Nov 232017

ThanksgivingThanksgiving and sunrise are approaching and my thoughts wander. Need coffee, perspective, vision. Maybe in that order, maybe not.

I want to be known more for what I support than what I oppose.
I want to put more energy into affirming good than decrying evil.
I want to support unity more than critique differences.
I want to take less offense and give more tolerance.

I choose to exude gratitude rather than radiate condemnation.
I choose to celebrate blessings rather than denounce scarcity.
I choose to see beauty amongst evil rather than thorns dominating blooms.
I choose to speak and stand with honor and respect rather than sit and gripe with disdain and derision.

I am thankful to live in a country that provides freedom, though imperfect. One that allows success, no matter how hard-fought. One that allows diversity, even though faulty.
I am blessed with a family that loves me fully and imperfectly, supports me lavishly, and corrects me gently.
I am indebted to my Savior Who forgives my every sin, Who forgets them all forever, Who sculpts and cuts with my permission to remove more of me from myself every day.

As this year nears its end, a year when so many have chosen to selectively focus on wrongs rather than generously promoting rights, I fear that we are in grave danger of becoming that which we judge and vilify. I challenge us to become seekers of beauty, models of grace and forgiveness, heroes of affirmation, and servants of all.

God bless us all this Thanksgiving with more… well… thanksgiving!

Jul 042017

Fourth of JulyHere we sit on the Fourth of July, halfway through this year. In my relatively short lifetime [not so short according to my younger daughter, LOL!] I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of us complaining about our country! We are angry about the President. We are angry about the police. We are angry about legal immigration, illegal immigration- oops, I mean undocumented, about the people who are angry about immigration! We are offended about, well… about everything!

I’m starting to think we define ourselves primarily by what we are against!  I sat  at my desk early this morning, at work by choice and joining my coworkers scheduled to provide laboratory medicine support in our region on this holiday. I thought of how many of us express so much negativity about our country. I thought of how many of us choose to identify ourselves as hyphen-Americans, or maybe just the hyphen- and not -American. I thought of how many come to this country and then bad mouth it and work to tear it down. And then I thought, in spite of this, more people immigrate to America than any other country! What does that mean?

Sorry folks. What that means is that this country has more to offer, in so many ways, than any other country on this earth! If that sounds pro-America, well, no apology, it is! Are we perfect? No, no we’re not. Do we need work? Yes, yes we do!

I have a few challenges for you today. Hang on, I’ll get to all of  you!

On this Fourth of July, if you are an immigrant, and you are spending too much of your time tied up in negativity about this country, please, for all our sakes, and your own, feel free to rejoin your country of origin. If you are an  undocumented guest,  and aren’t positive about being here, the road back home is wide open. If you like it here, respect us enough to buy in- documentation, language and all.

On this Fourth of July, if you were born here, you are more blessed than you know. I challenge you to look for the good in the people, government, and countryside around you. I challenge you, and those of you just joining us in  your lifetime, celebrate the differences that make us strong.  Find and revel in common ground that makes us all American.  Keep the uniqueness that adds flavor to us all. Lose the differences that divide and separate.

On this Fourth of July, I challenge you to keep your words and actions only on the blessings, only on the positives that make this country great. If there is something about us that is not worthy, then not today, but tomorrow pledge to be the positive change that will make us worthy.

God bless you. And God bless America!!


Apr 302017

kindnessGritty eyes from lack of sleep.  Stressed with a headful of somber thoughts. “Coffee…. biscuits and gravy, that’s all,” he quickly said to the young waitress.   A minute later, coffee.  Several more minutes,  fresh-from-the-oven biscuits.  She served quietly and quickly, always with a smile. As he finished his second cup, he felt an overwhelming urge to speak to her, sharing his appreciation for her kindness.

“I need to tell you something,” he said. “You never know who you’ll be serving, do you? You probably thought I was just a guy getting his own breakfast before his wife gets up. What you got… was a tired leader, hurting with the knowledge that a favorite former work colleagues was dying last night.  I needed a calm, quiet place to get my head straight before starting the rest of my day. What I got, was polite and cheerful smiling service, just often enough to ensure my coffee needs were met,  no coffee drips on the table from refills, super-fast service with one of my comfort foods. Thank you so much for serving me in that way. It meant  a lot to me. Thank you.”

She started to tear up and told him that yesterday had been a very hard day on the job and that she really needed to hear that right then. She leaned over and gave him a tight hug, right there at his table.  He was shocked into silence. He left a very large tip.

Halfway home, something suddenly hit him. “God, you totally set me up! I went in there for my own selfish reasons.  And you set me up to  give someone an encouraging word at just the right time. And I didn’t even ask for it. Thanks for using me, even when I wasn’t in a listening mood!”

Kindness is usually free. It can be simply the words we use. Or it could be the  facial expression or touch we use when interacting with others.  In the workplace,  it is common to think that kindness is not necessary. Coworkers shouldn’t need  appreciation for just doing their job, should they?  I shouldn’t need to express kindness or concern  for colleagues, should I? It’s not professional to mix work and personal, is it?

Gallup, the renowned polling organization, asks for a response to the following statement when polling employees for job satisfaction:  In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. Apparently they view it as a crucial issue!

Who should receive kindness from me? A stressed employee, an overworked boss, a thoughtful wife, a caring parent, a struggling child, a committed pastor. Oh, yeah, and a grouchy patient, an impatient customer, a rude friend….

And yes, a waitress. I should know. Those were my biscuits… just this morning.

Oct 022016

rainLotion bottles. The ones with a pump. They always leave an inch of lotion in the bottom. My habit for years, when sweetheart requests, I cut the bottom off the bottle so she can use the last of the lotion. This morning? my last slice around the bottle slips, I make an unplanned incision in the base of my thumb, I drop the bottle and lotion splashes everywhere! Large globs adorn the mirror, the counter, the wall. An oilslick of lotion soaks into the rug.  As I start to clean up, blood still dripping from my thumb, another finger runs into sweetheart’s still hot curling iron for a nice tissue-sizzling burn! As I chill one finger and bandage the other, I’m thinking, this is a small scale version of my life right now!

Someone asked me at church last weekend how I was doing. I pondered how to answer. This year hasn’t been perfect. I have experienced betrayal and falsehood and weakness that have caused me pain. I have felt discouraged, disillusioned, disheartened, distrust.  And yet that is not all of the picture!

Early this morning, before the sun, I enjoyed the sound of the first rain of the season as it gently descended on our valley. The smell of the dust being washed from the air, the sound of a million rain drops touching a thirsty earth, the view of the cloud-enshrouded mountains from my office window, these things reminded me of one simple truth- God’s unfailing and all-covering love for me. No matter what drought I experience, no matter what trials I suffer, His love covers me.

I have been reminded of a few things this year. That [profit] Margin without a nonnegotiable Mission that drives all decisions and actions, is dead. That valuing people above all else is the example my Jesus expects me to follow. That life is not at all about position and power.

So, what is my answer to, “How are you doing, Bob?” Not everything is just right in my life, but I have so much to be thankful for.  I have a God who loves me no matter what. I have a sweetheart who thinks the best part of her day is meeting me at home after work,. Daughters who still need and love me. Men in their lives who treat them with God-blessed love and respect. Friends and family, close and far, whom I can truly trust when the chips are down. The clarity to be able to enjoy a good cup of coffee during an early morning rain. And world peace? LOL? Not in my lifetime.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  -Phillipians 4:7 NIV.

Peace that others can’t understand. Peace that makes no sense. This is the gift God gives when we learn to lean on him no matter the circumstances.

So right now, with two bandages on my left hand, I look from my window and see a stray beam of sunlight that, in spite of air still in the 40’s, is powerful enough to steam the rain from my roof. Yeah, maybe everything isn’t the way I want it to be, but I’m ready to keep taking blind steps forward in the journey my God calls faith.

Jul 212016

Leadership and GraceGrace? Sounds like weakness, right?

The factory owner had many employees. He spent a lot of time on the factory floor checking, encouraging, advising. They were very important to him. One day his assistant informed him that one of the assembly line operators didn’t show up for work. Bill was normally a hard worker… but he had heard rumors that the man had a drinking problem. He wondered, concerned.

Shocking his assistant, he rose from his desk, pulled off his tie, tossed his suit jacket onto his chair, rolled up the sleeves of his perfectly pressed dress shirt, and trotted to his car.

He drove to Bill’s house, knocking on the door, no response. Slowly driving up and down each street in the neighborhood, he searched carefully. Finally, he saw someone hunched over, sitting on the curb at a street corner a couple of blocks away. It looked like Bill, but he wasn’t sure. Pulling the car to a stop close to the corner, he got out and sat down next to Bill. His clothes were a mess. He had vomited in the gutter and reeked of it and the alcohol that caused it.

Bill looked up, recognized his boss, and groaned in shame. “Let’s get you home,” he heard. Then he felt strong arms lifting him up, walking him to his car, getting him safely belted in. The owner walked him into his house, got him into the shower, dug around for clean clothes, brewed a pot of coffee.

The next day, the owner saw Bill on the factory floor, on time, working harder than anyone in his section. “Funny,” he thought to himself,”I’m more pleased about Bill’s performance today than any of the other employees!”

Read the real version in Matthew 18:12-14.

Grace in the workplace? But we have policies and procedures, human resources guidelines, discipline, termination. Yes. Yes we do. And they have their place.

With this short story, Jesus attempts to teach his disciples about the high value He places on each person. He teaches that the more someone falls, the more we care for them. He shows them that EVERYONE is worth dying for. He gives them yet one more glimpse of a kingdom unlike anything they’ve ever imagined. Grace? Yes. Seeing through the faults. Seeing the intrinsic value of another person. Someone worth helping.

I have been blessed by seeing colleagues blossoming and succeeding at work in ways no one thought possible. Because of grace. Yes, it’s a dirty job sometimes. Yes, they fall again sometimes. Yes, they don’t always show appreciation. And yes, living and leading through expressing grace still has its own reward.

My failures, my shortcomings, remind me every day of my need for grace. Grace extended from colleagues, from my family, from my Jesus. How can I not do likewise?

This is Part 2 of a four part series.  Part 1 is Leadership and Humility- Contradiction in Terms?

May 302016

humility and leadershipHumility Shmumility!

The last minute church elder’s meeting started a bit late. The pastor walked in to see several elders bickering over who should be in charge. Without saying a word, he motioned them all out of the room, down the hall, and with a finger to his lips, opened the door to the kindergarten room. A dozen kids sat in a circle singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of their lungs, big grins and wavy arms.

He quietly closed the door and said, “Unless you can love and worship simply like those kids, you have no place leading in this church. And, by the way, if you make one of them mess up, you might as well jump off the Noyo River bridge and drown. Oh, and don’t even begin to think you are better than they are. Their angels get special access to God the Father every day!

Read the real version in Matthew 18:1-6.

What’s this got to do with leadership and the workplace? Often, decisions and actions are based on the struggle for power and status over others. We feel our position must be maintained by pushing others down. Humility? That term gets restricted to religious discussions at church, if at all. This IS business, after all, LOL!

When Jesus teaches and models humility to His disciples, He is educating them about His kingdom and the fact that unlike most human organizations, His is based on loving and serving others. Those that are the most successful (the “greatest”) are those who serve and care for others the most.

Again, what’s this got to do with my workplace outside of the church? Maybe a lot. If one of my primary objectives is to serve, uplift, support those around me, regardless of the org chart- their success, their productivity, their job satisfaction, their employee engagement (Yes, Gallup users!) will make me effective and successful as a leader. Stepping on heads will only carry a person so far. Do leaders make it to the top by such stepping? Yes they do. But I would challenge their right to lead and whether their legacy will be a worthy one.

Think about your circles of influence. Is humility evident in your relationships at home? With friends? With coworkers?

Me? While I find new ways to fail every day, I want and pray for the ability to lead humbly, finding my greatest success and legacy through the success of those around me.

May 032016

No PatiencePatience and the business of managing a successful organization are clearly incompatible. Here’s why:

First, rapidly changing markets make the pace of many businesses nearly frenetic compared to just a couple of decades ago. One of the newest buzzwords is the need to be nimble, rapidly defining and responding to new challenges. Mark Sanborn states, “Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business.”  Patience equals slow, and slow can result in loss of market share or even the loss of the entire organization!

Second,  in the workplace, social factors often get in the way of progress. What’s popular over what’s policy. Without strict and consistent adherence to a company’s policies, anarchy results. Or at least confusion and variability in performance. Being patient, accepting intent rather than conformity, allowing staff to follow the principle rather than the “letter” of the policy, this can breed apathy at best, contempt at worst.

Last,  it is critical to keep a bottom line mentality at all times. Exhibiting patience with variability in performance suggests a higher priority on human resources than profit margins. This is clearly a lose-lose proposition, for without margin, everyone loses! Firmly keeping an eye on key metrics that are indicators of success is critical. Getting distracted by the individual and changing needs of staff causes a loss of focus and inevitable failure. It confuses the definition of where real value lies.

My pastor gave me much to think on with his sermon this past weekend.  The topic? God’s great patience with us. It made me wonder…why is He so patient with us? Doesn’t He have a bottom line, an ultimate objective? Was there anything in the sermon that has any relevance to me as a leader in the workplace? Regardless of your particular faith walk, I’d like to hazard a big, fat YES!

If you agree, then take my three reasons listed above, and use your creative powers to turn them on their heads. Is patience and the work of work wholly incompatible?  Is patience contraindicated in the office? I think….NOT.

Apr 022016

ValueShe sat in her boss’s office, discussing the day, frustrated about staffing levels and a litany of other things. “I know I shouldn’t have been so harsh with Kim when she came in so late. I was just so stressed! She’s a great employee. It just made me so mad!”

“I know I come in here boiling about one thing or another almost every day. How come you are always so calm about it? Even when I’m pushing at you to do something and I really shouldn’t be? How do you do that?”

He turned his chair to look at her a bit more directly. “I have a secret,” he said. “I’ve never told you this before, but maybe it will help you to understand. ”

“When I hear you coming into my office, I stop what I’m doing and turn to face you, right? Do you ever wonder why I often have a slight smile on my face when I do that, even when I know you are about to bring me something stressful, critical, or unhappy?

“Whenever I see you, the first thought that crosses my mind is this- “This is a person that is important to me. This is a person I value.” When that thought starts, it makes me smile and it makes me interact with you in a completely different way. Why? because that thought trumps anything else! Regardless of any stress, impatience, criticism, negativity. I see value in you and I want nothing but good for you.”

“You and I will grow together,” he said,”learning a little more about teamwork and family and valuing people every day.”

Does this make any sense, have any value, in a workplace focused on productivity, employee engagement, mission?

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” -Theodore Roosevelt.

Yes, I think it makes all the difference in the world.

Father, give me the grace and strength to copy the way your Son values people. Help me to treat not just one, but all of my crew as He would. Amen.


Mar 272016

good newsAnother sleepless night. My excuse? The neighbor’s very small dog with a very piercing bark. Incessant, all night long. Good news? Not so much. The disciples excuse? Their Savior crucified and buried. Their futures questionable. My solution? I’m up writing. Their solution? Mary, the one who had been forgiven much,  went back to the tomb. Why, I don’t know. Maybe searching for connection with the One Who knew and loved her best?

Finding Jesus missing, a series of sprints take place with Mary telling the disciples, John and Peter coming to look. Would no news have been good news? Did they think that the Jewish leaders or the Romans had done away with the body to discredit them?

Mary, grief-stricken, asks the gardener where the body has been taken so that she can retrieve it. Only when she hears Jesus say her name, does she realize that she is speaking to her Savior. Talk about Good News! She races back to the disciples, again, this time with a different story.

I was reading this account in John 20 with my kids class at church. We talked about good news. One student said, “That’s not good news! That’s freaky, good news!

While the sun is threatening to spill over the eastern edge of my valley, am I just calmly thinking of Jesus’ resurrection as good news, okay news, traditional news, old news, news I’ve head before that I’ve built resistance to?

Or, am I amazed and awestruck yet again that the Jesus story is real. That with His resurrection, He made good on His promises. That the God/man who dove headfirst into this hell of sin to save us proved that love conquers all, proved that His equality statement, God = Love, is true, proved that He had and has power over death. That our truly superhero, Captain Universe, is not only alive, but is working for us right now! He stands before the Father, and the rest of the universe and says,”My life and death walk proves my right to move my redeemed ones to SAVED status not because of what they’ve done, but because my name, and my blood, covers them.

Now that’s not good news..

That’s Freaky Good News!!

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