Dignity

I’ve recently watched two movies, Ip Man and Ip Man 2. It wasn’t until the end of the second movie that I realized that the main character, Ip Man, was a real person. He was a real martial arts teacher whose students included the famous Bruce Lee.

In the second movie, after the end of a long fight, he said something that keeps running through my mind. He said,

Though people may have different status in life, everybody’s dignity is the same.

I can’t stop thinking about that. “Everybody’s dignity is the same.” And I ask myself, what am I doing in my interactions with other people that supports and protects their dignity? Can I disagree with someone, yet still allow them to maintain their dignity? These are questions that I’ll think about for a while.

I Am A Christian

For some time now, I’ve been seeing a poem shared on the Internet. The poem is generally titled, “When I Say I am a Christian,” and it always speaks to me about what being a Christian truly means. It doesn’t mean that we’re great people on our own, or that we’re better than other people — it means that we’re people in need of God’s help and forgiveness and grace. I especially like the last stanza of the poem.

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority…
I only know I’m loved

After some brief searching on the Internet, I found that the poem was written in 1988 by Carol Wimmer. The poem was first published in 1992 in Hi-Call Gospel Magazine, a publication of the Assemblies of God denomination. I want Carol to receive full credit for her copyrighted work, so to read more, I encourage you to visit her website.

Grace Offers Rest

I recently read a quote from Max Lucado that keeps coming back to me:

Legalism is joyless because it’s endless. Grace offers rest. Legalism? Never!

“Grace offers rest.” That’s beautiful. I like to just sit and think about that.

Then I came across Isaiah 53 when preparing for a class:

1 Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the LORD been revealed to?
2 He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.
4 Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. [HCSB]

We have here a chapter from Isaiah that refers to Christ the Messiah, who will take away the sins of the world. But in the middle of this passage, one phrase suddenly stood out to me: “Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains.” I don’t know how I’ve missed this before — probably because I was focused on everything else in the passage — but here we have a section that is referring not to sin, but to our sickness and pain, our illnesses, our infirmities, our insecurities, our weaknesses, our fears, our griefs, our sorrows.

And then this passage from Isaiah is referenced in Matthew 8:16-17:

16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick,
17 so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases. [HCSB]

Then we see in the next chapter of Matthew, after he continues healing people and casting out demons:

35Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. [HCSB]

I read this statement, “healing every disease and every sickness,” and I begin to think that in a way, Jesus eradicated disease and sickness from the places that He visited. I look at the meaning behind those words, all and every, and those are superlative words. They mean what we we think those words mean — there is no hyperbole involved.

So what does this mean for me? Well, I know that it doesn’t mean that every sickness will be healed in my life, nor in the lives of my loved ones. The healing ministry of Jesus was unique to Him and His lifetime. We all know people who have died of an illness. We pray to God for someone to be healed, and sometimes they’re healed, but sometimes they’re not. So I’m not trying to suggest some sort of “health and wellness” religion.

What I am saying is this: God is not just interested in my spiritual well-being, although I would say that is His primary interest for me. But I believe that God is also interested in my physical and emotional well-being. This thought can be groundbreaking for some. We’ve been taught through our churches and our culture that we have to be tough, and we use soldier analogies, and we try to stuff our emotions down inside and put on a happy face. But that’s not grace. That’s not reality. That’s not honesty. Grace offers rest. Grace is knowing that we can come to God, our Father, with anything — any sickness, any disease, any frustration, any fear, any failure, any emotion — and know that He can handle it. Not only can He handle it, but He can give rest, as He promises in Matthew 11:28-30:

28 Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. [HCSB]

Grace offers rest.

The Customer Focus

I had an interaction today that reminded me of the importance of focusing on the customer, not just pushing your product to make a sale.

Arby's Roast Turkey and Swiss Sandwich

Arby’s Roast Turkey and Swiss Sandwich

I’m a fan of Arby’s. I like their food. And while I love a good roast beef sandwich with fries and a jamocha shake, when I’m there at lunchtime, that’s rarely what I order. I’m trying to be healthier. In small ways. Trying to make healthier choices. So at lunchtime, I’ve started ordering the Roast Turkey & Swiss Market Fresh® Sandwich on whole wheat bread, with a side salad (honey mustard dressing), and a Sierra Mist. That has been my go-to meal at lunchtime at Arby’s for several months now. And I almost always visit the same location. Now I’m not a daily customer there, but I’m there several times a month, and I know I interact with the same few people each time, so I expect that my order won’t be new to them, but the interaction generally goes something like this:

Arby’s employee: Thank you for choosing Arby’s. Would you like to try [whatever product they’re promoting that day]?

Me: No, thanks. I’d like combo number 11, the Roast Turkey and Swiss.

Arby’s employee: Would you like that in a combo with curly fries and a Pepsi?

Me: Yes, I’d like that in a combo, but with a side salad instead of fries, and a Sierra Mist instead of the Pepsi.

Arby’s employee: So you’d like a side salad instead of fries. What dressing would you like?

Me: I’d like honey mustard, please.

Arby’s employee: Okay, so you’d like the Roast Turkey and Swiss with a side salad with honey mustard. Would you care to make your Pepsi a large?

Me: Yes, I’d like a large drink, but I’d like Sierra Mist instead of Pepsi.

Arby’s employee: Okay, so you’d like the Roast Turkey and Swiss with a side salad with honey mustard, and a large Pepsi. Will that complete your order today?

I don’t post this to be a jerk, or to highlight failings on the part of Arby’s or its employees. I get it. They have a highly repetitive process, with probably very little variance from customer to customer. I don’t expect an Arby’s executive or manager to read this and make drastic changes to their ordering process. And I’m certainly not going to stop visiting Arby’s.

Nor do I have a problem with Pepsi. I like their product(s). And I’m aware that Sierra Mist is a Pepsi product.

But this experience made me reflect on my own interactions with my customers, and the processes that I try to build for consistency.

  • Am I too focused on the process to really pay attention to what the customers want?
  • Does the process allow the flexibility to accommodate each customer?
  • Have I become too accustomed to delivering what previous customers wanted that I fail to uniquely diagnose the needs of the current customer?
  • Can I deliver a better experience by allowing the customer more time to describe their needs?

I think I’ll remember this for a while — the tendency to sell fries and a large Pepsi to someone who wants a side salad and Sierra Mist.

The Grieving Sisters

The Grieving Sisters

The Grieving Sisters

I just finished reading The Grieving Sisters, which is the third book in Timothy Keller‘s “The Encounters with Jesus Series.” Available in Kindle Edition for $1.99 from Amazon.com, it may be generous to describe it as an “e-book,” but perhaps more as an “e-pamphlet.” It’s not a very long book, and took me less than a day to finish.

But the length of the book is not a reflection of its quality. I enjoyed reading it, and appreciated some of the nuances of the Lazarus story that Keller highlighted, as well as his descriptions of and statements about Jesus.

Keller opens with this:

Who are we as human beings? What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with the whole world? What, if anything, can put us right? Unless you have some working answers to those questions you really cannot decide what things are worth spending your life on.

Keller then proceeds to answer that question, using the Lazarus story and Jesus’ encounter with Mary and Martha to explain why Jesus is the answer to our problems.

He [Jesus] is the Lion and the Lamb. Despite his high claims, he is never pompous; you never see him standing on his own dignity. Despite being absolutely approachable to the weakest and broken, he is completely fearless before the corrupt and powerful. He has tenderness without weakness. Strength without harshness. Humility without the slightest lack of confidence. Unhesitating authority with a complete lack of self-absorption. Holiness and unending convictions without the lack of approachability. Power without insensitivity.

To quote my pastor’s current sermon series, Jesus is better.

The witnesses said about Jesus, “see how he loved Lazarus”; but really we must behold how he loves us. He became human, mortal, vulnerable, killable—all out of love for us.

Amen.

How to Win at the Sport of Business

How to Win at the Sport of Business

How to Win at the Sport of Business

I just finished Mark Cuban‘s e-book, How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It. It’s a relatively short book that is really an aggregation and curation of some of his more popular blog posts. While it’s not a Peter Drucker book on executive practices, it’s a helpful, honest book from someone who has made a lot of mistakes but also done many things right and found business success.

I think this book would be especially helpful for college students or young adults who are early in their career. Mark provides some incredibly useful and practical advice and perspective.

Going to college should be about experiencing as much academically as you possibly can, but more importantly, it should be about learning how to learn and recognizing that learning is a lifelong endeavor. School isn’t the end of the learning process, it’s purely a training ground and beginning.

I liked this thought about effort:

In sports, the only thing a player can truly control is effort. The same applies to business. The only thing any entrepreneur, salesperson or anyone in any position can control is their effort.

And finally, perspective on what’s important:

As someone who has been incredibly blessed, let me just tell you that the things at the top of my list are not numbers or dollars. They are my family and the things I had fun doing.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Matterhorn

Matterhorn

I just finished reading Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, written by Karl Marlantes. I’m not a veteran, but I would describe this as an honest, gritty, profanity-laden, accurate description of the Vietnam War. Marlantes, who is a veteran, has a knack for bringing out the little-known details of a soldier’s experience, providing a new look as to what it must have been like to be a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.

Marlantes is an interesting writer who seems to naturally embed wisdom and insights into his writing.

“Look. Everyone wants a medal. That’s no sin. When I first got here, I wanted one, too. It’s just that after you’ve been out here long enough to see what they cost, they don’t seem so f—ing shiny.”

Sometimes I found myself highlighting just one pithy statement in the middle of some intense dialogue:

The only thing that hurts about a rebuke is the truth.

At other times, a statement made in context of the military makes complete sense when applied to many other areas of life, including business.

“Intelligence, Lieutenant,” Simpson went on, “is built up by the fastidious collection of minutiae. You understand that, don’t you? It isn’t the result of spectacular finds. It’s the result of hard work, constant attention to detail—to minutiae. Mi-nu-tiae.”

But what surprised me most about the book were Marlantes’ honest observations and analyses of racial tensions during that time. I found myself highlighting those sections the most.

“Not being prejudiced is the best any of us can do right now. It’s too late about being racist.”

“We won’t be free of racism until my black skin sends the same signals as Hawke’s red mustache.”

“All you got to do is start treating us like everyone else. It’s as simple as that. We don’t need nothing special… We’re people. Just treat us like people. We’re no dumber than you and we’re no smarter.”

The content of this book isn’t for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. I made a connection with the characters of the book, who are no doubt based on real people from Marlantes’ actual experiences in Vietnam. I think Marlantes gave us a real view into a short period of his life, and I’m grateful that he did. I was just sorry to see the book end.

Little Princes

Little Princes

Little Princes

I just finished reading the book, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, by Conor Grennan. I picked up a copy of the book based on the recommendation of Claire Diaz-Ortiz in her 2012 reading list. The book didn’t disappoint.

Conor was a young man who had worked for non-profit organizations in Europe after graduating from college. After several years of working, Conor wanted to take time off and travel the world, but to keep the trip from sounding too privileged, he volunteered to spend three months at an orphanage in Nepal. Little did he know how that time as a volunteer would change his life.

The book is based on Conor’s journal entries from those years, and he’s a very engaging writer. Once I picked up the book to read it, I had difficulty setting it down. I not only got to know Conor, but also his co-workers, and most importantly, the children. I got a glimpse into their daily lives and challenges, and it broke my heart. It was especially moving to learn that very few of these children were actual orphans; instead, their parents had sent them away to escape the damages of the Nepalese civil war between the monarchy and the communists. And this became Conor’s challenge — to find these children’s parents and see if he could reunite them, or at least reopen the channels of communication.

I won’t say much more here, but it’s been one of my favorite books so far. If you enjoy reading, I highly recommend that you get a copy.

Fundraising Tips

Here’s a short article that I wrote recently for my co-workers’ participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flint Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser. I think there are some good tips here, and I don’t want this article to get lost in Facebook:


We’re one week away from the event! How is your fundraising going? Here are five tips to help you be more effective when asking for donations:

  1. Ask in Person — It’s easy to ignore a piece of paper sitting on a desk or a table in the office. It’s much more difficult to say “no” to someone who asks directly, especially if the person asking is a family member, friend, or co-worker.
  2. Tell a Story — For some people, it may help them to simply hear how the money will be used, so do some research and be able to provide information on the organization. But to be more effective, share a story about how the organization has impacted a specific person.
  3. Remind People — Some people you ask may not provide an answer right away. So in this week leading up to the event, remind them of the event, give them a deadline (“I need an answer by Thursday at 5:00 PM”), and use the first two tactics (Ask in Person and Tell a Story) to be more effective.
  4. Say Thank You – Say it verbally, send them an email, or mail a handwritten note. However you do it, be sure to say thank you. This will make it more likely for the person to donate next time you ask.
  5. Provide Follow-Up – So what happened? How was the event? How much money was raised in total? Did you take pictures? Try to provide some kind of follow-up information to the people who donated so they see how their money was used.

Do you have any other ideas or suggestions?

An Introvert’s Language

I’ve known for quite a while that I’m an introvert, probably since I was first “diagnosed” as an INTJ. After reading more about INTJs and giving it some thought, it made perfect sense — it really accurately described me.

So I was excited to learn of a book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. This book was very helpful in understanding introversion and becoming more comfortable in a world that seems designed for extroverts. But I recently came across a simple table that I thought really portrayed what an introvert is all about.

WORD Extrovert’s Definition Introvert’s Definition
Alone, adj. Lonely. Enjoying some peace and quiet.
Book, n. 1) Doorstop.
2) Paperweight.
1) Source of comfort.
2)Safe and inexpensive method of traveling, having adventures, and meeting interesting people.
Bored, adj. Not frantically busy. Stuck making small talk, and unable to escape politely.
Extrovert, n. A nice, normal, sociable person. Never surprises you with anything weird. A boisterous person who may be very nice, but who is somewhat exhausting to spend time with. Usually not too deep, but fun.
Free time, n. A time when you do group activities. (See Introvert’s Definition of “work.”) A time when you read without interruption until you’re in danger of going blind.
Friend, n. Someone who makes sure that you’re never alone. Someone who understands that you’re not rejecting them when you need to be alone.
Good manners, n. Making sure people aren’t left all by themselves. Filling in any silences in a conversation. Not bothering people, unless it’s necessary, or they approach you. (Sometimes you can bother people you know well, but make sure they aren’t busy first.)
Home, n. A place to invite everybody you know. A place to hide from everybody you know.
Internet, n. 1) Another medium for advertising.
2) A place where geeks with no life hang out.
A way to meet other introverts. You don’t have to go out, and writing allows you to think before just blurting something out.
Introvert, n. One of those who like to read. Moody loners. Be careful not to tick them off; some of them are serial killers. One who shows a perfectly natural restraint and caution when meeting new people. One who appreciates solitude. Often, one who enjoys reading and has a philosophical turn of mind.
Love, n. Never having to do anything alone. Being understood and appreciated.
Music, n. Background noise. Something with a tune and lyrics which may be moving and intelligent, or may be drivel.
Phone, n. Lifeline to other people – your reason for living. Necessary (?) evil, and yet another interruption. Occasionally useful (such as for texting or emailing), but mostly a nuisance.
Reading, v. A chore that a teacher makes you do when you’re a kid. You have to do it in secret and pretend you don’t really do it, or people think you’re strange.
Shell, n. Something you find on the beach. What people relentlessly nag you to come out of. Why do you have to leave it, if you’re happy there?
To go out, v. Requires at least two people, and the more the better. Constant chatter, loud music, sports, crowds, and food consumption are all fun components of going out. Can be done alone or with others. Enjoyable if there’s some point to it; i.e., in order to see a band, a movie, a play, or perhaps to have a stimulating discussion with one or two close friends.
Work, n. Having to read, write, listen, or concentrate on anything. Being pestered every five minutes about something trivial, and not allowed to concentrate.

This table was helpful, not only to explain how I think and click, but also to understand how extroverts think and click. It also pointed out the irony that while extroverts may be of the opinion that introverts are strange, introverts are quietly thinking the same thing of extroverts…