What Do We Love?

November 30, 2020

“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so thatd we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

1 Timothy 6

Yesterday for Americans, we left the season of gratitude. We entered Advent, the looking forward to Christmas—for many the season of “I want…”

I sympathize with businesses. I’ve spent a fair share of my business life trying to figure out how to increase sales and profits. But the way 140 years of experience have taught them the tools of manipulation of emotion blurs the lines of ethics.

And the target is not just kids. We target kids to bring them into the desire emotion with toy cars and their parents with a big luxury car with a bow in the driveway.

Look at Paul’s key words above—desires, love (of the wrong things), plunged (into ruin), wandered (from faith), pierced (with pains).

It’s about the heart. Is our heart set on the things of God? Is our heart set on objects of desire?

As we enter the Advent journey, let us maintain focus on what matters.

Gratitude Week

November 27, 2020

Many people are grateful for “Black Friday”. It has almost turned into a global phenomenon, although Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November is an American holiday.

The grateful people, I imagine, are the business owners who depend upon Christmas present shopping (actually buying, not just shopping) to make their profits for the year. Don’t be cynical. I’ve been in business, and most of us rely on business for incomes.

But the ads began early. This morning I had emails from the most unlikely sources pushing Black Friday deals. Even my Website company!

I might suggest that you don’t instinctively just go online or to the big box retailer. Check out your locally owned shops for unique gifts. Or your local independent book seller for books and other supplies. You can find your local one if you don’t already know at Bookshop.

We can be grateful that we have the power and ability to make others grateful. Gratitude can spread just like love. It doesn’t diminish the more you use it.

Gratitude Affects Your Health

November 26, 2020

Years ago I was obsessing over a problem and read everything I could find on brain research. One thing I discovered is that we don’t only think with our brain. Our entire body joins in the fun.

The brain mainly operates on electrical connections. However a number of chemicals originate from various parts of the body that add information to the brain and the rest of the body. It all works together.

Gratitude, what we think or focus on, affects chemical reactions in a variety of areas of the body. Research reveals the health benefits of that gratitude mindset I talked about yesterday.

Your brain gets the benefit of hormones that make you feel good.

Your gut settles down and the various digestive systems operate better.

Your heart benefits from reduced tension.

And, your spiritual life finds additional space to grow.

Mind, body, spirit–all the parts of your self benefit.

This is Thanksgiving in the US. We won’t be meeting in large family groups, or even smaller family groups this year. Most likely community Thanksgiving dinners have been placed on pause. But we can still change our outlook to change our health by concentrating on those things for which we’re grateful.

Develop a Gratitude Mindset

November 25, 2020

Peter Diamandis is an interesting character. He’s an engineer and physician, founder of the X-Prize, and founder of the Singularity Institute. His passion is to develop an Abundance attitude in people in place of a scarcity mindset.

However, his recent newsletter included a portion of his class called Abundance 360 called developing a Gratitude Mindset. This seemed appropriate since we are discussing gratitude in this Thanksgiving week. Try these on for size.

With a Gratitude Mindset… 

(1) You know that being grateful enhances your mood and makes you feel genuinely happy. Expressing gratitude causes our brain to release dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. They make us feel “good.”

(2) You recognize how incredibly lucky you are on both a personal and professional basis, and you take the time to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation.

(3) As a leader, you understand the power of encouraging your team to be grateful. You know that being thankful and appreciative improves the relational well-being for both individuals and the overall group.

(4) You invest in relationships. As my dear friend Joe Polish says: “Time is not money. Relationships are money.” You have to develop and nurture your relationships. Every day, you try to be as useful as possible to those around you. And in your leadership role, you focus on what positive results you can create for others.

(5) You have created daily routines that allow you to reflect on how lucky and thankful you are. And you share those reflections with others in your life in a way that brings you joy, and uplifts those around you.

Gratitude For When I Choose Wisely

November 24, 2020

Did you ever find yourself in a place with certain people at an awkward time–and wonder what you were doing there?

The news is full of those stories–why did I choose to come here and now I’m in trouble?

Did you ever find your self out between midnight and 4 am? You’re with people who come up with a “bright idea”? And you wonder, “What am I doing here?”

Maybe I was given a partial gift–I can remember during the situation thinking that. Mostly when I was younger. I can’t remember many times when I thought that ahead of time.

However, certain disciplines and habits have kept me from those what am I doing here situations.

And for those, I am grateful.

As we approach America’s Thanksgiving celebration, we can pause daily to think back of things we did or didn’t do and find those for which we’re grateful.

Gratitude during Thanksgiving season leads us naturally to Advent (for the Christians among my readers). A season of preparation to celebrate the coming of Jesus. My virtual friend Jon Swanson has written an Advent book for this year, Giving a Year Meaning: A Healing Journal for Advent 2020. He makes me think–in a good way. You still have time to order and begin it.

Gratitude

November 23, 2020

This week Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Celebrating a bountiful harvest in the late fall is probably as old as humans began farming. The beginning of our celebration is hidden by the mists of time.

Setting aside all the current arguments and discussions about the roles of the Europeans and Indigenous peoples in the 17th Century, we have been taught since I was a child that it’s a day to pause and give thanks for the many blessings we have.

Americans long ago began observing the holiday as family time. It’s an opportunity to pause and gather the extended family for a big meal and for renewing acquaintances and for telling family stories.

Later it became a good excuse to visit Florida and Disney World, but that’s another story.

This year, not so much gathering. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading like a wildfire in California right now. There are people who thought there was no such thing, and even if so, they’d never catch it who are now suffering with the disease. Hospitals are full. Fear of spreading the virus farther across the family supersedes the will to gather.

We still can pause in the build up to Thanksgiving Day to reflect and be grateful:

  • For those of us who have not been infected
  • For those who received only a mild dose and have survived
  • For those who serve all those who have been infected
  • For a peaceful election despite the hype and build-up of media organizations that feed on fear and discontent to hook readers and sell advertising
  • For those who care

For You Are All One

November 20, 2020

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Apostle Paul, Letter to the Galatians, 3:28

A recent news item reported on the “first all-black officiating crew to work a game in the National Football League.” My first thought was, “Why did this have to be significant news?”

Similarly, there is a female official working NFL games. Although football isn’t necessarily a female sport, why would this particularly matter?

If the ideals of the 60s had really come to pass, we wouldn’t have to notice such things 55 years later. People would just be people. Various people have passions, skills, talents for various things. Good. We reward passion, skill, dedication, training, education, and the like.

Despite these words from the Apostle Paul in the first century and despite that two millennia of Christians have poured over Paul’s words looking for a list of rules to separate themselves from the non-believers, so many in the Christian church have missed this little sentence. No, women are not to be shoved aside into “women’s roles”. No, 10:00 am Sundays should not be the most segregated hour in America (probably still today).

When we don’t need news items like the NFL one, then we will be arriving at the original destination. Meanwhile, let’s all go back and study Galatians.

Special tip:

I have written at times about the value of handwriting your notes. It’s even great to send handwritten notes to people–a personal touch emails can’t reach. Someone sent me this link to an infographic of 20 Ways Handwriting Is Good For You and Your Studying. You have to scroll down a bit on the page.

When God Speaks and We Don’t Hear

November 19, 2020

She was in rural West Virginia negotiating to buy a farm. She assured the sellers that she was not going to develop the land. She was going to farm it to grow pumpkins. Sarah Frey had purchased her family’s family farm in southern Illinois before she was 20. She grew pumpkins and watermelons. She had not yet been anointed America’s Pumpkin Queen.

Back in West Virginia, she was thinking about how some people get a sign from God about what they are doing. How do they get a sign? How do they know God is talking to them? She was asking God for a sign sitting alone at dinner in a cafe/tavern. It was some kind of theme night, and people were dancing.

Suddenly it happened. A big guy on the dance floor dropped his pants. Staring her right in the face were two large orange tattooed pumpkin Jack o’Lanterns–one on each cheek. Had to be a sign from God! She asked one of the girls with him to take a picture.

Sometimes God speaks and we aren’t listening. Like the times we pray for big things like maybe becoming the senior pastor of a megachurch. And we have ignored the opportunities God put before us to serve someone in the grocery store parking lot struggling with bags of groceries and two small children.

Then sometimes there are two pumpkin tattoos on some guy’s butt and you become America’s Pumpkin Queen.

It’s best to keep our eyes open and awareness tuned. Don’t ignore the little things or the absurd. God has a sense of humor. And sometimes we are surprised by his message.

Signs

November 18, 2020

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 Electrical Band

The way I see it, Baby Boomers as a description is much to general. As I recall and when I listen to late 60s rock, there were at least three strands specifically Boomer and a fourth strand of the type of traditional people all three groups didn’t like. There were (and are) peace and justice people; rebellious people; and, whiners.

Most of us are probably sick of the whiners. “I didn’t get my way, Wah, Wah, Wah.”

There are a few of us who were (and are) peace and justice people. We just generally don’t make as much noise as we did in 1965. You get old, I guess.

Then there are the rebels.

What brings this to mind was a trip through some of the ubiquitous strip shopping centers along Randall Road in the western Chicago suburbs (my new home). Many stores had signs. In fact, all stores had signs about wearing masks to enter. No brainer. But many had a sign, “If you have one of these symptoms of Covid-19, do not enter.”

I thought, this is worse than needing a sign in the restroom reminding employees to wash their hands. I mean, what moron goes out into public with symptoms of being sick with Covid, the flu, even colds? Both Covid and the flu kill people. Heck, a cold can lead to pneumonia, and that kills people, too.

Much of Jesus’ teaching dealt with people in community. How we should care about others. How we should help–open a door, or carry a load, or pay for the next person at a fast food restaurant, or don’t spread your disease to your neighbors.

This is so common sense to me, I am still flabbergasted that you need that sign. Forget the Five Man Electrical Band. This isn’t one of those signs. It’s a sign that literally means life.

Save a life today. Wear a mask. The life you save may be yours.

My Gift is Leadership, I Love Meetings

November 17, 2020

The leader of a company told me that once. I’ve thought about it for years.

You see, I hate meetings. Following the 80/20 rule, fully 80% of the meetings I’ve been in during my organizational life have been a waste of time. Well, a waste for us, but perhaps not for the “leader” who loves to gather people in a room and talk. And perhaps force through a decision or two. “All right then, we’re agreed. Go do it!”

A leader must first of all know where she’s going. And then teach the people about where and how. Rather than formal meetings with PowerPoint presentations of meaningless facts and numbers, the leader must meet individually and with small groups. Not in a fancy boardroom with comfortable chairs. No, rather standing in their environment. Asking and teaching.

Leaders must be readers, for there must be substance behind the teaching.

Leaders must be careful listeners, for they must be able to filter the BS and grasp the essence of the person and their views and problems.

Leaders must be teachers, for everyone in the organization needs the background in order to do their jobs effectively.

Leaders must be thinkers, for their people deserve a leader who has thought through directions and decisions.

But leaders need not lead formal meetings all day, every day, because they love meetings.