Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

Good Leaders Have Great Observation Skills

August 17, 2017

Leaders are observers.

I was a new college graduate. I thought it would be smart to take a year off before graduate school and make some money since I was paying my own way.

A teaching position opened. I had zero training for the position. But in those days, there was an acute shortage of teachers. All I had was a degree. No training. Protestant religion applying for a position in a Catholic school. No knowledge of the developmental psychology of 13-year-olds. Pure geek. And I became the new 7th grade social studies and writing teacher at a Catholic school.

So I went in to check out my room and met Mr. Carder, one of the other 7th grade teachers (the other two were nuns). We were each to have 40 students in our classes. Mr. Carder began talking about his previous class. It dawned on me that he knew the names and mannerisms of each of his previous 40 students.

Wow, I thought. That’ll be a challenge. And it was.

Somewhere in the Bible is the phrase “Looking but not seeing”. 

Aren’t we often afflicted with that disease.

We think we are watching the road as we drive, but then we can’t remember a thing about the route.

We thought we were awake while walking along the street, but we didn’t see the homeless person or the mother struggling with kids and packages.

We see the people on our committee or organization, but we really have no clue about where they are in life. Are they connected and committed? Is there an agenda? Or a problem?

Let that phrase not apply to us.

Finding Accountability in Our Work

August 16, 2017

Henry Cloud, psychologist and author, gave one of the best talks on leadership and accountability I’ve ever heard last week at Willow Creek Community Church.

He begins with a story.

Seems a man with a plan–to start a new company, that is–talked with a friend about his wish to start a company. The friend wrote a name on a card and told him to call this business consultant.

The consultant listened to him and asked him about advisors. I need a marketing person, a tech person, a sales person, said the budding entrepreneur. The consultant told him that really he should find five people he respected. He should ask them to meet with him weekly for breakfast. These people should hold him accountable for the actions it would take to start a business.

The guy thought, I need sales and marketing, not a support group. So he shunned the advice. 

He had funding. He had a business plan. He failed in a year.

Who holds you accountable. Who is your small group of advisors who ask how you’re doing on all the little activities it takes to succeed.

Interestingly, Andy Stanley talked last week about Solomon’s son Rheoboam who shunned the wise advice of the elders and took the advice of his young buddies–and lost his kingdom.

I’ve known many people who could have had small groups of accountability partners, a support group, yet they didn’t accept the advice. Usually it was through pride–they wanted to prove they could succeed on their own.

Tip: we don’t succeed on our own. I know.

Another tip: Listen to Henry Cloud any chance you get.

When You Greet Someone, Do You Acknowledge Them

July 13, 2017

You are walking and meet someone you know. “Hi, how’s it going?” you greet them.

Do you care how it’s going for them?

Maybe, sort of. What if they stop and truly answer that question? How deep did you mean the greeting to go?

The greetings I was taught in both German and French are basically the same meaning.

Many of us as Christians are introduced to the Hebrew word Shalom from the Bible. We are taught that it means “peace” in English.

Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, last week was unpacking the meaning of the word and the nuances and meanings deeper than peace as the absence of conflict.

He was shocked on his first trip to Israel when people greeted him with Shalom. He asked about it.

This is an ancient word in the language. It has deep connotations of spiritual awareness of the other person, a greeting encompassing completeness, wholeness, the deep peace that Jesus and Paul also discussed.

I teach Yoga. We use the ancient greeting (as both “hi” and “good-bye”) Namaste (nah’-ma-stay). In the ancient Sanskrit, it also has spiritual connotations recognizing the spirit of the other person and the wholeness of God and people.

Of course, sometimes it is just “hi” or “bye”.

It all depends upon the attitude of the greeter. What is our attitude as we greet people. Are we greeting respectfully recognizing the other as another child of God? Or just a meaningless, quick “hi”?

If You But Observe, There Are Many Good People

June 5, 2017

There is so much tragedy in the news. The focus always seems to be on the evil or angry person.

But good people exist in numbers you would never believe just by consuming news media.

We brought 1,200 young athletes, their parents and grandparents together into a smallish park on the campus of Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. There were fewer than a half-dozen obnoxious coaches. Only a few players. I saw emotions rise during a contest only to come back down to handshakes and apologies after the match.

At the end as thunder storms were washing out the finals, only a couple of teams tried to maneuver around tie breakers or manipulate facts to gamesmanship a trophy.

It is so easy to be disappointed in people. If we but look, we can see many more decent, honorable people.

Take A Journey In Your Mind

May 2, 2017
Leave your cares behind
Come with us and find
The pleasures of a journey to the center of the mind
Come along if you care
Come along if you dare
Take a ride to the land inside of your mind
Beyond the seas of thought
Beyond the realm of what
Across the streams of hopes and dreams where things are really not — Amboy Dukes; Ted Nugent and Steve Farmer

OK, so Ted Nugent went from writing psychedelic rock to being a conservative political activist.  There may be some kind of meaning there.

The 1960s witnessed a spiritual revival. Not religious. Spiritual. Some of the spiritual quest was, well, illegal. This song was no doubt an attempt to write about “psychedelic” experience.

But as often happens in poetry, there are meanings beyond what you write.

In meditation, you suspend thought and facts. You focus on God. Perhaps a story like maybe an interaction that Jesus had with someone. Or a parable. And you don’t analyze. You experience.

And sometimes God breaks through. And you experience.

And you believe in God, not because you read somewhere that you should or someone told you that you should. You know.

And now spiritual truths make more sense.

Psychologists will sometimes instruct patients to go somewhere where they can be alone with their thoughts. Then settle in and just tune in to the inside.

A patient once told Carl Jung, the famed Swiss psychologist, that he couldn’t imagine anyone worse to be with than himself. I think Dr. Jung probably thought, “You’re right. And I’m trying to help you get over that.”

Find 15 minutes today. Slow down, concentrate on God, a story, a bird, a leaf, a bug, whatever is around. Relax. Become aware of where you are and what you’re doing.

Your blood pressure will thank you. Your brain will thank you. People around you will thank you.

You Can Be a Mystic

April 27, 2017

Meditation is greatly misunderstood by most people. You can do it.

You can do it if…you can sit still and focus.

We focus on our breath. Slowing it down. Paying attention.

Then we focus our attention on God. We just sit (or lie, or walk) in the presence of God.

It may last 5 minutes. I may last 2 hours. Doesn’t matter.

Mystics? Not a popular word these days. Well known in previous centuries.

They are just people who make a daily practice for longer and longer times of sitting in the presence of God.

It changes their lives. They slow down. Are less anxious. Can face adversity.

We sometimes have visions of things God wants us to see.

And then again, sometimes not.

But we have conversations, speaking and listening, with God. We thank him. We ask him for guidance. But then we must listen and pay attention to what he tells us. Sometimes that is hidden within other people. It is up to us to discern.

We Will Be One

April 25, 2017

Traveling again, I’m staying in a small town in northern Germany about 10 miles from Hannover. Most of the people I have met do not speak English. I am from an area of the US settled by German immigrants. Other than I understand about 10% of what I hear spoken, there are not many differences between here and home.

In my meditations, I have been given the awareness of the unity of all people.

It seems that our nature as humans it to divide. We divide people into groups. The groups may be based on any number of perceived differences. But the key is that we can identify people like us and people not like us.

I have experienced whole religions and churches within them organized on the principle of “us versus them”.  Think of the divisions among Christians. “We have the truth; they don’t.”

Then I remember my awareness of how people essentially are all the same.

As chance (?) would have it, I just attended a press conference in Hannover, Germany, with the global energy and automation technology giant ABB. I won’t get into the gory details of high-voltage DC power transmission. But the speaker made an interesting observation. There is discussion at some of the highest technology levels about the imminent possibility of a single, global electrical power grid.

Step back in your mind and consider how commerce and business and technology have perpetrated changes in global political structures. We have not always had nation-states. Is it possible that technology and commerce can continue to propel us into a “global village”?

And I can see spiritual conversations among people from many and diverse cultures.

One of my favorite philosophers, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, talked about us reaching the “Omega Point” where “Christ will be all in all” as Paul the Apostle stated.

Despite the racism, bigotry, divisiveness we can see around us, I remain optimistic that Christ will win. In fact, I read the end of the book as they say (the Revelation of John, of course), and John says indeed that Christ already won.

We will come together. Especially if we all do our part. God if funny that way. He always expects us to do some of the work!

Teach Your Children Well

April 10, 2017

Teach your children well. –Graham Nash

If you’re like me, you can’t hear those words without the famous steel guitar intro by Jerry Garcia.

What started this line of thought was a comment by the Dalai Lama in The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. “The problem is that our world and our education remain focused exclusively on external, materialistic values. We are not concerned enough with our inner values.”

I remember being adolescent. Of course, I got over that disease much earlier than today’s younger people. It seems to linger into the 30s anymore. But any thought of values meant conservative things designed to prevent fun. I remember students in the education departments who did not want to be role models, only instructors of their subject matter.

So, teachers no longer model good behaviour. They often dress like slobs or like the “women of Wal-Mart” videos.

I’m not so sure that churches in America are all that often modeling and teaching inner values. Everything these days seems to be political–here’s my political belief system, memorize it and you will be saved.

The Book of Joy is a conversation between two of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders held about two years ago. There was the Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, and the Christian, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

There is much to learn from these two men. Each has suffered greatly at the hands of people. Yet, each emanates a deep spiritual calmness. And the ability to laugh.

We often  mistake the source of joy and happiness. Later, the Dalai Lama said, “Most people never pay much attention to the ultimate source of a happy life, which is inside, not outside. Even the source of physical health is inside, not outside.”

It is time to pause, look inside, find that spiritual core that connects to God. We sometimes call that mindfulness. Being intentional, aware, senses sharpened, awaiting the whisper of God.

And then pass it on.

Love Isn’t A Strategy

March 31, 2017

No promises
(No demands)
No demands
(Love is a battlefield)
Love is a battlefield

What is love?

An emotion? Yes, I guess.

A Battlefield? Pat Benatar sang it was.

Battlefields imply strategies. Winners and losers. And losers in the battle often also lose their lives.

Believe me
Believe me
I can’t tell you why
But I’m trapped by your love
And I’m chained to your side

That surely doesn’t sound like the freedom promised by the kind of love Jesus and Paul and John (the apostle) talked about.

Bob Goff, an interesting guy, a “recovering lawyer” and honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda, writer of “Love Does.” Goff recently said, “Love People isn’t a strategy; when it has an agenda, it isn’t love anymore.”

I guess we all know manipulators. We don’t like them. Even when we fall under the power of one.

No, love just does things for others. Not with an agenda, say, to get love back, or to gain some sort of power over the other. No, just service from the heart. Sometimes love means doing nothing–just quietly being there for someone. It means watching out for others’ needs. Awareness of the other person without thought of ourselves.

Love is a way of living from a heart in tune with God. I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said, “You will know my followers by their love.”

The God I Wish You Knew

March 24, 2017

Running on a treadmill 40 stories above the Detroit River yesterday, there was the most gorgeous sunrise. It was a red sun reflecting from a few high clouds and off the river ripples.

And I’m listening to Mike Breaux, a preacher who is now an associate serving with Gene Appel at Eastside Christian Church in Orange County, California. Both are excellent communicators.

But I love listening to Breaux. (pronounced bro for the French challenged, from Louisiana)

They are teaching on the idea of “The God I Wish You Knew.”

Appel was saying that people come up to him and say they hate God. He’ll ask, describe God. When they finish, he’ll say, “I don’t like that God, either. Here is the God I wish you knew.”

Breaux was explaining the Bible as a love story. A story that tells how a God loves people so much–even though they keep rejecting him. He continues to pursue them.

What a way to think about God.

Not like some who see God as the Great Vending Machine In The Sky. Oops, need a new car. Drop a prayer in the slot and poof, here’s a new Mercedes. Or, I know I’ve been abusing my body for years, but drop a prayer in the slot and poof, I’m restored to health.

Or, there is the Great Rule Maker In The Sky. Look, here is a list. If we just follow this list of rules, then we’ll be OK. As a bonus, we can compare ourselves to each other. Ha ha, I got 90%; you only got 85%. And look at those poor fools over there who don’t belong with us–they are only batting 33%. Surely they’re going to hell.

I like the idea of the Great Lover–but not in the sky, remote. Time after time in the Bible they talk about God being right here, with us, inside us, around us. Why do we keep missing he point? From a speech made more than 3,000 years ago, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.”

And we get these reminders every once in a while, if our spirit is in the right place, like that sunrise.