Posts Tagged ‘awareness’

When You Find Yourself In Complacency

January 26, 2017

So you wake up. Who knows what wakes you up. There you were happily asleep and Pow, there you are, wide awake.

It happens in the middle of the night.

It happens when you’re in an organization.

You were lulled into complacency. The pot has not yet boiled (see yesterday’s post). You have time. Just like the “good guy” in those 1930s short movies. You pull the girl off the railroad track just before the train comes.

But there is no girl. No train. Except metaphorically.

You can rescue yourself. Can you rescue the organization?

That is the question.

What do you do?

1. You can bail out. You wake up. Look around. See the signs.  Think you’ll be better off elsewhere. There you go, searching for a new adventure.

2. You can close your eyes. Ignore the signs. Slip back into the comfort of the known. And slowly…die. If not physically, then spiritually.

3. You can decide to try to change things. Become an idea monster. Every morning you awake. Brew that cup of coffee. Grab your notebook (you do have a notebook, right?). Write 10 ideas. Every morning. You talk to people about doing things differently. Find some people who are awake. Build a coalition. Go for it.

Me? I went off for other adventures. Sometimes you just can’t find that coalition. Sometimes the “supreme leader” just doesn’t have the skill or stomach for change. Or, they have a different agenda. Then it’s time to forge your own trail.

That light in the tunnel. It could be a train coming at you. Or…it could be the light out. The light to a better you.

Here I Am, Stuck In The Middle

December 28, 2016

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.  –Stealers Wheel

Here we are. Wednesday. Christmas and Advent three days behind us. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day three days ahead. Stuck in the middle again.

Gifts, gift giving, special church services–all behind us.

Resolutions, parties, football–all ahead of us (Americans, for football that is, don’t know about the rest of the world).

Maybe you can feel stuck with no where to go, like Stealers Wheel.

Or maybe like TS Eliot in his poem Burnt Norton, where he talked about the still point–at the still point of the turning earth, there is the dance, and there is only the dance.

It can be that pause in the middle.

Just time to stop the rushing and anxiety. 

It’s the time in the middle to pause. Be still.

Everyone is posting their 5-ways for this or 10 steps to that (known as click-bait in the industry-people click on those numbered lists then continue on, but see the ad).

We don’t need 10 resolutions. Or 5 steps to a better year.

We just need to be. In the moment.

It’s not a resolution, it is a way of life.

Shocking News-Other People Are Different From Me

December 27, 2016

Other people are different from me.

Live with it. No, really, trying to make them the same as me with the same attitudes, beliefs, and actions becomes a dizzying amusement park ride of frustration. We could try political action to pass laws to “force” people to be like me. Hint: that never works.

We can try empathy, understanding, or avoidance.

God made me in his image; I did not make God in my image.

Except, sometimes I act like God is made in my image. Of course, he agrees with me. She doesn’t like those I don’t like. Except…God is God.

We can try understanding our place in God’s universe.

Jesus was who God created; Jesus was not who I want him to be.

Sometimes we read a verse and think Jesus was gentle. Sometimes another and think he was judgemental. Perhaps another and think he was a super-hero doctor.

We can try reading the entire gospel and life stories of people who have encountered him. And accept who he truly was (and is) and try to be like him. That’s what disciples do.

Who Do You Say I Am?

December 21, 2016

Jesus is ________.  –sign at a church in downtown Seattle

Jesus and his guys were hanging out at a notorious pagan-influenced area northeast of the Sea of Galillee. They were just chatting around about what people were saying.

Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

One of my news feeds last night served up a headline that brought back up the “Jesus was a hoax” meme. That thought is hardly original. Paul the apostle refuted that one soon after the events.

I was at a technology conference several years ago where the company was showing off technology that could detect wave forms in a signal previously undetectable. The conference theme–“Some things must be believed before they can be seen.”

If your mind is fogged over by cynicism, doubt, negativity, ignorance (willful ignorance?), then you will not see.

John offers seven “I am” statements:

  • The bread of life
  • The light of the world
  • The good shepherd
  • The gate
  • The resurrection and the life
  • The way, the truth, the life
  • The vine

This week I offered the thought “for everyone.”

But this just talks around the issue. (And don’t we love just talking around the issue rather than confronting our own thoughts and feelings?)

How would you fill in the blank? Who do you say Jesus is?

Talk Less and Listen More

December 9, 2016

For those of you who get up to read these essays by 7 am EST, I’m late. Plane was delayed and I got home at 1 am. 

Here I am. Five hours of sleep. Nothing prepared. Nothing on my mind.

But I try to write leadership thoughts on Fridays.

So, here is the thought of the day. Works for leaders. Works for parents. For spouses. Even for public speakers 😉

Talk less; Listen more.

I could give examples. But…you get the point. What are you going to do today?

The Generous Receiver of Gifts

December 8, 2016

How we receive gifts also tells much about us.

I have been thinking about the encounter of the rich young man with Jesus. The one where Jesus got to the point of his problem. He had too much stuff, and he couldn’t let it go. Maybe he was like a hoarder. Maybe he was like Scrooge McDuck (for those of you old enough to remember) who was mostly pictured sitting in his vault with piles gold coins and sacks of gold coins.

But if someone is going to give generously, then that means someone must receive.

How do you receive?

I learned a long time ago to adjust my wants to reality. Growing up in a family without much money can form you in one of two ways. In my case, I wanted things, but learned that many were beyond budget. So, I adjusted my expectations. On the other hand, I know of people in similar situations who grew up only to crave the things they couldn’t have as children even more than when they were little.

Do we adjust to reality, or do we expect reality to adjust to us? 

Maybe we have seen way too many advertisements (and they date back to the early 1800s) of the joyous kid opening presents. And we think that if we can’t capture that picture in reality, then Christmas is ruined. I have even heard pastors equate a joyful Christmas to the number of presents under the tree!

I’m sure for many not receiving the gift, or not receiving enough gifts, is disappointing.

But maybe that is because the anticipation of Christmas is misplaced. It focuses on quantity of presents.

What do I appreciate? I appreciate that someone thought of me.
I bet that is true for most everyone. Except for those whose focus is on the wrong place.

Then it’s time for an attitude adjustment.

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.

A GPS for the Bible?

September 26, 2016

When you travel, how much do you rely on your GPS? In your car? In your phone?

We use it often. I’ve tracked taxis. I’ve charted walking paths in cities to a restaurant or other destination.

And of course we rely on it when driving somewhere. Confidence that we are on the right path is priceless. Having an estimated time of arrival helps with planning.

But we have discovered that slavishly following the GPS can lead to lost time or even the wrong path. We were just in Naperville, IL heading back to Ohio. I punched in the street address. It said turn right. I said, “Huh?” Then it said you will reach your destination in 35 minutes. Admittedly I drive fast. But I’m not paring 4+ hours off a trip. Oops, the GPS defaulted to the closest city with my street address–Joliet.

Once I was waiting for my wife to pick me up at an airport while she was enroute from another location. She was about 1.5 hours late. I told her that regardless of what the GPS might say, to make sure she got on Interstate 77. Well, the GPS routed her over the Appalachians to Interstate 75 in order to avoid tolls. It wasn’t set up well. She went way out of her way.

I’ve seen a similar situation with Bible study. We may come to it with pre-formed opinions. We just read our opinions into the words.We lose that “Ah, ha” moment when a new truth sinks into our awareness.

Or, perhaps we choose the wrong GPS.

I remember when that point came home to me. About 45 years ago I read a popular Christian book. It had a few obvious flaws of logic, but the overall theme seemed sound. And everyone around me thought it was great.

Then I read the author’s next work–a study of the letter to the Hebrews. I started the book, but something seemed wrong. I went back to the beginning and opened to that letter reading the translation of the Bible I used at the time (and probably comparing through an 8-translation Bible I have) along with the book. I just kept muttering, “Where did he get that?”

I put the book back on the book shelf and never read that author again. He lost his place as my GPS.

I read lots of scholars and theologians. But I read them in light of the Bible itself. I try to stay true to many of the earliest students–Augustine, Jerome, the Desert Fathers, and others.

A GPS is a good thing; but only if used wisely.

Nobody’s Right If Everybody’s Wrong

August 31, 2016

Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong. –Buffalo Springfield

Phone rang. It was a soccer referee I had assigned to a match. It was 20 minutes before kickoff.

“Gary, I have a problem, they don’t want to give me the check for the game. I’m just going to pack up and go home.”

Then while I’m still on the phone listening, he proceeds to argue with people at the game. He is angry. They are angry. I’m sitting there 35 miles away, listening, thinking this is all just so much nonsense. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.

It’s the first week plus a day of the soccer season. This is the fourth one of these conflicts I’ve dealt with. Almost no complaints about on-field work. Referees are “shooting themselves in the foot” before the game even begins.

In Ayurveda, there is a concept called pitta. It is the mind body type of the element of fire. Environments can be pitta, as well. Our temperatures in western Ohio this summer have been around or over 90 deg F constantly. It is again today. Heat provokes emotions–anger. And we are getting it.

I am, by the way, a pitta mind-body type. I’ve spent a life calming and cooling down. Now I try to be the calming influence. The Zen Master is what people called me at one job.

And I thought that we have so much of this in our world right now. Heat. Emotion. Anger. Hatred. The whole world needs a cooling and calming.

Where Buffalo Springfield sang, “Stop children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

I would answer, “Stop children, let’s calm down, everybody breathe and slow it down.”

How do we hear God’s voice and leading if we’re too busy shouting?

Take a deep breath, hold, release, “Ahhh.” Don’t you feel better?


June 6, 2016

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. — 1 Corinthians 10:31

Picture a large seafood buffet restaurant. He had a plate already full of a variety of fish and shrimp. He added crab legs. And he added crab legs. And he piled on still more crab legs. When he walked away there were six piled atop his plate.

I had plenty to eat–2 cups of clam chowder, a dozen peel-n-eat shrimp, a set of crab legs, corn on the cob (well the small pieces of cherry cobbler and apple cobbler were over the top)–and felt like I had barely snacked compared to what I saw going on around the serving lines.

The image of the “Seven Deadly Sins” came to mind as I sat there. One of them being gluttony.

The list came from Pope Gregory I around 600 CE.

7 Deadly Sins List:

  1. Envy = the desire to have an item or experience that someone else possesses
  2. Gluttony = excessive ongoing consumption of food or drink
  3. Greed or Avarice = an excessive pursuit of material possessions
  4. Lust = an uncontrollable passion or longing, especially for sexual desires
  5. Pride = excessive view of one’s self without regard to others.
  6. Sloth = excessive laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents
  7. Wrath = uncontrollable feelings of anger and hate towards another person

Yes, one night out at a buffet does not a glutton make. But it is worth considering how much of our attention is devoted to overeating. It certainly shows up around our waistlines!

The list (not found this way in the Bible, by the way, but compiled from many Biblical sources) brings to awareness the many ways that we let focus on ourselves take away our focus on God.

As we  focus, so we live. We need that daily time of reflection to bring God into our awareness so that we focus on what is right and good.