Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Take The First Step In Faith

December 18, 2015

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve been thinking about taking that first step in faith.

There is a sense that God has taken many “first steps” trying to build a relationship with humans. Think of reaching out to Abram (Abraham). First there was a relationship. Then a son. Then asking for sacrifice of the son. Then the promise.

But people kept straying. They wrote laws to build a way to God from the bottom up instead of accepting God coming down.

Then God took a giant step–coming to Earth in the person of Jesus.

Think of the first step in faith of John and Andrew after John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to them. Think of Peter’s first step of faith. Except he kept needing to take another step until he got it right.

Sometimes we get complacent. We’re settling. We stopped reaching out to mentor and teach. We stopped serving.

When we realize we’ve reached that state, it’s time to take a step in faith.

Maybe this is the time of the year for that “annual review” of our relationship. It’s Advent. We remember God’s step of faith reaching out to us. It’s time to take that step of faith to respond.

Where will our faith lead us next year? Only by being open to God’s whisper in faith will we know what God has in store for us.

My faith journey took several weird turns during the past three years. Looks like I’m poised for some interesting new directions. I’ll take that step.

Why Is It So Hard To Listen?

December 14, 2015

Why is it so hard to listen?

I walked into the President of the company’s office. I was head of marketing and engineering at the time.

“Gary, nobody listens to me,” he moaned.

“Huh?” I tactfully replied.

“Nobody listens to me.”


“Gary, nobody listens to me,” he tried again.


I finally broke his mood, and we got productive.

OK, what I was trying to do was break through his “woe is me” mood and move on. Problem was, the team of vice presidents (including me, too) just didn’t listen to him. He had lost us.

One reason people don’t listen is that either you don’t have much to say, or you say it way too frequently.

More often the problem is with the listener. We just don’t practice active listening.

Some are trapped inside a narcissistic personality. They are so focused on themselves that they don’t hear other people. Ask a narcissist if they are, and they’ll tell you. “You seem to think about yourself first.” “Well, yes, of course.” (As in, doesn’t everyone?)

Narcissism is a major problem in society right now. But not everyone is narcissistic.

Some just have problems of their own. Like my boss, they just can’t break out of the cycle of despair to even see other people.

Some people are easily distracted. They may be talking with you, but their attention keeps drifting elsewhere. Smart phone notifications anyone?

How about caring? I should have known about the Baby Boomers’ self-centeredness way back in my senior year in college. I was tutoring a guy in German so that he could graduate and accept a good job. I said something about having empathy for a professor. “I don’t have time for someone else,” he replied. Well, at least his wife smiled and thanked me when he passed and graduated.

Why is it so hard to listen? Probably because we just don’t try.

Leadership: What Do You Look For In People

December 11, 2015

When you are building a team for your business or task at church or for community service, what do you look for? A warm body? Particular skills? Relatives?

There has been a consistent theme to my reading and conversations this week. It has been around people.

Andy Stanley says that you should look for who before what. Look for good and talented people first. Then figure out what to put them to work at.

Google looks for curiosity.

An interview I heard on the radio with the head designer at Go Pro talked about learners. When asked about her own learning, she said it’s the people she hires. They are learners. When they learn something new, they want to teach it.

Chuck Price, leader at Campus Crusade and a friend, says to hire character. You can teach skills. You can’t teach character.

When I’ve hired or brought people into  teams, I look for a basic skill set. I want people who can teach me something. I’ve learned the hard way to not hire people with agendas. Especially when that comes with weak character.

Family and friends? Be careful.

Personality also counts. It depends a little on how customer-facing they will be. But still, they must fit in with the team. Avoid people who are negative, arrogant, or, on the other hand, weak and timid.

Hiring is a major decision. It’s game changing. Make a wrong hire and you can destroy an organization, business, or committee.

Take is seriously. Make it first priority when you have to hire or are building a team.

I like the philosophy of these characteristics: Character, Curiosity, Learner.

Attitude Says It All

December 9, 2015

It’s all in the attitude.

How do you say, “Merry Christmas”?

Americans, especially us rural ones, are struggling to understand how to live in a diverse community. As recently as 20 years ago, most communities outside the cities would count greater than 90% of their populations as Christian. As recently as 10 years ago a local small city not only had no residents of color (either African or Asian Americans). Not only that, black people routinely warned their out of state relatives to pray their cars didn’t break down in that area at night.

In my area, there are still a few villages that are white, German people only. Outsiders not welcome. But most of us live in areas with white people, black people, east Asians, south Asians, Africans, people from the Middle East. There are now a variety of religions.

Add to this retail businesses that wish to be inclusive.

So, the greeting “Happy Holidays” prevails in many venues.

One of our pastors got up Sunday and had people practice saying “Merry Christmas.” Now, she said, you can go out and say that and not happy holidays.

Back to attitude. How do you say that?

Is it joyous greeting among those in the community? Or, is it an “in-your-face” command? Kind of like a challenge. Sort of, “I dare you to disagree.”

Then I thought why make such a big deal?

I’m secure in my faith. I don’t need the validation of someone else. You can say whatever, if said with a smile and a sense of generosity, it conveys a proper meaning.

Or, you can get the words right, but miss the feeling. Sort of like the Pharisees who got the religion part (sort of) right, but missed that heart thing.

It’s all in the attitude.

Let’s Just Hate Them All (Not)

December 8, 2015

I am so saddened. A news alert just came across my iPhone. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for barring all Muslim people (I doubt that he calls them people) from entering the country.

OK. OK. I know that he is running for office and is on one of those populist platforms that plays to a segment of the American population. William Jennings Bryan (yes the guy who defended the creation-in-seven-24-hour-days lawsuit) ran for president four times as a Democrat on a free silver platform appealing to the lower middle classes of his day. He lost all by huge margins. We have a history of populist candidates.

I know better. I shut out most of that sort of news. Most politics are just not interesting to me anymore. I did spend a year in a Master’s level political science program back when it was hard to get into grad school. I got something like a 99-percentile on the Graduate Record Exam in Politics. I’m not ignorant–just not engaged.

From a spiritual discipline point of view, however, I am so sad that someone feels he can appeal to a large segment of a “Christian” nation by pandering to the lowest of fears and emotions. Judging by my Facebook news thread, many people who call themselves Christian are eating this up.

I have many friends who follow Islam. Also Buddhists and Hindus. Just as my Christian and sort-of-Christian friends, they are all good people. They were created in God’s image. God loves them. I am commanded by my master to love them. I need to show them as a Jesus-follower that we are not all Crusaders bent on wiping out all “non-Christian” peoples.

Yes, we need to deal with evil people. But to paint everyone as evil because of a few is a travesty.

Lord, guide me to following the spiritual disciplines of prayer and seeking wisdom. And so for my fellow citizens of my country. And every country.

We Know The Ending

December 7, 2015

We live in times of chaos. A shooting incident happens. Real-time TV and newspaper hypes it. Political/opinion lines are drawn. People feel fear–thanks to the hype. Net result=more sales for firearms manufacturers.

A friend introduced me to John Fischer (Christian song writer/author) whom she says is a friend. He is smart…and wise.

He wrote last Friday:

The greatest weapon of the enemy is fear, and to whatever degree we let fear into our hearts is the degree to which we have lost ground. That’s why people taking to the streets in Paris and San Bernardino is a show of solidarity to say one thing, “We are not afraid.”

We need to take this to heart in our own lives. Fear is a powerful force. It can conquer without firing a shot. It can creep across continents and sail over oceans. It can travel on a sound wave or flash across the globe in a tweet. It can cross barriers and walls and pierce the heart of the most courageous. Fear is a powerful weapon.

But so is love. In fact, love is greater.

I read the end of the story. We win. Love conquers. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be tough times. Read the book of Acts. The church grew despite setbacks and persecution.

Then read the Gospels and the Revelation of John. In the end, we win.

Let’s go forward in the confidence of faith. Grace is stronger than evil. Love conquers all.

Arrogance Is Unbecoming On You

December 4, 2015

The Greeks had a word for when a person began to think too highly of himself–hubris.

Mom had a phrase, “You’re too big for your britches.”  (That would be pants for you younger people.)

The writer of Proverbs talked of wise leaders seeking good counselors. The writer, Solomon, should have taught his son better. The ruler of Israel following him rejected wise counsel, listened to foolish ones, and destroyed the kingdom single-handedly.

It grieves me greatly that so many examples of dysfunctional leadership are found in schools and churches.

The local school board containing a couple of new members asked questions of the superintendent regarding a rather suspicious proposal. The superintendent replied (as quoted in the local newspaper), “I’ve been at this 25 years and know what I’m doing.”

I have a message having “been there and done that and got the T-shirt”, arrogance does not become you.

Some friends are avowedly pagan. Yep, you read it right. You might even need to look up the word. It’s a nature religion.

Why? Pathetic leaders in their churches when they were younger. Sometimes I wonder if church leaders have driven more people out of the church than any other reason. (Maybe a research topic for a prospective DMIN candidate?)

I have witnessed examples of poor execution of servant leadership. That does not deny the importance of pursuing that type of leadership. A humble leader puts others first. He seeks wise counsel. She remembers her priorities. Humbleness works. Arrogance leads to a fall.

A Life of Service

December 2, 2015

It was somewhat “accidental” that the government sent him to work with youth in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the US.

You wonder how much of an accident it was. For the government, it was a form of punishment for not being drafted in the VietNam War era. He chose service.

There are people who love to quote passages from the Bible such as all things work for good for those who have faith. Whether God was behind the decision or God worked in the moment, the decision led to a life of service.

After some years of service, he went into business. But the service continued. He began adopting children whom no one else would care for. Severe handicaps and abuse. Some would never be able to leave his care (also his wife’s by the way who shared the entire journey).

He and his partner were good at that business thing. Became quite wealthy. The resources enabled the growing family to build a suitable estate to house them all.

A life of service done in the name of God. A life of service of which he never boasted. He and his wife “just did it.”

I heard the story once. It stuck. It makes me wonder what I’ve done with my life. Christians used to call this feeling “conviction,” in the sense of being convicted of a crime.

Stories such as this from my lifetime force me to recall Acts 2 and 4 where the church grew rapidly because of the way the members of the fellowship lived and cared for people.

Our witness of the power of Jesus gains credibility when done from a life of service to others.

The Physics of Spirit and Church

August 7, 2015

One evening during a small group Bible study of Romans, I said that the topic reminded me of quantum physics. Everything is composed of energy and information. Chuck just gave me one of his looks.

Without getting too deep into physics and so risking a few readers–I just came across this quote from, “The amount of energy carried by a wave is related to the amplitude of the wave. A high energy wave is characterized by a high amplitude; a low energy wave is characterized by a low amplitude.”

I like thinking about many things as requiring energy. We describe certain people as “high-energy.” When I contemplate about Paul’s life, I think energy.

Let’s think about this a little. Energy is related to amplitude.

To make the most of your Bible study or other studies, you need to increase energy. In so doing, you will increase the amplitude of your effort.

Adding energy to worship–well, do I need to say more?

Even contemplation requires energy lest you just drift off to sleep.

As for service, well, think about people who serve by just “going through the motions.” They are listless, unenthusiastic, pretty much worthless on a project. But add energy to the situation and you increase the effort into a high-energy wave with greater amplitude.

Next, we could discuss biology at its most fundamental level which concerns networking and connectedness. But, again, we’ve probably enough science for the morning.

Oh, and don’t get your energy from a can! Look toward letting God fill you with the spirit.

It Is The Quality of the Questions We Ask

June 11, 2015

The panel of technology managers discussed what the Internet of Everything would bring us by 2025. The Internet of Everything is the Cisco marketing speak for something you may have heard of–The Internet of Things.

Your smart phone (you have one, right?) has more sensors and computing power than most automated assembly machines of the 1980s. All those sensors can send you information such as your location, how many steps you’ve taken, and more if you let it. The data is sent to storage places in the Internet where marketers can read it (only in aggregate so they say) so that they can only send you relevant ads while you waste time on Facebook.

Technologists are optimistic people. These predicted that in 10 years all data will be accessible over the Internet. 

Maybe. But the significant statement one of them made was that what all this technology can’t do is provide wisdom. The quality of the questions you ask becomes important.

I thought about Bible studies with groups. Some people are new to reading the Bible. They are constantly amazed at what they read. And their questions reflect a search for basic information. Who was that guy? Where is that town located? When did all these events happen?

As we grow in knowledge of what the words say, we begin to ask what they mean. How do these apply to the life I’m living right now. Pretty soon we begin looking into ourselves and ask about our thoughts and feelings. And about our relationship with God. We go beyond belief–saying God exists. We start to experience God.

We also begin to study more things to answer more questions. Perhaps first histories of the ancient world. Then perhaps the lives of the early followers–how did they live, what did they do, what did they teach.

Each set of questions takes us deeper into understanding.

It is the quality of the questions we ask that brings us wisdom.