Posts Tagged ‘serving’

That Spark That Helps Others

November 25, 2016

Who is it who has helped you grow in your career and as a person? Perhaps you didn’t even know it at the time.

I was pretty clueless about working with other people when I started out in my career. But there were John and Jack and Alex who saw something and put me in positions where I could contribute and grow. Of course I am grateful to them.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

Then there are teachers who taught more than their subject matter–Mr. Johnson who taught logical thinking that I still use, Mr. McCarty who pushed me to go to science and engineering summer camps, Mrs. Maxwell who taught literature and writing (she’d probably be shocked to see me doing all the writing I’ve done over the past 20 years!), Mrs. McGowan who told my parents I was smart and ruined my next six years (every time report cards came out, I got “the lecture” from dad about how my grades didn’t reflect my intellect–I don’t know, maybe they did 😉 but actually when someone compliments you that can be the spark.

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James

So, I hoped I sparked some good memories for you. And a sense of gratitude for what others have done.

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” John E. Southard

The challenge before us is to try to get even with those people. Many are gone now. But you can still get even by passing the torch. Who can I help today?

I’ll Pray About That–Really?

October 27, 2016

“I’m so sorry about you losing your job and your car breaking down. I’ll be sure to pray about that.”

“I’m sorry to hear about all your troubles, Sarah. I’ll pray that someone helps you out.”

“I need repairs to my house. I’ll pray about that.”

Ever wonder about the person whose response to people is, “I’ll pray about that?” Or, in my long career I’ve come across several business leaders whose response to business problems was, “I’ll pray about that.”

Shane Claiborne, one of the authors of Red Letter Revolutions: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?, wrote, “But sometimes when someone says, “I’ll pray about that,” it is code for “I’m not going to do anything else for you.”

Prayer is good. It is part of a spiritually disciplined life. Especially when it goes beyond the idea that God is the Great Vending Machine in the Sky dispensing good things to those who meet his criteria.

Claiborne continues, “If we hear someone asking for prayer over and over because they need work done on their leaky roof, we should keep praying, but we might also get off our butts and get some people together to fix the roof! When we ask God to move a mountain, God may give us a shovel.”

I have witnessed the power of prayer. I’ve seen healing when doctors thought it impossible. I’ve seen lives change.

But, I’ve never seen prayer “work” when it’s obvious that God wants us to work.

We can pray about the devastation in Haiti (remember that? how soon the news media moves on and we forget about things), or we can raise money for supplies. Or maybe we have a medical or other specialty where we can go and work. And pray for success at the same time.

Or, we can pray for someone and bring a meal. Or pay for a repair. Or take them to lunch.

Let us resolve not to use “I’ll pray for you” as code for “Let me out of here before I have to actually do something.”

Be A Bridge Not An Obstacle

September 16, 2016

Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind — Paul Simon

I have been thinking bridges lately. This song popped up on the playlist of one of the channels I listen to in the car (Sirius XM 32, “The Bridge”–interestingly enough).

Fridays are often “leadership day” here at Faith Venture. The concept of bridges fits for that, too. Leadership means relationship–we just don’t often think of it that way.

“Like a bridge over troubled water.”

Leaders take us from one place to another. The good ones take us from a place to a better place. Higher performance. Sales and profit growth. Higher levels of customer satisfaction (no matter who your customer may be–profit or non-profit organization). Continued growth as individual people and as an organization.

Let’s consider the opposite. Leader (or other person) as an obstacle. Perhaps you’ve been on both sides–been an obstacle or been impeded.

Leaders who place obstacles in the way of growth and success usually are unaware. Often they are self-absorbed. So worried about themselves, they forget the mission and the needs of others.

Do a self-check. Are you building a bridge or sowing obstacles?

In Yoga, we have a pose called Bridge (see, the word just keeps popping up). You lay on your back, bring the feet close to the body, knees up, arms alongside the body. You activate or energize the upper legs and “core” (abs, glutes, lower back) lifting the body off the mat. Weight is supported in the heels and shoulders. (Check it on YouTube.)

This pose strengthens, stretches, is good for circulation. It’s an all around beneficial pose. A Bridge.

Have a friend in need—build a bridge to hope or calm or confidence.

Leading a department, committee, company—build a bridge from where it is to where it is serving its customers.

See someone struggling to succeed—build a bridge to growth and success.

Be a Bridge, not an Obstacle.


From Theology to Practice

January 19, 2016

Andy Stanley last weekend talked about putting some motion in your devotion.

He captured it well.

Every time I dig deeply into either the Gospels to see what Jesus really teaches, or into the letters which were advice to the new disciples, I come to the same conclusion–the preponderance of the teaching focuses on how we live day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

I’ve been reading, studying, and contemplating on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Some scholars think Paul didn’t write it because the tone is a little different from the rest of his letters. It sure sounds like Paul to me. I go with some scholars who say it was probably more of a sermon than a letter. After all, Paul was firmly in the rabbinic tradition.

Some scholars dissed the letter because they thought it was used to justify the power of priests 1,700 years ago. Maybe so, but I don’t see that today.

Paul begins where he always begins, with the history of God’s relationship with the Jewish people, the breaking of the relationship, and then, most importantly, Jesus coming to teach, die, and be resurrected. Paul’s theology begins and ends with the resurrection. That changed everything for him.

Just as in Romans, though, Ephesians teaches that once we settle on God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus and our acceptance through faith, then the most important thing is how we live. Romans ends with practical advice; Ephesians ends with practical advice.

Part of our spiritual discipline, or spiritual practices, involves how we act. By the way, James who writes from a different tradition supports this thought. Be ye doers, he said (in 16th Century English).

But I digress. Today when you get dressed and head out to work or wherever you go, how are you going to act? What will you do? Will people see what you do and say, “There goes a disciple of Jesus”? Or, will they say, “There goes another one of those Christians who can preach belief but acts as if they’re the only people on Earth.”

I wrote yesterday about how I was once (?) book smart and common sense stupid. How hard it is for us to translate what we know into what we naturally do! But that is our task as set out by God. We may know. We may believe. But could anyone tell by watching?

Freedom Does Not Equal Doing Whatever You Want

October 27, 2015

Americans love to talk about freedom. Scan Facebook and you’ll see many posts about rights and freedom. Never one about the responsibility that goes along with it.

What you do with your freedom is more important than having the freedom. And, by the way, even the Founding Fathers when discussing freedoms postulated that they originated with God.

And who better to help us understand God than the apostle Paul.

Check out the letter to the Galatians–my in-depth study object for the next few months.

Writing (Galatians 5:13-15), Paul addresses this directly.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”

Americans, and actually also western Europeans, have trouble when Paul uses the word translated into English as slave. I remember writers such as Marx and Nietzsche stumbling over that word. Paul didn’t say to become “unfree.” Remember the commandment that Jesus left us with? Love one another. Take that as what Paul meant.

When Paul talks about slave, he talks about being a servant. Like when Jesus took off his outer robe and washed the feet of the disciples.

When we in America get all caught up in interpreting whatever we want into the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and so on through the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution, we should be really discussing what our (personally) responsibilities are with that freedom.

When we talk about freedom in Jesus, our discussion must center on the idea “now that we are free from having to worry about following every little item in the law, what are we going to do with that freedom.” That discussion must focus on what we will do for others as servants in love.

Emotions are contagious

July 29, 2015

Yawns are contagious.

There–did you just either yawn or stifle a yawn?

One of my classmates many years ago in middle school read that truism. She would go around yawning (fake) just to see if other people would also yawn.

Emotions are also contagious. 

When you are around upbeat people don’t you usually feel better? Or, when you’re around someone with a dark cloud over their head, doesn’t it bring you down?

There are some people so over-the-top “up” that you get suspicious of them. But you can tell people who are just genuinely joyful. And you just love to be around them.

Love is the same way. People smile at a young couple romantically in love. But when there are groups of people who genuinely love each other–they care about each other, share concern, help out–outsiders can sense that group love. And they’d love to share in it.

I’ve seen people who found that emotion over the campfire at the end of the day during a Christian camp in the summer. They wanted every day of their lives to be like that.

Jesus taught that “outsiders” would know his followers, his disciples, by the love they showed each other. 

In fact, that is why the early church grew. People said, like the scene in Harry Met Sally, “I want what she’s having.”

I felt that once in my life. We had a group that was fantastic. Then we scattered around the country. I don’t think I ever felt it agains, except maybe during a short weekend during an Emmaus Walk.

It is great. Attreactive.

It is so good when people, especially Jesus-followers, work together in love. Why do we lose that?

Leadership: Connections and Changed Behavior

May 1, 2015

My customer had a problem. During one process of assembly, if a little spring was not installed correctly–and there were six per assembly–it would lead to warranty problems when its customer used it.

So, we installed an automated vision system that would work alongside the worker to assure the quality of the product.

It was not an inexpensive solution.

The worker did not like this intrusion and refused to work with the vision system. So, they turned it off and decided at that level that the company could live with potential warranty risk.

The technology was good. But we didn’t change the behavior of the worker. So, it failed.

This week, I heard a speaker talk about technology in terms of changing behavior and connecting people.

It’s not just about technology, he said. Think the iPod, which changed the way we listen to music. The iPhone which changed the way we connect with friends and the Web. These changed behavior and connected us.

I thought about leadership in that way.

Good leaders connect us. They connect the team. They connect the company’s parts. They connect the company with customers and suppliers.

They aso lead us to changed behavior. We came into the company as a collection of individuals. The leader gets everyone to modify behavior to get along with each other–at least enough such that work can be done to fulfull the mission of the organization or committee.

I thought about how James tells us that unless our belief changes our behavior that belief is not real–or at least not deep enough. James was a leader in the formation of the church. He knew what he was talking about. No doubt he lived it.

So go about connecting people together and connecting them to the mission. And lead them to changed behavior that forges a team that accomplishes much.

Leaders Need To Know Their Place

August 19, 2014

Yesterday I taught on the positive side of 3 John. Gaius was a strong leader, and John had heard about it and complimented him.

But just as our good deeds get talked about and passed around, so do our bad. Diotrephes is singled out as the example of poor leadership in the organization. How would you like to be known and talked about 2,000 years after your death as the guy “who likes to put himself first.”

Diotrephes was the type of person who knew everything. He even knew more than the apostle who walked with Jesus himself! Just as I wrote the other day about if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room, so Diotrephes liked thinking he was the smartest guy in the room.

A leader needs to know the purpose and foundation of the organization. Even in leadership, the leader needs to know when to put herself or himself second to someone else. Jesus taught leaders serve. He also taught that leaders teach the truth.

We know this in business. It’s even more important in churches. Leaders must be humble–that is, putting God and others before themselves. The self-promoters are like the wheat on the poor soil in the parable that shoot up quickly but have no staying power. They wither and die.

In whatever we are leading, we must have the perspective of serving others–whether they are customers and employees, or people on our committees, or family members.

I just listened to Andy Stanley talk about how your decisions determine your life story. Do you want your story talked about for years after your death the way Diotrephes’ is?