Saturday, 11 June 2011

Top ten tips to find meaning and contentment in life

When I reached what felt to be about the middle of my life, it finally hit. No, I really would *not* live forever! There would be no exception made in my case and a time would come when I neared the end of my days and thought back over my life with one question in mind: "How have I lived the one and only life I was given?"

I realized then that "I sure attended a lot of meetings" or "I really helped make a lot of rich folks richer" or "I got the nice house and the nice car I wanted" were not answers that would satisfy. I realized that I wanted a life that was meaningful, purposeful, and connected. I think we all do.  Here are the 10 easy [not really] ways to have the life that will allow you to live and leave your life with satisfaction:

  1. Strive to appreciate every bit of beauty, kindness, good fortune, and warmth you can find
    It is far easier to complain about what's wrong but it makes you far happier and nicer to be with if you are a person that is grateful for everything. If you can rejoice in a good cup of tea, you will be happy often.
  2. Assume the best of people
    You may be wrong sometimes, but expecting the worst makes you fearful and shrivels your soul. Expecting the best often brings out the best in others around you - it is a gift that blesses them and you.
  3. Don't play it safe all the time
    Take some risks with your life. It is better to have tried and failed than to carry deep regrets in your vocation, your avocation, your connections, or your love.
  4. Persevere
    Nothing worthwhile comes without effort including growth, change, skills, learning, and especially the strength of relationships. If you give up at everything that does not come easily, you will have nothing worthwhile.
  5. Give generously with your heart, your hands, and your wallet
    In serving others, we soften our often hard isolated selves and become part of the larger whole.
  6. Remember every day that your life is precious
    Can you really afford to waste this day?
  7. Let yourself be vulnerable 
    Love can be both exquisitely wonderful and exquisitely painful. We can't have the former without risking - and often suffering - the latter.
  8. Don't take yourself too seriously - laugh!
    Laugh at yourself, your situation, and the whole tragedy of life. Take it all seriously and it will crush you. Take it lightly and you may find burdens floating away like clouds.
  9. Have fun - it's not a crime
    If you have only one life to live, must you really spend it being serious all the time? 
  10. Forgive easily
    Carrying anger harms both you and the target of your resentment. If it is possible, let it go.
No, they are not easy. Every one of these takes work and takes practice. That's life!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

What business is your congregation in?

My background is in business. One important question for businesses - a question which, when answered unwisely, has meant the demise of many businesses - is this "What business are you in?"

In the US, there was once a massive and thriving ice business. The clever and industrious organizations in this industry harvest ice from fresh water sources in the winter and stored it until the warmer weather when it would be delivered to households around the US - and even overseas - where it would be used to keep food from spoiling in the heat. There was, of course, no mechanical refrigeration at the time.

When refrigeration was invented and began to be commercialized, it was not initially the smooth, quiet, reliable, and adjustable appliances we now know.

It was noisy. It was large. It was very expensive. It was easy for the ice producers to laugh it off as no threat.

Of course, refrigeration began to improve. And as refrigeration improved and become more competitive, the ice producers had to respond. They did so by finding ever better, more effective ways to harvest and store ice. They invented great equipment for transporting and cutting blocks of ice. They developed every more efficient ways of insulating the ice in storage.  They were certain of one thing - they were in the ICE BUSINESS and they needed to remain competitive.

Well, you know the end of this story. You are unlikely to run into someone at a cocktail party today who proudly announces "I am in the ice harvesting business." Refrigeration won.

The ice business was successful in continuing to improve what they did in the face of the threat from refrigeration. They failed to make a key shift however that could have made them business titans still today.

They concluded that they were in the ICE BUSINESS rather than the COOLING BUSINESS.

What business is your congregation in?

Many congregations would produce answers to this question that reflect what they do today - such things as sermons and hymns, committee meetings, church buildings, members, pledges, organ music. They have been so resistant to change that I can only guess that they firmly believe these ways of doing things to be their "business."

What business is your congregation in?

Is it not in the "life transformation" business? The "meaning-making and purpose-finding" business? The "gratitude-building, connection-revealing, justice-seeking" business?

If we come to these kinds of answers and we begin to think beyond our equivalent of the ice business, how then do we do things differently?

Look around your world. Who is doing your business well? They may be at early stages and still be noisy and inefficient, but this may be tomorrow's sleek stainless steel refrigerator!

What business is your congregation in?

The answer to that question and your response to it will determine the fate of your congregation.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Top ten tips for congregations that don't like change

Judging from the behaviour of congregations of many faiths here in the UK and elsewhere, there is a strong desire to avoid growth and vitality. As you know, I am ever obliging, so I want to offer such congregations a few tips to really make sure they are headed quickly to their goal of irrelevance and a slow conversion to historic relic status...

  1. Be sure to consider the tastes and needs only of existing members when planning
  2. Subject any new idea to tremendous scrutiny and give all members a veto - let old ways and programmes continue indefinitely
  3. Have more committees than you can possibly manage and make sure they talk a lot and do little - people just love committee work
  4. Let existing members be as disruptive as they like, but criticize newcomers for the slightest foibles
  5. All concerns and disagreements should be addressed by talking behind peoples' backs
  6. It is always a bad idea to spend any accumulated funds - money is for saving
  7. Don't ask members to give generously to the congregations
  8. Make sure you keep expectations of commitment to the congregation as low as possible
  9. Hide the building as best you can and keep things in poor repair - you want to make it look like it went out of business years ago. "The smell doesn't bother us, why should it bother anyone else?"
  10. If new people turn up, make it clear to them that they will be considered "new" for at least five years and will be welcome to have a say in "how we do things here" after ten, but they will always be considered new if they are not just like "us"