How Crossbeams Values Every Person

Crossbeams Building Toy

In real-world engineering, there is no MVP. A team isn’t a true team if one “best” worker shoulders 80 percent of the load, leaving others’ work optional, insignificant, or less influential.


Teamwork means no one is the star player (“It’s all hanging on me”) whose sole performance makes or breaks a project. Real teamwork means the project depends on every team member. Similarly, real teamwork means no one can claim to be irrelevant—no excuses for flaking out or disengaging (“I don’t need to do much. I’m not needed here anyway.”).

True teamwork means every member’s contribution is not only helpful but necessary. The game hangs on everyone’s play.

Two misconceptions about teamwork and community:

Falsehood #1: “I’m more important than the others. We can do without them.”

. . . and the flipside:

Falsehood #2: “I’m less important than the others. They can do without me.”

In Christian community, too, there is no MVP.

It’s easy to see how putting others down can damage a team. But putting yourself down is just as damaging. In fact, the Bible addresses that issue first.

Antidote for Falsehood #2:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. . . . Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-16, NLT (emphasis added)

Antidote for Falsehood #1:

If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-21, NLT (emphasis added)

You are needed. You . . . and you . . . and you . . . are needed.

Crossbeams teaches this.


Charles Sharman, Crossbeams inventor, created a Team Build concept for several large designs.


Last week, members of the local library’s MiniMasterminds STEM club accomplished the Crossbeams Team Build for the Saturn V (pronounced “Saturn Five”), the rocket that took us to the moon.

Each child built one of twelve modules.




We collected the completed rocket sections . . .


. . . and connected all twelve modules. Once the builders (and the adults who accompanied them!) realized how big the finished rocket would be, you could hear the room stirring in increasing excitement.

“Wow, do you realize how huge this thing is going to be?!”

“I told you this was going to be really cool!”

“This is gonna be taller than I am!”

“Taller than the tallest person here!”







The end result was seven and a half feet tall.


It takes the fastest Crossbeams builder about two and a half hours to build the Saturn V by himself. But in this Team Build, twelve beginners who had never seen Crossbeams before finished it in 75 minutes.

Discussion questions concluded the event. Some were:

Q: How can beginners beat the fastest Crossbeams builder?

“We all did it together!”

Q: How did your own part look compared the completed rocket?

“Mine was pretty big, and looked pretty cool, but it was way cooler to see the full rocket at the end.”

Q: How important was your part in building the rocket?

“Very important. . . . The rocket wouldn’t have worked without every part.”

Team Builds by Crossbeams, made by a company named after the Golden Rule, emphasize teamwork, the importance of everyone, and a well-engineered end-product everyone can be proud of.


For further reading:

The Crossbeams Team Build Concept (includes Team Builds Instructor’s Guide)

Seven:Twelve Engineering, the company behind Crossbeams

A summary of a previous Team Build event: Eiffel Tower (includes video)

The Story Behind Crossbeams

What sets Crossbeams apart?


Photo credits for the Saturn V Team Build event: Pikes Peak Library District, Rockrimmon Branch

Curbing Comparison (by Jennifer Dukes Lee)

The following article appeared at Today’s Christian Woman. Reprinted by permission of Jennifer Dukes Lee, award-winning journalist and best-selling author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes. Jennifer (and others) have traveled to Ferguson “to listen to people’s stories, and maybe to write some of those stories … to get a first-hand look at what’s been happening in Ferguson, to talk to people doing good work there, and to see how the Church can lead better in times like this.” Follow Jennifer on Twitter for updates.

I have asked Jennifer for permission to reprint her article “Curbing Comparison” because I identify so closely with every word.

365 Days (2009): Day 107

by Jennifer Dukes Lee

I learned early how comparison can wound a person.

I was 12 years old, sitting on a street curb with my friend on a July afternoon. It was so hot that the street’s tar bubbled up around our flip-flopped feet.

I had called a curbside meeting because I needed her ear. I don’t remember what had troubled me, but I do remember how I thought my heart might burst with sadness. Tears spilled down my face.

I wiped my cheek with the back of my hand and started to confide in her.

“Oh-OOOOH-ooh,” she interrupted me. “Sounds like trouble in paradise.”

I remember how she rolled her eyes, how her blonde ponytail whipped through the air when she shook her head—and how it felt like she took satisfaction in my momentary troubles.

My friend saw only the outside of my life, only the parts that looked like some version of paradise. The truth is, I did have a good life. I lived in a nice house, earned good grades, wore nice clothes, had dependable parents. Our family gathered around our dinner table almost every night, just after the six o’clock whistle blew from the top of the town’s water tower.

My life wasn’t perfect, but to my friend, it must have looked rather Beaver Cleaver-ish. My friend lived in a single-parent, low-income home. School was difficult for her, and her big brother was often getting into trouble.

When my friend held her life up next to mine, she saw a trash heap next to a gold mine. And I can’t say for sure, but I walked away from the curb that day believing that, somewhere deep inside her, she felt a little bit better because I was hurting so badly.

Curbs are everywhere

Turns out, our little-girl penchant for comparison grows up with us.

Turns out, women can be 25 or 55 or 75 and still trying to figure out how they measure up to one another.

Turns out, there are curbs everywhere.

The curbs are on Facebook and at the city park. There are curbs on Twitter and the blogosphere and in churches and school gymnasiums and the carpool lane.

It gets hot out there on the curb, where people’s envy bubbles up like tar. We’re comparing waist sizes, square footage, IQs, kids’ report cards, approval ratings.

Comparison is a quiet vulture, swooping in to peck its sharp beak at our joy, our camaraderie, and our witness to the world.

We compare our trash-heaps days to someone’s paradisiacal online updates. We might be tempted to roll our eyes at the precocious comments that some preschool mama quotes. Somewhere inside of us, we might be turning green with envy at another writer’s bestselling book, a former colleague’s success in a new business venture, another couple’s second trip to the beach in a year. We might even quietly harbor a sense of satisfaction when the object of our envy stumbles.

Comparison is folly, and no one wins—or ever has.

We’ve been measuring ourselves against one another for approximately forever—sometimes with deadly consequences.

Cain compared himself to Abel, with a jealous anger that ended in his brother’s murder. Joseph’s brothers, moved by envy, sold him into slavery. Jesus’ disciples bickered and compared themselves to one another on several occasions.

Paul pointed out the foolishness of it all:

But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point. (2 Corinthians 10:12, The Message)

We might not be killing our sisters or selling them off to the Egyptians. But are we killing each other’s spirits? And are we killing our own souls?

Are we, as the verse says, missing the point?

Someone always gets hurt when we compare, even if we think it’s a secret battle we’re fighting on the inside. It hurts us, and it hurts the person sitting on the other side of our envy. Comparison creates an us-versus-them mentality that can rob the body of Christ of its unity and fellowship. And it can open up doorways to petty criticism of the people we believe are “living in paradise.”

Psychologists tell us that when we feel inadequate, we might try to protect our own self-worth by diminishing the work of those we envy. Cheap shots are delivered. Snickering ensues. We might get annoyed at the Facebook posts of the person who ran another ten miles, lost another ten pounds, or gained another ten followers. And when they’re not looking, we might try to knock them down about ten notches.

My friend Carey told me the other day how a group of moms had made fun of her for being a “Pinterest mom.”

“They talked about how bad Pinterest moms make them feel for not making cute valentines or throwing ‘extreme’ birthday parties,” Carey said. “It was hurtful. I have never in my life gone overboard on my kids’ birthday parties in order to make someone else feel bad. I do it because creating special things brings me joy.”

When we compare our insides to someone else’s outsides, we hurt them. And we hurt ourselves. I’m convinced that comparison is one of the biggest joy-robbers and dream-shredders in a Christian’s life.

The Comparison Monster wedges its ugly self smack-dab between us and whatever God is calling us to do: start a blog, write a song, lead a Bible study, apply for a promotion. Nothing will kill a dream faster than looking at the life of someone who’s already living your dream, then believing it’s too good for you.

If you can’t do it like her, why try?

Can’t blog like her? Forget it.

Can’t make a difference like your friend does? Throw in the towel.

When we compare, we forget the value of our own lives. We forget that we’re the only “us” that the world will ever get.

We forget that God made us incomparable. We forget that we are so exceptionally crafted as to make any comparison invalid.

For the sake of ourselves and our sisters, we have to stop this. Life is not a competition. We’re actually all on the same team, and it’s called the body of Christ.

The greatest antidote to comparison

One of the greatest antidotes to comparison is praise. We can praise God for what he has given us and—this one might be harder—praise God for the unique gifts he has given to our sisters. Instead of envying them, we can rejoice with them. Consider what would happen if we started celebrating other’s victories instead of trampling on their parades. What if we started living out God’s call on our lives, without worrying whether we’ll measure up to some invisible standard? What if we picked up some pom-poms and cheered on our friends instead of picking up sticks or stones?

What if we ditched the lists?

Any of us can look back on our childhood lives and remember the lists that shaped us: honor rolls published in the local paper, school-play casting calls, homecoming courts, birthday-party invitations, and more. When we grow up, the lists grow up with us: the Fortune 500, the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, the Top 100 Bloggers, the richest, the sexiest, the most relevant. Even Christian leaders have come up with online lists to tell us which authors are the most influential.

In a world of list makers, we can begin to live only for the Maker’s list:

Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20, KJV)

We can link hands and elbows as we sit on the curb of life. We can brush away each other’s tears, squeeze each other’s hands, and cheer wildly when it goes well for our sisters. I have plenty of friends who have attained a great amount of earthly success, while remaining humble and true to their callings. I have pledged to them that I won’t compare their beautiful lives to mine, and I’ll never cut them down when they’re not looking.

We can sit at the curb together and say this pledge to each other: “I promise that I’ll be for you.” And we can curb our comparing, at the feet of our incomparable Savior.


Photo credit: amber dawn pullin via flickr creative commons


Jennifer Dukes Lee has invited us to write a color poem! But I couldn’t decide on one color, so I’m doing plaid:


Plaid is the vertical, heaven reaching down,
intertwining with sideways lines—
you reaching out to me
reaching out to you.
Tartan lines, some bold and wide, some
narrow, all coming together
at right angles, motley little L’s
loving one another.

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

(Romans 12:4-5)

9 Ideas to Grow Seasonal Giving into Year-Round Lifestyle

nativity magi

The past few Christmases I’ve noticed the beginnings of a shift away from shopping-shopping-shopping and toward giving-giving-giving. Have you noticed it, too? Christmastime is increasingly becoming a time for generosity and care for the poor, especially the poor in other countries. How awesome.

I love the way Christmas seems to bring out awareness of the poor. But soon it will be January again.

What if the stuff that happens at Christmastime…happens all the time?


(Please join me at where you’ll find the rest of my article:
growing the “Christmas spirit” into all-the-time lifestyle.)

i'm a writer

Good Thing I Can’t Do Everything

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club hosted by the “thoughtful and amusing” Lyla Lindquist on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)


At a friend’s recommendation I read Ex Libris and wanted to write like Anne Fadiman. I heard Mr. Longo at the drums and wanted to play like Mr. Longo. I wanted to turn out cakes like Marcel Desaulniers, sing like Christy Nockels, break-dance like my nephew James, and write songs like Steve and Vikki Cook.

But I didn’t have the goods. Not like they did.

I have the mental understanding that this may not be the healthiest attitude, but the knowing often doesn’t translate to the really knowing—the living, the being, the feeling. For this, I need all the help I can get.

So I’m glad I read Rumors of Water.

Turns out, it’s okay—maybe even beneficial—that I can’t do everything.

As a writer, I have learned when a job needs to get done, there is little use fussing about the lack of necessary ingredients.… This is the secret of the prolific writer. To agree to use small beans and the ingredients at hand.
(L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, p. 34)

I first picked up this book because I have read Stone Crossings, and I will certainly read a book on writing if it’s written by the author of Stone Crossings! I wanted to read Rumors of Water because I wanted to grow as a writer.

Yet from the beginning, I recognized that from this book I could learn not only about writing, but about life. This is true of every section, cover to cover.

I didn’t foresee that a book on writing would help me in my faultiest thoughts and perspectives.

Barkat’s “secret of the prolific writer”—using the “ingredients at hand”—is also the secret of an effective, gifted member of the Body of Christ. God did not intend that I have the ability to do everything as well as everyone else. On the contrary, by God’s design and intent, it is good for me to have a lack. Many lacks. “Deficiency” is beneficial.

My refrigerator and kitchen cupboards do not contain everything from acai to zevengetijdeklaver, just as my vocal cords don’t vibrate like those of Christy Nockels. But I will do what I can, with what God has given me.

With that I will not only be content, I will be … prolific!

A Minute Forty-Six

One of my dark days loomed (the kind
of dark that makes time vague
and turns an hour into an age)
when the phone rang—a friend
asking after me, checking in
like a mother who leaves
the night-light on, and I knew,
after we hung up, the dark
was averted. How long
did that phone call last?
I checked the phone log:
under two minutes. So she held
me up, helped me dodge another era
of dark—

and to think
it only took a minute

Father, how could I encourage someone today? Is there a phone call I should make, a note to pen, an email to send? What power could You pour into something in less than two minutes?

If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.
(Romans 12:8)

(This week Ann Voskamp hosts a community of those who share about The Practice of New Habits. Click on the Holy Experience badge below to read more community posts on New Habits!)

How to Sing Christmas Carols

“Glorious, now, behold Him arise!
King and God and Sacrifice!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

We hear it every Christmas—praises, singing, lifting up His holy name.

“O Come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!”

From blended voices in the choir loft, beautiful music reaches every corner of the sanctuary and halls. During Christmas in particular, the celebration seems incomplete without worshipful songs. Bows on string instruments pull their parts, and the orchestra bows together in the genuflection of notes and dynamics and a perfect execution of Handel’s “Messiah.”

In our home, before lighting Advent candles for four Sundays before Christmas, we sing.

As the music multiplies during this holiday, I consider a prophet’s words:

“Then I will purify the speech of all people,
so that everyone can worship the LORD together.”

– Zephaniah 3:9

If our speech is not pure—if we are not living Ephesians 4:29, how can we worship the Lord together?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

– Ephesians 4:29

We need pure speech for corporate worship.

In all my Christmas worship, with songs coming from our lips, our stereo, our church choir and my own voice, I must consider:

How is my speech?

How do I speak? Would the Lord call it pure?

What is my tone of voice when I tell the children to do their chores? Do I choose good, pure words when I try to disentangle a miscommunication with my husband or a friend? When I hang up the phone after an annoying conversation, what are my words behind the caller’s back? After a worship service, how do I speak with my brothers and sisters in these pews—the same people with whom I sang in unison, “He rules the world with truth and grace” and other God-exalting carols?

Father, as I worship this Christmas, may I also speak with purity, grace, encouragement and every word pleasing to You.


(This week Ann Voskamp hosts a community of those who share about The Advent Practice of Preparation. Click on the Holy Experience badge below to read more community posts on Preparation!)

(Also linking with Bonnie Gray this week. Click on the FaithBarista badge below to read more community posts on Unwrapping Jesus!)


My Mentors

Age makes us shorter, they say,
maybe due to squished spinal discs
or a thinning honeycomb, meaning
decreasing density in the bones.
But whatever the cause,
in spite of my height of five-four
(and a half), I stand taller
than giants—those God-given
mentors, the older and wiser
than I. Though their stature
is smaller, I know that when
I look down at them, I am really
looking up.

Their wisdom, coming
from above, is like a mine
of precious gold or a hidden
cave of treasures yet untold,
waiting to be told.
These treasures could be mine!
What a waste and a loss if, knowing
of the treasures, I simply passed
the cave without mining.

Get all the advice and instruction you can,
so you will be wise the rest of your life.
(Proverbs 19:20)

Though good advice lies deep within the heart,
a person with understanding will draw it out.
(Proverbs 20:5)

Father, thank You for the mentors you have given me. Thank You for the older friends to surround me, that I may learn from what You have taught them, that I may observe and emulate their Christlikeness, that my life may be richer and better prepared to walk more closely with You.

Father, please also give me the kind of understanding that draws out the wisdom that lies deep within the older ones around me. How do I mine wisdom from the quiet ones? What questions should I ask? What steps of relationship should I take?

(For the “Looking Up” poetry prompt due Nov. 16.)

Singing with Yasuko

Yasuko came like a song from across the Pacific. On the road coming out of the airport, she saw the view of the Rocky Mountain Front Range and worshiped in song, declaring her hosanna to the One who made the mountains. As I turned northward onto Powers Boulevard, Yasuko sang right there in the passenger seat. What else could she do, this woman who exudes praise?

We arrived at my home. Before her feet crossed the threshold I heard her say behind me, “God bless this home.” I received the blessing.

She brought, instead of phone or iPod, sheets and sheets of worship music in her red carry-on. (This woman carries worship wherever she goes.) I looked at the sheets. Below the chords were lyrics in English—and lyrics in Japanese! I learned some Japanese in college. Ever since I heard of Yasuko, I wanted to sing with her. Could this be the day?

She sat at the piano. I picked up the guitar, and we began.

sisters singing

“Father of lights . . .”

The harmonies came easily as we sang.

. . . You delight . . .

We sound good together, I thought, and I think God thought so, too, for ours were harmonized voices bound by the same song.

“. . . in Your children . . .” Yasuko and I, two of His children, felt His delight.

We sang of His good and perfect gifts. Hungry and weary, we sang of trusting in and waiting for God. We sang of His steady and unchanging love, first a verse in my language, then a verse in hers.

But when we got to the chorus, the Hallelujahs were the same.

Praise needs no translation. It is our common language. The Hallelujahs are always the same.

Praise the LORD, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
(Psalm 117:1)

This week Bonnie Gray hosts a community of those who share about a gift we’ve received from God lately. Click on the Faith Barista badge below to read more about gifts from God!


Also liking with Ann Voskamp:

When Starvation Is Good

I’ve been meaning to tell you about my guest post at The Chronicles of Church Fellowship, where I tell of friends who helped me bring starvation to…

(Read the post here.)

At the end of that post is a quote with the attribution missing! I would be remiss not to clarify that the quote is by John Henry Jowett.