Consider Gratitude

August 10, 2022

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

A.A. MIlne

Stop. 

Pause for a moment.

Consider gratitude. Ponder at the end of each day.

What has happened this week for which I am grateful?

Who has touched me for which I am grateful?

Where have I been that offered opportunities for which I am grateful?

When have I stopped to serve someone for which I am grateful for the opportunity and strength to serve?

True Growth

August 9, 2022

One of my early business teachers pointed to a truth that has stayed with me many years through many Silicon Valley booms and busts—the only true growth is growth in profits.

We have lived through a period of church history, not only in the United States, but also in many other areas of the world, where churches were measured in terms of growth in attendance or maybe membership. We’ve seen the growth in numbers of “megachurches” led by charismatic and driven men striving for earthly success. There are doctoral degrees in church growth.

Forty years of megachurch growth in the US. And then the pandemic. People were told not to mingle in order to arrest the spread of the disease clogging hospital emergency facilities. We are now at least six months into an opening of society. But megachurches, and indeed all churches, are reporting quietly a 50% decline in attendance and financial support.

But, I ask, are those the important numbers?

If real growth in business is growth in profits (not sales), then what should a church be “measuring?” Perhaps a church should be know for the increasing spiritual development of its members along with the outward and visible sign—actions pleasing to Jesus, their leader. Things like binding the wounds and providing care for the traveler (story of the Good Samaritan), feeding the poor (doing for the least of these…), caring for the prisoner, and the other examples and instructions from Jesus.

James told us the two are linked—growing in spirit and serving others.

Does it matter if a church has 50,000 with a well-paid staff or 50 struggling souls? Does it matter the positive impact on the world around them?

Catch Them Doing Good

August 8, 2022

Keep your eyes open and try to catch people in your company doing something right, then praise them for it.

Tom Hopkins

Business management thinker and writer Tom Hopkins nailed it with this little piece of advice.

How often in our organizations, churches, businesses, do we sit in judgement on people? People around us? Committee members? Leaders? People outside the organization? We can’t wait to catch someone doing it wrong.

I have a vision of elementary school teachers who sit at their desks or pace the floor watching for miscues. When you go to the board at the front of the class, they’re watching for each mistake. And we’re all like that. All the time.

In Jesus time, there existed a group of people who lived that life. They were the antagonists of the Christian Bible story. They were called Pharisees. Jesus was so encouraging in general, but not to the self-righteous. He pointed to the hypocrisy.

How wonderful to refocus our attitude and begin watching for people doing something right. Being helpful. Solving a problem. Trying.

Then, instead of being the voice of judgement, being the voice of encouragement. What a change for everyone.

Know Before You Speak

August 5, 2022

I picked up this thought from the James Clear newsletter (author of Atomic Habits).

Playwright, poet, and writer, Samuel Johnson, on listening and learning: “I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.”

This seems to fit within the wisdom of the Apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, who advised thinking before speaking, be slow to speak and quick to listen.

I finally blocked most of Facebook from my feed in 2020 because so much was just passing stuff around that probably originated in Russia, anyway. No thought. All reaction. No conversation.

Johnson was right. Interact with those who have read and thought much. Fewer people. More depth.

Personality

August 4, 2022

The woman next door dressed most of the summer in the back yard in very skimpy bikini swim suits. Yet, she did not exude sensuality–that special personality.

A teenage girl talked with me about a career in entertainment. She possessed a marvelous singing voice. Her posture, however, portrayed defeat. I tried to guide the discussion into the areas of self-assurance, personality,

I was a nerd as a teenager with no particular personality until I was almost 30.

Listening to Guy Kawasaki’s podcast interview with Abraham Paskowitz about surfing brought out a key component of personality–that inner joy with being and with doing what you love.

I think Jesus had that characteristic–doing what he was meant to do and enjoying it immensely (well, except for those three days).

The Apostle Paul’s preaching was so bad that once he put a young man to sleep. He was unfortunately sitting in an open second floor window, fell out, died, and had to be revived by Paul–who went on preaching. But he must have exuded that inner joy of doing what he was meant to do.

Having a personality infused with the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, and so forth–shines through the personality. People can tell. We can tell. It’s quite a way to live.

It Takes All Kinds

August 3, 2022

When I was an active soccer referee, we always referred to the players as “ladies” or “gentlemen.” Of course, once the opening whistle sounded not all twenty-two acted like ladies and gentlemen. Always a few hooligans in the mix.

I have met many scoundrels in my life. They lied, cheated, stole. Sometimes I anticipated the actions. Sometimes I should have anticipated the actions. Sometimes I was completely surprised.

People in the industry I serve are overwhelmingly good people. My interactions with good people far exceed the number of scoundrels I’ve come across. These people are engineers solving problems they hope will make life better for others. Many volunteer extra time toward solving these problems.

The world will see both types of people until the end of time. If we watch for the good in people, we’ll see that there are many more than you would assume watching never-ending TV news or your social media stream.

Look for the good that people do and you may be surprised.

And look in a mirror at the end of the day. How much good have you done that day?

When we rise from sleep, we can ask of ourselves, “What good will I do today?”

Just before we retire for the night, we can ask of ourselves, “What good did I do today?”

That keeps us on track.

Tips For A Stable Life

August 2, 2022

Fear less, hope more

Eat less, chew more

Talk less, say more

Love more, and all good things will be yours.

Swedish Proverb

I wrote about some of my disciplines recently. These four thoughts speak volumes with few words.

Let me be quiet and allow the meanings to sink in.

Rigidity

August 1, 2022

“Rigidity is the first sign,” writes Richard Foster, “that discipline has gone to seed.”

I recently told a friend that I had a firm discipline in my morning routine. Rise from bed at about the same time, exercise including Yoga, weights, hot tub (we don’t have a sauna), breakfast, shower, meditate, write. I kept much of it up during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, but not enough. I lost some fitness and gained some weight.

Without undergoing any radical changes, I’ve increased fitness and dropped 10 pounds in the last few months.

Then I recalled this thought from Richard Foster, my spiritual disciplines guru.

We must develop the flexibility mindset that we can deviate from the discipline at times without guilt and regret. Then slip right back into the routine. I’ll have a vacation soon. Most of the routine will be gone. That is OK. I bet even Ignatius of Loyola slipped once in a while.

Extreme Discipline

July 29, 2022

The original theme of this blog concerned spiritual disciplines riffing Richard J. Foster and Dallas Willard. I read their books many years ago and even taught a couple of classes on the subject. 

It was discipline that brought me through the pandemic plus moving to a new state in reasonably good shape. The discipline of consistent bed time. Rising early for workout and meditation—even when the workout had to change because I had moved to a new community and all the gyms were closed due to Covid. Specific writing times. I did gain some pandemic weight which is all off now. Working on dropping more, although my doctor told me I was doing fine two weeks ago.

One of the few news sources I trust (even though I sent a reprimand to the CEO about too many adjectives in headlines at times) is called Axios. They use a technique called Smart Brevity, which I applaud. They’ve started a new newsletter called Finish Line focusing on life lessons. 

Here are thoughts from today. I endorse all of these.

1. Our diets: There are countless good ones, but let’s face it — most boil down to limiting things (sugar, simple carbs, booze, processed food) and starting things (more water, greens, fiber, healthy proteins — peas, eggs, fish). Try extreme dieting discipline for one week and measure how you feel.

2. Our faith/mind: It’s hard to center your brain and soul without some daily meditation, prayer, reflection. I try to meditate twice daily for 20 minutes and pray afterwards in the a.m. For me, this only works when I am extremely disciplined about it.

3. Our bodies: To me, every person should find a daily exercise habit, even if it’s walking, air squats, planks or biking. The body and mind vastly underperform without it. Start young to make it an extreme habit. But better to start now than tomorrow.

4. Our careers: All of the above give you a massive edge at work. But if you really want to crush the thing you spend the vast majority of your hours doing, you need to be more disciplined and self-demanding than others. There is no easy way to be great.

5. Our goodness: This might seem an odd coda. But few things fuel contentment and inner joy more than giving to others. If you think about the benefits (helping others + the psychic lift of doing it), it’s a very efficient use of extreme discipline.

The big picture: Start small. Pick a passion — practice extreme discipline for a few months. You’ll find it gets increasingly easy to apply it to other parts of your life.

Each Day As It Comes

July 28, 2022

Leaders of the early Christian church faced a problem. Belief that Jesus would return any day soon to establish his kingdom on earth ran through the movement like dropping red dye in a glass of water. That led to problems. No one wanted to work. They just sat around singing and talking…and waiting.

Paul directly addressed the problem. Other writers did indirectly.

We need to live as if Jesus could come at any moment; yet, we also needed to live not knowing if it would be days or years (they didn’t comprehend millennia back then).

Substantial numbers of Christians today feel no urgency toward fulfilling God’s instructions about stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants because Jesus could be (will be?) returning any day now.

I go with ancient wisdom proved out through millennia. Live each day at a time. If I die tomorrow, so be it. I’m ready. If not, I have planned for living longer, too. But for now, I do what’s best for today. Not living in recrimination of the past; not worrying about tomorrow. I work today and let yesterday and tomorrow take care of themselves.