Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Number 6 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

Six


THE MAGI, WISEMEN, OR THREE KINGS, traveled to Bethlehem from Persia or Arabia. They were men seeking answers, and seeking the son of God. Or, at least someone special whose coming had been foretold – Jesus was expected.

They traveled 2000 miles or so by camel. It’s unknown how many people made up their entire travel party, but it’s likely there were several in the group. They had their eyes fixed on the star, their hearts filled with expectation.

Before they began their journey, they had been seeking a sign, searching the stars, hunting for the truth, expecting the coming of a king. This was no spur of the moment weekend getaway. This was an adventure with a purpose that had deep roots of anticipation.

Are you prepared to meet Jesus this Christmas season? Are you willing to “traverse afar” over “moor and mountain” to experience the Dayspring?

Note:
Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


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Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Number 5 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

Five


“IN THE NEW YEAR, I HEREBY RESOLVE TO…” Every year, nearly everyone decides to “wake up and smell the coffee,” and rejuvenate their life in some way or another. Long lists of resolutions get written, scribed with the very best of intentions. Soon, they tend to fall aside one by one. And then suddenly it’s time to make a new list!

Jeepers! So many resolutions; so little time!

Sören Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” This flies in the face of all those books that trumpet 3 or 7 or 10 or 12 easy steps to the perfect Christian life. And it runs counter to our long lists of New Year’s resolutions.

But what is this “one thing” that we should will?

Mary bent her heart to the will of God to obediently bear Jesus. Joseph set aside his intention to divorce himself of his pregnant bride to conform to God’s will. The shepherds chose to briefly abandon their flocks to do the willing of the angel. And the wisemen left the comfort of their homes drawn by the will of God attached to a star.

Maybe Jesus gave us the best clue when he said, “seek the one thing of God’s kingdom which includes his righteousness, and everything else will come to you in time” (Matt. 6:33). Now that’s one resolution worth pursuing!


Note:
Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


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Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Number 4 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

Four


WELCOMING MEANS TO RECEIVE ANOTHER with joy and hospitality into one's presence or home. It's the difference between just saying hello and giving a warm hug. As we travel around on the holidays, when we arrive, we hear, "Welcome! Come on in!"

The parents of Jesus weren’t welcomed in Bethlehem. In fact, they weren’t welcomed in Judea and had to flee to Egypt. Later, the baby Jesus grew up to be despised and rejected and crucified.

But Jesus was, and is, always welcoming. He chooses the unwelcome, despised, and lowly to be his followers. He does not turn any away.

To receive the welcome of Christ is to receive the greatest gift of all. On Christmas Day, embrace the Reason for the season and welcome Jesus into your heart and home. Extend him your soul’s hospitality.


Note:
Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.




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Thoughts?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gut check!

Scott Bedbury was a key force behind the branding success of Starbucks and Nike and he’s written a nice little book about his experiences titled, A New Brand World.

While Bedbury looked to market research for guidance in the decisions he made, statistics weren’t the arbiter of his choices. There was something else.

A clue can be found in his quoting of Jerome Conlon at Nike: “…we’re very cautious about research around here. It’s not part of our language or culture. We don’t want to ignore or diffuse our own instincts.”

My nose is itching

What’s the “something else” needed for making good decisions? It’s an ineffable quality that goes by many names, such as gut instinct, intuition, a sense of something, a feeling, sixth sense, an epiphany.

I love watching the TV shows “Monk,” “The Mentalist,” and “Psych” and others like them. The main characters always seem to intuit more than others from crime scenes and suspects. How? By observing them carefully and processing their observations through their cumulative experiences.

What these characters do seems almost magical, as if they really can read minds. How do they do it?

(An aside: Note that all the main characters in the TV programs mentioned have witty senses of humor, ranging from very dry to slapstick. This is essential to exercising good intuition. If you're humorless and souless, ignore this blog entry.)

Something tells me

In business, intuition is invaluable when faced with a mass of research data. The data are meaningless if you don’t have a good gut feel for your clientele, audience, constituency, or customers.

Years ago when I was the editor of a trade magazine serving Christian bookstores, I approached the publisher with the idea of doing a survey. I explained that I wanted to get a better idea of what content we needed to cover in the magazine, and I wanted to know how we were viewed.

The publisher was a crusty former newspaper man, no nonsense to the core, and very wise. He told me that I could learn more by just visiting and talking with a handful of area store managers than I could from a survey of the entire readership. We were located in the Chicago area and there were dozens of stores within easy driving distance.

We settled on a compromise and I was allowed to include a short postcard survey in one issue of the magazine, but I also visited local stores. He was right!

Remember the character Data from Star Trek? He was a data-bound data-hound; he knew a lot of facts but couldn’t always apply what he knew correctly since he had no intuitive sensibility.

Having a gut sense can be as good or better than collecting a lot of data.

I’ve got a feeling

There’s nothing wrong with doing research. In fact, it’s essential to good business practice. But the data gathered will be useless if you can’t interpret them, and you can’t interpret them if you don’t already have a good feel for what’s going on around you.

A gut sense is simply your cumulative knowledge, experience, training, and the life you’ve lived applied in an intelligent way to current challenges. Most of us know way more than  we give ourselves credit for.

If you’ve reached a point where you’ve decided it’s time to survey your customers, odds are your gut sense is prodding you to pay attention to something that’s shifted or shifting. Something’s happening and you already have a feeling about it.

When you do a survey, keep in mind that the people responding aren’t as invested in the results as you are. Their responses will be self-centered, passionless, and not entirely accurate. That’s the nature of surveys! You have to be able to interpret the data and not merely accept the numbers at face value.

Trust your instinct! Do the research but listen to your gut. Too often I’ve watched as really smart people opt for research for one of two bad reasons:
  • They didn’t trust their instincts at all, or
  • They wanted to sidestep responsibility for the decision.
In both cases either they become frozen and unable to make a decision or they go entirely the wrong way.

Gutting it out and getting it right

Here are four steps to improving your decisions by combining research with your instincts or gut feel:
  1. Write out what you’re sensing. Doodle with words. Ramble on paper. Talk into a recorder. Get it out of the ether and onto paper so you can see what you’re feeling.
  2. Do some research. Go ahead and take the temperature of your audience, constituency, or customers. Do a small phone canvas, go to lunch with some people, send out a simple survey.
  3. Acknowledge what you really want to do. Odds are you know what needs to be done. Write it down on paper and talk to a trusted colleague or friend about it. Seeing it on paper and hearing yourself talk about it will help you better discern if it’s a good idea or not.
  4. Make a decision and move forward. If the research matches up with your gut, then it’s a no brainer to move ahead. If not, then trust your gut unless the research reveals something you were previously clueless about.
If it so happens that your research and gut are miles apart, you may be badly out of touch with those you’re serving and will need to reset your gut based on the expectations of your audience, constituency, or customers. In this case, a full-blown survey effort coupled with direct contact and conversation may be needed.

But, if as a rule, you’re staying connected to the people you serve and are actively engaged with them at some level, your gut is going to be in line with reality. Trust it.

Don’t abdicate your wisdom, experience, and professional insight to a bean counter’s numbers. You’re better and smarter than that!

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Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Number 3 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

Three

KIDS LOVE CHRISTMAS. The mind-numbing anticipation mounts daily as dreams of what they long for become ever more vivid in their heads. All they want for Christmas is – everything! Now!

For some, wondering what gifts will appear leads to irrepressible snooping. Like little Sherlocks, they investigate every nook and cranny of the house – basement, attic, garage, crawl space, shed, closets, and cupboards. Sometimes, finding gifts but stymied by the wrapping, they slyly peel off tape, untie ribbons, take a peek, carefully rewrap, and feign surprise on Christmas day. But the joy of having what they’ve desired is real and unrestrained.

While parents aren’t pleased by this sleuthing, God loves it when we can’t wait to receive the greatest Gift of all. In fact, if you open His Gift before Christmas – any day of the year – God doesn’t mind and you don’t have to re-wrap it.

Are you antsy with eagerness to receive the gift of Christ into your life, fresh every morning? Do you irrepressibly long for everything God offers?


Note:
Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


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Thoughts?