Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some Basics for making New Year's Resolutions

     Once more in the passing of time we find ourselves at the shift from one year to another.  2011 is about to drift into 2012 and a flood of New Year Resolutions are being pondered or acclaimed to those who ask and perhaps to those who didn't ask.  Resolutions however simple, complex or multiple, come with well meaning intent and seem to fail or pass away from our resolve and memories by the end of the month of January.

      I offer three basics when it comes to forming and discerning New Year Resolutions:

     1.  You will achieve more by doing less!  The temptation is to make an extended grocery list of "will do's"  or "will not do's".  We actually immediately sabotage ourselves with sheer information/intent overload.  A basic theory used in statistical analysis is the Pareto Principle or as most people know it as the "80/20 Rule".  In one form, it is understood as the rule of the distribution of resources and goods in the world.  80% of stuff comes from 20% of people and their processes such as 80% of the world's wealth is held by 20% of the world's population.
          A secondary application is that by applying 80% of your energy and resources on the top 20% of a prioritized list, you actually will accomplish 80-90% of the list.  So, if you have made an exhaustive list of resolutions, prioritize it with the most important items at the top, tapering off to the lesser important ones towards the bottom of the list.  Now, count down from the top 20% of the total topics and draw a line or just cut the bottom items off and then focus on just the top 20% of the listed ideas.  You actually will accomplish them more readily than if you tried to tackle the entire list of "I want's, I need to do's or I want to quit's!"

     2.  In somewhat of a related philosophy, Stephen Covey in his work entitled, "The Eighth Habit"  offers his "90/10 Principle."  In short, he states that only 10% of what happens in our lives is out of our control.  Acts by others, nature or pure chance that we can do nothing to avoid or deter.  We can however be empowered as to what we will think, say, perceive, feel or how we decide to act 90% of the time.  This is important to remember in that we are empowered 90% of the time with choices we can make to only the meager 10% of chance or the actions of others that intrudes upon our life!

     3,  One final idea that I have also gleaned from Stephen Covey's work, is, "4 Basic Assumptions for Life"  I actually feel that these four basic assumptions are to be for me my top 20% of how I am going to respond 90% of the time to the 10% that I have no control over in my life,  They are:

    A. For the Body: Assume you had a heart attack; Now live accordingly! (Discipline)

    B. For the Heart: Assume everything you say about another person, they can overhear;
         Now speak accordingly!  (Passion)

    C. For the Mind: Assume the half life of your profession is two years; Now plan accordingly!

    D. For the Spirit: Assume you have a 1-on-1 conversation with your Creator;  Now live
        accordingly!  (Conscience)

      May each and everyone of you have a Blessed New Year!

      In Christ,


Friday, December 23, 2011

Silent Night, Holy Night ; Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Humankind !

     I remember my first Christmas Eve Service as a Priest at St. John's Episcopal Church in Florence, South Carolina.  I read the Gospel account of Luke's story of the Nativity flawlessly and then moved to the pulpit, filled with awe and wonder and started into asking the congregation to be still, quiet for a pause and to listen to the silence.  It lasted for about 5 seconds when a car passing by hit their musical horn and "dah ta ta dah, dah ta ta dah" blared an air horn version of Silent Night as if on que!  So much for the ascetics of silence, awe and wonder for that year! To top off the night, I read the Luke Nativity Account once again flawlessly at the Midnight Mass prior to the rector's sermon and sat down with a sense of pride and fulfillment.  He leaned over and said, "You read that well, I'm preaching on the Gospel of John!"  At which point, I looked back at him and said fearlessly, "Good Luck!"

     I have returned to this theme of Silent Night, Holy Night; Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Humankind with a hope and expectation that some year I and the World will get it Right for Christmas Eve, but to no avail!  Either I have been the one out of sorts or the world has had a varied pallet of conflicts, disasters, wars, economic downturns, rising unemployment, terrorist attacks and overall an attitude of "Not Playing Well with Others!"  In many ways, most adults wouldn't stand a chance of being on Santa's "Good List" if we are truly honest about it!  Yet a change in perspective has alleviated my longing for a perfect year and perfect entry into the Christmas Eve venue.

     About 3-5 years ago, I came to see that there will never be a "Contracted Peace" on earth between People of such breadth and diversity that will appease the expectations, desires, and needs of a global human community.  I could use up every Christmas Eve of my natural days here on this planet waiting and never seeing that come to a reality!  I however can still do something about that challenge.

     The Peace that I seek and desire in my lifetime will have to come from within me instead of from outside of me.  If I calm my spirit, mind and body long enough to listen to what I am seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing, I can feel a peace shower over me.  It is the Spiritual Inner Peace that comes from a resonance of my Spirit with a Holy Spirit that pervades a Hope and Grace that allows me to move among the people and venues of my world and manifest a calmness towards others in the manner of my chosen words, my deeds, my expressions and the overall way that I enter into the world and relationships of my life.  I choose Peace, and Goodwill towards others that I see, meet, talk to, and interact with.  I Choose to find a Silent Place to "Listen" to the Awe and Wonder of the Season as I watch children visit Santa, people scurry to buy presents, parking lots fill with gridlock, or as I sit still in the pew of an empty church or just outside staring at a star-filled sky!  I Choose, and I don't have to wait for the world to provide of succumb to my willfulness or expectations.  I could wait for ever if I do not choose to act and initiate the Peace and Silence that I seek this time of season.

     It was hectic to do a two show gig at the local nursing home with a local choir and to accompany a fellow parish member on my guitar! But I wouldn't change a thing when I saw the elderly man in a wheelchair alone in a part of the assembled crowd, singing his heart out with each and every song or carol that was offered! His very image enabled me to sit in traffic that was backed up for miles as I left that venue on my way to gather yet another gift for someone I wanted to surprise! That in turn brought me to help a parish member pick out just the right guitar as a gift for their grandchild!  A Grace-Chain Reaction of Events started from on choice of Grace and desire to share Goodwill with some seniors that gathered in their commons area for a little, "Christmas Cheer and Music!"

     It was extra trips in the shopping venues around town to gather items for present lists these past weeks!  Yet, I wouldn't have traded the hug I received from the older lady ringing the Salvation Army Bell as she wished me a safe trip home for Christmas!  ( I passed by her multiple times and each pass equaled a bit of change for the Red Kettle)

     It's going to be a 12 hour drive starting at 7 PM Christmas Evening after I give Santa his Christmas Communion for the 25th consecutive year, to get to my home and family in Georgetown, Texas at 7 AM Christmas Morning!  But I wouldn't miss Mary's great cooking, a smile, a hug, a big kiss and the pandemonium that will lovingly ensue once Peter, Molly and Mary's twin brother, Peter dive into hot chocolate, cinnamon rolls and presents under the tree! Alex and Liz join us later near New Years Day.

     I guess if each person was able to focus on their ability to sense and provide "Peace and Goodwill" in their own spirit and life, then perhaps shared Hope and Grace my overflow into the world at a rate able to overcome the critical mass needed to fill the world.  It had to start somewhere!  What a better place than in a small cave with a newlywed young couple experiencing the birth of a child sent from God to initiate by life example a Grace and Hope that offers the capacity for Humankind to Silence their activity, just long enough for them to receive a gift that can't be tied up with ribbons, bows or confined in a box, but that has every ability to calm a soul, and instill a Hope that can transform one's life!

     Merry Christmas Everyone!  May you experience a Silent Night -- A Holy Night -- and may you infuse Peace and Goodwill to All You Meet and Love this Christmas Season!  May God Bless Us Everyone as we Endeavor to Do this to His Glory, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Our Lord God, Emmanuel!


Monday, December 12, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up?!

I remember my first time answering this question of life sometime before I reached the first grade.  I wanted to be a garbage man!  The thought of being able to ride around all day hanging on the back of a moving truck enamored me.  I don't remember interim choices until high school and my connection with mechanical drawing and being able to read and create engineering/architectural drawings.  So, the natural draw was to build things and thus become an architect!  Worked for me!  Until an elevator accident the summer between my junior and senior years.  The out-of-body-death experience changed all the rules and perceptions.  I was to become a Priest in the Episcopal Church. 

Thirty one years ago tonight, that became a reality at the hands of The Rt. Rev. Gray Temple in St. John's Episcopal Church in Florence, South Carolina.  It's interesting pondering that fact today because all that I had thought would be in that role, has changed so dramatically over those 31 years!  The first five years was just the excitement to learn and apply what had been taught or not taught in seminary classes.  I was learning to be a new husband, a new father and be a priest all at the same exciting time.

Instead of just staying in one place and following a per-determined path, I became a Mission Planter, a builder of sorts and struck out on two ventures to start new worshiping communities, one in Tabb, Virginia and another in the Canton Township (Greater Detroit, Michigan) area.  So the logic was that architectural skills and interests were to be part of my priesthood in building church buildings and supporting campus amenities.

The fact was that by the time I reached my second decade as a priest, I was learning that building buildings was not on the pallet.  My time in Trussville, Alabama and Holy Cross taught me that!  It was with the persistent encouragement of my wife that opened discerned means to study for my doctorate and possible other applications of my interest, skills and time.  I have learned from some of the best!  Arlin Rothauge, Peter Steinke, Ed Freedman, Lyman Coleman, Paul Wagner, Carl George, Edward Deming, John Maxwell, and a list of others.  Maybe the bricks and mortar was to actually be people instead of buildings?!

So, along with continuing education from my wife as to how to become a better spouse, my three brilliant children as to how to keep up and become an engaged father, I also worked at becoming aware of people and the dynamics that come with motivating them, responding to their needs and the challenging role of leadership!  No leader worth their salt want to be only taking a walk, but instead, wants to walk with the people that have entrusted their leader with their trust.  It's not an easy balancing job, but it is exciting!
I learned even more lessons while expanding Grace, Georgetown, to larger numbers of people and the need to expand to two concurrent locations.  Leadership is not always easy nor assured that it will be always understood.

What I realize today is that answering "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is not as easy as it seems!  I do believe in vision, dreams, and goals, thus the question is important in development if not only to motivate and inspire people to look with hope and aspirations to a worthy goal and purpose in life.  The recent movie, "Hugo"  is a great story to point out the need for people to have and know a purpose in their life, and to not know or claim it, they flounder and are easily despaired.  I have been one of the lucky ones!

I also realize that there is no end or diploma of completion when you get there, but that like life, the journey and exploration continues!  I visited this morning with a good friend and retiree that said, " You know that I am retired and have absolutely no free time!"  It can believe that with no doubt.  The quest may start in a chosen or called direction but is constantly undergoing tweaks, and twists, and turns, or even reversals.  Once again I find that it's not so much about the "doing" as it is about "being"! 

I am happy for the 31 years I've invested in my vocation as a priest!  I am sorry for the bumps, the bruises, the falls, the knocks, but I wouldn't trade the years for the births I've witnessed, the weddings I've officiated, the tender moments shared with those who trusted me with deep personal time and feelings, the ability to comfort those who have lost loved ones, and the joy of celebrations of the seasons of the church.  The added benefit is that I have gotten to play with architectural dynamics in building buildings and clearing land, I've had the fun of abundant friendships and relationships that span this country and the world!  I have learned to not hold on tight to some things, and to hold on dearly to relationships of ones that are dear to me. 

What do I want to be when I grow up?  I want to be happy, loved and feel like I have offered my best.  However I don't know if I'll ever grow up, God isn't through with me yet!  As a reader that has endured to this point, I invite you to take the time and ask yourself the question of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and let your memories, experiences and creative license take you where you have been and where you are going, but more importantly, who are you, and who's are you?  That is what really makes the passing of time and scenarios special and precious, or able to be let go to the ages.  Maybe the question is better asked, "Who do you want to become if someday you feel grown up?!" It's the journey within that sets the stage for the successful journey outside in life!

Monday, December 5, 2011

St. Nicholas in Our Modern Time

Most of the world will be caught up in the dwindling number of shopping days until Christmas, or distracted by the harm or peril befallen someone on the news, or the teeter-totter pitch of the economy, and will have no idea of the passing of St. Nicholas Day tomorrow!  I find it a paradox that we quickly curse the secularization of the season, the loss of divine and holy awe, the glare of glitz and bling, and the self defined need for certain presents just for ourselves, and at the same time, have no connected idea as to what some of our actions are based upon.

Nicholas, born around 270 AD, lived in a world that was crumbling.  The Roman Empire was in corrupt decline, life was not a certain journey and could end abruptly at any turn of the days events.  His parents were blessed with wealth, perhaps due to his fathers merchant trade.  He was the by product of devout prayer by his parents who longed for a child.  The promise was made that the child would be dedicated to God if the blessing would become manifest.  Nicholas, (meaning - "People's Victor") was that prayer answering blessing.  It was not long however that both parents were taken by a massive plague that took nearly half of the population. He was taken into the care of his uncle, the Bishop of Myra, an influential region of the Early Christian Church.  Living among the monastic monks, Nicholas discerned his use of his families acquired wealth to aid and assist those in need.  It was under his uncle's tutelage that Nicholas was ordained Deacon and then Priest at an early age.

The story is well known of Nicholas leaving bags of gold coins to serve as the dowry for a family that had fallen upon hard times and his actions not only saved the oldest daughter from being sold into slavery or prostitution, but he did it three times for each of the merchant's three daughters.  The father stood vigil to find out who the benefactor was and caught Nicholas after the third delivery.  Nicholas directed his "thanks" to God alone, and then sternly charged him to tell nobody, but that he was therefore charged to go and do likewise for others!  Thus the pattern of "giving in secret".  It is also the basis that "helpers" grow in number as children mature and come into knowing just how Nicholas can make the world-wide rounds in one lone night.

The story that is not well known is that Nicholas was called back to Myra from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to find that his uncle had died.  It was a dream that led the head bishop of the replacement conclave to stand vigil in the early morning to meet the new candidate for bishop.  The vision said to anoint the first young man that entered the cathedral who's name was Nicholas.  And thus it happened as foretold!

It wasn't long afterwards till Diocletian began one of the most severe persecutions of the Christian Church.  Nicholas was one of those imprisoned for nearly 8 years.  Upon release, he was still young of age, but wore an older man's presence.  He quickly regained his popular status as a devout, caring and humble servant of the Lord.  Like most things that become less tested the Church itself started to show cracks in the perception of the Faith.  Nicholas was invited to be one of the over 300 bishops to attend a conclave that was called by the Emperor Constantine himself, to be held in the city of Nicaea during the Spring and Summer of 325AD.

To deal with the Arian Heresy, a movement to define Jesus as a "first creation" of God and yet not equal to the status of God, Constantine assemble 159 bishops to his left and 159 bishops on his right.  When the floor was given to Arius, the proponent of  "Arian Thought",  it was too much for Nicholas, who got up from his seat, strode to Arius and slapped him.  This was taboo to show any violence in front of the Emperor and was taken to a cell, stripped of his vestments and left in exile from the conclave.  It was a visitation by Jesus and His mother Mary that reinstated him and released him to regain his rightful seat at the Council.  Nicholas was a part of forming what many of us use today in our worship when we say the Nicene Creed!

It is only after the death of Nicholas that stories of him exploded worldwide.  The melding of St. Nicholas into Sintre Claus by the Dutch/Germans who later colonized the Pennsylvania/New York region of the United States that gives us the basis for Santa Clause today.  It is also the story of his generosity in secret to the dower-less maidens that we get the practice of filling shoes, stockings, or gifts under the tree.

I know it is a long background for a blog posting, however, if we understood the nature of the first real Santa Clause (St. Nicholas) perhaps it would be easier to catch an insight to the real meaning of Christmas Traditions and Celebrations.

Hopefully we can be as committed to defend our Faith in Jesus, be humble in accepting the many challenges and changes that come into our lives and to deal with them with as much Faith and Grace as He did in losing parents, relatives, wealth, health, freedom, and challenges to character and the ability to worship in a peace of mind and soul.  To move from the temptation of becoming bitter and numb to the pain or need of those in the world, and to move out instead with a generosity and love for our fellow man, and to kick it up even another notch to go and do something about it, in secret! 

I pray to capture a bit of the Spirit of St. Nicholas every year as his patron day comes by (December 6th) and make it an action to smile, greet others with Merry Christmas, to be patient when store clerks are frazzled and up tight. I'm going to be the one that affords Grace to the tensions that abound.  I want to be the one that leave a little bit more as a tip for the frenzied waitress.  I want to be the one that lives as if St. Nicholas has taken over my manifested presence and do my best to enable Peace on Earth, and Good Will to All Humankind.  Perhaps if enough of us would take on this mantle, maybe someday in our life time we will see it become a realty and not just a Hope that seems trampled by our blindness or rush to serve ourselves. 

Happy St. Nicholas Day to all of you elves out there that are doing the Lords work in a Frenzied World!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday, the Monty Hall Paradox and a New Advent

Like many of you today, I engaged and survived "Black Friday!"  I was up and out amongst the crowds at 5:30 AM and walked out of one store with a cart overflowing next to a late middle aged couple donning their Santa Hats.  Everyone was cordial and seemingly getting what was on their "Want Lists"  without much hassle or turmoil.  In short, we all won! 

It is easy at this time to curse the secular drive for sales and the hyped glitz, but I strive to still see a deeper reason for the season to counter "Grinchness!" Watching people caught up in all of the deliberation of one item in one hand and an equal amount of deliberation focused upon another item in the other hand.  "What is the right gift for whom, is it the right size, the right color, or even the right present for so and so?!"  It was amazing to  observe the weighted debate streaming through the persons mind.  "Do I take item number one or do I take item number two?!"  was playing a game of tug-of- war between the persons ears.  Watching this internal emotional debate,  I was taken to a new insight that I just came to view and understand earlier this very week!  It has its very own name, "The Monty Hall Paradox!"  Until now, I had never known of it, even though I was a viewer of it every time I watched "Lets Make a Deal!"  when I was younger and the host Monty Hall reigned supreme with daytime housewives daily.  

The Discovery Channels program entitled "Mythbusters" of which I must confess a regular viewership, tested out this very problem upon its suggestion by a written solicitation by a fellow viewer.  The case study and problem is:

A host, (Monty Hall)  challenges a contestant to choose between three doors/curtains with the hope of finding a new car.  The contestant perhaps chooses door/curtain #1.  At this point, Monty reveals one of the other doors/curtains (lets say door #3) that he knows does not have the car, but a goat/booby-prize behind it.  The challenge is then offered to switch from the original choice of door/curtain #1 and perhaps move to take door/curtain #2 with a hope of a better chance!  The question is, "Is it better to switch or stay with the origianal choice?!"

The Paradox actually entails two levels to test.  One is the psychological/emotional pressure that heighten anxiety in the contestant to make a pressure decision that offers winning and the gain of a valuable prize (a car) opposed by the possibility of being publicly embarrassed by walking away with a new goat!  The second level to be tested is the statistical weight of wisdom of switching versus the innate drive to 'stay pat' on the original choice.

The Mythbusters crew invited 20 unknowing people to participate in the pseudo game show scenario and found that all 20 candidates chose to 'stay pat' with the initial choice, even after seeing the goat behind the door that was revealed in the second phase of the problem.  The assigned "Win" door was also randomly shifted between each of the 20 venues to assure consistency in the paradox scenario that would play out over seasons of being a part of "Lets Make a Deal!"  The basic rational of contestants was of a sense of security in the first intuitive choice,(door #1) and that it was only a 50/50 chance of getting it right after door/curtain #3 revelation of a goat.  It was a feeling that the emotional tension and pressure of anxiety drove most contestants to a stressed quick rationale and a push to a default of "staying pat".

The statistical test however reveals a dynamic that the anxiety pressure allows to slip by in the decision making process.  Originally at the first choice of a door/curtain, the odds are 1 in 3.  After the reveal of the goat door/curtain, the challenge to switch is then offered.  If you are overwhelmed with the pressure and anxiety to "get it right" and stay with the original choice of door/curtain #1, your odds stay 1 in 3.  If you overcome this desire for stasis and switch, you gain the odds to 2 in 3.  In hidden reality, the host has actually offered you a favor and upping your odds by showing you that another door is also bogus.  However he is also banking on you becoming overwhelmed by the emotional pressure to stick with your original choice and letting the statistical odds beat you more times than not!  Actually, when the tests were shown on a grid of 100 cases when one person always switched and another person always "stayed pat", the visual data was overwhelming in favor of the person who made the hard decision to change, be flexible and make the switch!  So what?!!!

This Weekend is also along with Black Friday, the start of an entirely New Advent Season when it comes to the Church's Liturgical Year.  In many regards, It's New Years Eve for the Church!  The themes that accompany this season of Watching, Preparing, Vigilance, and Joy remind us of a need to look at ourselves and to prepare for the coming of a King, the Messiah, just as people of the Old Testament longed for, and the many stories of those who proclaimed that desire for a savior and the need for something new!  We will hear of John the Baptist and being a "Voice Crying in the Wilderness to repent and become prepared for the coming of the Messiah!"  We will hear also of a young devout maiden that is visited with a tremendous invitation to become the surrogate mother of the Son of God, and her humility in accepting this bestowed gift of Grace and future sorrow.

Amid the swirl to buy this, acquire that, cook this, visit here, all a part of the activities of the season, maybe we need to stop and see what are the things we are weighing heavily in our heads, hearts and overall in our lives; door #1- no, door #2, no wait!-door #3, but no!-I want #1, #2, no-#1, I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WANT OR NEED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Along the way, somewhere, someway, somehow by someone, a door will be revealed of what is not the right choice.  NOW, are you willing to switch, let go of what is not working for you in your life, your heart, your family, your work, your relationships, your health, your frenzied mind, and are you willing to switch to a better choice to reorder your life, your health, your relationships, your decision making processes, your peace of mind and soul?  The odds are with you if you will step out in faith and try a new thing.!

Mary the to-be mother of Jesus did!  Joseph the Carpenter betrothed to Mary Did!  Shepherds in a field tending their flocks by night did!  Three Wise Kings from long distant kingdoms did! Statistically, so should we if we want to be inheritors of a New Kingdom or Grace, Peace, Love and Joy!  We get this time of year once more to make our Spiritual New Years Resolutions!  We get to make another choice as to how we are going to order our lives!  Will you "Stay with what isn't working so well, or just well enough?!" or are you able to make the thoughtful, prayerful and faithful choice to try something different, better, healthier, more fulfilling and soul-filled?!" It shouldn't be about beating odds, but desiring a new Advent of spiritual presence in our lives that can prepare us for the coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  What a Deal!

Blessed Advent Everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Only Four Kernels!

     Having served in the Virginia Tidewater area of the Chesapeake Bay area for nearly 14 years as an Episcopal Priest, I heard multiple times the story of how the actual first Thanksgiving took place on Berkley Plantation up the James River and not in Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.  Even the date difference seems to authenticate the "First Prize" to the Virginians given that their settlement dates 1607 in Jamestown to Plymouth Colony's 1620.  Even Old St. John's in Hampton, Va. (Originally known as the settlement of Kechoutan) where I served as Associate Rector originated in 1610 and has celebrated its 400th Birthday last year!
     Anyway, the story goes that after a severe winter and bouts with brackish water to drink, malaria due to mosquitoes, and the total learning curve how to survive the new wilderness that challenged their visions of quick wealth, treasure, and financial gain, they were humbled to meager levels.  Additional setbacks came from attacks from local native Indian tribes.  It seemed a bleak outlook for the fledgling settlement.  There was even a shift for a while to the end of the Virginia Peninsula to regain stability and health and a retry attempt to then settle the area near Jamestown permanently.

     In the midst of the severe winter they had to endure, some of the gentile members thought it below themselves to work as common laborers doing the meager chores and tasks to support the colony.  As things got even worse and with the depletion of what stores they were able to stock, things got very dire!  It became the rule that "No Work - No Food!"  and at the lowest part of the winter siege, the daily ration was 4, that's right, only 4 kernels of corn per day!  Half of the population didn't make it to Spring.

    A friendly tribe of Indians came to their aid and began to teach them proper agricultural methods, as well as basic survival techniques and practices that enabled times to become more pleasant and survivable.  By the roll of time to the next fall, there was a harvest to be gathered and the colony was poised for a much better transition for the coming winter.

     With a spirit of Thanksgiving, a shared banquet of  the bounty took place at the site of today's Berkley Plantation overlooking the James River.  As they all gathered to feast, they were quickly brought back to a sober reality of the year past when they viewed at each place setting, 4 kernels of corn.  The sacramental symbol that was present in those kernels not only summed up a year of loss and death of loved ones, of hard labor and effort on behalf of those who survived the year, but also a joy of thanksgiving for new friends and relationships that mentored them into a status that was hopeful for their future.  After the prayerful pause and reflection, the feast proceeded with much joy and celebration.

      I share this story at a time when many would say that we are going through "Tough Times" in our communities, our country and in the world's context.  I to some extent, I agree!  Many are out of a job, many are separated from loved ones, and there is an over arching sense of scarcity that presses our senses that yearn for abundance.  We don't like sacrifice and loss or pain and suffering.  It comes even though we try to stave it off from our lives.  But I also know that God's Grace does enable those who desire to stick with the plan, abundance will and does come around again. 

     I am saddened that there actually will be people in this world that will not even have 4 kernels of anything to eat this coming day or week or on Thanksgiving Day.  We must surely do as we are able to try and turn that scenario around as soon as we can.  We must all "work" to lesson that plight. I also know that the level of that hunger is far greater than I alone can solve or meet the magnitude of need. 

     As a starting point, I offer the following idea:  As your family gathers around a table that groans with the weight of harvest that you have worked very hard to provide, place 4 kernels of corn at each place setting of your family and guests, share the story of those first Thanksgiving Day recipients, and then vow to move from that day and to make a difference in your daily endeavors from then on to enable someone else in this world to know what it is like to have a daily meal, a crust of bread, a bowl of soup, a drink of clear drinkable water; and then act to do something about it within the coming year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and may your travels to be with loved ones be safe and covered in God's most Gracious Mercy! 


Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's All About Relationships, Relationships, Relationships!

     It's all about Relationships!  In the long period since my last entry, some major events have taken place.
My mother has crossed the 80 yr. mark, my father his 86th, and they celebrated 60 years of marriage! A gathering of friends, family, extended family, and adopted family culminated the weekends festivities.  It was a wonder to watch!  The maid of honor and best man from 60 years prior were in attendance.  A beloved cousin that is now blind was escorted by cousins of mine that I have not seen in decades.  The network of connections that my parents wove extends in multiple directions and spans generations. 

I actually was a benefactor of their event in getting the chance to see parts of that extended, adopted, family.  You see, anyone who befriended my parents, were assimilated into a relationship on the level of "family".  They may live hundreds of miles away, may be seen on a regular basis or over stretches of time, but when contacted or heard from, they were family! I feel a part of this comes genetically from family roots.  My maternal grandfather never knew a stranger!  My paternal grandparents had regular family gatherings of which we would partake and bond as family.  I still get a weekly Sunday evening phone chat with my parents. I now find that my wife and myself calling children, parents, brothers, and newly reconnected friends via facebook or emails.  I am in a network of current and past parish members.  With the new job in the Kansas City area, Mary and I are now chatting nightly to keep in touch.  It has been a long stretch with us living in two places and parenting, keeping apprised of daily events and needs.  It will never be too soon that we can pass the momentary venue that has her in Texas and me working here.  I will cherish the time we can grab together even more as this temporary glitch is worked out and she can finally rejoin me here.

It seems in these current times that we don't make the time to sit and "be" with those we love and know in the relationships we build and strive to maintain, and yet technology opens doors of communication much quicker than the snail mail many of us grew up with.  My cell phone is much more "Star-Treky" than the old rotary phone I learned "phone manners" upon with a JU1-2133 number.  I have virtual instant capabilities to contact my friends with keystrokes, digital calls, and text messages when I'm not driving!

I have come to appreciate relationships as I have grown older and traveled to many places. I enjoy being connected with you, if only in electronic media, or better yet when we can sit in person and share a drink, a laugh, a story, a smile, a hug, and for some, a kiss.  This world travels awfully fast and we pass through it even faster as I add years and days.  I cherish you all as friends, colleagues, mentors, loved ones, family, and acquaintances!

As we come to All Saints Day, and I pause to remember the Saints that have marched through my life, I honor each and everyone for the contribution that they have bestowed upon me.  They are gifts of Grace and Knowledge that I hold dear and at the same time, desire to share with others in order to "Spread the Wealth"!
I am who I am because of their influence.  They are an intricate part of the timeless network we call the Communion of Saints.  We are all connected in a bond and relationship that spans Past, to Present, and to the Future.  We can't escape it and are a unique stitch in the "Human Quilt".  It's All About Relationships with an accountability as to how well we service and maintain those precious relationships while we have the chance to. 

Take the time to remember the fond ones in your life that are now gone!  Call and connect with the close ones that are dear to you today! Don't miss the chance to initiate a new relationship when the opportunity comes your way!  It just may be the "Life-Changer" that will be there when you are in need, or may become the "Love of Your Life" or your new "Best Friend Forever"!  Just be mindful, "This Life, It's All About Relationships!" 

To that end, I promise to be more timely and disciplined in posting new ideas and thoughts in the future!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

We are here for an education - Edward Deming - Feast of the Transfiguration

First off, my apologies for the lack of postings. I have moved to a new venue from Georgetown, Texas to a new position as Priest in Charge at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Lees Summit, MO and have had learning curves to conquer in technology before getting back on line and on track.  Sorry and again welcome! 

We are here for an education!
I believe this with all of my heart!  I am a firm believer that each day is a classroom set to teach us something and there is a special someone somewhere that is has the key element of knowledge that is going to be the teacher for the day.  That teacher may be a child filled with wonder and innocence, an elderly senior with wisdom and experience, a knowledgeable professor, or the chance meeting of a stranger.  We learn everyday, whether we know it or not!

I am constantly learning about myself, the world around me, or new acquaintances that I meet through the course of the days events.  I pick up bits of information that is usable when I click on the computer and connect to the internet.  I expand my horizons when I open and read a book.  I deepen my emotional well when I learn and sing or play a new song!  I learn more about the God I love and serve when I am interacting with people or sitting quietly by myself.  I am always learning.

That process also means that I am constantly changing, expanding, growing, learning, living!  To not do so would mean death!  As long as we understand that we were not created to stay dormant, stagnant, still, unchanging, we can meet and face the changes and chances that come our way on a moments notice and fully appreciate the lesson learned and experienced, as well as add it to the bag of our experiences and accumulated wisdom.  We become better people if we choose wisely and learn enthusiastically from the day's events and encounters!

I met a young women/mother who is engaged in supporting a life-long friend's journey with terminal cancer.  She in fact is one of a few who are left to care and nurture this person since his parents and family are no longer here.  The illness also leads to a narrow and few circle of friends that are known, willing and available to offer aid and comfort.  This young lady, in her late 30's is one of few to rise to the challenges of daily setbacks and suffering that such diseases bring.  "Will there always be changes?" was the question to me last night through tear-filled eyes of sadness.  "Yes, there will always be changes, some that set us on course for the next day's lessons, not always happy, not always positive, but always preparing us for the next day's lesson.  Mid life is a hard set of courses like being in the middle of high school or college.  You aren't new anymore and you are no way closer to the finish.  The lessons seem laborious, tedious, or not even connected to whom or where we are wanting to go, but still the same, the lessons are needed and important, not maybe for now, but for later when needed and extremely important."  The words seemed to help for the moment as our conversation ended - for now.

I learned not so long ago that we learn differently as adults from how we learned as children.  As children and adolescents, we are given lessons, books, assignments, classes, tests papers to write and the sort with the codicil, "You'll need this when you grow up!"  As adults we undergo the same vigorous track for learning or projects/tasks of continual education on whatever sort of topic pricks our fancy or curiosity and strike out with the intent of "becoming proficient in what we need or want to learn"  All I know is that each is extremely important in life, and with that learning comes personal and contextual change - ALWAYS.  You can change and not grow, but if you grow, you will change! 

The lessons learned by Peter, James and John on that Mount of the Transfiguration, watching Jesus be transformed, chat with Moses and Elijah, and hear the booming voice of God proclaim, "This is my beloved son, of whom I am well pleased, LISTEN TO HIM!"  had to be a learning moment of all time for them.  Even for Jesus, the ability to communicate and learn from the two major prophets of the Hebrew Faith was transformative.  It had to have been a moment that soothed Our Lord's pain, and suffering when He was on the cross later on in Jerusalem.  It had to have been this conveyed lesson from Moses and Elijah that prepared him of the news of an impending crucifixion, but also the hopeful words of encouragement that resurrection would be the resolution to death and suffering.  A greater lesson was in play and needed to be lived out in daily events of life.  Not all of them happy and positive, but some sadness, loss, sacrifice needed to be played out first before the greater reward of eternal life and presence with a Loving Creator.

We are here for an education!  One day at a time, one event at a time, one personal encounter at a time.  Are we listening, learning, changing, growing, loving and living.  If so, we are experiencing life at its fullest as God had planned in the beginning!  If not, we are missing and wasting the times of our lives!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Love is not always perfect, but it is usually well intended" - Me

"Love is not always perfect, but it is usually well intended!" 
I actually found myself saying this to a past parish member yesterday.  It isn't a quote of someone nobel, deeply spiritual, or extremely smart, just me.  I actually surprised myself !

In the priesthood you can see all manners and means of Love.  It is an amazing and powerful force in our lives and the world. I have witnessed God's Love change people and situations beyond human understanding and only able to be grasped and comprehended by Faith.  It accomplishes things in people that normally would not be the norm without this added dynamic.  It binds us in relationships in a rainbow of variation. We extend Love to spouses, children, parents, BFF's, fiance's,  significant others, girlfriends, boyfriends, colleagues, peers, extended family, and cherished relationships.  I don't think you can enter into a Love relationship without "good and well meaning intent".  However, because of our humanity, cracks and fissures appear, disappointments occur, trust is strained or broken, expectations dashed, and sometimes "it all falls down!"

I am in awe how the true and only power/glue that can fix broken Love is Love itself!  It's that powerful and re-conciliatory!  It is humility, contrite hearts, open minds, extended courtesies, and actions of repentance that re-infuse Love in broken or strained love relationships.  Love heals broken Love better than any other item.  It doesn't come easy!  It doesn't happen quickly!  It doesn't come without personal sacrifice, openness and truthfulness! But it does and can happen!

We are in a culture and time when we don't relate to people that disagree with our points of view even as equal human beings!  We are now quick and tempted to relegate our adversaries in our minds eye as "non-humans" like the images re-shot over and over again as in violent video games that we play in our own homes.  The art of Love is being lost by many, or denied to even more.  We need to relearn the Art! We need to spread it in Abundance!

I'm not meaning like loving homemade ice cream, or a momentary fads or whimsy!  I'm talking about an act of the will; Unconditional, Graceful, Compassionate, Tender/Fragile/Strong and always Trustful!

As John Lennon sang, "All You Need is Love!" Even for me, a result of the 60's and 70's, it may have sounded campy, yet it still holds up over time and pressure.  Whether it be applied in our personal lives and relationships, our places of worship, our businesses, our communities and with those that even would plan to do us harm, Love, just as life, isn't always perfect! However, when we extend it initially or as a means of repairing a broken relationship, we need to do it with the best and purest of intentions!  If we did, maybe we could accumulatively change our world from one riddled with fear and injustice, to one that is improved one word, deed, hug or kiss at a time!  A little loving compassion to loved ones, clients or colleagues goes a long way to build trusting relationships in any context.

We live in fearful times!  We see far too many people forgotten or marginalized!  We are too easy at retaliation and planned means of hatred.  Remember, it's scriptural, There is NO FEAR in Love! Perhaps it's time for us to do our imperfect best efforts, but with good intentions, we try, try and try over and over again till we get it right, just as God would want us to do.  It worked for Jesus!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"You will never have enough information!" - Dr. Edward Deming - Trinity Sunday

In the search for Quality, it is instinctive for humankind to search for information, data, stuff to answer the question "Why is it not perfect?"  The drive for that information can consume one and feed a drive that often times seems unquenchable.  We can test and measure till the instruments seize, wear out, or till we absolutely run out of mind power to think of another parameter to explore.  In fact the search and quest can replace the higher and more important need of "living" managing the process or system, visioning where the overall business is going to be in the next 3-5 years, or what are the changing dynamics that could blindside the whole endeavor!  The consuming collection of minutia blinds us to seeing a "bigger picture" and having the capacity to respond to people, their needs, challenges and not just "things" or data points/measurements.  We miss stopping and smelling the roses, or enjoying a meaningful relationship. We get too busy and focused on detail that we miss obvious answers to simple questions or are mute to alternative insights from others.

We can quickly forget that data is only data unto itself and has no power of itself and needs an application of a theory to become productive and useful.  An overload of data and huge gigs of memory on a flash drive have no power if you forget what it means in light of an applicable theory or the ability to predict short term possible results.  Data is just data!  Knowledge doesn't arrive until a theory and a thoughtful application arrive on the scene. 

Deming's teachings and supportive works of others such as Dr. Carl Juran, William Sherchenbach, and William Ouchi give an exciting insight to this notion.   Dr. Ouchi's Theory XYZ had an amazing impact on business and as explained by William Sherkenback, "You will never have enough information!"  Yet, to impact any organization or even a human individual, to the effect that will facilitate change with a longevity in length of impact, or to the deep depth of the organization or soul, you need to address the needs of that person or organization in a minimum of three perspectives. You do not have to test and search "every/all" data points!

This responds well with the given truth that we live in a "Three Dimensional World - made up of Physical Presence, Logical Presence, and Spiritual/Emotional Presence"  At least these three dynamic perspectives need to be visited in planning, problem solving, and observing for information and learning.  To ignore any one these three perspectives unchallenged, leaves the person, or executive board/CEO at risk and vulnerable to being blindsided by surprise elements that can disrupt and destroy systems, organizations, businesses or personal well-being. I have yet met someone who does well without a healthy body, or an active-responsive mind, or who survived a "spiritotomy!"  We also know how important emotions are to mental wellness.  All three have to be present for wholeness. 

Understanding the importance of this dynamic, we annually revisit this business theory and lesson that actually has theological implications.  In the Church we call it Trinity Sunday.  We affirm that God with great wisdom and power created all things as we know them in a Physically present world and universe.  All things that we can see, touch, smell, feel, hear and taste come from God the Creator (Father).  We understand that the overwhelming magnitude of a relationship with this dynamic God was and is much larger than our mere minds could understand or explain, thus God's revelation of self through a human image and mentor, Jesus of Nazareth, was necessary to respond to our Logical (Mental) Presence.  Jesus and a written account in Scripture, help reveal the personal nature of the Living God.  Next, to respond to our own Spiritual Presence, God offers a Holy Spirit that engages with our soul/life experience, encourages our best choices and enables us to be touched with our emotions.  Through this same Holy Spirit, we have a basis to hear and understand what God is trying to convey to us, and enables forgiveness for the wrongs we commit. 

Trinity of persons, one in Spirit.  One God portrayed in physical presence and manifestation, revealed through the life and teaching examples of Jesus, and present today in each soul that is open to receiving theGod's Holy Spirit.  One God, revealed in Three distinctly different entities, yet still One Being!  It is akin to the example of my live.  I am a Priest, a Husband, a Father of three children, a Brother to my only brother, a Son to my parents, and on and on, and on, yet I am still only the same person, but experience by different people in different roles according to the relationship I have with each.  Different perceived roles, but one person. 

It is this awareness of the primal three perspectives of this life that were important enough for God to intentionally reveal a presence in Physical, Logical, and Spiritual/Emotional dimensions, maybe we as leaders in our Churches, Businesses, Families, and Communities would be wiser if we applied the same depth of understanding when we test, observe, listen, and perceive the needs, changes and challenges that offer themselves each day in our life.  Choose wisely!  Choose in Three's!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"You cannot hear what you do not understand!" - Dr. Edward Deming - Pentecost

"You cannot hear what you do not understand!" - Dr. Edward Deming - Pentecost

It is not always about technology when we ask, "Can You Hear Me Now?"  It works well for selling cell phones and allegiance to a cellular network, but even before mico waves sent phone messages, images and music through the air, the question, "Can You Hear Me Now?" still had relevance.  I know of people with wearing hearing aides that are very subtle, yet very deliberate in turning their "ears" off or to such a low setting that they cannot hear the person/spouse talking right there in their face.  An accident, I don't think so!  It was deliberate and calculated.  In other times,  I have seen people hear an extensive amount of information presented to them that flew so high over their heads because no one in the room connected to the data, the topic, or the speaker.  "Nobody Heard Nothin!"  In fact, an opening private side comment by the person next to me was, "That person must be so brilliant because I have absolutely no idea what that guy is talking about!"

Even as cliche as it has become in the last decades of business teaching.  Paradigms have their way of "blinding -muting" primal and important information to the eyes and ears of those who really needed to hear and see what was being conveyed.  They just didn't get it because of stored experience that mentally told the person, "This information is wrong to our patterned models of experience-past and you don't need to know or worry about hearing or remembering any of this!"  The inner persona just turned off the lights and the sound and the person, "Just Didn't Hear It!"

A lot of this plays out in multiple contexts and scenarios of business between leaders and staff, research and development departments and production line personnel, and the Paradigm freeze moves up and down, and laterally throughout business, organizations, and management suites/boardrooms regardless of size, tech-savvy-ness, production levels, accounts receivable, and stock values.  Information is passed along, and a limited amount of those who hear it, retain it, understand it, or utilize it.

Base lesson; you have to "intentionally" listen to hear and you need to utilize an interest in becoming proficient in the source and means that information, data, and messages are offered.  Technology is part of it.  Understanding languages is part of it.  Making yourself available is a major part of it.  But being engaged in a level of relationship whether it be with a friend, loved one, family member,colleague, peer, long-time-friend, or new acquaintance is the major part of any transfer of information, knowledge or humorous quip.

Is this all new to our day and time?  I don't think so!  It was so important for God's message to be conveyed to as many as possible as quick as possible and as far and wide as possible, that God wanted to make sure that We Could Hear Then, and Now! To do that, God had to move beyond the dependence of men trying to convey the message on their own.  The message needed some power and impact beyond that alone.  God chose people who were open to a new power in their lives, not only their spirit, but a Holy Spirit.  It did a bit better.  But still there was a need for a means to convey the message better; the choice, a family tie, a Son.  Jesus did His level best to be as much to as many in as many of places as a Messiah could muster.  Yet, even with the Good News as portrayed and taught by Jesus, the people surrounding Him most of the time, including the inner circle of Apostles, "Couldn't Hear the Message Because They Didn't Understand!"

It was akin to a fantastically tasteful sauce, sliding off a Teflon coating and onto the ground.  Something was missing in the lives of the "hearers" that was needed to make a Holy Message stick with intended people to become "Holy".  The answer, give them a Holy Spirit also.  One that counters the human temptation to "Paradigm freeze" the New Good News and usher the words and insights from one ear out the other with no sticking time.  A Holy Spirit that could capture Holy Messages, and reroute them into the soul, mind and manifest them into the actions of the body.

It wasn't an accident that this took place in Jerusalem when it did.  It was the feast of the Gathering of the Sheaves, the first cuttings of the crops and the offering of the firstborns of cattle and livestock. It was a "Stewardship Offering Sunday" compliant with the Old Testament Covenant.  Giving something that you raised or grew to God as an offering was the intent.  That is why people from around the world came to Jerusalem for this important day after Passover and in the Spring.  It had all the potential of an Old Testament-Internet Event.  The challenge, how do you speak Good News to an assembly of multi-linqual citizens of the span of the then known world?  Easy, choose a handful of fearful, yet possible faithful people that experienced the Living Son of God in Jesus, who were promised and told to hang out till another present from God was received, empower them with a Holy Spirit, and then kick them out into the streets with the ability to speak and convey the Message of Grace and Salvation in languages that they didn't even know nor have a proficiency.  It Worked!

It works today!  If you are open, willing, and desirous to receive this same Holy Spirit, it can be yours for the asking!  It will open your eyes and ears and mouth and inner perceptions to a level that is in this world like everyone else, but you will no longer be " of this world".  It will be different in what you say, how you act, and how you see/experience the world and those around you!  The intent for us even today as it was with early Apostles, centuries ago, because of God's gift to us of His Holy Spirit, We Can Hear and Understand When God Speaks to Us on a Daily Basis and That is Good News! Due to this, we can be the best, in our loved and personal relationships, our business connections, our local community ties, and most certainly, our places of worship and faith.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

" A Leader is a Coach, not a Judge" - Edward Deming - Ascension Sunday

" A Leader is a Coach, not a Judge"

Dr. Deming knew that business, government, and most organizations that have existed in the past centuries have seen their share of bad and ineffective leadership.  People who like to "Lord" over others, using fear, threats, manipulation, coercion, and absolutely all of the listed "Bad and Ugly" characteristics that I get when asking people in seminars, "What are the traits of a "Bad" leader that you know or have experienced?"  The list comes quick and seems exhaustive.  A pretty good statement that leaders have been "judging" others far too long and extensively, and doing major damage to people, relationships, and means of doing business. 

I have taught multiple times that, " There is no such thing as constructive criticism!"  The very words denote a form of judgment from on high from someone's point of view who is just a human and prone to faults and missperceptions as anyone.  Input, based on listening and empathic involvement and based on a mutual trust goes much further, and chooses words and means of conveyance that are accepted and incorporated.  Judgment statements only put up the walls of defense and posts the parties as warring camps, ready to win their cause no matter what.  There is no sharing of viewpoints, perspectives, accumulated knowledge or wisdom, its war as usual to who can over-talk the loudest, bully the strongest, threat the most fearsome scenarios.  There is a winner and a loser, who then looks for retribution or a means to sabotage in retaliation.  In fact, no one wins this kind of scenario.  All parties lose!  Even Dr. Deming himself said once, "When someone comes into the boardroom with an agenda, everyone loses!"

A better model is patterned by Jesus this week in the scriptures and practiced traditions of the Church.  Today was the "High Priestly Prayer of Jesus" from John 17:1-11 as the Gospel.  It is where Jesus prays for the current Apostles and the future church's believers that will come with the ages.  His prayer is for them to be covered and protected by God's Grace, but more importantly, that they are empowered by God's Holy Spirit to live out the pattern of "Servant Leadership" that Jesus modeled. It is as if Jesus personally lays hands on each soul of the current and future church. Passing on all knowledge, wisdom, faith, and patterned behavior for generations.  Being a Coach instead of a Judge!

It again is all about relationships, trust, shared knowledge and wisdom, and the added element of patterned behavior and conduct as to how to embed those teachings into the fabric someones lives - our life.  Listening for needs, thoughtfully applying theory, patterning behavior, looking for changed results, and adjusting as needed to continue the improvement, that's how it's done!  With Jesus' ascension, He leaves those whom he invested so much time, information, wisdom and models of behavior to their accountability to "make it their own and to pass it along!"  Yes, there would be set backs and failures, and times of denial, but Grace and Godly Guidance to forgiveness affords another try to make it right, not death, or destruction.  Not judging - but coaching and redirection when less that optimum is realized.  It's a Continual Improvement Cycle with implied ascending accountability, not a downward spiral or death sentence.  It's Grace in action, and not Judgment! We get to learn, not fail or die.  It's forgiveness in action that encourages growth and acquiring knowledge from experience, thus enabling acquired wisdom for future times and for future generations when passed along once again in relationships, with trust, and the skill of the mentor to the student.

Judgment is a Tyrants tool of destruction.  To systems, personalities, relationships and anything it touches.  It really only momentarily inflates the ego of the one judging, yet even ensnares them also. ( "Judgment as well as Anger are the cups many desire to drink from with the intent of harming or punishing others, yet all the while, poisoning themselves!")  Input from a wise coach, builds up, invests, encourages, brings to transparency, grows, and sends the student forward with new insight and knowledge for use.

So here we are in the in-between times of Jesus' Ascension. Our spiritual coach is now back in heaven and we are now awaiting for the promised gift to empower our faithful futures.  They had to wait 10 days in the original Apostolic time, we only have to wait as long as it takes for us to make the decision of faith, to reaffirm what we already have requested and received through baptism and by Grace, God's Holy Spirit, the true coach of our daily lives today! It is already present in our personal life, in our families, in our community, our businesses, our church and in our relationships - loved ones and colleagues, if we are so desire.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"We are Here to make another World" - Edward Deming - Ascension Day

"We are here to make another World" - Edward Deming - Ascension Day
When Edward Deming said this, he was meaning and encouraging those who were students and devotees of his statistical theories on a new form of management and leadership that was needed in a then stagnant business world.  He was calling for a transformation of how things were done and even deeper, how people thought.  He was trying to change the world with a revolutionary new paradigm of including input from the common worker, leaning a process that had become fat with waste, variation, loss of revenue, and poor practices that demeaned the worker, robbed them of pride and joy, punished them and drove things by fear and threats. 

He saw a new and different way that encouraged the worker to become involved, invested, and a participant to turn things around, improve the context, raise personal and corporate morale, and to solve problems that had ensnared the old system and means of thinking when it came to motivating people, and making wise decisions that would impact the workplace for the better,  He wanted to raise the success of business in a long term plan of empowering people and reducing waste and loss in systemic processes. He called for a Metanoi -a turn-around-transformation from detrimental old ways, to a new way of thinking and action.

Today being Ascension Day in the Church, it is a feast day that slides by without much fanfare unlike Easter or Christmas, and even to some extent, Pentecost.  It comes on a Thursday, a business day and not on a Sunday.  It also takes place at a side place.  I've been to the site of this event when Jesus rose from this life and returned to the Father's place in Heaven for good until His expected return at the end of time. (Which didn't happen in May as predicted or nor will happen in October as revised!)  You wouldn't know you were at the site of the Ascension if a tour guide didn't have the bus stop by a non-descript wall in a neighborhood.  You go though a common gate to a bare earthen yard with a small chapel in the middle.  No windows, or doors, and completely open to the weather and all.  A simple altar with no chairs, nor paved floor - only a stone in the middle of the dirt floor where you are told if you look closely, you'll see Jesus' footprints from his "launch to heaven".  It is extremely understated and almost invisible to anyone looking for commemorative shrines of Jesus.  It think it was meant to be that way!

We hear of the Apostles being stuck in time gawking into heaven with mouths agape, trying to comprehend what they had just witnessed.  Perhaps the Church would have remained stuck there if it wasn't for the "men in white robes" who asked them, "Men of Israel, what are you looking at and waiting for?  Did He not say that He would be coming back as you just saw Him leave?  Why and what are you waiting around here for?!"  (The upward stare with mouth agape, how they were stuck in time, is exactly how turkeys die of drowning in rainstorms!)

Jesus left so we could grow and become engaged in changing old ways of the world and spread, teach, mentor, and proclaim a New Good News - the Gospel.  Not only as a "once-upon-a-time-story" but as a manifestation of God's story being lived out in Our story and that Our Story is now God's Story being lived out in our day and time.  It was only a short wait for the Holy Spirit to come and complete the metanoia/transfromation (words Edward Deming regularly used in his presentations and writings) that would change the way the world then and now would think, believe, and function.  We are Here to Make Another World!  Not only with our new attitude and understanding of doing business, but as we see ourselves in an entirely new light, the Light of Christ, a Manifested Presence of the Holy Spirit living and changing the world by every act, word, deed or thought we bring into being every day of our life. 

Jesus is no longer here!  As a coach and wise mentor, He has empowered us to become engaged and responsible for our own choices and actions.  Like the parent who eventually has to let go of the child trying to learn how to ride a two wheel bike, the risk is needed for the child to learn how to balance, start, brake and turn without falling.  Some spills are in store to learn the skill, but the pay off is well worth the temporary trials.  So it is when it comes to God entrusting this world into temporary care of all of us.  It's a risk, but one God was willing to take.  We are accountable to how we live and manage each day!  So, Make Good Choices, ones hopefully inspired by the Holy Spirit!

Monday, May 30, 2011

"The first line supervisor has the devil's own job" - Edward Deming!/?sk=lf
"The first line supervisor has the devil's own job"   It takes a special person to be up front and on the line where all the action takes place.  All the change, all of the chances, all the decisions that make or break the moment and facilitates either success or a set back.  Front line workers are where the quality of a system is seen and lived or is totally absent and the source of high frustration and anxiety.  They are aware when things are going well and when they are not, and then comes the challenge, "What are you going to do now?!" 

When well trained, they know and their actions are embedded into correcting the problem, addressing the need, and also the ability to affirm what is good and working well.  In this life and world, the demons of variation in machinery, systemic processes, emotional makeup of workers, and even as looming as intentional evil intent and actions of others trying to deter or overtake others. 

This Memorial Day, I want to not only affirm all who function as leaders in the freedom of this business world we enjoy, but those leaders and heroes that currently do and those who did serve on the front lines of freedom and protection for all of the liberties and benefits we enjoy.  A Thank you for a job well done, then and now!  We get so caught up in daily routine and living into those "freedoms- doing what we do every day" and take for granted that each day will dawn as a journey of our choices and not under the tyrannical will of another.  It is right to pause and give thanks and prayers of protection for those who serve in our armed services.  Thank you and God Bless!  You serve as the front line leaders that take on the desire and wills of the devil in this world 

I feel it is even appropriate to extend our thanks and prayers to the first responders that keep us safe and protected in our local communities, most who also provided earlier service in a military uniform, and just extended their calling to service to a different level and context.  Thank You All! You help keep the devil and fear at bay in our lives!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Steve Rottgers Consulting: "It is so difficult to predict the future; Anybody...

Steve Rottgers Consulting: "It is so difficult to predict the future; Anybody...: "'It is so difficult to predict the future; Anybody can predict anything; A rational prediction has an explanation based on theory.' - Edwar..."

"It is so difficult to predict the future; Anybody can predict anything; A Rational prediction has an expanation based on theory"

"It is so difficult to predict the future; Anybody can predict anything; A rational prediction has an explanation based on theory." - Edward Deming
The billboard that is being passed on facebook pages and from one to another in emails sums up the great prediction of the worlds demise this past Saturday basically says, "Well that was embarrassing!"  The world didn't end!  A snicker was heard in church pews. A sigh of relief was on the lips of some. Life was not evaporated from the face of the earth!  The Rapture ruptured! 

I have heard and read of people who sold everything, diverted life savings, and totally rearranging their lives in preparation.  I've heard of stories of children not wanting to go to birthday parties for fear of not being with their parents at the end.  Children trying to wrap their minds around the fear that adults were passing along in their conversations or in the lack of taking time to sit and spend quality time quelling the little one's fears or questions. 

Leaders corrupt their influence when predictions are made without any deep understanding or ability to influence the outcomes.  It's hard for leaders to predict the fickle events of moments in time, machinery settings, variation in systems, people responses to news or events, and we still have ones that feel they can predict the end of all time?!  Jesus even had the knowledge and wisdom to defer the questions that came to him by saying that He didn't even have that depth of knowledge, insight or influence and that it was a God timing issue. 

When it came to questions of definitive prediction that were asked of Dr. Deming at his seminars he would calmly say, " There is one thing for sure if you are looking to predict the stock market-tomorrow it will either be up or down from what it is today."  The great oracle at Delphi in early Greek Culture knew the skill set of the artful dodge.  If asked will my pregnant wife give birth to a son or daughter?  The perceived wise oracle would answer, "Boy-yes, no girl!"  and when the son was born, all was truthful; however when the daughter arrived, what happened?! To which the oracle would clarify, first inclination- boy yes, no-wait-a girl!"

It's all in what we hear, but also how we want to hear it!  Prediction is possible for anyone, but will they be articulating the truth, based on reliable theory, wisdom and knowledge as able to understand.  Long tracks of figures and stats may pile up to one thought, yet as Deming also reminds us, "It only takes one failure to rebut a theory!"  We get comfortable in known paradigms, we get stuck in our thinking, or we become so fearful, we are not able to think clearly.  We seize up!

Even Jesus had his moment of questioning His leap of turning His fate in God's hands, but it was trust and a deepened faith that came from repeated testings and trials that forged a confidence in God's ability to totally change all of the rules and paradigms and enable a resurrection from what many thought was a final and total end in death.  He lives!

Hacks can predict all sorts of things.  Knowledgeable people can statistically run the numbers to point in hoped for directions, but it is the trust levels that come with a wisdom that allows us to allow faith to intervene when we so desperately want a final answer, and know that God will provide and act to enable what is best. 

The only prediction that I would ever dare to utter with humble confidence is: God is Good All of the Time, All the Time God is Good, Because That is HIS Nature!  All of the rest of predictions are guesses at best.  We need and try to do it in our lives and businesses to the best of our knowledgeable theoretical ability to aid in planning for success, but at the baseline, it's still a guess.  As leaders, we need to know the difference and our prediction limits!  

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Leader knows who is out of the system and needs special help.

A Leader knows who is out of the system and needs special help. Edward Deming
In  the church we have just had "Shepherding Sunday" with the major theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  Such a model of leadership involves knowing the people you are chosen to lead and being in relationship with them to the point that you know them and they know you.  It is is a Trust building process.  Part of the trust is knowing that when help is needed, the right person will be there not to ridicule, embarrass, but to support, mentor, coach, teach, or model what is desired or needed. 

Good leaders know their people, understands their gifts, skills and passions, and then removes the barriers that block the potential successful efforts of the members of their staff.  It is akin to shepherds, knowing the way to places that will support the sheep and their needs for food, water, sanctuary, and safety.  The sheep know the shepherd's voice and follow that one person alone.  They do not respond to unfamiliar voices. 

Leaders need to take the time to be known by their constituents.  It is in times of trial, change or challenge that a familiar voice that has implicit trust also built into it is a good thing of comfort to those seeking someone to make a decision and lead.  If that trust has not been built, tried and shown to be sound, people will waffle and not respond to needed direction or affirm the leader's influence.  They don't know their leader or worse yet, don't trust them!  Many a leader take extremely long walks with nobody following them because they are not trusted, or known by the very people they feel called to lead.

Leadership is nothing more than relationships, relationships, relationships, with a healthy dose of trust to glue it all together.  When mixed well, the needed influence for leadership will flow and be present. 

One other major teaching I have received in times past is that Sheep are not to be set as the goal of life.  They are dependent, not very smart, smell bad, and are shorn of their coats on a regular basis.  I have always taught that sheep are the innocent or naive people that are out of the system, either the church or the business system they are entering, and it should be the focused intent of leaders to transform those sheep into shepherds within a certain length of time.  Raising sheep to shepherd status is a leadership purpose.  Keeping sheep - sheep is the act of a tyrant!A Leader knows who is out of the system and needs special help. Edward Deming

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Leader must have knowledge. A Leader must be able to teach. - Edward Deming

A Leader must have knowledge. A Leader must be able to teach.  
I hear these words and think of the high need for Leaders to convey to the people who follow, a vision that is compelling, comprehensive, positive, and captures everyone's heart and passion to rally and help accomplish the task or goal that lays before them.  That leader must be able to convey information and an understanding of how it us to be used to succeed.  Data alone is worth nothing!  It has to be accompanied by theory, an applicable use, or prediction of what may happen if "this" takes place.  Data + Theory = Knowledge.  Knowledge + repeated attempts of application = Experience.   Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom. 

Jesus was known for His teaching, and the applications of a spiritual theory as to applications of God's viewpoint of life and what to do in circumstances.  It was important for Jesus to be a good teacher, a Rabbi!  Not only was He good at conveying the message, He lived it!.  He was out in front on everything, answering questions that were in the people's minds sometimes before they even articulated them.  He was a marvel to most that experienced His wondrous means of drawing a crowd, conveying a message, and then giving them a task to apply it.  Move it from only words, to a knowledgeable thought, and then to an actual practice of application so the Theory,(Theology/Message) stuck and became an Experience never to be forgotten.

Not only dealing with everyday people issues, questions about Faith, or how to have a purpose in Life,  Jesus takes it to the next level by dying, and then coming back to tell us what it is like, to challenge us to believe and then to follow His examples of life, and the teachings He patterned for our benefit.  He took the time to teach the disciples that were walking along the road to Emmaus.  He opened their minds to remember the teachings, he showed them a physical symbol to refresh their memories by breaking bread in their midst.  After the eyes and mind were opened, and they remembered, the lesson was done, and time to move to the next class and the next set of pupils, or workers in the harvest. 

Jesus was a very knowledgeable leader and our ability to believe and live as by faith is a testament as to His ability to Teach!!/?sk=lfA Leader must have knowledge. A Leader must be able to Teach. -Edward Deming

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Without Questions there is no Learning! - Edward Deming!/?sk=lfWithout Questions there is no Learning! - Edward Deming

Without Questions there is no Learning!  Sounds like an appropriate theme for this week.  We are in times that have a super scrutiny of people. A hyper need for accountability and placing blame on who ever, or what ever caused a problem or mistake.  We are quick to reticule, character assassinate, defame, mock, anyone who may seem awkward, naive, uninformed, or anyone who just plain made a mistake or caused accident.  We however are human and not Gods of ourselves.

Leaders need to know that trying may create mistakes or accidents, and that they need to fail fast!  Don't get stuck!  Learn the lesson, add the lesson to our knowledge, apply the knowledge when a similar experience occurs, and become wiser for the insight!  Crucifixion or stoning for humans doesn't work and only causes death!  That is until Jesus came along!

This week always carries the story of Doubting Thomas and his search and endeavor to make sense of the events of Easter as conveyed to him by the Apostle that   He just didn't get it and wanted more information.  He had questions and needed to learn more to catch up.  Maybe he was a physical learner, and needed that first to jump-start the faith needed to affirm what he wanted to believe.  You know, "Seeing is believing" and yet it was faith at the heart that enabled Mary to see Jesus as for He was and not as the gardener when she heard her name spoken by Our Lord.  It the breaking of bread that opened the eyes of those walking the road to Emmaus. So is the same with Thomas wanting physical proof of wounds in hands, side, and feet.  Jesus in his wisdom as Leader, provided the answers to his questions and led him to a new and faithful place via his learning and then swelling of faith.  He didn't leave him, ignore him, mock him, berate him.  He did wish it wasn't necessary, but the higher calling was the eraser of doubt, and replacing it with faith, backed with experiential knowledge.

Leaders should learn from Jesus' example!  If we did, we would see far more creative leaders that invest in others, and fewer people competing to talk or yell over someone, trying to affix blame, shame or reticule!  Our world would be far more encouraging and have less fear, anxiety, and despair.  We could live with attitudes of hope, creativity, joy, abundance, and be known as Resurrection People!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Morning - "When people try to do what they cannot do, they wish to give up!" Dr. Edward Deming

We have all had our chance and experience with the frustration of trying and trying and trying again, with no results of finality of what we had hoped.  Sometimes we call it quits, and walk away, maybe missing the opportunity of making it work if we had given it one more try.  Sometimes we feel that we are spinning our wheels  and making no advancement, yet all the while we were building our strength of character or metal of our determination, or even learning more about the process-ourselves- or others.  We talk ourselves into believing that it is OK to give up, stop trying, assign blame to another.  We quit and walk away.

I guess that there is a bit of knowing when to "hold them and when to fold them"  and that comes from knowing the worth of the goal or task to be accomplished.  Is it worth it?!  What is the cost?  What is still needed and is that available?  Maybe it's like the old song, "High Hopes"  with moving dams, rubber tree plants and such.

This morning we hear of Alleluias and cheers of "He is Risen!"  and we are lifted in spirit to those words because they announce that someone, Jesus, has done what mankind has never been able to do.  He had to do it and clear the way!  Leaders are called to do that,  remove barriers that demoralize, depress, and hold back their people. He did just that!  We are now free from so much that would and could hold us back!  We now have a promise of Eternal Life, Forgiveness of Sin, and a source of Hope, Love, Grace, and Salvation that never existed before in such form or matter.  Jesus did what nobody had ever done, and at the same time, provided the encouragement and ability for all of us to follow, to receive and to share God's ultimate gift of Love, a promise that there will be no more barriers, no more death, no need for despair,  no more need or temptation to give up!  We can now have a life in Grace!

Do Not Give Up!  He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Happy Easter Everyone!

Easter Morning - "When people try and do what they cannot do, they wish to give up!" Dr. Edward Deming

Holy Saturday- "If you stay in this world, you will never learn another one." Edward Deming

If we stay in this world, we surely will never learn another one!  We as humans are very good and tempted to stay in comfort zones with which we are familiar.  In business and leadership, it is easy to fit into a groove and not want to move out of routine and well known patterns.  In many regards, we entrap ourselves with ourselves!
It can become hard to see new ideas, new opportunities, new horizons because we get too focused on doing what we have always done and looking for familiar or sadly new results.  Always doing what we have always done usually produces what we have always got!  No New Things!

Paradigms can be broken!  It takes a strong determination to look beyond the "old results"  and strength of character to persist under the encouragement of others to quit rocking the boat with our new ideas and vision of something different.  However it is this pioneer spirit and will to "break out of the routine" that enables visionary leaders to do just that, break out into a new world where the rules of doing things change.  What had seemed impossible before, all of a sudden becomes the norm and quickly brings new successes from that day forward.

Is this no different that what Jesus is doing at this very time in the Holy Week story while He is moving from this world, offering a new hope to those who had died before (Communion of Saints) and offering an invitation to follow him over, through, and beyond an old paradigm that "Death is the End"  and prepare for a Whole New Idea and Paradigm, "Resurrection!"  What a great vision and idea!  It is by faith that we see this leader, Jesus of Nazareth, break from being in this world and shed light on an entirely new way to look of living in this world today.  If we follow the path He sets, we no longer are creatures just of  this world, we become people of Light living "IN" this world, but with an entirely different viewpoint and spirit that is "NOT OF" this world.  We become Resurrection People, Entheos Leaders (Captured by the Spirit of God) and make a difference to transform this place, our own lives, our families, our businesses, and our communities in the image of an entirely new world.

We await the breaking of the seal on the tomb today, Yesterday was Friday, but Sunday's Coming!Holy Saturday - "If you stay in this world, you will never learn another one." Edward Deming

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday-A Leaders Job is to Help His/Her People!!/?sk=lf
We were stuck!  The limits of this life were birth at the start, and death was the end!  No more, no less!  Being stuck between those end posts had to be demoralizing and depressing.  Many just scratched out a meager existence, some looked for advantageous times to shove another aside to take their place, some gave up, and some were so bitter, or ruthless, it just didn't matter.  There was a dire need for a new kind of leader; one with hope, some compassion, empathy for those he met, and self assured enough that forgiveness could be genuinely offered without expectation of a pay-back.

Sounds a great deal like the times of Jesus' time up to the point of Good Friday, and yet a lot like some business places that many work each day!  Whether it is the realm of secular life or sacred time, we need leaders that have the servant heart and desire to reach out and help their people.  To remove barriers that keep them from succeeding, seeing a clarified vision, be intrinsically motivated and want to do the best they can, not because someone lords over them and berates them; but a leader that does it out of genuine concern and desire to instill trust in a relationship.  It isn't about weakness!  It actually takes tremendous strength of character and spiritual priorities that enable this kind of leader to win the moment and change the course and events of the future.

Just as Dr. Deming was stating the above quip to challenge business leaders in their day and age, we remember today the actions and willful surrender of a pure servant heart and soul to open a new way for breaking down the barriers that had entrapped a people in their willful and neglectful sin.  Jesus in doing just that as he takes on the cross and courageously and faithfully embraces death with a grip that he won't let go, and determined to not let go for three days until it is defeated.  He did it to help HIS people, just like we are called to mimic his example and do the same in love for our people; spouses, children, parents, loved ones, colleagues, peers, clients, friends, neighbors and even those who challenge our whits, patience, and spirits.

Perhaps because Jesus was willing to help us, HIS people, we can walk through the events of this day and say it is "GOOD"!

A Whole New Venture on a Not -So-New Topic!/?sk=lfA New Blog/Venture on a Not-So-New-Topic!I welcome you to an entirely new blog and personal venture with hopefully new insights to a not-so-new topic.  I have been intrigued with lowering the wall that exists between sacred and secular.  Having served as an Episcopal priest for over 30 years and also being trained and influenced by Dr. W. Edward Deming before his death, I have seen cross-over ties between the disciplines of faith and quality.

I invite you to join in the journey of exploration as well as insight as to how we as leaders and followers alike, share the commonality of living in this secular world of business, management, leadership, team building, systems theory, continual improvement, board rooms and flow charts and spirituality, compassion, empathy, emotional intelligence, reconciliation, celebration, humility and most assuredly, a sense of humor.

I'll be learning about blogging as we go, and invite novices as well as learned techies to share and engage in the discussions and postings.  My intent is to connect this blog eventually to my facebook page and linkedin pages.  Regardless of your origin and interest, you are welcome here!  I'll take on the first topic in the next few days. It's feeling good at least to start this endeavor on Maunday Thursday, a very special day for many in the midst of Holy Week, and the events leading up to and to include Easter-a spiritual high point for many!