Archive for the ‘family’ 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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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

20121120-105242.jpg

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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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A thanks and what I learned from my first race ultra-running and how does it apply to the rest of life.

In Books,business,Community,culture,exercise,faith,family,food,Friends,Fun,humor,quote,Reading,running,Spiritual,Sports,Theology,Uncategorized,work on October 28, 2012 by mstevensrev

Yesterday I participated in a twelve hour race less then a mile from house called the Carkeek 12 Hour, which is marketed as the worst race in the world. ¬†It is twelve hours of a two mile loop on poorly marked trails and approximately 400¬†vertical feet every loop. ¬†You begin a six in the morning in the complete dark with headlamps and go until six in the evening. ¬†And now the results, I WON, okay I didn’t win the most number of loops, I’m not even sure if I won the costume contest (I was Waldo from Where’s Waldo, pretty clever if I do say so because it was easy to run it). ¬†I am certain I WON the prize for most smack talking in the race, I think I met every runner and had a blast getting to know them, in addition I accomplished my goal for the race and finished with a smile on my face, clearly I was the day’s winner.

Before I start talking about what I learned from the experience, I’m sure some of you have some questions:

Q. Did you run the whole time?

A. Depends on what you call running.  I averaged about 4 miles per hour over my race.  So my questions is how fast do you run? I kept moving and other then some adjustments to my costume throughout the race I kept moving, there were laps I completely walk these laps often were when I was eating.

Q. Did you say eating?

A. Yes, I ate good. ¬†One of the sponsors of the race was Seattle¬†Biscuit Company,¬†@SeattleBisCo and it was amazing. ¬†I did tell them if I had a Biscuit Truck I would have a picture of someone’s butt in the logo and an¬†African-american woman named Flo serving them…perhaps for their second truck SBC will do this;) ¬†
Image
They offered us food included in the cost of the race, so I took full advantage I 
had two eggs, bacon, and ham over grits, and two biscuits. ¬†One biscuit with jam the second with Apple butter. ¬†It was amazing, many runners stick with Goo and other sports products that make me want to puke. ¬†The candy they provided was great¬†initially¬†but I noticed that I would crash from the sugar about in the second lap after eating it, so SBC was my savior and was one element of¬†the race that made my experience unforgettable. ¬†Very grateful for the amazing food and wonderful service from these guys. ¬†They even laughed when I told them that, “If I crap myself or throw up I won’t blame you guys..” That is a line that could really be taken poorly by the wrong person. ¬†So if you are in Seattle find this food truck, you will not be disappointed.

I’m glad to answer any other questions related to the race, my experience, and my training for it (actually I didn’t train specifically for this race, I’m currently preparing for my triathlon season next year…this race was just for ‘fun’). ¬†As I ran there were a few things that came to mind that I wanted to share, principles that I applied that I thought applied to both my personal and professional life, check it out.

The Plan

Going into the race I spent a good amount of time mentally planning, I don’t just hop out and try to go running for twelve hours without thinking it through. ¬†The course record was 33 laps, approximately 66 miles and 13,000 total¬†vertical…keep in mind Mt. Ranier and Pike’s Peak are 14,000 vertical feet. ¬†I knew if I ran the race of my life the best I would do is 30 laps, so while that was in the back of my mind it was not reality. ¬†I set an achievable goal of running 15 laps (30 mile), which would be the longest distance I have ever run (6,000 vertical feet which is two trips up to Snoqualmie Pass) this was a goal I would be completely satisfied achieving. ¬†Since the trails are only .5 mile from my house I spent many training runs exploring and enjoying the trails so they would seem¬†familiar¬†to me for the race, I did not run more then two laps for any training run because I didn’t want to get sick of the course before I even got to the time of the race.

During the race I executed my plan. ¬†Some ultra runners are so remarkable they can push their bodies to run an entire course like this one for the entire distance of the race. ¬†That is not me. ¬†I knew for me to survive the day walking was important. ¬†The course was marked the opposite direction of what I had trained and there were a few areas that I had never run and was¬†unfamiliar¬†with. ¬†Thankfully at the start of the race in the pitch black I was able to run the first lap with a few people including ‘Big Bird’, an extremely gifted woman ultra runner who had completed the race the year before. ¬†This lap was much faster then I had anticipated starting but it was worth it just to have someone take me through the course, honestly it was tough for me to keep up that first lap but I knew in the long term for the race it would be to my advantage as getting lost would have discouraged me from the start. ¬†After that lap I was able to reorient my mind going the opposite direction from what I had anticipated, the parts that I thought I would run downhill now became areas to briskly walk, the hills I anticipated walking now were opportunities to bomb down, within the first hour of the race I had completely adjusted my thinking and honestly I think it is one of the factors that kept me mentally fresh.

Most of my life I have lived without a plan, only in the past five years has planning enter the equation. ¬†Having a plan with¬†stretch¬†goals and achievable goals is important, otherwise as Yogi Berra famously said “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you going, because you might end up there.” ¬†This applies in my personal and professional life, plans for the next month, year, and years into the future are important. ¬†These plans are not set in stone but they are the maps for the trails of my life, I can always vary from them if I want to see a view or if a hill seems too difficult to climb at the time, but at least I know (on some level) why I am where I am at in any given moment. ¬†Even when wandering because as someone once said, “Not all who wander are lost.”

Winning and being competitive

The reality is there are amazing ultra athlete’s in the Pacific Northwest, I got to witness these men and women first hand yesterday. ¬†And yes I’ll admit many times during the day I¬†fantasized¬†about what it would mean for me to finish with the most numbers of lap, and in my fatigued state I may have even thought it was within my grasp. ¬†So I ran competitively, at the point in the race when these amazing athletes began to pass me I played a game with them, though they had no idea. ¬†They would come up behind me and as they got closer I would incrementally speed up, this had two advantages as I saw it. ¬†Here were people already working harder then I was early in the race, this meant they would have to work even harder perhaps even harder then they had anticipated. ¬†Once you see someone often you determine regardless of your pace to pass them, so you do what is necessary to get by, this meant I could ‘fool’ them into using more energy then they would prefer. ¬†Also it improved my time, even though I was not racing at the same level as these folks I was able to benefit myself and my time by being competitive with them even if it was only for five or ten minutes while they passed me. ¬†Again this was a complete personal secret that improved my time and kept me mentally fresh, it also made me better.

In life there will always be someone who is better then you. ¬†Your chance of winning often is dependent on whether they show up to the race or not, because you have no chance of beating them head to head. ¬†Whether they show up is not in your control, but if they do show up it is an opportunity for you to personally improve. ¬†Take the opportunity to make yourself better and perhaps one day you will end up being the person that everyone hopes doesn’t show up to the race.

There were two ‘official’ ways to win at the Carkeek 12 hour, most number of laps and the costume contest. While I would have loved to win both or either of the honors, I created a third way to win “Best Trash Talker”. ¬†For me this meant that I would talk with anyone where every on the course regardless of how bad or good I was feeling. ¬†While alone on the course I would imagine what fun conversations to have with others and I created a catch phrase that I stole from work “Gitty up!” ¬†When I would be passed by the most serious of runners for the second of third time I would accuse them of using their car or cutting the course short. Knowing the truth, that they were just better then me, I didn’t let a little truth get in the way of me connecting with others on the course;) ¬†This created a bond for me, one that I began to enjoy seeing these folks even though they were kicking my butt, and my hope was that they were enjoying seeing me because they knew they would get some entertainment value when they passed the guy dressed up like Waldo. At one point I came upon the aid station and said to the crew of people who were assisting us, “I don’t want to be a tattle-tail but unless Hippie Runner is a costume I don’t think anyone ahead of me in the race is actually dressed up in costume, can you disqualify them so I can win?” ¬†It lead one runner who overheard me say this say that he was dressed as Lance Armstrong and has a blood bag full of horse blood that he was going to run with later in the race.

Chris McDougall in his epic book Born to Run, discuss the evolutionary theory that humans were pack animals and each member of the pack plays an essential role for survival. ¬†At the core of the ‘pack’ theory is that we are created for connection with each other, frankly I believe connection is key for our¬†existence¬†as a species. ¬†Yes, my trash talking talking was a means of connecting more deeply with my pack yesterday. ¬†One more popular example I relate to this has to do with trash talking and the NBA. ¬†Rumor has it that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were/are two of the greatest trash talkers in the history of the game, not only two of the greatest athletes every to play basketball. ¬†I draw a connection here to their athletic performance and their connecting with people. ¬†Just to clarify, trash talking is not merely swearing at people or telling them the are worthless pieces of trash. ¬†Trash talking is connecting more along the lines of “your mother dresses you funny”. Clever thoughtful words used to engage your competition mentally. ¬†You don’t have to be a great athlete to pull this off, you have the opportunity even if you are average to make a deeper more ‘human’ connection. ¬†Since none of us are machines operating through life we have the chance to enter into another reality through engaging conversation with people. Take this opportunity today, if you have the skills in an area to back it up then the world is your oyster.

Gratitude

A few months ago I read with a book club Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, and it was the inspiration to¬†participate in the Carkeek 12 Hour. I am grateful both for the book club and the book itself to have provided the soil for me to grow as a person, I could not and would not do something so insane without others. ¬†We do not change the world (or ourselves for that matter) alone. ¬†I have hard people say, “Even the lone ranger had Tonto.” Yesterday the people that made the race possible were the race organizers (Sam and Brock) and the folks that volunteered to run the aid station. ¬†Many of these folks probably would have preferred to be running the race themselves and instead they made it possible for me to enjoy the day and have an experience of a lifetime. ¬†During the race my goal was to show my gratitude by keeping these folks entertained. ¬†Somewhere around my seventh loop I came by the aid station to check my time and laps. ¬†When they told me how many I had run I said, “Crap I am going way too fast, if I keep running this fast my intestines will fall out my asshole.” While they were still laughing I added, “I know because I’m a doctor.”

Regardless of where you are in life you did not get there on your own, I don’t care what any politician tells you. ¬†People help people and often especially as Americans we forget the fact and continue to move forward. ¬†Make sure that you find someway to say thanks, a grateful heart leaves no room for bitterness. ¬†I am so thankful for my family, friends, co-workers, race organizers, and crew that made yesterday possible and make everyday of life possible. ¬†Each one of us has dark seasons, during my darkest times I have taken to the intentional practice of gratitude. ¬†At the end of the day I will light a candle and reflect on all that I am thankful for starting with the beginning of my day and working through until the end, often I will do that twice because it is very hard for me to think in a linear manner for any length of time. ¬†Once your mind is oriented in this way go out and practice acts of gratitude. ¬†In our family we emphasize saying the words please and thank you, showing others their proper value.

C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. ¬†You have never talked to a mere mortal. ¬†Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. ¬†We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, is fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” ¬†Yesterday was not without me being flippant or superior toward other, therefore I know I have a long ways to go before ever achieving this goals. ¬†Regardless I am grateful to Sam and Brock and the crew who made such a wonderful event possible.

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Getting my kids into the tangable

In art,Books,business,computers,culture,family,k ids on August 11, 2011 by mstevensrev

My work allows me to be around amazing technology and the people who make it.  I have worked intimately with leading companies and gotten to see first hand the artistic nature of writing code and then it coming to life.  For most consumers though this elaborate process simple becomes a means of consuming content, the creative is behind the curtain and often ignored.

I started thinking about this because of a conversation with a new friend where in talking about raising children she mentioned the importance of having books around in addition to the ‘screens’ that are apart of our daily existence. ¬†She said, “I want my kids to have something¬†tangible.” ¬†Which stuck with me.

Tangible things create limits very quickly for us.  That is the magic of technology, Ray Ozzie said that the entire reason he started programming is because he knew if he could imagine it, he could create it.  There is a huge difference though in my mind between creating and consuming.  When I pick up a trumpet I immediately run into the limitations of my lips, training, lungs, and everything else.  When I play a trumpet on Garageband I am free of many limitations.

As a parent of three kids I am often looking for the easy way to get through situations, and I am keenly aware that is not the best.  Hand a kid a screen, and they will be entertained for an hour, teach the kid what about life the screen makes magical and they will be caught up in the wonder of life.