Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Rarely Will Tell You

There is a problem, no, maybe a sort of issue, that I’ve been wrestling with the past couple of years.

Who out there can I share my thinking, my emotions and fears about all things Christian with, that will listen to me, tolerate what they perceive I’m saying, share their own thinking and love me unconditionally through it all? There are a lot of things to talk about, to think about with someone.

I’m a pretty devout Christian in that I do in fact believe in Jesus Christ as God; that we get to spend our earthly lives and thereafter in the presence of God without having to perform a list of good works first, and that all God really cares about is how I live and love.

But as many of you can see, that’s not exactly square with what traditional Christianity teaches us that the Bible says; it’s very, very close, but not exactly on point. The Christian interpretation of the Bible doesn’t include that God really cares only about how we live and love.

What about the times I wake up to the flash that I’m definitely and convincingly feeling the absence of God  and with the same kind of emotion I have felt when I have experienced the death of someone I loved-- a lingering depression.

Then, what about a God who is loving, who counts the hairs on my head, yet allows us to exercise free will to the point of committing “unthinkable” and “unimaginable” acts of horrendous terror such as chopping off the heads of journalists. Clearly, those acts are anything but unthinkable and unimaginable. At times like that, I wonder if it really is right to claim there is only one, single, correct religion. And if there is, is it really ours?

Over the years, I have come up with comfortable, acceptable answers to the question of why God seems to allow bad things to happen to good people. But that may be just my crutch, my way of avoiding getting to the bottom of the question.

As Rachel Held Evans put it in a recent blog article of hers (I Don’t Always Tell You), “What do you do when the religion that is supposed to give you comfort and direction is the cause of your pain and confusion? What do you do when your religious colleagues respond to your questions by calling you names? By mocking you? By casting you out?”

So far, I have not been derided nor have I been cast out. But, I have avoided starting the conversations I need to have out of fear that I will not get the open, tolerant reception I want, I will not receive the thoughtful, loving dialogue that I want, and, I must confess, that I will be rejected.


So, is there any chance this blog article might create an opportunity for us all?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

HANDLING EXILE

A few thousand years ago, the Israelites were in exile. According to the dictionary, that means they were forced, or voluntarily chose, to live away from their native country or their home. 

They were in that state of exile for some 40 years.  And, according to the stories, they didn’t do a very good job of living up to God’s standards during that time. They kept losing sight of their relationship with God and reverting to worshiping other gods and idols and mostly themselves. They didn’t handle their exile very well and so every once in a while, God would do something drastic to get their attention. Then they’d try to get their act together, but it never lasted very long and so the whole thing would start over again. That’s why they were there for the 40 years.

Whether that all really happened or not doesn’t, I suppose, really matter.
But the message does. When I am not successful with something, when I have failed, what do I do next? How do I handle my failure?

Seth Godin in his bolg, puts it this way 

"But what if I fail?"


You will.
The answer to the what if question is, you will.
A better question might be, "after I fail, what then?"
Well, if you've chosen well, after you fail you will be one step closer to succeeding, you will be wiser and stronger and you almost certainly be more respected by all of those that are afraid to try.



I think failure is very much like exile. When I am unsuccessful, or when I experience a failure in my life, I think it’s like an exile. My perception may be that I have failed to measure up. 

So how will I handle that? If I choose well, I may be closer to succeeding and I will certainly be wiser.  Can you see the similarity to the children of Israel? They didn’t choose too well, or at least they didn’t stick with their good choices after God got their attention. 

We can learn from the comparison and that’s really part of what the Bible is all about, isn’t it? An Owner’s Manual.

Monday, January 20, 2014

GOD IS MUCH BIGGER THAN THE BOX WE TRY TO PUT HIM IN

I thought this little poem written by Ann Weems, from the book,  Kneeling in Bethlehem, was timely and made a very good point.


“It is not over, this birthing.               
There are always newer skies into which God can throw stars.               
When we begin to think that we can predict the Advent of God,              
that we can box the Christ in a stable in
 Bethlehem,              
that’s just the time that God will be born in a place we can’t                          
 imagine and won’t believe.              
 Those who wait for God watch with their hearts, not their eyes,                   listening always listening for angel words.”

 I wish each of you a Happy and prosperous new year and ask that you define the word, "prosperous," as best suits you!

Also, I recognize that the entire Christian Faith, as well as most other enduring Faiths, is all about starting over, re-birthing, turning around, new beginnings. 

In that way, don't the enduring Faiths all have a very similar message.

Monday, December 30, 2013

THE TANTRUM IS NOT THE TANTRUM THROWER

Your dog is out of control. Your child is completely frustrated because he can’t make the lego pieces go together or can’t glue the small plastic parts together to make the model car. A customer calls in a fit because the item you sent, and that he has paid for, is the wrong size and he’s losing valuable time trying to fit it anyway.

Email tantrums are seriously bad and happen much oftener, it seems. It’s so easy to hit the “reply” after I’ve vented a reaction to some angry email I just received.

A better tactic may be to try and treat the tantrum as being separate from the thrower. She’s not really like this. Let’s listen to her and not the tantrum. What is she really saying? Let’s not respond to the email until tomorrow; or, better yet, allow myself to write a response to the email, save it without sending, and look at it again tomorrow. It  almost always ends up being rewritten.

Separating the tantrum from the thrower allows us to view the tantrum as its own thing. If we engage during the tantrum, we’ve rewarded it and chances are we’ll say or do something we’re very sorry for later. That justifies the tantrum. When your four year old throws the tantrum, she may be simply being four; or, it could be a signal to you that something else is wrong. Listen to what she is saying without engaging. That’s, of course, not the same thing as allowing her to scream and rant and break things in the restaurant.

With adults, I find tantrums often happen when people are shut down, are not allowed to voice an opinion or suggestion on something that affects them. Do that often enough, and the lid blows off the pressure cooker.

A solution might be to find a way to prevent the tantrum before it begins. We often can spot the trigger long before it is pulled if we are tuned-in. Don’t yell at your dog to lie down when he is barking furiously; remove him from, or avoid placing him in, the places and situations where he is likely to go crazy.

You know what happens when you let your four year old grandson have a lego set that is made for 8-10 year olds. And you’ve known for a while that quality control in your mail room was lacking in focus. I know what happens when I allow myself to respond immediately to someone who is angry with me. Acknowledging their anger is one thing; immediately responding to their announced points is another.

The cost of improper tantrum handling is very high.


Thanks, and a tip of the hat to Seth Godin, Extinguishing the tantrum cycle, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/11/extinguishing-the-tantrum-cycle.html

WHAT DID YOUR WISH LIST LOOK LIKE FOR CHRISTMAS?

A Different Kind of Christmas List

I received this in a Christmas card. It was take from Chuck Swindoll’s devotional book, The Finishing Touch.

A suggestion. As you finish reading each line, spend 5-10 seconds just thinking about it. What comes to your mind?


Mend a quarrel.

Seek out a forgotten friend.

Write a long overdue love note
.
Hug someone tightly and whisper, “I love you.”

Express appreciation.

Find the time to keep a promise.

Release a grudge.

Speak kindly to a stranger.

Enter into another’s sorrow.

Smile. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.

Take a walk with a friend.

Apologize if you were wrong
.
Give a soft answer even though you feel strongly.

Offer to baby-sit for a weary mother

Give your teacher a break: be especially cooperative

Forgive an enemy.

Be gentle and patient with an angry person

Gladden the heart of a child.

Listen.

Everyone can afford this. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

WHO'S THE BULLY IN THE ROOM?


We were sitting together at this month’s Directors’ meeting around an oblong table with nice overstuffed chairs. Everything was maroon except the walls and curtains which were various shades of blue and yellows. Someone must have liked that but the room always made me feel a little bored.

The agenda item for discussion was to brainstorm. What should be our marketing ideas for the next three years?

In previous meetings we’d narrowed our half-a-dozen ideas down to about four somewhat different approaches that we might take in reaching new and perhaps unanticipated customers. I came prepared to offer and discuss two ideas I’d been mulling around in my head for the past three months and so did a couple of other members of the board. My thoughts were to utilize Facebook and other social media tools, something this Company had never done before.

As soon as our CEO opened the floor, Marvin at the other end of the table jumped right in with his pet thought. Marvin is somewhat outspoken and very persuasive, primarily because he is articulate and tends to monopolize our time with his own agenda. His ideas are the only ones he really wants to hear. After a while, Mike asked the woman next to Marvin for her ideas. She began and in just a few minutes, while she had paused to breathe and gather her thoughts, Marvin jumped in and began arguing his case against her ideas. When Mike interrupted to suggest we let Alice finish her thinking, two people across the table joined in to support Marvin. They both liked his thinking. That allowed Marvin more time and off he went.

Eventually, the meeting ended with the final decision to be taken up next month. I had not been able to present my own thinking. In fact, nearly all of the conversation centered around Marvin’s solution with perhaps half of the team seeming to support him.

We all know Marvin. Marvin’s a bully! He may not realize it, but he is.  But he’s “our Bully,” say his supporters. He’s advocating our position and doing it well. No one else had much to offer the team, they say.

Marvin is powerful and persuasive. He can be someone you might want on your side from time to time. But what contribution to the Board will the bullied member make in the future? Is Marvin’s approach to solution contributing to a process that requires trust and connection?

Many of us are, to some extent, bullies in this context. We need to stop that. We need a process that provides alternatives in discussion. We need an environment that won’t tolerate bullying in any form.

Nancy Kline has designed an entire system that provides alternatives, that celebrates independent and uninterrupted thinking that makes it easy to avoid bullying. www.timetothink.com

You may also check out my own website for more on this.   http://www.stevegammill.com/thinking-environment/

Thanks to Seth Godin, “Bullying is Theft,” http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/11/bullying-is-theft.html



Thursday, November 7, 2013

LEGACY BY STORIES -- HOW IMPORTANT ARE THEY?

In the course of my practice, I often ask, “What is it that you will leave to your loved ones?”  During the discussion, the beginning answer of, “my wealth” grows into the real answer, “my self and my stuff.” All of that really is one’s wealth. Drilling down into the meaning of “my self” reveals a minefield of possibilities. A photo album of people and events with some sort of explanation or note attached to each is one way.  And today’s technology allows for a much enhanced version of that old photo album.

A written narrative of one’s life or of some of its more meaningful events is another. It’s one of those things “I’m absolutely going to do someday.”   Most of the ideas we think of when the question arises are really pretty burdensome. That’s why they never get done. Mom gets the photo boxes down from the closet shelf with the idea of going through them to create that album and then sees what she’s gotten herself into.

I read an article in a local paper earlier in October about a mother who had lost her young adult daughter to a car crash and how this mother had treasured the voice recording on her daughter’s cell phone recorder and how she grieved when the phone provider’s upgrade deleted her daughter’s voice. The article went on to describe a number of similar events. A Washington man had saved and treasured a voice message from his mother asking him to visit her. After she passed away from cancer, he would call that number occasionally just to hear her voice—until advanced technology erased it because he didn’t call often enough.

When Bill and Carole were in the early stages of estate planning with me, we recorded a few of their life stories, including the one they called, “How I met Mattie,” about their feelings toward their now adult autistic son. The purpose of the story telling and recording was initially to better understand who they are and what their true heart-felt goals and objectives are. At some point, I informed them that these stories were far more than just tools to help design an estate plan. These recorded stories could be a major piece of the legacy they were going to leave. The stories represent a part of “my self,” a part of their wealth.

Bill and Carole were surprised to realize this and we eventually recorded more stories simply to add to the legacy. All recordings were burned to CDs, attractively and professionally labeled and with copies enough for distribution to each of their loved ones. What a gift. Dad’s stories told in his own words, and even better, in his own voice.

Every time I do this with a client I’m reminded of a situation in my own life. My grandfather was born and raised in the hill country of Tennessee. That is a special culture all its own.  As a young man my grandfather and his older brother walked all the way from Tennessee to Nebraska to start a farm.

My grandfather died in the early ‘50s without, as best I know, ever telling his stories. What a loss. What would I or my cousin, Tom, give today to have a recording of Granddad’s trek in his own voice.


I recommend everyone think carefully about using this method of leaving the photo album.  It’s a very simple process once one has designed a few specific, open ended questions that invite storytelling and rabbit trails.