November 2013

Thomas Carlyle and Thinking Great Thoughts

In the last few months I have been really enjoying the thoughts and insights of Thomas Carlyle. He was a Victorian Era author/essayist who was immersed in the literature of philosophy, history, society, the arts, and theology. He was raised in the Scottish Presbyterian branch of the Christian faith, but walked away from that faith as a young man.

Still, there were significant Christian worldview themes that were his constant compaion and which framed his later thinking. I find him simply fascinating and stimulating. Even when I disagree, his WORD-SMITHING brilliance as a writer enables him to say things in a way that seem fresh and intriguing.

Happy Thanksgiving

May This Day be Full of Grace & Gratitude. 

As you say GRACE today, may your GRACE be a prayer of simple thanks to the Father above who is the  Giver of all Good Gifts. Here are two images of Grace Saying. I am sure the one is familar to you, while the other may be new.

NORMAN ROCKWELL... Woman saying Grace in a Diner.

People in Your Life

Either Blessings or Lessons...
Which means, either way, they are blessings!

She was a wise woman. We don't always think of Mother Teresa in those terms - wise. We think of her as loving, sacrificial, generous, prophetic, deeply compassionate for the poorest of the poor - and she was all of that.

She was also WISE. It was not the wisdom of book learning, of higher degree learning, of scholarship learning. It was the wisdom of life, of experience, of pain and suffering, of hands on engagement with a broken world. She may have been one of the wisest of our modern times.

Joy is the Serious Business

Of Heaven... and of Earth
One of C. S. Lewis' core themes was joy. Joy that included delight, desire and longing. Lewis believed that heaven was full of joy. That joy was so integral to heaven, it was to seen as the "serious business of heaven," -- to be joyfu.

So, when we pray the Lord's prayer:

Chesterton on Gratitude

G. K. Chesterton was one of those rare individuals who lived from 1874-1936. He was a prolific writer, thinker, debater, and apolgist for the Christian faith.

He was a creative "word-smith" who found brilliant and beautiful ways to describe the way of Christ. 

In my opinion, some of his best thoughts had to do with gratitude. As we are in the week of the North American Thanksgiving holiday, take a little time to reflect on Chesterton's thoughts.

Gandalf and a Swift Sunrise

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were profoundly united in friendship, made all the stronger by their literary bonds and more, their common faith in Christ. Yet, when it came to how that faith should be expressed in story - they strongly differed. Tolkien's masterpiece - Lord of the Rings, intentionally had minimal metaphors or allusions to Christianity. Yet, a beautifully consistent Christian worldview weaves through the masterpiece.

One of my favorite quotes in the Return of the King (LoR3) is when Gandalf describes to Pippin his death and what lay on the other side of the veil that separates this life from the life to come. Gandalf, having returned (or really - having been SENT back) is able to truly describe it. These words, I can sit with and hold . . . I hope you will also.

Learning the Lessons of Life

Thomas Carlyle was one of the great Victorian philosophers, historians, teachers and authors. He was an enormously gifted, insightful individual. I have been familar with Carlyle, I had heard some of his thoughts expressed in quotes, but I had no idea until a few weeks ago - just how much he wrote and how many great insights this man had. I was looking for one of his quotes, and when I searched for it, I found idea after idea after idea. Since then I've picked up a few books by Carlyle.

Well, here is one of those quotes i stumbled across that is "spot on." I want to unpack a few ideas that hit me.

Good and Evil

Saying Yes and Saying No
Here is a quote that was simple, direct and very inspiring to me. It comes from, Reading for Preaching by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. (pp. 36-37)

"At its core, true religion has to do not just with kindling our passions, but also with aiming them in the right direction. The world is full of good. The Godly person will say YES to it with all her heart and then act accordingly.

Why Read?

Advice From a Theologian for Communicators
You know how much LCI values Life Long Learning. We believe leaders are those who learn. Great leaders are those who have outstanding capacities to learn. And a very good case can be made that some of the most vital learning will come about through reading. Leaders need to have ways to access the most exciting, innovative ideas. Leaders also need to know how to draw from the wisdom of the past. Skill in reading is vital.

In an age that has been aptly described as The Shallows, those who know how to read deeply, think and reflect wisely and then be specific and concrete in the application of this acquired knowledge - they have a major ADVANTAGE over those who do not, cannot or will not read.

Dig the Well Before You Are Thirsty

I don't know if this is actually a Chinese Proverb... or someone just labeled it as one. But it is wisdom.

Dig the well before you are thirsty. 

In other words:

What Happens in Las Vegas Stays in Las Vegas?

Not Any More!
Not in this day of phone cameras and video recorders. What happens anywhere can be recorded and made public. As Prince Harry found out in his Las Vegas debacle.

So here is a great piece of advice.

If you don't want anyone to find out - DON'T DO IT!

If you would be embarrassed for anyone to find out - Don't Do It.

If you wouldn't do it if your family and friends were watching - then Don't Do It.

My Current Reading List

From time to time, people ask me what I am reading. Almost always, I have a number of books I am reading at the same time.

In the field of leadership, there are two books I am currently working through. Both are quite academic and both are historical studies of political leadership. I am not sure I would recommend them to most readers of this blogsite, unless you have a real interest in history, politics and great (and not so great) political leadership.

Thomas Merton on the Monastic Way

Thomas Merton is one of the most famous of monastics of recent times. He was a prolific writer, a man who experienced deep tensions within him and who knew how to name and describe those tensions (for the benefit of his readers). Merton was one who made accessible to the larger world, what was at the time, a rather hidden, mysterious, confusing Monastic Way. Merton was a Cistercian Monk. The Cistercians were a renewal movement  (begun in 1098) in the Benedictine tradition. The Cistercians sought to recapture the original simplicity and austerity of the Benedictine Way. Bernard of Clairvaux and Aelred of Rievaulx were among the most famous of the founding Cistercians. (Please note the Final Note about Merton at the end of the post.)

Helen Keller and the Apostle Paul on Suffering

They Knew It Was the Way to Growth in Life and Leadership
I want to imprint on you the thoughts of two very different people. The first is Helen Keller, the woman who through illness became blind, deaf and mute. Through a wonderful teacher Ann Sullivan, Keller overcame these disabilities and became an inspiration to the world. For more on Helen Keller, read this short biography. The second person is the Apostle Paul who endured suffering that was on a level virtually unimaginable. If you want to refresh your memory on what Paul endured to see churches planted in the Mediterranean world, read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.

Here are the thoughts from Helen Keller and the Apostle Paul. 

Intelligence and Energy: Without Integrity They Will Kill You

It all begins with character!
I've seen leaders wipe out on the issue of integrity. One story, in particular, of a leader I knew quite well - his fundamental lack of integrity, his need to succeed, his need to present to others an image of himself (that was simply far from reality) and how he flamed out and hurt quite a few people - this was one of those painful reminders of what happens when integrity is not present.

Warren Buffett knows a thing or two! He is considered the greatest investor of the 20th century. He is one of the world's wealthiest individuals. He is a philanthropist of the highest order. Therefore, I found this statement by Buffett to be supremely interesting.

Become a Great Listener With These 13 Best Practices

Do you dislike Bad Listening as much as I do? 
I was listening to a Sports Radio TV morning show that has three co-hosts who interact. It is amazing how poorly they communicate. There is constant interruption. It is hard for any of them to get a sentence in before another is interrupting them and arguing.  It is frequent to hear two of them talking non-stop at the same time for sentences!

Do they think this is entertaining? Do they think this is great sports journalism? Do they think they are displaying mature interaction? Hey, I enjoy listening to great and intense debate on issues… but at least let it be a reasonably orderly debate where the sides give each other the space to say what they think.

True Wisdom - I Wonder If You Have It?

I Know You Need It!

For Daniel Goleman and John Calvin, it involves Self-Awareness
First - Goleman. When Daniel Goleman reminded us that effective leadership that is emotionally healthy - begins with Self-Awareness, he had not stumbled on a new insight. It was a piece of wisdom that the great philosophers and theologians of history already knew. Goleman simply put it into a psychological framework (and a very helpful one I might add).

Steal Like an Artist

Everyone else is!
That's the focus of this delightful little New York Times Bestseller by Austin Kleon. You can read it in 60-90 minutes. Do it at one sitting. Just enjoy the whole thing at a sitting. It is an easy read, fun, inspiring and thought-inducing. Hopefully it will help you become more creative as well.

Kleon doesn't necessarily tell you anything new that hasn't been said before. But since most of us are not good listeners, it needs to be said again. Kleon says it in a way that helps you listen. Witty, practical, loaded with nuggets of insight and wisdom, short stories, stepping stones for reflection and action.

Here to Make Friends

I am blessed. I hope you are as well!
I have great friends. I have quite a few of them. They make life enjoyable, interesting, fruitful, stimulating. And they, in some ways, "make me" as well.

Some of these great friends I work with and see every day. Some of these friends are scattered around the world. I miss being with them, but thanks to the internet, we keep our friendship growing.

I like this sentiment. I am here to make friends. Yes I am and so are you. Friends, partners, colleagues, collaborators, team-members, peers… 

The Two Things You Must Do Today

The two things you must do today! Having a great day of work is as easy as doing two things... but the two things are hard.

First, you must do good work. Whatever it is you are doing, do it really well. Make, create, build, develop, contribute, fix, repair, service, assess, advise . . . . . Whatever you do today that is at the CORE OF YOUR CALLING - do it really, really well.