Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

Earning Trust and Losing It

June 29, 2018

Some people come to you with great promises. Some seem sincere. Some even proclaim themselves to be Christian.

And some people lose the trust you originally granted them.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with a woman who is operations manager of a refinery.

The equipment was getting old and external forces came upon the company causing it to study how to upgrade the technology of the equipment.

She involved people from all of the various departments in the study of possible technology upgrades. When it came time to make decisions, they were all involved.

Engineers and technicians and operators all were involved in making the upgrades work.

She earned their trust. I met her a couple of times. I could sense she was trustworthy.

But I have been fooled in my life.

Several times I have done business with people who proclaim Christianity, yet in the end they proved not worthy of trust. They broke promises. Left while owing me money. Said bad things to me and about me.

Yet, I still trust people. I give them time to prove that I should not trust them.

Even though many were Christian, that doesn’t mean that I stop trying to be a disciple of Jesus. Some try and fail. That’s where grace comes in, I guess. But I don’t trust any of them any more.

You can earn people’s trust; you can easily lose it. Every day.

Including A Wide Spectrum of Acquaintances

May 14, 2018

“Meanwhile [Peter] stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.”

It’s just a sentence that is a transition from one story to the next in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Rest assured that it wasn’t just thrown in to fill up space. But Luke’s purpose for including this little tidbit isn’t really known.

We, however, can look at this little sentence and get a glimpse of how we should be living.

This Simon was probably Jewish, but he was ritually unclean. Does that sound familiar to those who have read the gospels? It should. Jesus was often criticized for hanging out with people who were ritually unclean.

We read a lot of things into the writings of Paul the Apostle and use them to divide people. But try actually reading all of Paul sometime. Read those “afterthoughts” where he lists all the followers of Jesus.

These first groups of followers were quite diverse. They seemed to accept leaders from all walks of life. Women, slaves, tanners, whomever.

Is it time for a self-awareness check? How inclusive are your circles? Churches, business, social?

Maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to separate us, we should be looking around us figuring out how to be more inclusive and accepting.

Violating The “Andy Stanley” Rule

April 12, 2018

There I was, as my usual habit, on the running track above the back gym at the Y. It came to me there were just two of us up there. The other person was a woman. A woman and me; the back gym; no one else around.

The “Andy Stanley” rule, which I named after the founder, leader, and pastor of Northpoint Ministries in suburban Atlanta, states that a man should never be alone with a woman not his wife. He won’t go to lunch alone with his assistant even to a public restaurant. He talks about being given a ride from an airport to a speaking engagement by a woman and being extremely uncomfortable.

There is solid thinking behind that rule, but also some problems. It is true that if you are rich and famous and powerful (or 2 out of 3), being seen alone with a woman not your wife can lead to gossip.

I think he’s worried as well about leaving yourself open to accusations from which you’d have no defense. Had that woman on the running track decided for whatever reason to tell people that I had touched her or otherwise made her feel uncomfortable, I’d have had no defense other than my word.

On the other hand, I’ve dealt with probably hundreds of women professionally over a long career. My tendency is to treat everyone the same.

But I have come to understand that women in general have a certain wariness about men that is not always apparent to us. I once met a woman while running in the park. I mentioned I’d never seen anyone to be concerned about. “I have,” she answered glancing around. And I thought, even though I’m watchful, she has greater concern and is much more sensitive to circumstances especially concerning men than I.

The New Testament has an often not explicit foundation condition called trust. Some of us trust easily; others take time to trust others. Regardless, trust once broken destroys many.

Loyalty Lacking Discernment Leads Astray

January 22, 2018

Loyalty is extolled in the Proverbs.

What spouse does not value loyalty? What friend? What employer does not value the loyal worker?

Without wisdom and discernment, however, we can be foolishly loyal.

Who has not been loyal to the employer who takes advantage?

Who has been loyal to the straying spouse?

Who has not been betrayed by those thought to be friends?

Wisdom and discernment lead us to those to whom we should be faithful. And then we are to be loyal to the end.

Some thoughts from reading through Proverbs 20.

If Only You Paid Attention To My Commands

August 14, 2017

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:18, NIV

We have been discussing Jesus’ discussion/debate with “the Jews” as John called the group of adversaries in the Temple.

Jesus kept telling them that God sent him and that what he had been teaching was directed by God. And Jesus said his truth would set us free.

So, I asked, what is free?

Free did not mean libertarianism–that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, to whomever I want. That would be sort of an American response, right? I am free from constraint.

However, we would be hard pressed to prove that from Jesus’ words. He immediately begins talking about sin.

We can be free from a life as a slave to sin. Drifting from whim to whim, emotion to emotion. A life of feeling guilty and trying to drown that guilt with drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever.

We can be free to live with “peace like a river” and “well-being like the waves of the sea.

So, I asked, what is truth?

It’s not a proposition that I agree with and force others to agree with. It is a relationship with the living Jesus who lived, who died, who lived again.

We keep forgetting about living with God in relationship, not in fear of a God of eternal punishment if we don’t measure up to his rules.

An email came this morning with this quote from Isaiah. I like that thought. Sounds just like something Jesus said. Sounds like something I can live with.

And you?

Disrupted by Power of the Wrong Kind

April 24, 2017

Recommended reading–The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.  It is a conversation held in 2015 when Archbishop Desmond Tutu traveled to India to meet with old friend the Dalai Lama.

The Book of Joy

Both men had know much suffering in their lives. Yet, the spirituality of each shines through.

What most got to me was toward the end of the book during a description of a celebration for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. Children from the local Tibetan school presented their stories of escape from Communist China.

It struck me that people everywhere just want to live their lives. Work, worship, dance.

Yet there exist everywhere men (almost always men) who seek power (political mostly) over people. They want to tell them what to do. To obey them. Exert power over the daily lives of people.

Even in America there exists a movement since 1979 where a group of men decided to try to turn American Christians into political activists–of course in support of their causes of telling people how to live.

And that movement has somewhat succeeded. It has ruptured Christianity in America, splitting churches, separating friends. All in the name of politics.

At least, for the most part, we don’t shoot each other. Yet.

Then I think of the moment of realization when I came to knowledge of what Jesus meant by turning the world upside down. He lived in one of those power hungry eras. The Romans were quite brutal.

Study Jesus. He said time after time that he came to turn that power relationship on its head. The leader washes the feet of the follower. A powerful example in his own life of that new power relationship.

We give power to the Spirit. We use the power from the spirit we receive in return to help people live better. Now, that’s a vision.

Are You Prejudiced?

March 3, 2017

Remember how Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

Recently I saw one of my many friends from India. “Are you prejudiced?” he asked me. Three times.

I don’t feel any, I thought. But I was raised in the rural Midwest. I know I was raised with prejudices. Some were taught outright–never marry a Lutheran, my mom often said. They are almost as bad as Catholics. (Whatever that meant.)

My first date, when I was a senior in high school by the way, was a Lutheran. Go figure. But I married a Baptist–who was born in Kentucky. Oops. A family of outsiders had moved into town when I was little. All the old women whispered about “hillbillies.”

Except my wife was raised in Michigan. Oops. Everyone around is an Ohio State University fanatic. Hate Michigan.

Prejudiced? I don’t know. Nothing came to mind quickly. It’s hard to get past your roots. I’ll admit it takes me maybe a minute or so to get past piercings and tattoos to see the person underneath the rebellion.

There are behaviors I don’t like. Strong opinions not backed up by facts. Hate. Injustice. Am I prejudiced against the people? I don’t know. Maybe.

The first time I talked with a person of another race was when I was a freshman in college. Never had a problem with that. Gay people? Doesn’t bother me. People are people.

Even when I look at my Teacher. Jesus had no trouble with the Samaritan woman. But he did have quite the discussion with the SyroPhoenician woman about prejudice of Jews toward other tribes. “Even the dogs get table scraps,” she told him.

So I am still watching. Where are my prejudices? I must have some. You must have some. The way to get past them is to first recognize them. And then realize that all humans are created by a God who loves them.

Leaders Are Connectors

November 18, 2016

It’s a weird thing. I attend many conferences. Sometimes they are single-company conferences. It seems as if I’m always introducing people–even within the same company. I just connect people.

Recently I went to the wake of a leader. Listening to the stories about him, it was clear that he was a connector. Aside from also being humble and ethical, his connections and how he connected people stood out as his legacy.

Then I thought about the Apostle Paul. We usually study his writings in order to compile a list of rules for churches (or sometimes countries depending upon your political bent).

What if we looked at them from the point-of-view of leadership? Think of all the times he was “commending” people to other people.

Then there was the slave (a little bit different meaning than our slaves in the South pre-Civil War, but still…). His name was Onesimus. He belonged to a little fellowship of Jesus-followers. He ran away. Wound up serving Paul in a distant city.

Paul writes to his owner. Philemon, he writes, please welcome Onesimus back. “He’s a beloved brother,” he writes. Look at the situation from the point-of-view of love rather than the harsh view of the law.

Always connecting people. And that in an era when mail delivery was slow and uncertain. It took days or weeks to travel to some of these places where we could drive in a day or two. Or fly in a couple of hours.

Somehow he kept track of people and introduced them to each other, encouraged them, tried to get them to get along with each other.

America is not the only country in the world that is crying out for more connectors right now. But we could really use some leaders, and not exclusively political ones, who connect rather than sever relations.

And we have to ask, what is our role in that effort? Do we divide or connect?

No One Wants To Be A Racist

November 1, 2016

The phrase “locker room talk” suddenly hit the public news media recently. It was used to explain or justify talking crudely about women or people of other races.

Ever wonder what locker room talk is?

Me, too. The only sport I played was tennis. We didn’t have a locker room. 

Pro athletes spoke up and said their locker room conversations were nothing like that.

In my life I’ve been around “man talk”, of course. Almost never have I been part of “girl talk”, of course. So my experience is somewhat limited. Outside of three long months I spent in a fraternity in college, I’ve never been around conversations describing women and sexual exploits and the like. Those were probably post-adolescent boy fantasies. 

Racial comments are frequent in many places. Mostly white-guy “jokes” or comments about another race being lazy, worthless, criminal. Sometimes not another race but another culture of the same race. “Hillbilly” used to be a term of derision. Now maybe it’s redneck?

Shane Claiborne in the book I cited yesterday, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Meant What He Said?, commented, “No one wants to be a racist, except for maybe some really mean people.”

I think he’s right. I’ve heard people make the meanest comments about people of another race. Then later when the term racist was brought up, they would remark, “I hope you aren’t calling me a racist.”

We don’t hear what we ourselves say.

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, said it centuries ago, “O wad a giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.” 

How often do we reflect on what we say and do? And feel embarrassed? I have those flashbacks every once in a while.

Jesus did show us the way. And typically for him, he set the bar so high that we can never feel complacent. His culture was very racially defined. The Jews (like many other tribes) tried mightily to keep themselves separate from people of other races. 

Yet, Jesus healed the child of the woman “who was Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.” He led a Samaritan woman to a deeper spiritual understanding of God. These were doubly groundbreaking. Not only were they not his race, they were women.

Like in everything, Jesus shows us the way. If only we can get our hearts right so that we can follow. No says I want to grow up and be a racist (well, with a few psychopathic exceptions). But we do. It’s hard loving people who are different. But as followers of Jesus, we need to follow him there, too.

Recognize And Reverse Corrosion of Relationships

October 17, 2016

The things that break all at once aren’t really a problem. You note that they’ve broken, and then you fix them.

The challenge is corrosion. Things that slowly fade, that eventually become a hassle–it takes effort and judgment to decide when it’s time to refurbish them.

And yes, the same thing is true for relationships, customer service and all the ‘soft’ stuff that matters so much. — Seth Godin, marketing and business guru

Some things just deteriorate over time. An important sensor has been developed for pipelines measures corrosion in the pipe. Over a thousand miles of a pipeline, that insidious deterioration in the wall of the pipe. Rather than an unexpected hole bursting the pipe and spilling valuable product while polluting the environment, the problem can be solved early on.

Unfortunately, there is no corrosion sensor for churches, organizations, or relationships.

Things happen so gradually. A little less passion. Slightly less energy. No one notices for a long time. Then you look around and wonder what happened.

What can we do?

We must maintain awareness. Not let our attention drift. Check key metrics and pay attention. Some people see these things developing and either don’t believe their senses or choose to ignore them in a false sense of optimism.

Don’t let corrosion sneak up on you. Be alert for signs.