Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Does the L-Word Belong in Business?

So I was standing in line at Starbucks, doing my usual coffee routine, and I saw one of the baristas, Carla, in the background taking orders for the drive-through. She’s talking on one of those hands-free headphone things, so I can only hear her side of the conversation:
“Is that you Barbara? How’s it going?”
“OK… Is that decaf? The usual?”
“Yeah, I know. That must have been great.”
“All right hon, that’s $4.50.″
The car drives up to the window, and I watch her conducting the transaction. As I walk over to the counter for milk, I hear Carla’s parting comment to the customer:
“Ok, see you soon. I love ya!”
You could practically hear the dubbed-in record scratch as I did an audible double-take. Did she really just tell that customer that she loves her?
This blatant profession of love in the midst of public enterprise made me cringe—and melt, all at once. Part of me, the Jesus-Spirit-Christian part, wanted to wave palm branches in her general direction for establishing a new pinnacle of customer service. (Take that, Zappos!) But the buttoned-up business manager in me was tapping his foot, questioning the appropriateness of that exchange.
At first glance, there would typically be no call for expressing love while achieving your management objectives. Business is about process and profits, after all. And market share and competition. There’s nothing sentimental about it.
Plus, one generally attempts to portray some level of professionalism at work in order to maintain a commanding presence, or to earn the respect of colleagues. A measure of guardedness comes with the territory, especially for those in management positions (think Facebook vs. LinkedIn).
However, there’s no denying that our organizations are made up of people, not machines. All that equipment and technology—well, they don’t just work spontaneously of their own accord. It's the human beings who are running things, and at their core, people just want to be loved.
Martin Luther King once said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”
There is a lesson here for leaders.
We are all too familiar with the concept of power in business—the drive and resolve to get things done. None of us would be successful in our careers without some of that. But for too many, that’s where the discussion ends.
Plenty of research keeps cropping up showing that people at work are much more productive when they also feel cared for. Even loneliness, the perception of isolation or estrangement from others, has been shown to reduce an employee’s overall productivity, both in individual and group tasks. And it doesn’t take a PhD from Harvard to understand why. When you don’t fit in it makes you depressed, moody, negative.
Author Adam Kahane suggests that love, expressed as compassion and solidarity, is completely appropriate in business. But leaders must strive for a balance, he says. A system that follows only power will sacrifice its people, while a system that follows only the impulses of love will lose its competitiveness.
That's all well and good, but here's my takeaway: isn't love the ultimate link between our spiritual life and our work? Not Valentine’s Day love, but the every-day kind of love that says you care about the well-being of others. The kind that gives the best of yourself at work, in a compassionate and caring way. I suppose this is what Paul is talking about in I Corinthians 13, and it is more or less the main thing Jesus wants us to do.
When you strip out all the formalities and jargon of doing business, at the end of the day we are all just needy human beings trying to get stuff done. And I’m thinking, wouldn’t that really lift everyone’s spirits at work, if we tried to love each other?
Image by Joshua Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Bradley J. Moore.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just A Minute

A Compelling New Book from Wess Stafford

By Janey DeMeo
Special to ASSIST News Service

VISTA, CA (ANS) -- Ever feel overwhelmed by the dilemma of the world’s hurting children? Whether from neglect, poverty, sickness…the statistics on child suffering are daunting. It’s tempting to look the other way and do nothing, mostly because we feel inadequate to do anything useful. But anyone can help a child. All it takes is a minute.
Book cover

In his latest book, Just A Minute (Moody Publishers, Jan. 1, 2012), Compassion International CEO, Wess Stafford, shows how one minute can count in big ways to a little person.

Just A Minute is a compilation of true stories and testimonies of people—ordinary people, celebrities and historical figures—whose lives were impacted for good or bad by someone who took “just a minute” to build them up or tear them down through words, action or attitude. The author also showcases the immeasurable reward experienced by those who pour encouragement, godly direction, affection, inspiration, hope . . . into the heart of a child.

Stafford compels us not to underestimate our influence but to weigh the power of our words, hugs, body language, financial support (sponsoring a child or children’s ministry), our kindness or even our harshness. Children are impressionable. They absorb everything around them and, more notably, everything that’s directed at them.

Anyone can help mold a child’s future. But Christians, especially, are both equipped and called to imprint God’s love in children’s hearts. 

Just A Minute promotes Compassion International but with a little creativity, similar organizations helping children could also use it in their fundraisers or awareness campaigns. The book is worth the read and some of the stories take just a minute to read. A minute well spent.

Note: This article first appeared in The San Diego Christian Perspectives Examiner (

Janey DeMeo is founder and president of Orphans First, a non-profit organization providing food, shelter, education and Christian teaching to underprivileged children in several countries. Janey and her husband, Louis, were missionaries in France for 22 years and have resided in Southern California for eight years where they now have a house church in San Clemente. Janey is also an author.
Her websites, Twitter and Blog are:

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All Things To All People

By Rick Marschall
Special to ASSIST News Service

SWARTZ CREEK MI (ANS) -- A political season can get people thinking about promises – promises for the future (by candidates we like) and the potential of broken promises (by those whom we don’t). When I was a kid I wrote a fan letter to Walt Kelly, the cartoonist of “Pogo,” who sent a drawing of Albert the Alligator’s platform as a political advisor: “I promise you voters to not promise anything. And if I do make a promise, I promise not to keep it.”

It would be refreshing, really. But the problem with promises is not politics or politicians -– it’s human nature; which, I promise you, will never change on its own.

Truth is something we all must confront, and deal with. Even Pontius Pilate, yielding to public pressure, desperately trying by symbolism to wash his hands of the guilty act of condemning an innocent man to die, looked at Jesus, probably knowing better than the mob did Whom he addressed, and asked, “What is Truth?” People don’t ask such questions of criminals or strangers or even politicians, of Pilate’s day or our own day.

One aspect of human nature is that when we are confronted with Truth, it frequently is our tendency not to change ourselves or our habits, but to bend truth, explain it away, weaken it, even deny it. Heretics through the history of Christianity, “relativists” in philosophy, and leaders of the Emergent movement on the fringes of today’s religion, all have tacked adjectives to the word “truth.” They give us relational truth, conditional truth, relative truth... everything except the firmly rejected Absolute Truth. Which the Bible teaches. And what God IS. And what Jesus embodied -– “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

I have noticed that a lot of Christians can be timid about the truth, and frequently they justify it by not wanting to offend non-believers. Some even think that being too bold with the truth about God -– maybe at first, anyway -– might alienate prospective Christians. “Meet them at the their level,” because, after all, doesn’t God say He loves us just as we are? ... and pretty soon, the well-meaning Christian is the enabler of sin and a rebellious lifestyle, instead of speaking the truth.

If someone were to approach you on the street, and say, “Sic enim dilexit Deus mundum ut Filium suum unigenitum daret ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat sed habeat vitam aeternam,” chance are you would not know what the person said. I wouldn’t. How about if someone in the supermarket called to you, “Denn so hat Gott die Welt geliebt, daß er seinen eingeborenen Sohn gab, damit jeder, der an ihn glaubt, nicht verloren gehe, sondern ewiges Leben habe!” it probably would not be much different. Are they asking a question, telling a joke, or cursing at you? Then you get a phone call: “Car Dieu a tant aimé le monde qu'il a donné son Fils unique, afin que quiconque croit en lui ne périsse point, mais qu'il ait la vie éternelle.”

Well, these are the Latin, German, and French translations of John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” If you went to Sunday School, if you watch football games on TV, you know the verse. Do you know it in Latin?

It makes no difference whether you understand it or not: it is still true.

And there’s a lesson for how you and I should relate to non-believers. Some Christian counselors dismiss bad behavior, for fear of offending those who need help. Some youth workers try to dress and talk and act like adolescents, subconsciously (maybe quite deliberately) thinking that they have found a way to reach kids that is better than sharing God’s truth. We speak the truth, and the Holy Spirit takes over when the seed is planted -– part of the job description.

Most of us live on smaller stages, but we should remember that when St Paul explained that he was willing to be “all things to all people,” he didn’t mean compromising his faith; he meant that, unlike haughty priests, he knew it was necessary to meet everyone where they were, literally. He “spoke Greek to Greeks,” and showed up in front of pagan temples -– not join in their rituals but to share Jesus with people who would never otherwise hear such words.

Likewise, Jesus Himself. He had fellowship with Mary Magdalene, and the woman at the well, not to have sex but to discuss their sins. Not even to condemn, but to forgive. But He did not “accept” them “where they were” in terms of accepting their transgressions. Just the opposite. Jesus was, and is, quick and hard with the Truth. “Sin no more.”

If we do less -– whether confronting our own sins; or the sometimes excruciating obligation to share the gospel with others; or in debating integrity in national debates -– if we do less, we fail not by slight degree, but miserably.

For then we brand ourselves with as “half-truthers,” which is tradition’s polite term for liars. All things to all people? Unless you define it as Paul did… far better to be one thing to the One God, if truth be told.

+ + +

Truth does not vary according to the audience or the culture or the times. That is the definition of truth. Like a rock. Not just as a last refuge but a first affection, we should cling to the Rock of Ages. Here some Homecoming singers at the Cove, Billy Graham’s conference center, gathered to sing the classic hymn. Sitting next to Gloria Gaither that day, under a portrait of Billy Graham, was Billy’s late wife Ruth.

Rick Marschall is the author of 65 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia Magazine called him “perhaps America’s foremost authority on popular culture”) to history and criticism; country music, television history, biography and children’s books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals; co-author of The Secret Revealed with Dr Jim Garlow. His biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series (Thomas Nelson) was released in April, 2011. His history of cartoon Advertising, Drawing Power, will be published in July 2011 by the Marschall Books imprint of fantagraphics Books. In October his major biography of Theodore Roosevelt, BULLY!, will be publ;ished by Regnery History of Washington DC. He is currently working on a One-Year CDevotional for Tyndale House; and edits the the reissue of Harper's Weekly -- the Civil War Years for NOVOink e-books. Rick is a former Director of Product Development for Youth Specialties. He is recipient of the 2008 “Christian Writer of the Year” award from the Greater Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, and produces a weekly e-mail devotional, “Monday Morning Music Ministry.” His e-mail address is:

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beware of Vows in Election Campaigns

Photo: Associated Press
The 2012 Republican Primary campaigns have been as ruthless as ever in their negative attacks against each other and as wreckless as ever in the promises made by candidates.

 Just this morning I saw two headlines that read "Romney Vows to be Pro-life President if Elected," and "Rick Santorum Assures Conservatives He Won't Move to The Center." We know the definition of insanity, yet every four years we listen and respond to the promises made and then suffer through four years of disappointment from promises broken. We fall for the same old lies expecting a different result.

We Christians, I think, are especially easy prey for political wolves in sheep's clothing because we really want to believe that things will get better. After all, doesn't love hope all things? As Christians, and as the Church, we have a responsibility, though, to cast our vote in a way that honors God and His Kingdom. We cannot base our decision to support any candidate on what that candidate tells us about himself or about his opponent. We can base our decision on the "fruit" of their lives and careers.

To the Christian, a vow is a solemn oath that must be honored at all cost. But to a politician, it is simply the means to an and -- a way to get your vote. We don't take the vows we make lightly. After all, as Bronislaw Malinowski said, "You utter a vow or forge a signature and you may find yourself bound for life to a monastery, a woman or a prison." But a politician has no such conviction and can see no further than the election. He only sees the end and will use any means to get there. Heed the words of Richard Brinsley Sheridan: "He who vows the most are the least sincere," and you will be less likely to find yourself repeating the words of Thomas Otway: "let us embrace, and from this moment vow an eternal misery together."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kierkegaard: A Parable of a King and a Maiden

Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist-no one dared resist him. But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal. (as quoted in Disappointment with God)

The king clothes himself as a beggar and renounces his throne in order to win her hand. The Incarnation, the life and the death of Jesus, answers once and for all the question, "What is God's heart toward me?" This is why Paul says in Romans 5, "Look here, at the Cross. Here is the demonstration of God's heart. At the point of our deepest betrayal, when we had run our farthest from him and gotten so lost in the woods we could never find our way home, God came and died to rescue us."

(The Sacred Romance , 80-81, by John Eldredge)