Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

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Integrity: theme for the week and continuing The Corporate Mystic

In Books,Community,culture,devotional,Evangelist,faith,family,generosity,journal,leadership,mission,Money,Uncategorized on November 30, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , , ,

Each month (when I am not traveling for work) I attend a great networking event here in ¬†Seattle called Kiros, yesterday there was a striking talk on “Crossing the line” by Mark Sabo. This was Mark’s personal story of his failure in business regarding integrity and the consequences that followed. ¬†Personally I was struck by what a small decision by Mark led to such very serious consequences. ¬†The point that hit home for me (again) was this idea of identity. ¬†Mark, like myself, considered himself a man of integrity and yet he was able to justify his later regretable actions. ¬†As many say, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” ¬†Seeing yourself as a person of integrity is not enough, often times that view leads to the least common denominator and efforts to do the bare minimum. ¬†What is needed, what I need is something greater than myself to guide my actions daily.

In¬†The Corporate Mystic¬†the author states, “The first question to ask is whether you are out of integrity with yourself. ¬†Are you genuinely at ease with the path you are on?” ¬†Many successful people are working to heal a wound from their family, perhaps earn recognition from a loved one that never expressed it. ¬†In my case I worked ¬†(and often work) to overcome shame that has been present in my life and in my family story for generations. ¬†This is a dry well to pull from, and only when you are able to step back to you realize that. “Many of us learn very early to tune out inner signals, and the long-run costs of this are enormous…Happiness flows from a clear spring: You need to have a totally honest relationship with yourself.” ¬†This is a key reason I believe that how people answer who they have been created to be is key to all of life: personal, spiritual, professional, and family.

A friend shared on facebook today the article,¬†Success Will Come and Go, But Integrity is Forever¬†by Amy Rees Anderson, a very good article that inspired me. ¬†The last few lines of the article are very powerful, “If you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity then surround yourself with people of integrity.¬†There is a plaque on the wall of my office which reads: ‚ÄúDo what is right, let the consequence follow.‚ÄĚ It serves as a daily reminder that success will indeed come and go, but integrity is forever.” ¬†I couple that with a friend who’s dad gave him the advice in college, “Know who you are before you go into the party.”¬†Integrity¬†is not something that is learned on the fly, life is too hard and our minds are too easily tricked. ¬†It is essential for all people (including business people) to take time to do the tough personal and spiritual work to find the source of integrity, and the reward is well worth it. ¬†As¬†Amy Rees Anderson states success will come and go, your character is what you are stuck with.

“I contend that dishonesty will create a failure force that often manifests itself in other ways-ways not apparent to the outside observer.” -Joseph Sugarman

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Corporate Mystic: The person we want to be

In art,Books,business,Community,culture,devotional,faith,familiy,family,Fun,generosity,leadership,Prayer,principles,Spiritual,Sports,Theology on November 30, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , ,

“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” – Bruce Lee

Twelve characteristics make up the corporate mystic:
Absolute Honesty
Fair
Self-Knowledge
Focused on contribution
Nondogmatic spirituality
Get more done by doing less
Call forth the best of themselves and others
Open to change
Special sense if humor
Keen distant vision and up-close focus
Unusual self discipline
Balance

I hope to come back to these and examine each more deeply but I’ll leave you with this story…

“Master,” said the student, “where do you get your spiritual power?”
“From being connected to the source,” said the master.
“You are connected to the source of Zen?”
“Beyond that,”said the master, “I am Zen. The connection is complete.”
“But isn’t that arrogant to claim connection with the source?” Asked the student.
“Far from it,” said the master. “It is arrogant not to claim connection with the source. Everything is connected. If you think you are not connected to the source you are thumbing your nose at the universe itself.”

Don’t forget the source.

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The Corporate Mystic: preliminary thoughts

In art,business,Community,culture,devotional,faith,generosity,mission,Money,Reading,Spiritual,Uncategorized,work on November 28, 2012 by mstevensrev

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There are a few obsessions I have, one is that when I go to a thrift store I search through the book section often looking for used copies of some of my favorite books of all time in order to give away for gifts. ¬†In addition I usually grab ‘wild card’ books that I come across that look interesting to me, often the $2 investment is well worth it. ¬†Last week I came across an interesting title that¬†initially¬†I thought sounded silly but took a chance anyway. ¬†After reading the first chapter I realize that it has great value, the book is titled¬†The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook for Visionaries with Their Feet on the Ground, by Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman.

A summary statement in the prologue says, “Genuine Corporate Mystics live life from a spiritual base. They are in business for their hearts and souls as well as their wallets. They are in business to support the hearts and souls of all the people with whom they work.” ¬†They go on to talk about how these spiritual folks have dirt under their nails as they practice daily the spirituality that they preach.

One story goes like this, “There is a Zen monastery near¬†Tokyo¬†that attracts many powerful executives from the nearby¬†industrial¬†cities. ¬†One day the master said: ‘There is no room in my monastery for mushy mystics,, dreamy folks who leave their dirty teacups everywhere. ¬†Here we meditate and we was our teacups. Both are equally important. We teach our students to be ruthlessly demanding of themselves and their colleagues. Expect the best!If people cannot function with clarity in the often-tough real world, their meditations and practices have been for nought. You must master two realities: You must revel in the vast inner space, the emptiness that is connected to all the emptiness everywhere. And at the very same time, you must give your full attention to the present moment, whether you are buying a train ticke or kissing your wife or reading the stock quotes.'”

 

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Civic duty does not equal jury duty

In faith,family,Fun,humor,movies,politics,Uncategorized on November 20, 2012 by mstevensrev

ImageI’m off to jury duty this morning, this is the first time in my life that I have been called to serve and actually ‘able’ to do it. Before I didn’t live in the state where I was called or was unable to attended. While in theory I wish that I could have a good attitude toward the entire experience I do not. It is the week of Thanksgiving, I have a ton of work to do which means if I don’t get it done during today I have to work this evening when i should be with my family. This makes me even more suspicious of the entire U.S. justice system. If I don’t want to serve and i’m a law abiding tax paying citizen who is it that actually sits on jurys? The entire system is broke.

Yesterday while looking at the unlike icon on facebook I remembered that growing up my friends and I instead of giving each other the ‘bird’ we used the thumbs down, the ultimate sign of disapproval. The idea originated from the movie, We are Spinal Tap, where they played at an amusement park and two young me just sat in the crowd giving a disapproving thumbs down. So in honor of jury duty today…Image

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Suffering: a devotional primer

In Bible,church,Community,culture,devotional,faith,family,Friends,Prayer,principles,quote,Spiritual,Uncategorized on November 15, 2012 by mstevensrev

To end sorrow is to face the fact of one’s loneliness, one’s attachment, one’s petty little demand for fame, one’s hunger to be loved; it is to be free of self-concern and the puerility of self-pity. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

God allows suffering, in particular for God’s children, to lead them to the One, Jesus who can comfort us (The Comforter), reframe our ambition (The Sermon on the Mount), fulfill our hunger (Bread of Life) and set us free for freedoms sake (Call to childlikeness). This morning my thoughts are around suffering in this world, and I offer up these thoughts on behalf of some of my closest friends who are suffering in ways far beyond my imagination can comprehend.
ImageA friend from college Tim Sayegh asked the following question on Facebook today.

Tim Sayegh: Looking forward to an open discussion tonight here at the Sayegh house on why God allows suffering Рa topic that can be very personal and that many have had to think on at one point or another. So, why does He?

Here is my answer.

Michael Stevens:¬†Great topic for family! I don’t think this answer is complete but I think there are a few places to start. (1) God is logical, therefore God has allowed people to face the consequences of their actions (the fall and sin since), this makes mercy (not getting what you deserve) and grace (being blessed though you don’t deserve it) even more amazing (2) Steve Brown, a seminary professor of mine always says, “For every pagan that gets cancer God allows a believer to get cancer, to show there is a difference in our suffering.” We suffer with hope and that should make a difference in how we suffer. Be careful because God is not a child abuser, so this answer alone falls short. (3) This is the most theological and hard for me to fully understand Col 1:24 says “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Our suffering ‘completes’ the suffering of Christ. That does not mean the Jesus sacrifice was incomplete in effect, but it was incomplete without our further suffering. In our suffering we identify and participate actively in the redemptive work of the cross. In some way suffer to ‘fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions’ is about forwarding God’s kingdom here on earth, we are active participants with Christ. I guess I understand this practically because when my wife gets sick I join in her suffering because we are ‘one flesh’, if I am Christ’s beloved there is a supernatural connection as well between my life and Christ’s.

Thanks Tim for spurring these thoughts this morning, you were used to set my mind on the Sermon on the Mount.  My prayers are for those dear friends facing extremely difficult challenges today.

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Continuing with the animal theme

In Bible,Community,devotional,faith,family,generosity,home,leadership,mission,principles,quote,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 13, 2012 by mstevensrev

ImageThis morning I read Geoffrey James article,¬†The Power of Determination,¬†and was inspired. ¬†There are many challenging things happening in our world, both personally and to friends that are very close to me. “So, even if it feels like God has flushed you down the toilet, pick yourself up and keep going. As long as you’re alive and kicking, there’s always a chance that God will pick you up and bring you to a place of safety.” I recognize that my current challenges pale in comparison to the circumstance others are facing in this world. ¬†While I may be able to do little to improve their life I can be faithful and determined in my circumstances, then live with an awareness of their plight so that if circumstances allow I may be generous with all that I have been give. ¬†The scriptures tell us that we (people) are but a breath, therefore whatever challenging circumstances we face today are less than a breath. ¬†Remember 1 Cor. 13:13, And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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The (free-range) Chicken Theology of Work

In art,Bible,church,Community,culture,design,devotional,Evangelist,faith,familiy,food,Friends,Fun,Japan,Localization,mission,movies,Prayer,principles,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 11, 2012 by mstevensrev


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My theology of work is forever changing and evolving, and one place that I journey with others on this path is at¬†Kiros, once or twice a month depending on my travel schedule I attended the breakfasts meetings they put on where they often have a speaker share some perspective on living out their calling as a Christian in the marketplace. ¬†As a side note I also had the¬†privilege¬†of speaking to the group last March, if you want to check that our it is¬†here. ¬†This last Friday Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary provided one of the best talks I have heard on the topic, his stories had us rolling on the floor, his theology was simple enough a child could understand while making thoughtful people think, and his love of the scriptures came through as everything was driven by the text. ¬†The premise of Richard’s talk was very simple, you have been called by God to your work and you have the opportunity to examine that calling in this life to better understand your ‘responsibility’ to live out that calling in your fullness.

There were so many rich stories to share but my favorite was one Richard shared about a friend who is a chicken farmer who examined his role in the plan God has in raising chickens on his farm. ¬†There is a tension when you come to farming or the role animals have on this earth and the tension is this: Animals are not people and animals have not merely been created to serve our purposes. ¬†Another way to say this is a chicken won’t write Shakespeare, but a chicken is not merely a piece of meat. ¬†Therefore this farmer thought deeply about the theology of raising chickens. ¬†He came up with this, “God wants every chicken on our farm to have the opportunity to strut his/her chicken self infront of the other chickens.” In that theology I hear echos of the local farm movement as described to me by¬†Mark Canlis, that the goals of these farmers is to have their cows (or other animals) only have one “bad day” in their life. ¬†That day would be the day they are slaughtered. Though the image Richard provided me was so much more winsome because I see in my mind that chicken strutting around, rather than focusing on the bloody chopping block.

This can be a helpful premise for chickens, but I propose that people cannot think deeply about these issues because we don’t recognize that we have been created to strut the glory in which we have been created, theologians refer to this as being created in the image of God.¬†Marianne Williamson was famously quoted in a speech by Nelson¬†Mandela, she says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.¬†Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.¬†It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you¬†not¬†to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The knee jerk reaction people, especially from my theological tradition have, to this kind of thinking is that we are sinful therefore pride and arrogance must be guarded against. This warning is fair but it sets up a false choice between¬†humility¬†and glory. ¬†Jesus lived in the fullness of God and yet was extremely humble. ¬†He accepted all people as equal, he did not use them as means to an end, the only part I would add to our¬†responsibility in the area of humility is that we recognize that we are wrong intentionally because of bad motives and unintentionally whereas Jesus did not have this struggle because he was God…he was perfect. One friend of mine says, “I’m wrong 50% of the time, the hard part is that I don’t even know which 50%, but God is making me better.” ¬†Live out in the glory that you have been created in, be quick to acknowledge when you fail at it, and in gratitude acknowledge that the source of every good gift in your life is not your own but rather a gift from God.

The question that Richard’s (free-range) Chicken Theology brought up for me is, how do you apply this in the darkest valley’s of your career and work? In the past two years before my current job I walked through a few of those valleys, the struggle of broken promises that would not reward me for my work, getting fired, and having a job where I felt lonely and hopeless. ¬†How do you strut your stuff in those circumstance? I asked the question and Richard’s answer was twofold as I understood it, in thinking about it I think there may be at least third option as I understand it.

Richard said first your current circumstances may be preparation for the next step.  This rang true for me because I look back on the last two years and acknowledge that I would not be currently living in such glory without all that I had gone through.  The experience humbled me, gave me fearful experiences that I persevered through, and provided tangible knowledge that assists me daily in my current job.  Learn everything you can if you are going through a hard time, examine your character, life and work for there could be something on the horizon you are completely unaware of that will be a blessing.  This answer provides hope, but the truth is like a chicken we are completely ignorant if our future date is the chopping block.  And yes I know that even for the child of God the chopping block is not the end of the story because there is greater glory beyond, but I still find this answer a part of the overall answer rather then complete.

The second answer Richard provided is that your vocation could be less then the sum total of your calling. ¬†Our callings are greater than our work, I sell therefore I am a salesperson yet I am a father, husband, churchman, and the list goes on and on. ¬†Perhaps your work is merely a platform that provides you the freedom to pursue the other callings in your life with greater glory. I have met many people in my life that this is the circumstances they live in, they are lawyers but their passion is to see the gospel forwarded in particular countries in the world like China. ¬†The short side of this answer as complete is that we were created in a garden where all aspects of life were intended to work for God’s glory, so when we set create an arbitrary distinction between our work life and home life, for instance, it is impossible to live as God intended…as a whole person. ¬†I know for me personally when my work life was hopeless it was very difficult to enjoy my time at the park with my children, most of my conversations with my wife were in tears clouded by depression. ¬†This is why I contend again that work as a platform merely for the rest of our life falls short in allowing us to live gloriously.

A third option I want to propose does not answer the question fully either. As a matter of fact I sense that used incorrectly it could be the most damaging of the the options as it is the most deterministic and could create an undeserved heavier burden on someone already struggling. This option is the most Taoist or Confucius of the options, and because of that I think it is the most practical (in touch with how the world really functions and how our role relates to that functioning).

A documentary came out recently titled,¬†Jiro dream of Sushi¬†“by David Gelb takes a look at the work and life of Jiro Ono, a Michelin three-star sushi chef who, at 85 years of age, continues to work on his craft every day at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo office building basement opposite a subway station entrance. His colleagues, his country, and at least one very knowledgeable food writer recognize him as perhaps the greatest sushi chef alive.” This description is taken from an article on¬†Lifehacker¬†by¬†Maximiliano El Nerdo N√©rdez. ¬†In the article titled Lessons We can Learn from Jiro Ono, Maximiliano encourages readers as his first point to fall in love with your work.

“Once you decide on your occupation,” says Jiro, “you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

Deciding on your occupation is a challenge for we live in a society that provides the opportunity to live in reasonable comfort regardless of your job or if it is in line with your calling. ¬†The hard work is not finding a job, it is discovering calling…once your calling is discovered or rather accepted (if you are a Calvinist) then the path of occupation is more clear though it may be a difficult path. ¬†Part of my calling is as an evangelist, meant that for a time my occupation would place me circumstances to lead people to a similar vision of my spiritual practice though for most people I talked with they would not share the same vision. ¬†So I became a pastor of a church in Oakland, CA. ¬†The church had financial challenges from before I started there, attendance was poor, and it was in a city that was not necessarily supportive of the entire scope of work we were pursing. ¬†The path for me as an evangelist was not easy. ¬†Now that I am in technology services my calling as an evangelist has not changed, but the path is much easier in many ways, and the path still allows me to live out my glorious calling while dedicating myself in excellence to my occupation.

Today I want to encourage everyone, strut your stuff in front of us other chickens. If you are in a dark valley, remember your current occupation (or lack of occupation) could be a learning step, a platform for other work, or the place you have been given to dedicate yourself. ¬†Even as I write that I believe the answer is all three not merely one or another. ¬†When I worked in a church we began each service with a call to worship, and I would frame the call to worship and the entire service with these words, “The good news for those God loves is that he has the first word to us and that first word is always blessing. God loves you and has made you in his glory! The good news does not end there rather God has the first word and the last word. ¬†The last word of those God loves is also blessing, you have been delivered.” So regardless of your circumstance remember you have been created for glory and you will be delivered unto glory. Amen.