Posts Tagged ‘actions’

Act Without Murmuring or Arguing

January 25, 2016

Watch out for small groups of people in the organization who gather to criticize, back bite, and argue. Have you noticed this phenomenon? Worse, have you ever been in one of those groups? Or been a leader in gathering them?

I am by nature an analyzer (ENTP). I have to be very careful and aware of whom I talking with as to whether I’m merely analyzing or “murmuring” or arguing. Occasionally someone has accused me of cynicism. But that stance ascribes motivations to others. I try to just describe actions and probe reasons. I don’t automatically think people are duplicitous.

Paul offers an antidote to this attitude that can be so hurtful to people and organizations. Writing to the Philippians (2:14), he says, “Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.”

Nothing beats negativity or (non-clinical) depression like action. One of the key Spiritual Disciplines is service. When you’re out serving others, doing for Jesus, you don’t have time for complaining and murmuring.

A good leader will organize such that there is a bias toward action. Don’t give people time to gather and complain. Get the teams moving in a positive direction.

Several years ago, there was a company I knew that had pathetic leadership. I’m being kind. Employees had all kinds of time to go online and comment on Websites. The negativity, hate, complaining, finger-pointing was terrible. People in other companies wondered how they had all that time. Part of the problem of the leadership was that they weren’t focused on pushing ahead and getting commitment of people.

It is often our fault, though. In the end, we are responsible for ourselves. We need to have some self-awareness of when we are slipping. When we sense this negativity happening, it’s time to look for a service project. Get busy. Get focused. Get positive.

How We See Others

January 15, 2016

As a leader, how do you see your group? Not as a group, but as individuals.

Do you see them as hard working, dedicated, intelligent people? Or as lazy, slothful, needing constant supervision people?

I had a job once where I could get more done working from home than coming to the office. My boss said, “Well, as long as you’re working.” I thought, “Sheesh, no one puts out more work than I do, and he makes that comment.”

This phrase just popped up in my reading, “Your perception of me is a reflection of you.”

If you are looking at the team you are leading as a bunch of people you can’t trust to do their work. Maybe the problem really is you. Maybe you know that you’d like to slack off and are suspicious of others who might.

There was a story about a man traveling the back roads of the Midwest in the early 20th Century. He came across a farmer. He stopped and asked, “What sort of people live around here?”

“Well, what sort of people lived where you are from?”

“They were a lying, thieving bunch of people.”

“Well, I guess you’ll find people here about the same.”

A second traveler came by later and stopped. Asked the same question. The farmer asked what sort of people there were where he was from. “Honest, hardworking, trustworthy people,” came the response.

“Well, I guess you’ll find the people around here to be about the same.”

It is a great story pointing out that our perceptions are often colored by our emotions, thoughts, and opinions. We see what we want to see.

When I’ve dealt with people as a leader, whether as a parent or manager, I always just have this expectation, usually unstated but clear by insinuation, that people will live up to being what they were meant to be. I expect the best for other people.

When you deal with others, how do you view them? If the results are not forthcoming, perhaps a good look in a mirror is in order. Change your attitude toward others and watch how their attitude changes.

What Kind of Person Will I Be This Year

January 4, 2016

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. … All the widows stood beside  [Peter], showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made.

This is a story found in the Acts of the Apostles where Peter brings a woman back to life.

Let’s consider the woman, Tabitha, in the context of thinking about looking forward toward our new year. Who do I want to be this year?

First, she–well let’s pause there a second. She. To all those rigid people who misread Paul and other texts, here is an early example of an important woman disciple.

OK, I’m not going to be a she, but I can certainly learn from her example.

She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. I don’t write enough about the spiritual discipline of service. But if I could be known as a disciple who does good things for people, that would be good.

Sort of reading between the lines, it appears that she was a leader of a group of widows. Women who had lost their husbands were at the mercy of others in that society. Remember how the apostles wanted Paul to raise money to support widows back in Jerusalem? One of the powerful acts of service of early disciples was caring for the unfortunate, such as widows.

She must have been a leader of the group, discipling them, doing good works such as making clothes for them most likely out of her own wealth.

For this next year, i’d like to be like Dorcas–do good works, lead a small group into discipleship, help people out of my wealth.

That would be a good year.

Review Last Year, Choose New Habits For This Year

December 30, 2015

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

The last post talked about finding your mountain of “stuckness” and turning.

This week is an ideal time to take a thoughtful look back. Get out your calendar. See where you went; what you did. Where did I waste time? Where did I invest? Is there a trip I made last year that I should do again and improve upon?

Open your list manager. What did you accomplish? What is left? What can be dropped? What must be added to be what I want to be this year?

Who are the people I met with? Who should I have met with? Where can I set aside time to intentionally find people with whom I should mentor or converse next year?

Now, let’s take a look at our friend Aristotle.

We are what we repeatedly do.

That means what we need to work on this year are a couple of new habits. Steve Carter talked about lifting the idea of 40 days from the Deuteronomy story that related to the Hebrews. Do something for 40 days. Make a commitment.

Each day for the next 40 days, I will [fill in the blank]. After 40 days it will become a habit.

Sometimes we fall into bad or sloppy habits. Reading the wrong thing, sleeping in, talking instead of working out, eating that doughnut.

We must become self-aware. See ourselves as if from the outside doing that behavior. Then we decide to replace that bad habit with a desirable one. That is practice.

Let’s repeatedly do excellence. It really is a Spiritual Discipline.

What If We Had a Ceasefire?

December 1, 2015


I’m sure it was “bumper sticker philosophy.” I have no clue what the rest of the words were on it. But the one word blared out distinctly.

Then a line of thinking began. What is it about that word?

Ceasefire describes a momentary (or hopefully longer) cessation of hostilities between the combatants. Rifles and artillery fall silent. People can breathe. A certain amount of relaxation seeps into the body and the group.

What if we invoked that word a little more often? And in other contexts?

Here’s a thought that I believe a large majority of Americans would go with–what if we took Nancy Pelosi (leader of the “liberal” wing of the Democrats in the US House) and Jim Jordan (leader of the “conservative” wing of the Republicans). What if we forced them into a room together and wouldn’t let them out until they forged a ceasefire?

Maybe we could get them to work within their differences (which are OK in themselves) with the purpose of an effective government? Let’s stop shooting at each other and see how we can work toward some common objectives–say the overall welfare of the people of the US?

Then I heard about white, male, Christian who took his firearms to a crowded shopping area that contained a Planned Parenthood clinic and started shooting.

What if we had a ceasefire among all the competing brands of Christianity? What if we learned to live with the variety of opinions and then focused on living out the commands of Jesus? Very simple–love God, love your neighbor.

Yes. A ceasefire. We need one of those. Maybe we could begin with the Christmas season and then extend it.

Productive or Busy

November 27, 2015

Seth Godin asks:

Is productive the same as busy?

No one complains of having spent an entire day doing ‘productive work’. Busywork, on the other hand, is mindnumbing.

It’s possible that if you have a job where your tasks (your busy-ness) is programmed by someone else, that being busy is your job.

For everyone else, though, busy might be precisely the opposite of productive.


David Allen has updated his classic book, “Getting Things Done.” Recommended–highly.




How do we wind up on the “productive” side of Godin’s question?


We do it by thinking. And then by defining “next actions.” The key is to think through all the “stuff” you must do or accomplish, defining just what the desired outcome looks like, and then figuring out all the things you must do next–“next actions”–to further your project.


Few things contribute to work anxiety more than finishing a task and then wondering what you should do next. If you have disciplined yourself into a way of life like GTD and are using a support application (I use Nozbe with great success).


As we reach the end of the year and we begin to reflect on what we accomplished relative to what we had hoped to accomplish, perhaps now is the time to get serious about productivity.

Bringing Down The Walls That Separate

November 23, 2015

Business writers (like me) often write about new technologies that promise to “break down the silos” of the various departments within an organization–for example, manufacturing, finance, engineering, maintenance.

The same can be true in other organizations. A church may have organizations (committees) around finance, buildings, worship, children ministry, youth ministry, missions. A church without a strong leadership team will discover that each of these have become a silo working independently often at cross purposes wasting resources.

Herod’s Temple in Jesus’ time had a wall beyond which non-Jewish people could not traverse. They were not allowed into the holiest of the areas. Paul the apostle had a problem when he was accused of bringing a “Greek” into the “Jewish” area.

Today we are still busy building walls. I read something about a bunch of governors wishing to erect a wall to keep refugees from the war in Syria out. Others desire a physical wall to keep Mexican people out.

We have church walls–even among varying persuasions of Christians. I remember playing guitar for a Mass in 1970. Father Ottenweller looked at me and said, “Someday, you will be able to take communion with us.” Well, 45 years later, still not true.

Several of my sources suddenly are all teaching on Ephesians. There is a chain of scholarly thought that this letter was not written by Paul. I guess these are the anti-Catholics (against priesthood that can be found implied in the letter). I’m not a scholar. This pretty much looks like a letter of Paul. And the second chapter has some interesting imagery. It talks of tearing down the walls that separate us. As Paul said elsewhere, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; male nor female; slave nor free; for we are all one in Jesus.”

Somewhere along the line, we as a people keep forgetting the simple facts of Christian life. We are meant to be wall removers, not wall erectors. Go find a wall to knock down today. And tomorrow.

Too Much Thinking, Not Enough Doing

November 19, 2015

When all is said and done, more is said than done.

As an investor in a local coffee shop, I must admit to coffee envy. This week I am attending a trade fair / conference in Chicago’s McCormick Place. A popular coffee chain has a store adjacent to the entrance to the exhibit hall. This is a large show with over 15,000 attendees. That store had a constant queue of at least 20 people from 6:30 am until they closed about 5:00 pm.

This morning I’m staring at the plain red cup of the day’s dark roast coffee thinking about the ridiculous uproar of a certain segment of self-proclaimed Christians who thought that the company was belittling Christmas by removing reindeer and snowflakes from its cups.

So, what do reindeer and snowflakes have to do with honoring Jesus’ birth? Well, nothing.

Then I recalled the old proverb quoted at the top. It goes along with another saying I find myself repeating–we think too much. That is a funny thing for an ENTP to say (if you don’t know what that is, check out the definitions in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). But we do.

Think of discussions on points of theology. A favorite one currently concerns the definition of the word translated as “day” in first story of creation. Many people take the English word day and make it a foundation of belief in creation that this means 24-hour days. Just had that discussion. I basically said, “You and I will always disagree on this interpretation. Does that mean that one or the other is not Christian? No. We agree on the foundation of the faith that Jesus lived as a man, was killed, and was resurrected.

Every time I read the gospels, I’m further struck by the words of Jesus. Certainly belief was the foundation, but his commandments always talked about the status of your heart and what you’re doing about it. Love your neighbor, he said. That’s not an emotional, sentimental word. It’s an action verb.

Thinking is OK. But let it not be said about us that when all is said and done, more was said than done.

Speaking About What We’ve Experienced

November 17, 2015

Coffee lovers have come to the opinion that their drink must be incredibly strong to be good. That is the power of advertising and peer pressure where you go to places that must over-roast their coffees to make up for the variation in the quality of the beans. In process control it’s called compensating for the variables of the input material.

When the quality of the raw material is more carefully controlled which can be the result of the way the coffee is purchased from the farmer, then the roaster is free to bring out the true flavors of the different varieties of the bean. The result is a coffee that is more pleasing to the palate.

We cannot help from speaking about what we have seen and heard. — Peter and John recorded in Acts 4

Christ-followers call it “witnessing.” Originally it meant “speaking about what we have seen and heard.” For us it is speaking from experience.

Sharing an experience is powerful. It is your story. But it is a story that can relate to other people. It is a story pleasing to the palate.

Followers of our faith for centuries have given us a bad name by coming on so strongly like that overpowering cup of coffee. They try to force feed their beliefs–often emphasizing peripheral beliefs ignoring the central belief that we have experienced new life as a Jesus-follower after coming to belief in his resurrection.

I’m thinking about Galatians 5 and Paul’s description of changed lives. And also of the especially powerful first five chapters of Acts.

Think of the growth of the early church and the lives that were changed because they:

  1. Shared what they had experienced
  2. Served others with no thought for themselves or their own well being

And we wonder why we’re not growing and thriving.

What Happened To The End of Racism?

November 16, 2015

Many people in my all-white home town gave me some grief over my civil rights views in the 1960s. But it was mild, if pointed. And I survived driving through Mississippi a couple of times in 1970 with equal rights decals on my car.

But I thought momentum was building behind the idea of judging a person by their character rather than the color of their skins or other external differences.

There has been progress. Almost all laws in the US are now color-blind (and gender-blind–that was a problem, too). Most police no longer are a serious threat to the well-being, and even lives, of people of color.

The goal remains elusive.

We can change laws (good). Train people (good). Heighten awareness and provide peer pressure (good).

But we can’t change people’s hearts that easily.

Reports from Missouri suggest that the University of Missouri race relations have changed little since 1969. We still have too many incidents.

And now I expect my Facebook “news” stream to fill up with a reaction of hatred and verbal violence toward all people who are followers of Islam and/or of Middle Eastern descent because of the attacks by a few nihilists in Paris. (I quit reading most of that stuff  on Facebook. If you want to reach me in Facebook, you can use Messenger rather than just a post.)

I have some friends and many acquaintances among those groups. They are peace-loving people with a moral code not unlike many Christians (I wonder about the moral code of some).

It all makes me so sad. An entire adult life span, and we have actually progressed so little.

Can we take some time to watch what we say? Pray for those hurting? Pray for justice? Judge people according to character rather than this painting an entire religion and ethnic group with the same brush as brutal terrorists?

Thank you.