Let Your Light Shine

May 23, 2019

I saw this quote in my daily dose of Plough.

Madeleine L’Engle

How often we children have been unwilling: unwilling to listen to each other, unwilling to hear words we do not expect. But on that first Pentecost the Holy Spirit truly called the people together in understanding and forgiveness and utter, wondrous joy. The early Christians, then, were known by how they loved one another. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could say that of us again? Not an exclusive love, shutting out the rest of the world, but love so powerful, so brilliant, so aflame that it lights the entire planet – nay, the entire universe!

We humans seem to like to gather in our tribes of people who are like us. Same skin color, beliefs, adornment preferences, whatever.

But that wasn’t God’s idea. Jesus blew up that model. It would be really something earthshaking if our churches behaved like L’Engle’s vision. Like the example of the first hundred years or so after Pentecost.

But where do we see the light today? How much comes from us?

Humans Are Of One Type

May 22, 2019

A friend who comes from a south Asian religious tradition asked me why it is that there are so many types of Christians. “There are Catholics, and there are others, and they all seem to fight with one another. Why is that?”

I guess Christians just like to argue.

To outsiders, or as evangelicals love to say “non-Christians”, the arguing points are relatively minor. But what is minor to some is life-threatening, faith-shaking to others. Many times I have heard someone say that this or that sentence in the Bible is crucial to their faith. “My whole faith rests on that one thought,” they’ve said.

How sad.

Faith is so much deeper than that. Or, it can be.

But, back to humans. There are not two types–Christian and non-Christian. Or Catholic and protestant. Or light skin and dark skin. Or even male and female.

As soon as we begin to divide and argue, then our own heart will become hardened.

It’s like the song said, “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

May 21, 2019

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign 
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind 
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign? (Five Man Electric Band)

Focus on orange, diamond-shaped sign in the middle of the road. ROAD CLOSED.

Broaden focus. Car sits past the sign in water up to the door windows.

Ignore the sign, and you put yourself, your passenger, and rescue workers all at risk.

He did. He was ticketed. His car is done. Crashed into a hole left by a washed out culvert caused by rushing water from heavy rains. Lucky to be alive.

The Five Man Electric Band sang of adolescent rebellion against restraint. I sympathized–when I was in college. And some signs are ridiculous, to be sure.

But signs are a warning.

Road signs inform us of pending danger ahead. Ignore them not only at your own risk, but also at the risk of rescuers who come to help the foolish out of their predicament.

We receive many other warning signs–that we ignore.

Signs of coming medical problems. We could take corrective action, but we don’t.

Signs of physical problems. We could start an exercise routine. But, we ignore the signs.

Job problems, relationship problems, emotional problems. If we read the signs, we can do something about avoiding them.

But in our youthful rebellion that rides along with us until old age, we prefer to ignore the signs in some vague hope that we are the exception.

Read the signs. What are yours?

The Coaching Role

May 20, 2019

I’m still reflecting on Trillion Dollar Coach plus three weekends of youth sports. Most executives don’t even have coaches, even though they could really use one. The variety of coaching skill and ability at the youth sports level is staggering. So many coaches need coaching at that level. That’s the role of the leadership of a good club. Often doesn’t happen.

What makes for a good coach.

Begin with empathy and trustworthiness. If the coach lacks these character traits, then anything further is hopeless.

A coach must have a set of knowledge and values. Good coaches have experience, but they are seldom the greatest. They are the ones who have been there but had to reflect on their development and experiences. They’ve studied the game and know the skill sets required for success.

A coach is observant. This ability means a coach can see each player or client, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They can pick out the next skill each player/client needs to develop to succeed at this level in order to progress.

A coach can teach skills. Of course, the player/client must be teachable. It is a two-way interaction.

A coach can devise practice for student to repeat until learned. This is the same idea for a 9-year-old beginner or a 29-year-old pro. Knowing you need to move slightly to the left more or knowing how to field a ground ball does nothing without the drill to make the skill part of “muscle memory.”

A coach provides appropriate feedback. This makes practice more valuable and helps adjust skills to the situation.

The end result consists of increased confidence and character development.

Coaching is not only for sports or for executives. We need coaches for spiritual formation and life development, too. A good coach is a most valuable asset.

Active Not Passive

May 17, 2019

“I’m pretty sure there is an 8th habit of highly effective people,” said Adam Grant in a New York Times article. “They don’t sit around all the time just reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

I think James, the writer of the wisdom letter found in the New Testament would agree. Early in his letter he writes, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

Jesus certainly did spend time alone with God. The derisive people would call it “contemplating his navel.” But that was for his spiritual formation and foundation. We only read that he would go out to a mountain or just be alone. No details. But his daytime life was full of action. We read about how he was constantly interacting with people–teaching, healing, guiding, helping.

He didn’t spend his time yelling at other people to behave like he thought. He didn’t go to the ruling authorities and try to get more laws passed. In fact, he pointed out that the whole passing laws and following them wasn’t working out so well for the Pharisees.

When asked what it meant to love your neighbor, he answered with a story. The story defined neighbor, but it also defined love. We call the story The Good Samaritan.

Or, as I used to ask the leader of the anti-abortion group in the county, “So, you’ve talked a woman into giving birth. Now what? Do you just leave her to fend for herself? Or, do you take an active part in helping her cope?”

It’s one thing to talk and yell and moralize. It’s another to take an action to help someone like Jesus told us. Like James instructed. Like Adam Grant alluded to.

Be a doer of the word. You may not get headlines in the local newspaper. But I’m pretty sure that you get a pat on the back from Jesus.

If You Have To Yell, You Have Lost

May 16, 2019

Mom takes her two kids grocery shopping. Kids explore and wander away. Mom yells at kids to behave. Then yells some more. Often the tone of voice scales the range from exasperated to downright nasty.

At one time, and maybe even in many places today, “leadership” reveals itself through force of personality and intimidation.

Eric Schmidt dropped this thought during an interview promoting the book Trillion Dollar Coach (a must read for everyone), “If you have to yell at someone to get them to do something, then you’ve lost.”

You are a parent. You’re distracted by the difficulty of shopping caused by the “paradox of choice”. Controlling the kids takes energy. A commodity that most likely is in short supply. But you have to suck it up and walk over to the kids.

You are a leader. Someone made a mistake. You could just yell. Then what?

Or, you could begin by asking questions. The other person will ask themselves, why is she asking that question. Then the leader leads the other to understanding.

It’s just a different approach. Maybe doesn’t even take more energy, other than finding your own inner calm. This builds relationship.

While I was outlining these thoughts, another thought occurred. Isn’t that like many (too many) people who call themselves Christian? They would rather exhibit force of personality. And intimidation. And threat. And standing outside and yelling.

A follower of Jesus learns from the master. Jesus asked questions and understood. He led by asking and telling stories. Never by yelling and intimidation (well except for the money changers and vendors in the Temple, even he had a breaking point).

If you have to yell, you’ve lost.

Be Guided by the Spirit Not Driven by Ego

May 15, 2019

Ego is such a killer. It kills relationships, businesses, ministries, and eventually its carrier.

Interesting that this phrase reveals two types of actions.

In one, we are driven. We are not that actor. The actor is ego, father of pride, son of unreflected emotion.

We cannot see the havoc we are creating in our wake as we blindly forge onward satisfying our desires.

On the other hand, there is guidance. It’s a bit like stopping to ask directions when traveling in a new place.

We are in fact traveling into the new space of life unknown. We stop, ask for directions, and are guided by the Spirit.

Two different kinds of people. Two different results in life.

Don’t let it be said about you as the old Crusader observed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “He chose poorly.”

Choose wisely.

Don’t Be Replaced By AI

May 14, 2019

There are linchpins; and there are cogs.

I’m not talking mechanics. It’s about people.

Some people fit in. They find their place in an organization or team. They do the quiet, repetitious work. Work that can eventually be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI). Or by robots.

Humans have a brain. Organizations, teams, companies need people who use their brains. The become vital to the cause. They are linchpins.

I’ve had very few mentors in the flesh. But I’ve had many mentors through the books they wrote. Seth Godin has become one of my mentors. He wrote the book on Linchpins.

Go find a way to make yourself valuable. Make a difference wherever you are. Don’t be replaced by AI.

If you keep butting against walls where you are, leave. Find a place where you can make a difference.

Another of Seth’s phrases applies–Go raise a ruckus!

Where Speculation Replaces Fact

May 13, 2019

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to converse with many people around a couple of subjects of interest to me. Each time I heard many thoughts about incidents and/or motivations about other people.

Then I would talk with the person directly referenced by the preceding conversations. Painted a completely different picture.

No one was intentionally spreading malicious gossip. But they were pretty much all wrong. Often with facts. Always with motivations.

This is not the famous “fake news” which merely means “news I don’t agree with.”

Rather it is when we replace fact with ill-formed speculation.

It’s one reason I shun national news and all TV news. I choose news sources where I can get closer to facts and further from speculation. We have far too many half-educated people who fill print and airwaves with opinion and speculation (note a popular obsession with rumors and speculations about professional athletics, for example).

If we are serious about being fully formed in our spiritual life, we learn and practice discernment. We learn to filter out extraneous fluff and get in touch with the Spirit. Then our life will improve.

Quest for a Moral Life

May 10, 2019

Some people throughout their 30s and 40s are on a quest for individual success. It’s all about them. Many hit their 50s and 60s and seek rather to make a contribution to others, to their community, to a mission beyond themselves.

I noticed as far back as my university days that while some people were oriented toward service, most seemed to be in it for themselves. They had no empathy gene. Of course, I’m a Boomer, and we’re notorious for being the “Me Generation” as Time magazine nailed it back in the day.

David Brooks writes a column in The New York Times. He has a book coming out that I’ve read some excerpts–The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. He researched the observation I’ve had.

We start out as individualists trying to climb the mountain to success and fame. It’s all about us. Being better than everyone else.

Then something happens–a death, a brush with serious illness, an experience that shakes us out of ourselves. And we leave that first mountain and begin to climb the second one.

Then a banker quits and teaches elementary school. A lawyer goes on a mission trip to a destitute country and begins to devote time and expertise to helping the people there. A mother shaken by a child’s suicide becomes strong helping other mothers through the grief.

Bill Campbell, whom I discussed from the book Trillion Dollar Coach, was a successful Silicon Valley executive who coached many of the leading executives of his day–Steve Jobs and the Apple team, Eric Schmidt and the Google team, and more. He was never paid for the coaching. He was contributing back from the many blessings he had received.

When I was an adolescent, I thought moral people were those uptight, judgmental, hypocritical people whom I grew to detest. But actually, these people are far from the ideal.

Moral people have depth in experience and a desire to contribute seeking no glory for themselves. They offer not judgement, but help.