means that in the months and years ahead each day will be better. We can do that best with upstream thinking to “solve problems before they happen.”


As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings:


“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”










Upstream cover


The title of this soon to be released book by Dan Heath intrigued me when I first heard about it. Who wouldn’t want to learn about how to solve problems before they happen?


When I was given the opportunity to get an Advance Reader’s Edition to read and review from the author, I was happy to accept. The title Upstream first of all would need a definition in order for me to sense the topic of the book by this New York Times bestselling coauthor of Made to Stick and Switch.


To begin to grapple with the definition it’s important to recognize the opposite word – downstream – and how they contrast from each other.


“Downstream actions react to problems once they’ve occurred; upstream efforts aim to prevent those problems from happening.”


With excellent examples to demonstrate the scope of these two definitions, I was curious to learn more. One of those reasons was the certainty that all of us tend to do more downstream thinking than upstream thinking with one significant group as an exception. Mothers. Mothers spend much of their time looking out for what the child or children entrusted to them need to learn or do in order to be safe and experience success from birth onward. They look ahead almost innately to what things will be needed to prepare the child for what lays ahead.


My professional career as a Marriage and Family Therapist exposed me to learning about systems theories and models in order to be more effective at working with individuals, couples, and families. Systems thinking is the heart of upstream thinking. It means looking at everything that impacts or influences the problem within the system you may be seeking to improve, and too often we get involved with tunnel thinking and cannot see things through a systemic lens.


Dan Heath develops the concept of upstream through a series of stories and examples of what happens within industries, companies, health plans, school systems, businesses, and more that are stuck in the downstream reactive mode and then shows the consequence of moving into a broader system thinking upstream model.


Along the way he points out things that hinder upstream thinking and keep us stuck in so many ways including problem blindness (“I don’t see the problem” or “This problem is inevitable”) and lack of ownership (“That’s not mine to fix”) and tunnel vision.


It might sound like the focus is on “the big picture” and as I read the book it became evident that was not quite the answer because to do upstream thinking requires us to get close to and see the issue or problem firsthand. Yes, systems look at complex layers of things, but it begins by putting names and faces to what we want to change, not just data.


As the author looks at how to develop upstream thinking and feedback loops within and connecting various systems, you will discover a wealth of information pointing to how this concept can be applied in a vast cross section of what we are involved in daily including our individual lives. You will also learn the significant value of those feedback loops to begin to identify potential consequences that could create new problems if you miss seeing them.


“Upstream thinking is not just for organizations, it’s for individuals. Where there’s a recurring problem in your life, go upstream. And don’t let the longevity of the problem deter you from acting. As an old proverb goes, ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.’”


One thing is clear about upstream thinking – it means and requires action and it starts with a crucial lesson:


“You can’t help a thousand people, or a million, until you understand how to help one.”


I had no idea what I was in for when I began this book, but page by page I became more excited about the endless possibilities it opened up. This is a book you will want to add to your reading list no matter what your age or profession. In the weeks ahead it is likely you will read little nuggets I gained in the book.


Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath will be released on March 3, 2020.







The One True Companion

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash


As I was reading in a new book I am going to review in a few days, I found (as I often do) many little sentences here and there that fueled my thinking. For me that usually means lots of those little “post it flags” attached to the edges of pages of the book I want to revisit.


The one that caught my attention this time was one by Dan Heath:


“…we don’t succeed by foreseeing the future accurately. We succeed by ensuring that we’ll have the feedback we need to navigate.”


There is no doubt that none of us (save the Lord alone) can accurately foresee the future. Many of us who live by the scouting principle of being prepared try to do so as much as possible. We cannot know when we will experience a job loss or a major repair for our cars or home, but we try to plan for that with insurance and a little extra money in the budget if possible. If we are lucky, we grew up around other older adults who told us this would be important before we ever experienced it ourselves.


That’s one area most of us learn about in one way or another and the lesson helps us navigate whatever hits us as we go – at least for those typical things we encounter like a hot water heater failing or a “fender bender” not covered by insurance.


Another area some of us do very well with is how we handle our health for the future. We plan with insurance coverage, try to eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. We know that as we age our bodies will begin to run into a need for a few repairs here and there and if we steward our health well, it may not prevent an unthinkable diagnosis but it will put us in a better position to avoid one or handle it better when it comes.



For a great many more of us we lose track of how time is flying and that drinking all those sodas every day are doing a number on us (even if they are not loaded with sugar). We continue work or party late into the night and forget our bodies were designed for regular rest and sleep. Our friends nudge us to take risks that we join without much thought to what it may cost us in the future, even if we are okay with them now.


It would help if we had something like a GPS system we commonly use now for all aspects of life. These newest ones we travel with not only tell us how to get from one point to another, but they also tell us about a pothole ahead on the highway, an accident that has stalled traffic that we won’t discover for another 30 minutes, and that there are alternate highways to take to avoid the dangers we might meet ahead.


No one has designed one of those, but perhaps they don’t need to do that (for as convenient as that might be). Maybe we have what we need already.


If we are following a Christian journey of transformation, we have a clear and evident option – the Holy Spirit – who is our very best companion to guide us through the sometimes-murky waters of daily life. Those subtle nudges and quiet whispers are meant to help us navigate the uncertain path of the future and help us succeed in ways far beyond temporal success.


Unfortunately, we too often don’t have very keen hearing, or we decide those nudges and whispers are of our own making and we ignore them. At times that can mean we miss out on a blessing of some sort, a glimpse of the Lord working that we might overlook. At other times it can mean we put ourselves at risk or in danger because we don’t make an appointment with our doctor or we forget about the condition of our tires as we are about to take a long trip.



That is when we most need spiritual friends who travel with us on the journey to speak into our lives when we don’t hear or tune out that one true companion to navigate into the future of each day.


It’s regrettable that not all of us are blessed with such persons in our lives or may not have them during certain seasons. Reading about the life of Christ and his companions – disciples – He journeyed with tell me they are important for more than one or two reasons.


In David Benner’s book, Sacred Companions, he describes the function of spiritual friends this way:


“The task of spiritual friends is to help us discern the presence, will and leading of the Spirit of God.”


I love that.


But if those spiritual friends seek to replace the Holy Spirit or if they lack wisdom and discernment as they walk with us, we can be tempted to refuse any offers from them or healthier spiritual friends that may come our way. That is not what faith teaches us, but our wounds can move us to do so at times.


“The Christian spiritual journey is a journey we take with others. Each of us must take our own journey, and for each of us that journey will be unique, but none of us is intended to make the journey alone. The myth of the solitary Christian making his or her way alone to paradise flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches about the church as the body of Christ.”

David Benner


I think one of the things that hinders healthy spiritual friendship is our failure to pay attention to those relationships around us. We get so focused on our own life and all of its nuances that the relationship God may have provided withers for lack of nourishment.


Spiritual friends notice things about us, not just a new hair cut or diet plan. They notice things they sense that we may never talk about. They pick up on weariness without our telling them. They notice if we are quieter than usual. They can tell you a great deal about our heart and current walk with the Lord from what we say and what we don’t say.


That kind of friend is rare indeed, but a great gift to share the journey with. It’s not unlike the gift Frodo has in his friend, Sam, in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


When you read that, some of you lament that you don’t have such a person. Others of you immediately have the face of such a person in your past or current life come to mind.


The key to remember is you have one true companion – the Holy Spirit, who was given from a loving Father God to navigate the unseen future of every moment.