Thursday, February 24, 2005

Giving Opportunities for "Slam Dunk" Ministry

At a lunch yesterday with the "Get Together" group, one of the guys was explaining the philosophy behind the ministry.

He said, "Our goal is to give people slam dunk opportunities for ministry." In other words, they try to involve people in ministries where they can't help but succeed rather than trying to push them into more difficult or complex ministry opportunities where the opportunity for failure is high.

Get Together
, by just asking people to use the skills they use everyday in business to make things happen -- asking people if they can meet a need for food or supplies -- is a good example of a slam dunk ministry opportunity. It's easy to get involved without making a major commitment, and it's easy to be successful. And often, people who get involved in a slam dunk way begin trying three-pointers.

Another example of a slam dunk ministry is The Gathering. The Gathering simply arranges a well-known speaker(recently Lance Berkman) at a breakfast or dinner event where men can bring other men as an introduction to a community of believers. At First Colony, our Summer men's Lunch Series is another example.

As I've thought about this, I recognize that often I'm asked to be part of, or I'm interested in creating, a "half-court shot" ministry. Something that's complicated, elegant, and all-encompassing. Something that requires great commitment. Something that requires getting out of your comfort zone. Something where the opportunity of failure is high.

Why aren't more ministry efforts successful? Maybe we're just shooting from too far away.

I'm going to start looking for more slam dunks.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Brain Tumors and Spirituality

Scott Hamilton was on the Today Show this morning talking about his brain tumor. His story about how the tumor was discovered and the treatment he is undergoing were expecially interesting because Eloise had a similar tumor over a decade ago. And strangely enough, I had a conversation just yesterday with a new friend whose Mom has been just diagnosed with a similar tumor.

The punch line to Hamilton's story was what really grabbed my attention, though. Early in the interview he had said that he was glad this trial had come his way. After telling the details, he explained. It had resulted in a spiritual journey that left him knowing absolutely that he was loved. His punch line was something like, "While I wouldn't want anyone to have a brain tumor, I wish everyone could have the spiritual experience that I've had as a result."

One of the continuing debates in our world is how a loving God can allow bad things to happen to good people. Hamilton gives a great answer, and his answer reminds me of a story told by Dr. Richard Johnson about a man reaching Heaven and suggesting to God that God should change how life works -- to make sickness and aging go away. In the story God responds, "But my son, if sickness and aging were not part of your life, you would not recognize that your true being is spiritual, and that your physical existence is flawed and only temporary."

Thanks to Hamilton for the reminder.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Joys of Retail Business

Yesterday I dropped in to visit with my friend Johnny Sellers at his EmbroidMe storefront just to catch up. It wasn't long before he was telling me the story of a woman customer who had come in earlier while he was out and had loudly berated the staff while picking up her item.

The topic of her ranting and raving was that they were not open on Saturdays, and her message among others was, "You are a retail business and all retail businesses are open on Saturdays -- and since you aren't open on Saturdays, you're bad, horrible, terrible people."

Johnny was upset and so we talked some about how and if he should respond. He wanted to tell her that he wasn't open on Saturday because after staying open on Saturdays for over a year and finding that he was not getting business and losing money, he had made the decision to close on Saturdays. He wanted to tell her that he often meets customers at the store on Saturdays to deliver items or take special orders. He wanted to tell her that he has even met customers at midnight when that's what they needed. He wanted to tell her that store hours are posted clearly on the door, and that they had agreed to a Thursday delivery anyway. And he wanted to tell her that she was abusive to his staff and that it was uncalled for. But as we talked, he realized that her tirade wasn't about being closed Saturday -- but that was just the excuse to blow up, and that to respond would not be helpful to him or to her. It was just a time to take a slap on the face and move on.

But, because he and his staff are my friends, I had to rethink some of what I expect from retailers and how I react when my expectations are not met. Our society, and me as part of it, has come to expect that retailers and service providers should be at our beck and call 24-7, that we should not have to wait in line or do anything else that might be inconvenient for us, and that any time we want, we should be able to blow up and let them have it, whether it is about them or whether we are carrying a chip on our shoulder left over from work or home or wherever. I made a mental note to be more reasonable, more Christ-like in my expectations and reactions.

It's so easy to let it be "all about me" for all of us. But it's not.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Finding Your Career Niche

Career and jobs are about so much more than finding something to do that you get paid for.

This morning's Job Seeker meeting reinforced that once again. One of our attendees was a young woman who's very capable, well educated, and who has done a lot of different things well. As we talked, it became evident that she was quite frustrated, and for several reasons:
  • She has a variety of interests and skills which could lead into a number of different careers.
  • She has been receiving a lot of advice and direction from people that care about her about what she should do.
  • She wants to do something that fits her -- that's more than just a job -- but she's not sure what that is.
Most of us get where we are in career by following a path of least resistance. We may be fortunate and be in a place where we're happy -- where the fit is so good that we would almost pay to get to do the job. But more often, we end up in a position that brings unhappiness and frustrations, or at least a lack of fulfillment.

It is so important to learn enough about ourselves so that we can find employment that suits our individual skills and interests and provides fulfillment. It's not that difficult, but the amazing thing is that so few people actually do it.

This woman is now on a path to do exactly that.

More in future posts about how to get a handle on who you are and what type of career would provide you ideal job -- the one you would pay to get to do.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Job Hunter's Bible

Richard Bolles' What Clolor is Your Parachute is called the Job Hunter's Bible. Published annually since the 70's, Parachute provides complete information about how to go about finding a job, making a career change, and more. One source says it is one of the 20 most influential business books ever published. Although it's updated annually, very little changes except some of the statistics on the best and worst job search strategies change a little.

Most people in America have heard of the book, many have a copy on their book shelf, some have read a little of it, and only a few have followed what it says to do. I routinely recommend it to people between jobs. And it is the foundation of my work with clients who want to make career changes. Bolles was one of the people who developed much of what we know about career counseling and coaching -- he's the source of much of the knowledge we have about the field.

I can't help but see a strong parallel with the Bible. The Bible provides complete information on having a relationship with God and living life the way He designed it to be. Most people in America know about the Bible, many if not most have one or more copies on their book shelf, some have actually read it, and a few actually follow what it says to do.

Why is it that even when we know about sources that can make all the difference in our success in life, most of us ignore them? Even those of us who read them tend to say, "That makes perfect sense," but refuse to follow the instructions. What is it that makes us want to look for an "easier" way?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I Need Music

When in the car, I used to find myself listening to news/talk radio.

But since Clear Channel bought all of the radio stations, they seem to keep fooling with them and making them less desirable to me. KPRC, which was news all the time, is now talk all the time with a little news thrown in. My tolerance for the talk is low. And the other offerings seem pretty much the same.

So more often now, I'm listening to Christian radio. Often I find that enjoyable, and it's actually whetted my appetite to listen to more music.

So when Eloise gave me a gift certificate for Valentine's Day, I used most of it to buy CD's rather than books (which is what she expected I would use it for). For reasons that I can't explain, I've just found myself wanting to listen to music lately.

Waiting for my fillings that the dentist had just put in to set up before having lunch yesterday, I spent nearly an hour listening to new CD's at the store before making my selection. And maybe because I was trying to step out of the box, or maybe because my 60th birthday is coming up soon, I intentionally listened to some things I would not normally have selected. I ended up with a Casting Crowns CD and one by a group named Selah, as well as a Michael W. Smith CD. I'm enjoying listening to all three -- and I turn them up loud!

Now I'm even thinking about mp3 players...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Need for Life Skills Training

This afternoon I'm speaking to a group of moms of students at the Yellowstone Academy who are in a program called Wings. Wings is designed to teach life skills to people trapped in poverty to help them find employment and break out of the cycle that promotes repetition of poverty from generation to generation. Another session of Wings is composed of people who are former addicts and offenders. They receive a week of teaching followed by nine months of mentoring. Yellowstone Academy and Wings are outreaches of the City of Refuge Church.

Last year while in Little Rock I learned of a program to teach life skills to medical students. A retired physician leads this program to provide life education to students for whom employment is not an issue -- but who are grateful for the opportunity to learn other skills important to living. This program is also the outreach of a church, Fellowship Bible Church.

While these two programs are targeting people from opposite ends of our society in terms of employment and opportunity, it's interesting that for both groups, life skills is the issue. And it's exciting that people of faith are the ones seeing and responding to the need.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Thirty-eight Valentine's Days

Thirty-eight Valentine's Days married to Eloise.

I'm not very good at knowing what to give for this type of occasion. Eloise usually gives me some hints. This year she's mentioned chocolate covered cherries (her favorite candy) and the new Michael Buble CD. I'll be sure to get these, as well as a nice card. I do know not to give Tupperware or something practical like that -- but she had to teach me that.

The problem is, none of these things seem to even begin to represent the love and thankfulness I have that she's been not just my Valentine, but my friend, my partner, my cheerleader, my nurse, my inspiration, my teacher, Mom to our children, and so much more. An inexpensive box of candy, a CD, or even a special piece of jewelry just seems so trivial compared to her importance to my life.

Eloise -- thanks for being my Valentine for 38 years, and while you're at the "U" today, you might click on this link to enjoy a preview of love songs from Michael. And know that I love you.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Purely Personal

Two years ago today was Mom and Dad's 60th anniversary, and this week I've had several times when for a few moments I've thought about the small celebration we were able to have, and I have been thankful.

I remember how weak she was because of disease -- but how that for that one day she seemed to have an extra boost of energy and radiance. I have a vivid picture of Kathy and Catherine sitting on either side of her recliner holding her hands as the party of relatives and friends ate and visited with each other. I remember John coming in from active duty in Corpus dead tired after being up for 36 hours. And there was Mark, taking pictures, trying to make everyone happy, and just taking care of things. I remember all the work that Eloise and Sara did to get everything ready, and all the food they prepared. And the picture of the rose that Sara had chosen for their gift. I remember everyone gathering around the special three-tiered wedding anniversary cake that Eloise arranged to have our friend make -- and the picture of Mom and Dad standing together there for the toast, the cutting of the cake, and a passionate kiss. I remember Mom loving having everyone together, enjoying the festivities, knowing it was her last hurrah even better than we did.

These and more are wonderful memories of that day, and I'm so grateful to have them. I miss her deeply, but I have a wealth of memories that give me joy until that time when we're together again.

And what a reminder that I need to spend more time creating memories.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Hymn Books

I spent yesterday teaching a seminar on Christian Coaching to an interesting group of folks at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, and during one of the breaks, picked up a hymn book that was in the room.

It looked just like hymn books I've used during most of my life in worship services. As I browsed through the pages, I found all the hymns that I know and have loved singing. Holding and looking at the hymnal for just a few minutes was a very comfortable thing.

As I looked at the title page, I noticed that the only thing different about the book from the ones I had held so many other times was the publisher. This book of songs was published by the Presbyterian Church of America. The books of my experience were published by an organization affiliated with the churches of Christ.

I was struck by the irony that people worshipping the same Lord through singing of the same songs feel the need to brand their song books to distinguish them from those of another church. Yet the practice is pretty much universal. The message from this practice is that there must be something wrong with hymnals put together for use by other churches, so we need to have our own book so that it will be right.

Next time I'm in worship, singing along with the PowerPoint slides and have a wistful thought about the good old days of singing from a song book, maybe I'll also remember that those worship aids I love also served a supporting role in keeping us divided. And maybe I'll also appreciate that singing from PowerPoint slides, increasingly the practice in churches of all kinds, is a small step toward unity of believers. And that has to be a good thing.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

There's No "Easy Button" -- He's Honoring His Covenant

Staples is running a commercial these days featuring an "Easy Button." When there's something you don't want to do, or something you've never done before, the commercial says, "Now we have an easy button." Pressing that button makes whatever the task or job you are facing easy -- quick, painless, and simple.

I have watched a man my Dad's age at church care for his wife with Alzheimer's Disease for the last several years. We get to visit for a few minutes most Sundays. For several years, he was able to care for her at home, but now she's in an Alzheimer's unit, and he spends most of his waking time there caring for her. He told me Sunday that he thinks she still knows who he is, but that the disease has progressed to the point that she doesn't know others, including her daughters.

My heart hurts for him and his family and for the pain they feel constantly. There is no "Easy Button" he or they can push. Every day is a challenge to face and persevere.

What's uplifting to me is how he honors the covenant that he made with his wife in their youth. Knowing him, I wouldn't expect anything else. Yet in our world where we often see people reach for the easy button, it is so great to see this billboard proclaiming "for better or worse, in sickness or in health."

I thank him for the example!

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Impact of Earnest

Yesterday was "Bring a Friend Day" at First Colony. My assignment was to greet/usher at the main doors into the auditorium. That means I got an extra shot-in-the-arm dose of time with my friend Earnest.

Earnest's self-appointed role at church is to stand in that small space where everyone going into the auditorium must pass, and to smile at them, to enthusiastically say "Good Morning," and maybe give them an order of worship. Earnest is an incurable optimist, always has a big smile, and when asked how he is, always replies with something like, "If I was any better, I'd be worse!"

Earnest's mission is to convert others to be optimists as well. He looks for those coming in with a sad or serious expression, and makes it his personal goal to bring a smile to their face. And he's nearly always highly successful. He told me yesterday, "You just feel better when your face is smiling!"

Earnest has a huge impact on the worship service because so many in the service have been lifted into a better frame of mind before they ever get to their seats. Isn't it interesting that a guy with a self-appointed role can have such a great impact when many of us with appointed roles may, by comparison, have limited impact?

My Sundays are always better because of the impact of Earnest.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Reading and Watching the News

I read the other day that one of the addictive things about news, whether you get it from the web, from the paper, or radio or TV, is that we watch to see what bad things have happened so that we feel better that they're not about us, or our neighborhood, or whatever.

I have to admit that's true about me, as I suspect it is for you. I'll look at CNN on the web when I get up, with an eye on what's happened in Iraq. If there are stories about military injuries or deaths, I especially look at them. When I find the incident is about someone from another branch or another unit, and can sumise that John is okay, I feel relief.

Eloise remarked on the same thing the other day. Neither of us like being that way. It seems so wrong. While not our son, it is someone's son.

But it also works the other way too. Tears regularly come to my eyes watching reports of marines dying and families grieving. And part of the reason is that it could be about me and mine. I'm more aware of what's going on and the consequences than I otherwise would be.

I'm still concerned about how addictive news is, and the way we process it.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Social Capital and Kingdom Business

Last week I attended a luncheon called "The Get Together." It was a monthly meeting of folks who get together specifically for the purpose of using their contacts to help provide for the needs of seven inner city ministries. Their goal is specifically to provide STUFF the ministries need, not money. Stuff might be almost anything, but at this meeting we talked about needs for 15 pounds of Freon, 150 pounds of meat a week, sinks, snack food for an after school program, etc.

Over the last 18 months, over $500,000 of "stuff" has been provided to these seven ministries through the contacts of this small group! I don't really know these people, but I doubt in their wildest dreams it would have been possible for them to pay money for a tenth of what they have been able to provide.

The power and value of a small social network and their social capital is astounding! As much as we hear about the value of networking, I don't think we really comprehend it. Wayne Baker, a prominent academic and researcher in the area of social capital, tells a story about challenging one of his classes to help him get two front row center tickets to a sold out Broadway show on his wife's upcoming birthday. He had tried to buy them, but couldn't. Within days his class provided the tickets. Someone in his class was within the six degrees of separation from someone else who could supply the tickets. But I think Baker's example is eclipsed by the Get Together.

Get Together is not a big group. There were only 51 people present at lunch, and at least half of those were first timers like me. It started as the brain child of only a few folks.

Now several are discussing starting up more similar groups to help other inner city ministries.

What's amazing to me is the power of this simple idea -- using their collective social capital for Kingdom Business rather than for their personal or corporate business. So, here are a few questions to think about:

  1. How much social capital do you have in your account?

  1. Are you regularly investing to build social capital?
    • Through expressing interest and serving others?
    • Through expanding your connections to others?

  1. Is your social capital being invested in Kingdom Business – or worldly business?

  1. How could you begin investing more of your social capital for Kingdom good?
Let me know if you would like me to forward a copy of the Get Together Newsletter.