What happened to kindness?

For some reason I have just experienced a hat trick of meanness (not all directed at me) that has me wondering, What happened to kindness? The provocations were small: a check in the mail that evoked a rude email from a vendor… I mean, genuinely in the mail. Then there was addressing someone by the wrong title.

grouchy

This all got me thinking about kindness as an indicator that God is in the house. When he is in residence, surely we should be kind. What is it that has given us the notion that we are entitled to all sorts of things? Do we somehow believe that ‘The customer is king’ means we actually are always king? Is it that self-worth schools have bred self-centered graduates? Has high bandwidth immediacy produced high hubris? Has order on demand made us entitled jackasses?

Some of it seems to tie into power trips: I will treat you like dirt to show you who is boss. Other of it might be self-worth turned sinister: I will demand more to demonstrate I am worth more. (I remember the angry traveler who shouted on the plane, “Son of a gun… I am an executive. Treat me with respect.” It didn’t help when one of my colleagues told him to ‘Sit down and shut up.’ They zip-tied Mr Executive and policemen led him off the plane when we landed.) Most of it, I suspect, is our Western habit of thinking, “It is okay to be unkind if I am smart.” Semi-high-IQ people have become low HQ (heart quotient) pains in the neck. Me too. We somehow think that smart beats sincere, competence trumps charity, and efficiency excuses all sorts of ill-mannered behavior.

What happened to kindness? We want it shown to us, certainly. We want upgrades, fast lanes, short waits and quick turnaround. And we want warm smiles, people serving us from the heart, and hospitality that is a conviction not an industry. But where is our kindness in return?

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…” not to mention “self control.” That’s another topic.

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Glad to see my tax dollars at work this way

I am biased — one of my sons is in the Air Force. That said, most people should be delighted to see a branch of the military singing Bach’s “Jesu, joy of mans’s desiring” and “Joy to the World.” In the midst of our advances in flight, space travel and technology one thing remains: Jesus, his coming and his sure returning are what it is all about.

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring, holy wisdom, love most bright.
Drawn by thee, our souls aspiring, soar to uncreated light.”

Thanks, Air Force Band for the reminder!

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Plettenberg Bay – join us May 10-20

We had an amazing time in Knysna/Plett this last November. Why not join us for a 10 day Venture May 10-21, 2014?

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The prisoner is running the ship

main1Lyn and I were vacationing on the Island of Crete and walked & kayaked to a town, if you can call it that, called Phoenix, a tiny spot on the south of the island. It was also an intended destination for Paul and his fellow travelers, but they never made it.

We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. Act 27:7-8 NIV

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The intent of the ship’s captain and the centurion was to ease up the coast to Phoenix and stay there for the winter. Back then it was more than a hotel with eight rooms and a small church. Paul, the prisoner, warned them not to proceed.

“Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.”

Things start well, but ended in near disaster. Throughout this process Paul is the prisoner, but he is actually the one leading the ship, and herein lies a lessen for those of us not officially in charge of our business, project or career. What did Paul do?

  • He sought God for direction for the whole boat: his future was tied to the ship’s future, so he had to have the welfare of the whole in mind.
  • He was not afraid to speak out. Everything was on the line, so he asked God what would happen, and he received direction for everyone.

After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”

  • He was prepared to sound a tiny bit like a religious wacko.

 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’

  • Fourteen days later Paul’s “word from the Lord” was nowhere near coming to pass, and the crew decided to take matters into their own hands. Paul stuck to the word of the Lord. Leading from the back of the boat entails standing on the last thing God said.

Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”

  • He tells them to prepare practically. The great spiritual leader is observant, mindful of God’s word, and practical.

Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything.

  • He used to opportunity of a simple meal to openly declare his faith and trust.

After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.

  • He used his favor to the benefit of others. When the soldiers wanted to kill all prisoners, Paul’s credibility in God had prepared the heart of the centurion to be merciful.

But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land…everyone reached land safely.

You might feel like a prisoner in the hull of your organization, but the one who has standing with God can steer the ship. In fact, your purpose can be others’ preservation.

PS: If you work in a business where you are not the boss, you might want to check out The Institute’s class called Influence through Integration. It captures many of those principles we see Paul exhibiting in Acts 27.

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Bizcipleship 2.0

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Full of it

There is no question that knowledge can be useful. What we tend to ignore is that there are different types of knowledge, and if we don’t discern the difference we will be so full of the wrong kind of knowledge there will be no space left for good knowledge.Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.06.26 AM

King Solomon the Wise puts it this way in his first chapter of Proverbs:

29 Because they hated moral knowledge, and did not choose to fear the LORD…31 Therefore they will eat from the fruit of their way, and they will be stuffed full of their own counsel.

If I am honest in looking at life, mine and others, the issue is not that God does not give counsel, but that I/we are so full of bad counsel we don’t have space in our hearts for what he is saying. The net result is that we get the fruit of bad counsel.

Bottom line: are we consuming moral knowledge (not relative knowledge, or moral-free knowledge) or are we filling up on unfiltered rubbish?

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Your first Valentine

xo_heartIn the 3rd century, Emperor Claudius II was faced with defending the Roman Empire from the invading Goths. He believed men who were not married made better soldiers so he forced the military to ban traditional marriage. He also forced the Senate to deify the former Emperor Gallienus, including him with the Roman gods to be worshiped.

There were ten major persecutions of Christians in the first three centuries in which many historical records were destroyed, but the legend passed down in Legenda Sanctorum by Jacobus de Voragine, 1260, was that Saint Valentine was a priest or bishop in Italy.

When the Emperor demanded the Church violate its conscience and worship pagan idols, Bishop Valentine refused to comply. Valentine risked the Emperor’s wrath by standing up for traditional marriage and secretly marrying young men and women.

Saint Valentine was arrested, dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and then have his head cut off on FEBRUARY 14, 269AD. While awaiting execution, the story is he prayed for the jailers’ sick daughter, who miraculously recovered.

He wrote her a note and signed it, “from your Valentine.”

In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius designated FEBRUARY 14th as “Saint Valentine’s Day.”

And as for all those X-O things out there: this predates brandy, books and Beyonce… and Extra Old Marmite (for those with decidedly British tastes).Marmite-XO-001

The Greek name for Christ, Χριστό, begins with the letter “Chi” written as an “X,” and became an abbreviation for the name of Christ. This is why X-mas became the abbreviation for Christmas. In Medieval times, the “X” was called the Christ’s Cross, or as it was later pronounced, “Criss-Cross. “The Christ’s Cross was a form of a written oath. Similar to the ancient practice of swearing upon a Bible, saying “so help me God,” then kissing the Bible, people would sign a document next to the Christ’s Cross to swear before God they would keep the agreement, then kiss it to show sincerity. This practice has come down to us as “sign at the X”, or saying “I swear, cross my heart.” This is the origin of signing a Valentines’ card with an “X” to express a pledge before God to be faithful, and an “O” to seal the pledge with a kiss of sincerity.

Source: AmericanMinute.com

There are others who claim this is mostly the stuff of legends, that there were many Valentine’s in church history. Look no further than Wikipedia for some of these Valentine’s Day accounts. The day shows up in church calendars… or used to.

February 14 is celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day in various Christian denominations; it has, for example, the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of saints in the Anglican Communion.In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church.However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”

There’s enough to suggest that sloppy greeting cards and chocolate were not high on the list back then, and that somehow sacrificial love factored more greatly into the equation. That said… enjoy the day and feel the love.

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Source of the creative

ingrid_jonkerWe watched  a movie last night about a troubled poet in a troubled country who had a tragic ending, except that she was remembered by President Nelson Mandela in his inaugural address.

We mused about the proclivity of poets and other artists to ooze from tormented souls. Yet in my morning an obscure psalm re-anchored truth with this statement: Singers and dancers alike say,
“For me, you are the source of everything.”

Earlier the psalmist alludes to other possible sources of inspiration, perhaps: Rahab (sex), Babylon (capital), Philistia (knock-off religions), Tyre (trade, business) and Ethiopia (ethnic diversity). These are the tired sources of many a tortured soul, but in the end there remains one non-draining, redemptive spring of creativity: Zion, but more precisely… God himself.

Singers and dancers alike will say,
“My whole source of joy is in you.”

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Bizcipleship

BZ2 logoSo many places to update online… so few people listening. Nowadays with all the social media (and especially Fakebook, as I sometimes call it) it is quite easy to become a legend in one’s own bathtub. We write things thinking people are actually listening. Surprised as it may seem, I have not had people beating down my door asking for my blog. One reason, perhaps, is that they can now get a daily dose right on their iPhones, iPads or Android mobile devices.

This past week we launched a second edition of Bizcipleship, a vehicle for sharing daily stories of amazing things happening among business leaders around the world. The mobile applications can be found on the various stores at these links:

Hope you enjoy them. If you do, give us some feedback.

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This Intensive looks relaxed

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