Posts tagged “faith

Today I Prayed.

Church and faith

I went to church to worship today and I prayed.  I prayed for my family. Praying for my family is pretty much a given every day, not just on Sunday. I prayed for the nation. I do that a lot too but not nearly as often.  I prayed for many, many other people and things.

And yes, I prayed for the president-elect. It was an earnest prayer. It was a difficult prayer. It was an open prayer. It was as much about asking God what all this means as it was what I should do about it.

I prayed that the president-elect would not govern the same way he campaigned.

I prayed that, if God was willing, the president-elect would reconsider some of the actions he said he would pursue. Things like. Building the wall. Burning more coal. A travel ban on Muslims. Eliminating access to affordable health insurance. Increasing tax breaks for the affluent.

But most of all I prayed that everyone, particularly the young people out there, would, despite what they may have read and seen regarding Mr. Trump’s supporters, not confuse Republican policies with Jesus’ teachings.

I prayed that people would read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-8). I prayed that everyone would know that Jesus taught …

  • That we shouldn’t get all caught up on how much taxes we pay. That God wants us to deal with more important things.  That we should “render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s” and then focus on rendering unto God what is God’s.
  • That the love of money and material things are the thorns that stifle God’s word and choke out the work of the Holy Spirit.  That the love of money is the root of all types of evil. That we should not try to store up treasures on earth, but rather treasures in heaven.
  • That we should love our neighbors and that God wants us to define “neighbors” as Samaritan types (modern-day Muslims?) who worship a different God, believe different things, worship a different way, and are suspect and despised by society.
  • That our focus should be on doing whatever we can to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, minister to the sick (like healthcare), and care for the widows and orphans (even if they come from Syria).
  • That we should not only love our enemies but when folks ask for a shirt, we give them our coat.
  • That the people who are right before God are not the pious religious folks who wear their faith on their sleeves and show up on talk shows and news programs … rather they are the repentant sinners who sit in the back pew, often neglected, begging for God’s mercy. That the truly blessed are people who are humble, meek and poor in spirit.
  • That we should be wary of false prophets who show up saying that they speak in Jesus’ name. That we would know these false prophets by their fruits of their work … the mercy, grace, and sacrifice that they make for others.

Overall, I prayed that people judge Christian practice by the sayings of Jesus, and not the circumstances of an election.

I prayed that people would know that this is what he was talking about when he said that if we follow his commands, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

And with that, I said “Amen.”

May God’s will be done.

As You Go Through Life

For all the lovers of poetry out there. I was rummaging through some old files and came across my father’s favorite. Poem that is. Even though he knew it line-by-line he kept a crumpled copy stuffed away in a bulging leather wallet. Going through our family record I saw an original that he had typed out on an old Remington typewriter. I read it again for the first time. To know this poem is to know my Father. Humble. Direct. Wisdom drawn from experience. Appropriately titled: “As you go through life.”

Don’t look for the flaws as you go through life;
And even when you find them,
It is wise and kind to be somewhat blind
And look for the virtue behind them.
For the cloudiest night has a hint of light
Somewhere in its shadows hiding;
It is better by far to hunt for a star,
Than the spots on the sun abiding.

The current of life runs ever away
To the bosom of God’s great ocean.
Don’t set your force ‘gainst the river’s course
And think to alter its motion.
Don’t waste a curse on the universe –
Remember it lived before you.
Don’t butt at the storm with your puny form,
But bend and let it go o’er you.

The world will never adjust itself
To suit your whims to the letter.
Some things must go wrong your whole life long,
And the sooner you know it the better.
It is folly to fight with the Infinite,
And go under at last in the wrestle;
The wiser man shapes into God’s plan
As water shapes into a vessel.

Lessons from Francis

pope francis

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece titled “Explaining Trump.” It was my struggle to understand the success behind Trump’s political communications. With the end of his first visit to the United States, I thought it would be a refreshing alternative to consider communications  lessons from Pope Francis.  Surely if we can learn from “the Donald” then there must be lessons we can learn from “the Holy Father.”

I was able to follow Francis’ visit closely. I was on the south lawn of the White House when Francis was received by President Obama.  I watched his parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.  I watched his appearances before Congress, at the United Nations, at Madison Square Garden.

 

We can learn a lot of things from Pope Francis. I’ll mention three.

 

Speak clearly.  Francis was right about his English pronunciation.  It isn’t very good. Awful, really. But that didn’t hide a clarity of purpose.  Francis speaks plainly. His concepts are simple. The primacy of love. The beauty of life. The dignity of humanity. We should help those who need help. We should protect the vulnerable. We should empower the honorable. We should care for each other. And he speaks not just with words but also with deeds. Sleep in a simple room. Ride in a Fiat. Wear comfortable shoes.

 

We can all learn from this. Business, like life, is difficult. But it isn’t all that complicated. Amidst obfuscation all around us, clarity is refreshing.  Clarity energizes while it soothes. When we speak clearly and simply, people take notice.  They smile. Even more so when your clarity is not just in what you say, but how you live out each day.

 

Observe intently. Francis is observant. He engages with purposefulness. He sees the small immigrant girl being shuffled away in a parade and calls out to her. He looks into the eyes of a homeless person and then washes his feet. He laughs and jokes with the school children. He reaches out and playfully tousles a young person’s hair. When before a joint session of Congress, Francis said he was not there to “preach”, he was not there to “address,” he was there to “dialogue.” (Which is a very ambitious thing to do with this U.S. Congress!)

 

We fail to communicate when we fail to observe.  When we are self-absorbed, self-obsessed and otherwise self-occupied we fail to see, understand, and connect with those around us. We all would benefit from less communicating and more dialoguing.

 

Love recklessly. Finally, Francis is a reminder of the power of passion and love. I find it impossible to separate what Francis says and who Francis is from his passion, enthusiasm and devotion. There is a winsomeness to his heartfelt affection and concern for the “others”. And not just some “others.” All “others.” Francis is the antithesis of targeted communications. When you see him and listen to him you get the sense that no one – regardless of station – is beyond his reach.

 

We live in a world suffocating from exclusivity. We micro-target ourselves to the point of isolation. By defining our identity so precisely, we lose sense of who we really are.  By appealing to a targeted few, we appeal to no one in general.  We would all do better by rethinking our disdain for the “lowest common denominator.”  Perhaps the lowest common denominator is, in fact, our highest calling.

 

So there it is.  The next strategic communications plan for the next client.  Speak clearly. Observe intently. Love recklessly. It seems to be working for Francis.

Thanksgiving

Thanks Google creative commons

 

Today is Thanksgiving.

Thank you!  But most of all, thanks for all those not-so-great things in my life and the people who love me in spite of them all.

I am reminded of how Jesus’ taught how NOT to give thanks.  Actually, he was teaching people how not to pray but I put praying and “giving thanks” in the same general category.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells the story of how this one guy in church “gives thanks.” It went sorta like this …

“Thanks, God, for making me such a great person.  It is not so much that you’ve made me handsome, smart, and wealthy, which you did (thanks for that!) but you’ve also made so good and kind and wonderful.  And you know what?  I am!  I love my family.  I give to charity.  I do good works.  So thanks, God.  Great job!”

Jesus wasn’t a fan.  He did, however, like an other guy’s “give thanks” prayer which went a bit like this …

“God, I’m a miserable, wretched, no good schmuck.  Every now and then I do something right but it is more luck or someone else’s grace than anything I can claim.  Thanks for giving me all the things I never deserved.  Thanks for being nice and kind, even when I was a jerk (which, I am sorta all the time because, well, I’m human).  So thanks, God.  I’m grateful for all the good things you give because it isn’t what I really deserve.”

So here’s to being thankful for all things I don’t deserve.  For all the people who did nice to me despite myself.

For all those folks at work, at worship and at play who put up with my insecurities, pettiness and biases.  People who should go screaming out of the door during lectures, rants and a host of poor decisions on my part.  But who stay, work incredibly hard, and make good things happen despite all I do to make it otherwise.

Thanks to my children, their husbands and my children’s children for loving and caring for me even through those times when I was distant and unavailable.  Perhaps even more, thanks for being loving, kind and tolerant when I get preachy and judgmental.  And thanks for loving and caring for each other far above and beyond anything that I could have been responsible for.

And thanks most of all to my wife.  Who continually overlooks my many, many faults –my bad habits, my stubbornness, my moodiness.  Who is there for me throughout the many business trips and late nights working at home.  Who – like my work colleagues – has daily moments where she would legitimately merit running out of the door screaming.  Who I am convinced loves me in spite of who I am and all the stupid things I do.

This is what, I believe, God gives to us.  The ability to give, forgive and love beyond measure, beyond merit, beyond reason.

But as importantly, it is the ability to recognize that we are blessed and are to be thankful not because of ourselves, but rather in spite of ourselves.

So thanks to all of you out there.

And thanks be to God who sacrifices of himself for all of us.