Archive for the ‘Disciplines’ Category

Wisdom—Being and Doing

January 27, 2020

There are four types of people revealed in the Hebrew book of Proverbs. There are the simple, the scorner, the fool, and the wise.

The simple live the unexamined life. Maybe they could be taught.

The scorner knows it all, is sometimes evil, might as well be ignored. Stay away from them.

The fool thinks he knows it all, but knows nothing. Teaching is wasted on them. We see this type often. But they don’t know it.

The wise are always learning. They are open to God’s leading.

But, sometimes people who have wisdom are not aware of how much they have. They are asleep. They must be awakened.

Some people know all the wisdom sayings, maybe even write them, but living wisely escapes them. Example–Solomon, who reputedly wrote that book of Proverbs, yet he lived unwisely and failed to bring up his son properly. That son caused the kingdom to split. So, even though seemingly wise, Solomon and his son exemplify fools in their lives.

Blessed is the person who knows wisdom and strives to practice it with every breath. I think that the story of Jesus and the scribe in discussion in the Temple during Jesus’ last week shows this. The scribe knew all the right answers and Jesus evidently perceived in his soul the longing to do right. Jesus told him he was not far from the kingdom of God.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a section in his book Skin in the Game entitled Intellectuals are Idiots. That is his typical blunt hyperbole. But haven’t we all met people who memorize well and perceive and live poorly?

Why Do You Do It?

January 24, 2020

There are people who accumulate university degrees like stamp collectors accumulate stamps. A pastor once told me (well, he told me many times as we sat in the post-workout steam room) how many advanced degrees there were amongst his congregation.

I don’t think we’ll delve into the impact his congregation had on the life of the community at large.

There are people who dress very nicely. They like to be seen. They like to be seen as leading some church or community organization.

There are people who like to be seen giving large amounts of money to an institution–usually earning a large plaque on the wall or their name on the building. Yet, they continue to live in luxury.

Jesus was watching people in the Temple courtyard one day and remarked to his followers one word of warning–beware.

Mark, recording his story in his Gospel, says As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

God is not looking at our clothes or degrees or gifts out our plenty. God is looking for scars earned from a life of doing justice (Amos 5:24) and being a servant.

Motivation. Why do you do it? To look good, or to do justice? To gain public recognition or to serve God?

What If

January 23, 2020

That is such a powerful phrase.

What if…causes you to shift the analogies you think in. To consider new possibilities. New ways of seeing situations and challenges.

Consider a thought from one of my favorite philosopher/theologians–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (tay-yard de shar-dan):

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

What if we really followed Jesus, who turned the world upside down by pursuing love, not power?

Self-Awareness

January 22, 2020

Fools laugh at others. Wisdom laughs at itself.

When we lack self-awareness, we focus on others. Our conversations are solely about other people–usually how they are silly or stupid or foolish.

Unaware of how that reflects back on us.

When we realize our own strengths, but more importantly, our own foibles and weaknesses, we laugh at ourselves. We laugh, not derisively, but with the joy of understanding that we are human.

Leadership As Getting Outside Yourself

January 21, 2020

I once wrote on leadership every Friday. Then I felt as if I’d run out of anything meaningful to say. In my day job, publicists offer me books to read in order to review. I’ll share one I just received Friday–Formula X: How to Reach Extreme Acceleration in Your Organization by Jurriaan Kamer and Rini van Solingen. It was published in Dutch last June; the English edition will be available Jan. 28.

It is European, so the protagonist is known as a Managing Director rather than General Manager or COO. And the conceit regards Formula 1 racing.

I say protagonist because while the book is about leadership and organizational change, it is written as a story or “fable”. In that regard it reminds me of The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt.

The protagonist is bright, yet clueless. The story weaves business and personal problems. And it is through learning from how a Formula 1 racing team operates that he learns how to organize the company, build teams, and achieve goals. It is only out of despair that he finally wakes up, gets a clue, and builds a winning team.

Whereas Goldratt was building a Theory of Constraints for optimizing production (it’s a 1980’s book, but still valid), Formula X steps back and looks at organizing the company and all its silos and disfunctions. It’s a blend of Lean and SCRUM (from programming) and Holacracy and other newer ideas.

The model is FASTER (as in racing cars must become…).

  • Focus and clarity
  • Accelerate decisions
  • Simplify
  • Team engagement
  • Elementary physics (Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, but don’t worry about that)
  • Rhythmic learning

The authors use such Lean principles as Respect for People, daily stand ups (quick meetings), a form of 5S, using the people to find root causes of problems along with experimenting to find solutions.

Good stuff.

I Have a Dream

January 20, 2020

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I bought into that dream. Actually, before the speech, I bought into justice as a core value. And I took some grief (as we say in farm country) for being a civil rights advocate–but nothing near the grief of the marchers in the South.

Once churches were at the forefront of the struggle for justice. Now they mutter platitudes about being inclusive while in reality being more known for anti-abortion, anti-gay, even still mostly segregated.

Once you could go to a political party to fight for justice. Now–either platitudes or buying your vote or both. Just stirring up hate.

If you’d have asked me 55 years ago if by 2020 racism would still be rampant, that women were still trying to be accepted in business and politics as equal to white guys, that the Christian church would be more interested in what happens in your bedroom than in the condition of your heart–I would not have believed it.

Even though my hometown nickname in the late sixties was “The Protester”, my personality has always been quieter rather than the bearded guy with a sign.

And still, yes Martin, I still have the dream that we judge people by the content of their character–and as Jesus-followers, we help all of us who fall short.

We remember, and even celebrate, the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. today in the US. But this blog is read around the world. And wherever you are, justice issues remain. There is racism and hatred. It takes just one person at a time to change things.

When Deeds Match Words

January 17, 2020
I’ve been made blue, I’ve been lied to 
When will I be loved
I’ve been turned down, I’ve been pushed ’round
When will I be loved
When I meet a new girl that I want for mine
She always breaks my heart in two, it happens every time
I’ve been cheated, been mistreated
When will I be loved

— Phil Everly, recorded by the Everly Brothers and also Linda Ronstadt

The surest way for a leader to corrupt an organization is to establish a culture of distrust through lying, cheating, and otherwise saying one thing then doing the opposite.

It’s something I’ve observed and experienced throughout my career. Presidents and other company leaders promise things–bonuses, promotions, new projects, continued employment, support–and then do none of them.

Even in churches. I just talked with a guy the other day who recounted several instances of pastors he has known leaving their wife and running off with the wife of someone else in the congregation.

If you wish to be a good and trusted leader, try not to break Linda Ronstadt’s heart (metaphorically). Don’t lie, cheat, mistreat…

Finding Your Heart

January 16, 2020

Henri Nouwen wrote, “True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.”

It is as true in America as almost everywhere you read about–this lack of hospitality. This urge to separate into those who are like me versus those who are not.

When we worry more about outward things–ours and those we meet and those whom we merely read about–then we have lost the heart.

Jesus always cared more about the heart of those he met than he did about ethnic identity, gender identity, social diseases.

Among the first conversion stories circulated among the followers were Phillip and a black man and Peter and a Roman. Already in the first years on their own, Jesus followers were breaking free of stereotype.

We can all do the same by finding our center in our hearts. It all begins with me, now, where I am, and with whom I interact. One person at a time around the globe.

What Are Spiritual Disciplines Doing For You?

January 15, 2020

A house plant grows toward its light source. Left alone, it will bend toward the light rather than growing straight and tall. Not having volition of its own, it will continue on its disabling path. However, a kindly hand turning it regularly, will assure light to all sides so that it may grow nicely.

We, however, need to bring together self-awareness and self-discipline to achieve that straight, strong spiritual growth that we need.

These together prevent us from fossilizing as merely creed-spouting organisms. Rather, we are infused with God bringing a new attitude to our lives.

We can put anger, greed, hate, fear behind us while basking in the light of love.

How We Speak About One Another

January 14, 2020

The week before my freshman year at the university officially began, I headed to Cincinnati to attend band camp. I had the “honor” of being assigned the cabin of the drum major. He was a pompous little guy and a bully. He picked on a freshman trumpeter. And the more the guy took it, the more the drum major piled on the vile comments.

I was just relieved that there was someone weaker than I to whom the bully decided to aim his aggressive tongue. It could have been me.

High in the news cycle these days is the saga of Harry and Meghan, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. This couple who evidently were not introduced to the history of the English throne married for love rather than political expediency. The facts that Meghan was not only not from the aristocracy but she also had a black mother gave those inimitable English bullies–the tabloid “newspapers”–fodder for article after article. And the more Harry tried to defend, of course the louder the bullies got.

In America, the tone of discourse is not better. We had a presidential candidate leading cheers at political rallies of slogans like “lock her up”, but his opponents would pile vindictive comments right back.

Christians, who once wrote books using the Bible to explain how Africans were an inferior race and that slavery was therefore justified, now use the same thought pattern pointed to homosexual people. Who will be the next target? Could be you.

Freedom of speech has a necessary companion–responsibility. Lacking that, we have undercut the freedom and it will not long live.

Repentance means recognizing we’re on the wrong path and changing direction. We could use some of that around the globe.