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Marketplace Prayer

Week Thirteen

As prayer time pre-meeting was about to get started, Liz brought in some of her Lubbock catering food to us so that we could start our days off right. Josh said that it was a perfect gift since he hadn’t had a chance to have breakfast and he really needed to fill his belly to get ready for the lawn care jobs he had lined up for the day. I had already grabbed a bagel before our prayer, but I had no problem gobbling up a couple of extra breakfast chicken sandwiches. Liz said that she had brought more than enough for the entire group to feast on – she wanted to bless the whole business group. Liz is a cool lady. Anyway, prayer was good and I was the focus since I was going to speak about marketplace ministry in a few minutes. I don’t mind public speaking as long as it is covering something that I feel passionate about – I am definitely passionate about bringing God into the mix of everything in life. I did wonder how the whole group would take it, but I had to surrender this worry in our early prayer. I figure people can take it or leave it…

So, I was the speaker for the day and I told everyone about what Josh, Liz and me have been doing as far as prayer before the main meetings. I talked about what we all noticed as far as the positives of this time and suggested that others in the group might think about forming small groups to bring prayer into their businesses. I also recommended to these bosses and leaders that they offer some sort of prayer and/or Bible study time to their workers. After all, most people spend most of their lives in the workplace and could probably use a supernatural boost. In the dialogue time, there were some concerns raised about how this might go over at the workplace – would the workers who didn’t want to participate feel like they were going to be looked at in a negative light in comparison to those who did decide to participate. I just answered that it would have to be made very clear that this was a completely voluntary choice and not one that would affect workers’ jobs. I also said that one small group could be formed by someone who was not in leadership so that people would find it more organic. Most of the people there admitted that even though they were people of faith, they didn’t even bring their businesses to God in their own private prayer times. They said that they had so compartmentalized their faith and their work that they didn’t ever cross paths. Many of them said that they would begin the process by first letting their prayers catapult over their own compartmentalized barriers. Only then did they think it would be a good idea to bring prayer into their workplaces.

 

I got the feeling that my speaking topic really made people think about their spiritual lives and how they could affect their work lives. I also got the added benefit of seeing people who wanted to break down their life compartments and bring God into their personal prayers about their businesses while at home. Liz and Josh said that I did a really good job with the whole thing. They said that they overheard one group of three commit to starting a prayer meeting like the one we have. That will be cool to look around and see three more people praying when we are praying. I’m thankful for the day – Please comment on what you think about this whole thing – feel free to ask whatever questions you have. Thanks in advance.

Food and Prayer

Week Six

Me and my Lubbock lawn care buddy, Josh, met up early again to pray about how to implement what we were learning in this group. We also did more surrender of our businesses to God so that He can direct us in which ways to go with our staff and our decisions moving forward. We actually had the Lubbock catering businesswoman named Liz join us for about the last ten minutes. Turns out that she is a Christian who already uses prayer within her leadership group at work. We were happy to have her because she is so experienced with bringing the Lord into the marketplace. It was a short addition this week, but we invited her back for next week and she agreed to join us.

As for the talk of the week, we had a banker who did a few reviews of helpful business books (Outliers, Who moved my Cheese?, Diffusion of Innovations, etc.). It was actually cool because in his reviews he brought out the most important points of these books and showed us how we could implement them in our everyday workings. I have to admit that this was especially nice for me because I do not invest myself in business books. At best, I read the backs of books and maybe the last summary chapter while in a random Barnes and Noble. Then I head to magazine aisle and read meaningless Entertainment and Sports news. Smart businessman, huh?

Anyway, after the talk there were several people who asked some intriguing questions and even more who gave their own suggestions for books that had seemingly changed the way they went about doing business. One of them talked about how to implement the contents of these books into real-life. This was cool because I tend to ignore book ideas because I figured they couldn’t be used in the local market. Now I am thinking I could grab a few books and see if I can become a better businessperson. I am thinking about expanding my staff so I’ll seek out a book that talks about smart human resources.

Okay – that’s it for this week. Please feel free to send your comments about books I might check out for this specifically. Or if a book has changed your life or perspective send those titles my way. This group is teaching me to take other people’s opinions and apply them to my own world. But, I know there are plenty of you out there who can add to my knowledge. Help a brother out…

Till next time –

Praying Business – Week Five

Praying Business – Week Five

So, prayer experiment number two with Josh, my Lubbock lawn care friend and it went well. We both spoke to one another about how the previous week had gone and if either of had seen any difference in the way we went about our business from a supernatural angle. Josh said he felt that he noticed him and his crew seemed to be more calm and relaxed. He said that there is often tension between he and one of his foremen, but it disappeared this week. He was thankful for that. I told him that I was affected a lot by the Lubbock catering speaker from the last week and that, together with prayer had carried me into taking on a pro bono job for a local homeless shelter. I told Josh that while working on that job I felt close to God and was happy that I was motivated by doing this so unselfishly (not common for me). Anyway, today Josh and I used Scripture to push into prayer. We used Philippians two as our guide to help us realize that we needed to make ourselves into servants of the people we were doing work for. We both admitted to complaining a lot and so we prayed that this part of our work would change.

As far as the speaker for this week, we had this guy come in from another local restaurant to talk about making sure to hire friendly people who could be trained to make every customer feel like a valuable person who has a positively memorable experience every time they came in – This didn’t mean that much to me since I do a lot of solo work and don’t hire very often. But, everyone else seemed struck by this talk. Most of the people in the group shared how they often hired friends of friends who didn’t take customer service as seriously as they want – Some of them said that their workers were downright rude to customers. Some other said that their workers acted entitled to complain about their jobs and to argue with customers. But almost all of the people there admitted that it was their own fault for not interviewing everyone who was on their staff. They also said that the training rituals had not been established very well. In fact, some said that they had trained workers to do the work, but had failed to teach their workers how to be kind and super friendly to the people that had hired their companies. Such a simple idea but it was not being implemented very well. Every one of us committed to do some retraining and to hire more strategically.

That was about it for the meeting – it was another good one. I’m so pleased that I have found this group to share with and to learn from. I’ll keep you updated as time goes on. Again, feel free to comment about your experiences with the abovementioned struggle.

Thanks and see you next week.

Business and Prayer – Week Four

Week Four

My lawn care friend and me showed up at the meeting about thirty minutes early because we both decided to try to add prayer to our business dealings. We had heard that this was a good move from several other business owners and so we aimed our meditations. Why not add the supernatural to our natural attempts. At first we were both a bit nervous as how to start but after about ten minutes we got a rhythm. Most of our prayers for success were about surrendering all of our efforts to God and asking Him to show us how to best run our businesses. It felt good to join up with a fellow brother and do this – we committed to this practice for the following weeks and we both have high expectations for the results.

The speaker this week was a businesswoman who runs a highly successful Lubbock catering firm. Catering in Lubbock is a huge field and so we were all excited to see what she would share. Our excitement was not disappointed. This woman talked about how their business used generosity to build up a positive face in the community. She told about how for the past several years that her company opened themselves up to giving away their catering services to non-profits who needed to make money to do their jobs better – make things easier for them. She said that by giving away free food to these groups created a powerful word of mouth among those in the community and actually drew a lot of new customers who were extremely loyal. She said it seemed that their generosity did not take away from their profits but instead raised their profits by over 25%. I was amazed at hearing this sort of idea because it had never occurred to me to do the same with my business. During our dialogue time, she posed the question, “What can you give away to non-profits that will do the same sort of thing for all of us?” And the discussion around this question was great. Other businesspeople there piped in and either told how they too had used generosity to bolster their community reputation and almost everyone else there shared what they planned to give away so that they could do the same things and hopefully get a raise in profits. All in all it was a fantastic group meeting.

I am interested in hearing from you readers – what do you think of this idea? Would you also be willing to be generous in various ways to raise community awareness of your business? Please feel free to comment and share your opinions and ideas about how this might affect your business in a permanent positive way?

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Day 141 – Thursday Fires

Day 141 – Thursday Fires

Just a note to self – I am getting behind on my blogging – Sometimes I am writing about the three days previous because I am not scheduling myself appropriately. It’s not that I have become busier – just prioritizing badly. I know that this journaling discipline has been and is good for me because it stops time from just passing me by without thinking. I will try to do better as I go along. Okay – enough apologizing to myself for that – let’s begin this one.

Still loving my Lubbock corporate housing but hating the treadmilling – Still loving Melissa but getting nervous as we approach our wedding date. I know it is months away from now, but I keep having this thought: What if I turn out to be a really terrible husband? I could you know – I could be fooling myself and thinking that my ability to live well alone will translate into living well together. So, to educate myself/[prepare myself, I decided to buy a book called Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the suggestion of my (now) friend at the lawn care company. I mentioned my nerves to the president one day when he asked me about the impending event and I told him about my fears. So, he said that this was a good book to dive into to understand how to couple in a positive way. So far it is a good read.

Speaking of clients, I am still working hard for all of them and doing all I can to help them to find ways to increase their exposure. The system I use seems to fit just about everyone, which is a plus. I do have to make some tweaks for each one of them to make them industry specific (inbound content) but I am glad that I have set up a system that works across the board. This makes my vocational life easier and since it creates success for my clients, we all end up happy. Why I just wrote that I am not sure…

Maybe I am just trying to justify my system so that I don’t have to think too hard about my work.  I certainly have this justification when it comes to my Lubbock catering business.  It’s become like a plug and play auto-system.  But they seem happy and that is the point right?

Maybe I am just trying to keep my fair distance from having to be creative.

Who knows?

My meditation: I am continuing in Job and am just so appalled at how his supposed friends show up in front of him and basically start haranguing him. Job was absolutely in his rights to be in despair and filled with difficult questions for them and with God. He had had everything taken away from him and was suffering from painful sores all over his body and these guys come over trying to disprove his arguments and answer his questions with clichés that never help anyone. Here’s what I got out of it – listen more to people who are suffering. I don’t have to be the smart person or the more “righteous” person when I come face to face with others’ loss. I just have to be present and I just need to listen. Why make someone who is suffering suffer any more than they already are because I have things to speak into their lives? It’s useless. I hope if I ever lose as much as Job that I do 1/10th as well as this Job did. The New Testament tells us to remember Job when speaking of enduring hardship, so his situation and his reaction is relevant for all of us.

Day 138 – Monday What?

Day 138 – Monday What?

As I look back at this journal and see just how many days I have been keeping it, I am struck by how fast times goes. With each day I get older and with each day I don’t necessarily get wiser – isn’t that the way things are supposed to go? 138 days in my short-term furnished apartment and during those days I have picked up clients and even better I have found Melissa. So, I guess I will trade in that wisdom growth and just take on some love growth.

I jogged on my treadmill to Daft Punk this morning – got my electronics and my groove going. They may have to become my go to Monday morning band, because they get me to semi-dancing – they also take my mind off of the evil machine I am forced to use for the winter. Speaking of winter, I am beginning to feel the dips of the lower 40 degree temperatures in my bones. I am also in contact with the Lubbock landscapers – Besides holiday lights, what sort of yard work and design do they do as the weather gets colder? I called and asked them and found out that they do some serious yard maintenance to get it ready for the spring – scalping and such. I told them I would start emphasizing that part of their business until mid-February and they appreciated me staying ahead of them in their marketing efforts.

I had an overall busy workday but I don’t really want to write about the same old things again. So, I won’t. But, my meditation was interesting – I was reading a lot about how we are on earth for a short term – that eternity is where our minds should rest. I have a very hard time with this. Culture always shoves my head down into the temporal world and presses me into the dust. I guess I have learned to allow it to win me over, because I pretty much give into its push and pull. I rarely think about the eternal. But I feel like I need to start asking God to show me how to “imagine” His realm – how to have visions of God’s courts and of the new earth He is creating now. I actually made this into a spiritual practice today and was met with thousands of crowded thoughts that had nothing to do with God’s eternity. I think it will just take time. I will just keep at it until I can silence these worldly shouts and find my way into the eternal.

Anyway, that is a pretty big deal for me – I feel excited to seeing what God is up to…

Do any of you do this? Any advice for a newbie to get past this world and to the eternal? Let me know in your comments if you do – Thanks in advance.

Day 136 – Saturday Sleep

Day 136 – Saturday Sleep

Yesterday my nap in my corporate housing bed became full-on sleep and I crashed hard until 7:00 a.m. – No nightmares about weed whacking maniacs attacking my girl – so that was a relief. In fact, I had no dreams about any sort of grass, plants, flowers, mowers or anything relating to landscaping in Lubbock. I was going to tell my Lubbock catering clients about my dream but then thought better of it – maybe after we complete their contract I will share it. I doubt they need to worry about my mental state during these holidays.

So, today was one filled with Melissa time. We spent the entire day together just being in each other’s company. We did a traditional date lunch with an early afternoon movie (Dr. Strange) and that was followed up by us going to church together. As for the movie, we both were quite impressed with the visuals and constant CG changes of scenery. As well, we both like the main actor Benedict Cumberbatch (from Sherlock) – he was the main reason we chose this movie in the first place. The movie had some silly moments but overall I thought it was better than most movies from this genre. Sorry, I’m not a professional movie critic – I just know what I like and what I don’t like. Still, let’s be proper: I give the movie 3.5 stars out of 5. It’s worth the cash.

As for church, it was once again stupendous. I don’t know what sort of pastoral steroid our main speaker is using lately, but he is really bringing the power and challenges lately. I found myself sitting on the front of my pew listening intently to his breakdown of how God loves us first and we love Him and others second. He was pacing back and forth and probably sweating because he was so passionate about the subject. He wasn’t downing obedience and just saying “grace, grace, grace.” He divided the word in such an awesome way to give both beliefs equal weight. But he focused on our need to realize just how much we are loved – how we are known and loved – how we screw up and are still loved – how we cannot stop His love from being apparent and strong in our lives. Melissa and I walked out of the service in awe of the way it was all communicated to us. It got us to talking about how we perceive ourselves – how we identify ourselves in light of God’s great love. It was one of the best conversations we had ever had and by the end of it, I was more in love with God and with Melissa than ever.

 

After all of that, Melissa and me decided to try meditating together – getting on our hands and knees and asking the Holy Spirit to mold us into a couple who really grasps God’s love. Neither of us heard any loud voices or angelic trumpets blaring about this topic, but we both felt like God moved us closer to our goal of knowing a love that surpasses knowledge. Why? Because Love Knowledge is not as good as Love Experience. I look forward to that day when we have that sort of love coursing through our veins.

Day 134 – Thursday Tryouts

Day 134 – Thursday Tryouts

I know I have mentioned it before but I cannot over-emphasize how nice it is to live in short-term furnished housing – all that they have to offer coupled with incredible customer service makes being away for months at a time feel comfortable. And even though I will be moving into my own house with my own fantastic Lubbock lawn care, I will miss this place. I doubt I will weep over having to leave it behind but I just wanted to remind myself to be thankful for providing it for me in what has proved to a be a major life year for me. I might have to come over in the summer and swim a few final laps in the pool just for old times sake. I’m sure they would let me but might be a little worried about my mental state. I worry about my mental state sometimes too.

Speaking of that, have you ever known someone who was going along fine in life and at work, but then they got so stressed out that they had a nervous breakdown? (I know that’s not the official terminology but I think you know what I mean when I say it.) I know a guy who was going along very well and truly experiencing success as a counselor when one day he had a panic attack and ultimately went all the way down from there to a point where he couldn’t work at all. He was diagnosed with severe anxiety and severe depression. He’s on medication now but he had to leave the counseling field because he couldn’t handle the pressures anymore. It was shocking to me when I heard about how far he had fallen. And I know there are thousands and thousands of people who have the same sort of thing happen to them. What a terrible misfortune! I try to keep up with Keith (his name) as often as I can. Even now, he tells me that he never saw it coming. He didn’t notice any signals that he was going to crumble like that, but that he struggle he went through and the struggle that he still has affected not only his job prospects but his family as well. He said once, “It’s not easy to be a broken man and it’s even harder to be married to one.” I wonder how this kind of drop would affect Melissa and me. What if her nursing career was sidetracked by a malfunctioning Central Nervous System?   What if my sales and marketing vocation made me feel so much pressure that I fell apart. I know that a lot of this sort of thing can be genetic that just pops up for some people – I don’t think it runs in my family or in Melissa’s family but with the speed and harsh demands our culture puts on all of us I would say it is a real possibility.

With this in mind, I asked Melissa if she had ever thought about this issue. She said that she never has but that she has felt very close to burning out at different times. We both assured one another that if something like this happened to one or both of us that we would try and be as supportive of each other no matter the limitations that would come along with such a mental affliction. We both agreed that it would be hard to press on with one of us getting hit by severe depression and/or severe anxiety, but we both said that our love for one another would not be conditional. Once we said, “For better or for worse,” we would have to stick with that.

 

Have any of you had this happen to you? If so, what are the signals that someone needs to watch out for so that they don’t fall all the way down? Any depressed or anxious people out there who have advice? I would love to hear any comments…

Week Three – New Business

Week Three

Besides my friendship with Josh who is doing a whole lot of landscaping in Lubbock (actually I should say that he is doing a lot of Lubbock lawn care for yards heading into the fall and winter months) I have become friends with a guy named Kurt, who does all kinds of handyman work for several corporate housing groups all around the South Plains. He told me that he doesn’t think he has much to offer to the group as far as teaching anything, but he is going to give it a go in a few weeks. He is going to talk about successfully dealing with difficult and impatient customers who are domineering and demanding. I told him that this was going to be a very valuable teaching since everyone in the group has to deal with customer service to a lot of people who complain about everything no matter if everything is being done correctly. Kurt told me that he recently dealt with a woman at one of his assigned sites who wanted him to fix her toilet that she said was always getting stuck. After taking a look at her toilet (which I am sure was a total joy), Kurt messed with the internal workings of this fine contraption and jiggled things around a bit. He put in a lot of toilet paper in the bowl (which made the woman steaming mad for wasting her valuable toilet tissue) and he flushed it. It worked perfectly. Again and again, Kurt tried to get the toilet “to get stuck” as was the complaint and it never would. It flushed normally, but the woman refused to let him go that easily. In fact, she berated him for just being lazy and trying to get out of this job so quickly. He told me that despite his internal anger at the woman for her actions, he calmly asked her to accompany him into the bathroom and to show him how he could fix something that was currently. He showed her what he had done on the inside (which was not much since none of it was broken) and asked her to think of when the toilet tends to get stuck. He also asked her if she happened to try to flush anything besides paper and waste into the toilet. She was livid but Kurt’s calmness and even care for her situation kept things from being explosive (a word that you might not want to think of in dealing with toilets). Just then, Kurt saw three cats moving around in the hall and he immediately thought of their litter boxes. He asked the woman if she changed all three of their litter boxes on the same day and she said yes. He asked if he could look at the litter boxes and when he did he saw that they were overflowing with kitty litter and other fun surprises. He immediately knew what was going on – the woman was dumping three full litter boxes into the toilet each week and it was clogging her system. He asked if he could check and see if this was right. Flustered, he said yes and just as Kurt thought, the toilet stopped up. The woman did not say thank-you but instead just complained that Kurt had wasted not only her toilet paper but now a lot of kitty litter. Kurt just smiled and said he was sorry about it all. He used his plunger to remove this current clog and made sure the toilet was working correctly. Then, he thanked her and left. But Kurt didn’t just stop at that – He immediately went to the grocery store and bought the woman a 24-pack of toilet paper and a large case of kitty litter. When he delivered it to her corporate housing space, the woman actually started crying and apologizing to him for being so cross. As it turned out, she had just lost her husband to cancer and had replaced her sorrow with anger. She thanked him for his kindness and patience. Kindness and patience kill off a lot of complaint. This was the case study that Kurt was going to use when he talks to us in a few weeks. I was amazed at how his attitude and generosity had calmed the storm and encouraged him that this would be a powerful lesson. He thanked me and we got a late breakfast after the group concluded. Once again, I am happy that I am making friends with people of this sort. Good guys…

I forgot to mention that I also made friends with a woman named Liz who is running a local Lubbock catering business that is connected to a larger corporation.  She will be mentioned in the rest of my blogs because of her influence on me and Josh.  Her name is Liz.

Day 121 – Friday Freedom

Day 121 – Friday Freedom

Drinking Cold Brew coffee from Starbucks is both an addiction and a hatred – I order this drink probably three times per week and expect it to amp my caffeine levels to dangerous levels (which it does). I also expect it to taste like a bad cigar in liquid form (which it does). I get this drink without water or ice so I maximize my Starbucks investment, but every time I swallow it back I nearly gag on the taste. I should just change my order to something more palatable, but when I get to the counter I feel that I have to take on my coffee nemesis – to face my fears – to battle my Goliath. I keep thinking that it will become an acquired taste that I actually acquire, but so far I have no acquisition. Maybe if I ate some tar on the off days I would be able to fall in comparative love with the Cold Brew. Anyway, I begin with this because this was one of those Starbucks days. I could have just drunk my free corporate housing coffee, but I had to brave this challenge one more time. Cold Brew – I will conquer you by falling in love with you…

So as most Fridays go, I had a good one. I started off meeting with my Lubbock Pre-K group and then I met with the lead from the Lubbock landscaping group and went through their analytics. I talked to them about how their holiday lighting business was going and they told me it was busier than last year – they blamed me for that success. I accepted that blame. After this I hung out with Melissa for lunch at Carprisi’s Italian eatery. As we chomped on Manicotti and Canneloni, we talked about whether we would have pets after we get married. Animal preferences are a big deal. Trust me, it’s deep stuff. After some emotional discussion we decided on starting with a turtle over a dog or cat so that we could ease into taking on more responsibility. Turtles are cool – we both like them. And Melissa said that if we wanted to have something we could pet, we could just glue some soft wig hair onto the turtle’s shell. I already feel sorry for this turtle – kind of like I feel sorry for dachshunds that are forced to wear sweaters. Still, I think we will have the softest and coolest turtle in town.

Meditation: Jesus offended the religious leaders with several different statements and told them that they were doing the religious things correctly but were forgetting to handle the bigger things that please God – like doing justice and bringing mercy to bear on others. I couldn’t really put myself in the place of these leaders, but I did get convicted by the fact that I don’t take opportunities to do justice and to mete out mercy. In many ways I think that I leave those actions to church leaders. I sort of expect them to be the ones who do the “professional” ministry, while I go about just working and making a living. I need to stop thinking like this. I need to realize that I am a disciple of Jesus who needs to actually put God’s desires into practice.

I have a long way to go…