Tuesday, July 31, 2012

First Peter Four Seventeen

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

The Judgement of God is being levied against America for a variety of sins, They tell us. Katrina was sent by God against the gulf coast, New Orleans in particular because of its gambling, it's voodoo roots, it's openly permissive society, Bourbon Street. Biloxi Mississippi - gambling. Gay marriage has caused all sorts of impending doom from the Creator - too much rain, not enough rain, public shootings, hurricanes, whatever else distasteful comes our way.

We read in the scriptures, the fate of Sodom and Ghomorra and think to our righteouse selves - they deserved it. Look how evil they were and homosexuality was at the core of what turned God against them. But that is only reading on the surface. Perhaps God's judgement of S and G was not as much the evil taking place in the town but the lack of righteous influence in the town. Perhaps, left to their own devices, without the influence of a small few, S and G became without hope of redemption. Afterall, God did give them an out. Find me 1 righteous person and they will be spared, He says.

If taken from that perspective, 1 Peter 4:17 then points the finger at an altogether different source of doom - the church.

The judgement of God is falling on America:

Not because of gays getting married, but because the church blames gays getting married for hurricanes.
Not because the world is full of adulterers but because their are adulterers in the choir.
Not because America is full of hate mongerers but because a hateful man is at the pulpit.
Not because America's leaders lie, but because church leaders misquote the unrighteous.
Not because Americans kill babies but because Christians won't adopt.
Not because Americans drink and do drugs, because our congregations fail to consider biscuits and gravy a drug.
Not because the world is in disharmony, but because the church is not A Church, the church are churches.
Not because the world is full of chaos, but because the church is a cacophany.
Not because businesses seek money, but because churches are run like businesses.
Not because Americans have lost touch with a special idealistic past, because the church has become plastic and lacks roots.
Not because the world is like the world, but because the church is like the world.

God is judging America -Not because of Them. Because of me....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How the Christian Church in America Set Mr. Cathy Up To Fail

"I make little account of victory. Nothing is so stupid as to vanquish; the real glory is to convince." Grantaire in Les Miserable by Victor Hugo.

The controversy surrounding Mr. Cathy and Chik-Fil-A may not be all his own doing. While I believe he is his own man and can make his own decisions, I do not think his world view was developed in a vacuum. No, instead, his actions and the turmoil caused by his comments were shaped in him by the one influence in his life that he sought out to provide him support, community, direction, and peace. The current situation is the result of a disease in the American Christian Church.
There is a reason why Protestantism is called Protestantism. There is a reason why in a small county of say 8,000 people in western Arkansas there are 95 Baptist Churches. There is a reason why in even the smallest of towns there is a 1st Baptist Church, a 2nd Baptist Church or a 1st United Methodist, a 1st Pentecostal, and so on. It is because for the entirety of its existence the Protestant Church has been founded upon the principle of "protestation". When we disagree, we start our own thing in protest. Or we become ugly and cause separation. It is entirely possible that the split in churches that caused 2nd Baptist Church was not 2nd Baptist Church' fault. Perhaps, 1st Baptist Church made life so distasteful to some of its members they had no choice but to separate themselves. Indeed, we have left the teachings of Christ - "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves."
Mr. Cathy has simply followed the teaching of his own church, forsaking that of his God, and has become - harmless as a serpent and wise as a dunce! The very people he should be trying to convince of the validity of his faith have been pushed away.
Another teaching of Christianity, that seems to be forgotten, is this. Christ told his disciples to "Be one, even as I am One." This call to unity, that is being ignored by the supposedly faithful, may be the true cause of the entire Chik-Fil-A stupidity.
The creation of the "Christian Media" was obviously not to edify the faithful or to convince the world of the truth of this Gospel they profess. It was, in large part, a protest movement against what they call the Liberal Media, Drive By Media, LameStream Media. But, as happens too often in protest movements like this, the "Christian Media" has resorted to the same tactics as all media outlets in order to compete. Nothing is so stupid as to vanquish. One does not win an argument by resorting to the same tactics one's opponents use. The real glory is to convince the one that your position is true by showing him, mostly without words, that the truth of your position stands alone.
If the Church were one as Christ has commanded - and here the Church includes those in Christian Media, Church leadership, business owners, charities, and congregations - then Mr. Cathy would have never been placed in a situation to cause this melt down in his image and the risk to his business that was having great impact on his society. The question "What is your stance on Gay Marriage" would never have been asked. Instead, if the Christian Church were One as they are commanded, the interviewer would have attemted to shed Mr. Cathy and his business in the best possible light, not to cover up anything, but to keep the main purpose of the church in mind - to CONVINCE those outside the faith that there really is something true about Christ and his teachings.
A better question, if the Church were really One, would be, "Explain why you run your business the way you do and what impact it has on those that are outside the faith?"
This would have led to a better answer from Mr. Cathy. Something like this:
"Christ teaches me to treat others as I would like to be treated, to be fair, kind, and compassionate. To speak the truth but to walk in mercy. He teaches me to not think too highly of myself but give preference to others, to help the poor - and I try to do all of this with my business because Christ has dominion over that as well."
I cringe whenever I see church signs or flyers or commercials by Christian organizations proclaiming that they are "Taking the city for Christ!" or church gatherings that are identified by words like "Crusade" (sorry Mr. Graham). Have Christians forgotten, or did they ever know, that to vanquish leaves everyone blind and toothless? (Thanks Fiddler on The Roof). Have Christians forgotten the teaching of the head of their supposedly unified organization? That in the last days Christ will return to vanquish? For us the real glory is to convince. Christ, in reference to his disciples, never commanded us to vanquish anything or anyone but, perhaps, the devil. Instead he taught his disciples to teach. The apostle Peter said to "always be ready with an answer for the reason of your faith." To vanquish removes teaching and reasoning out of the equation all together. To vanquish leaves us nothing with which to deal with our society than battle and conflict, and anger. To vanquish, as Mr. Cathy, and his church have tried to do, leave the distance between us a much wider chasm than when we first begun.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mr. Cathy Thinks Small

My biggest argument against the Christian Church is while professing to worship a BIG God, they think small. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with Mr. Cathy's statements of his stance against gay marriage the most telling (and tragic) thing about the entire controversy is that Christians exchange the big-ness that is openly available to them for something small. Mr. Cathy has demonstrated this perfectly.

Another current news story pits the Pope against some of his followers, nuns who refuse to spread the anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion stances of the Roman Catholic Church, to the poor people they serve. The nun, in an interview on the Jon Stewart show said that the social message of gay marriage and abortion is not their mission. Their mission is to help the poor. In this case, as in the case of Chik-Fil-A and Mr.Cathy, there is a much larger mission, a much larger purpose to follow. The nuns think big. Mr. Cathy thinks small.

Mr. Cathy is openly Christian. His business is openly Christian. We all know that. Eat at a Chik-Fil-A and you can't miss it. Christian music is played over the speakers. They are closed on Sunday so, as the notice states, their associates can rest and worship. Even with this openly Christian, faith based philosophy, Chik-Fil-A is a major force in business.

Mr. Cathy had a good thing going. The influence his business played in the market place demonstrates an axiom Christ himself established.

1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 12: " Learn to be quiet, mind your business, work hard with your hands, that you may be perceived as being honest towards them that are outside the faith, and that you may lack for nothing."

The influence Mr. Cathy has had on his customers, his peers in business, and his employees has been immeasurable. Honesty in business, closing Sundays to invest in his staff, being profitable in spite of operating with one less sales day per week, the culture that is evident in each of his franchises - happy employees; polite employees; consistently quality products (I've never had a bad meal at a Chik-Fil-A and I've never been insulted, and the employees there have always treated me with respect). All of this has a much larger impact on society that, since Mr. Cathy's comments, has diminished.

From a business perspective, Mr. Cathy's comments were stupid. Any business that relies on the public purchasing your product can not afford to alienate a portion of its clientele. While I applaud Mr. Cathy's courage in not wavering from his convictions during this firestorm, in my opinion, he would have been able to courageously stand up for his convictions and not diminished his impact on society by keeping his infantile, Christian, mouth shut.

A gay couple walks into a Chik-Fil-A to eat lunch. Unless they are oblivious, they know Mr. Cathy is a Christian; he runs his business according to a Christian ethic. What has the greatest Christian message and impact?

A) Excellent service, excellent product, polite, happy employees where they and the customer are treated as they would want to be treated.


B) Standing up for your convicitions and judging the gay couple for their choices (or their innate design  - I am still unclear if homosexuality is a choice or not).

Mr. Cathy chose B and reduced the influence he has in society. He traded the large-ness of a Christian witness of honesty, love, respect, and dignity for the small-ness of one social agenda that angers and alienates the very people he should be trying to influence.

That same gay couple, tomorrow or years later, comes to a crisis in their life. They've come to the point where they are not only trying to find the answer to their purpose; they are being forced by God to make the decision. If Mr. Cathy had chosen option A, wouldn't that gay couple seriously consider this thing called Christianity? Mr. Cathy had chosen option B, the short sighted social commentary. I guarantee you, souls have been lost through this. People who  could have been influenced by a Christian business now perceive Chik-Fil-A to be bigoted.

Now, I must move on to the impact this statement is having on another segment of Mr. Cathy's business - his employees.

I do not assume for a minute that everyone working for Mr. Cathy truly believes what he believes. I am sure there are plenty who are just starting out in life and have been drawn to the culture of Chik-Fil-A. They don't get tied up in the message, they just like the work environment, they like the pay check. Perhaps they are there for the excellent college tuition assistance the company has. The impact Mr. Cathy's business philosophy has had on his employees has to be immense. Every Sunday off! Good Pay! Excellent reputation! I am treated fairly at work! Mr. Cathy had an infinite potential to not only influence the public he had an even greater impact on his staff.  He had an opportunity to teach his employees the gospel according to Christ in the way he manages his business and in the way he treats his servants. Since his comments, he has lost this influence. His employees are now subject to taunts from the protesters. His employees are required to remove anti-Chik-Fil-A signs from there drive through menus. They are subject to comments from the Jesus Freaks and the Gay Love sides and all they want to do is complete their shift and live their lives. Chik-Fil-A employees should be disappointed in Mr. Cathy's actions. In a matter of seconds he has diminished his influence with the buying public and the impact he could have had, indeed, the impact he was having on his employees.

I have just heard that pro-Gay organizations in Louisville KY are attempting to organize a Gay Kiss In protest at a local Chik-Fil-A in response to a Christian Rally for the local Chik-Fil-A. Thank you Mr. Cathy. The world needs another protest. Is it me, or is something lost in this whole situation? Humanity. One can debate one's right to free speech. Indeed, I believe Mr. Cathy had the right to say what he said. I believe he has the right to donate dollars to the organizations he wants. I also believe that the pro-gay marriage crowd has a right to  not buy chicken from their local Chik-Fil-A. However, I do not believe either side has the right discriminate against the other.

Mr. Cathy chose to think small. He traded in the large-ness of his impact on the social mores of our world - a place and position given to him by his God - for the small-ness of human convention. Some call him courageous. Some call him a bigot. I call him stupid.

Another teaching of Christ: The ungodly use unrighteous mammon to profit himself in this life. How much more should a follower of Christ use ungodly mammon to profit the Kingdom of Christ in this world and in the world to come.

I Am Dr. Evil

Leadership Training is over and I discovered something about myself, well, perhaps I just received confirmation of something I have always known. I am Dr. Evil.

One of the training sessions used a program called Strengths Finder 2.0 to determine what my innate leadership strengths are. To do this I had to take an assessment consisting of 170 situational questions. With only 20 seconds to answer each question I had to select how I would react to the situation without giving it alot of thought. The designers of the assessment assumed that the truest measurement of my leadership style would be a quick gut reaction.

I completed the assessment within 30 minutes and just seconds later the results were emailed to me. The basis of this course is that employers spend way too much time educating us on our weaknesses and trying to improve them. The philosophy of this program is that an employer can benefit more from concentrating on maximizing strengths than in improving weaknesses.

 My top five strengths were:

1) Strategic - I naturally determine patterns of behavior and performance in an effort to clear out the clutter of a situation. I try to turn chaos into a direction for progress. I rehearse scenarios. I know this to be true because I find myself doing Backyard Monologues, where I pace back and forth and rehearse conversations. I do this in order to prepare myself for as many possible reactions from my staff and then how I am going to respond if one of the situations arises. I believe that there are a finite number of possible scenarios and I attempt, within my brain, to prepare for them all. Because of this I do not always move as fast as I should; I lose alot of sleep; I sometimes cause my well performing staff some frustration as they wait for me to act.

2) Contextual - I always, or more times than not, try to predict the future from what has happened in the past. When I relate to my followers I am always telling them a story that goes something like this. Here is where we started, this is how we got to where we are today, here is where we presently are, and here is what we need to do to get to the goal. This goal, is based on the universe I have created from my Strategic strength.

3) Connectedness - I truly believe that nothing is an accident. Everything happens for a reason and everything falls into a unified body of experience and knowledge. From this I get a picture of what is happening and set that up to be the universe in which I function. Furthermore, because I "know" this to be true I expect my followers to fall into that universe as well.

4) Discipline - This strength means that I want every thing to fall into place. I want to think that everything is in control, even when it is not. Sometimes I make the announcement that everything is okay; I've got it covered, for no other reason than to put my staff at ease. This is also the end goal. That everything falls into place - all the dots are connected (Connectedness), the present is following a pattern of the past (Contextual), and we are progressing along on our path of the universe which I designed (Strategic).

5) Individualization - This strength comes from my need to figure out how my people think. What makes them tick? Do I have them in the right position, performing the right task. But most importantly does their personal philosophy in how the function in their jobs fall in line or otherwise support the philosophy I have set up in my universe as a Strategic planner? This strength is the one that made me realize my true nature. If an individual working for me does not share my philosophy with how the business should be run then there is a period of time where I use the way they think to try to manipulate them into my universe. If this works, well, then they remain a vital part of the team. If this does not work, I spend very little time with them and I make sure they do not show up to work the next day.

So, from this leadership profile, I operate within a universe of my own making; I truly believe it to be the right universe; I select my team for the way they think and how well they fit into my plan. If they do not fit, I will give them several chances to change their way of thinking or their commitment level, and if they do not change I make them disappear. And I have an innate desire to be in control, or appear to be in control, even when I am not. Does this remind you of anyone?
Now, when I brought this up to my instructor, he quickly chastised me for taking my strengths and making them a negative. I told him, like Dr. Evil, I have designed my own universe which I believe to be true no matter what happens, I operate from a motivation of history, I treat my office like a secret underground lair, and when a member of my staff does not fall in line with the program I try to use their psychology against them to manipulate them into doing what I want them to do. If they don't fall in line, I push the button and get rid of them.

He quickly responded, "No, no, no. You simply provide your staff a framework for success. Those that succeed you give more responsibility, those that fail, you determine their strengths and leverage this in ways to make the whole team successful. As a result, you have a loyal team that will do whatever you ask and eventually there is no situation that is not out of your control."



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not Exactly a Three Hour Tour

I got nominated to attend my company's annual leadership training program in Philadelphia. Those of you who know me, will understand that I so look forward to a week of team building exercises, group hugs, and conference center food. I can't wait.

I got to the airport in Louisville in plenty of time for my flight. Patt graciously dropped me off 3 hours early even though she does not understand my phobia for being late. Patt was right this time round as my flight was delayed an hour and a half. And as usual, there was no explanation from the airlines, not an "I am sorry." Just a since we're late we're going to treat you all like cattle even more than we normally do. Thank you for flying Wrongway Feldman airlines.

Within just a few minutes of taking off for the birthplace of American Democracy I realized the 53 passengers sharing the tiny tin-can of an airplane are the same people I attend the movie theater with. Of the 53 passengers, 17 required the use of the in flight restroom facilities at some time during the trip. Two passengers required its use twice. Now how would I know that 35% of the fare paying passengers went to the restroom - the only restroom on the craft. Because Wrongway Feldman Airlines thought it would be a good idea to put the grouchiest passenger on their aircraft today in the last seat at the back of the plane, just a dozen inches from the restroom door. So, since the guy sitting next to me either had ants in his britches or he was having a religious experience (he kept crossing himself), I decided to close a book I was having trouble getting interested in and I counted them. I did get more than I bargained for. I now know first hand what all 17 passengers had for lunch; I know the relative health of each person's digestive tracks. Numbers 1,5,7,9, and 6 could use a steady inoculation of yogurt every morning for breakfast. Passengers 3,4,6, and 10-16 need more fiber. And Passengers 2 and 8 need to lay off the asparagus. Passenger 17 was interesting in that when she finished her second session in the restroom stood right next to my seat in the back of the plane and proceeded to perform gyrations that seemed somewhere between an epileptic seizure and what a contortionist would do on the Johnny Carson show.

She did explain to the stewardess that she was on an exercise regimen that required a stretching exercise every 30 minutes and she was due.

In addition to all the in-flight activity I was first hand witness to, prior to taking off, the flight attendant was busily rearranging passengers so as to balance the "payload" so the plane would actually take off, fly, and land when and where it was supposed to.

Because my flight kept getting delayed, 12:30 then 12:45; then 1:15, 1:30, 1:38 and finally 1:48 I never thought I had time to eat lunch. So, since it was only a 2 hour flight I decided I would eat just as soon as I got off the plane at the airport in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia airport had other ideas though. Terminal F was completely gutted for renovations and real food was no where to be found. On my way to catch a cab, all the way across the airport, there was nothing but newsstands with snacks.

I got to the ground transportation area where I had hoped to find a shuttle or a cab to make the 22 mile trip to the conference site but, as it turns out, the cab found me. I was carrying my bags toward the cab stands when a large African-American man approached me and asked if I wanted a cab. I said yes and told him where I needed to go. He walked me to a tricked out, dark maroon Cadillac Escalade and threw my bags in the back. I guess I should have asked more questions like - Where is your cab license? What are the rates? Are you kidnapping me? How much ransom will you ask of my wife? Would my wife pay it? But instead, I hopped in the Escalade and the driver who resembled Cee Lo in almost every respect, began a tirade of talk that did not cease until I had arrived at my destination.

Bald head, dark glass, big bright smile, dressed to the nines, and very talkative. We talked about everything from Arkansas Football to the Penn State scandal to where the heck was the conference center I needed to get to. 22 miles and $71.00 later I had arrived, hungry, to find out that the conference center offers a cold buffet on Sunday nights but that doesn't start till 6 PM. So I decided to sit here and write on the blog.

Tomorrow morning at 8 AM we start the "trust falls", game playing, Personality profiling, and group hugging...and what's more, it is only scheduled to last until 8 PM so that's only...umm...12 hours.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Disle Make Over

Disle is getting a makeover. Using the bonus dollars I "earned" by spending so much time and money at the local garage getting oil leaks fixed, I purchased some nicey-nice things for Disle.

I found a wheel refurbishing kit - $20.00 - which cleaned the rust off and filled the pits in her rims. You can see the difference half way through one wheel. Included in the kit was universal rim spray paint that just happened to perfectly matched the original color. After I get the wheels all clean and smooth, I'll mask the tires and give the rims a good spray down and wax to protect them from getting into this condition again. Serendipitously, the color of the rims is exactly the same as her front grill, so I was able to restore that as well...

These are before and after pictures, or if you are reading from top to bottom like most of us - after and before - pictures of Disle's bumper. I sanded it, cleaned it, and let it dry. Using a combination black gloss primer and paint all-in-one I painted the bumper, using a paper grocery sack to protect the Ivory Cream of the tail gate. Serendipitously, the bumper now exactly matches the tool box I recently installed.

She also got new windshield wipers, which, I realized we needed when Patt and I went to the grocers in the middle of a much needed thunder storm.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom starts out as all of Wes Anderson's films - knocking you off guard - slapping one in the face really - with the weirdness. And though the sets are weird, the characters are weird, and the story is weird, one gets the feeling that everything is real. Maybe that is because as we walk around our lives in a "rat race" induced stupor, we fail to see how odd the world really is.

Generally a film must get my attention and keep it for me to keep going. Especially if I am watching it from the cesspool of noise, running commentary, smart phone flashligts, and small bladders of the modern movie theater. Let me digress for just a moment and describe the theaters I frequented as a child - quiet, clean, classical music playing over the speakers, no commercials on the screen. All the early-comers brought books to read until the trailers started playing and then silence. It was easy to get caught up in a film from the opening credits. Nowdays, movie goers see the trailers on the internet and have their own movie players built into their phones. Everyone but a few like us, show up as the trailers are ending and begin searching for seats in the now darkened theater. Theater going, in these modern times, is not my favorite way to view.

Nevertheless, I had my doubts when the trailers finally ended and Anderson introduced us into this wacky world - all of it wacky from the opening credits through the end credits - that he would be able to keep my attention. It seemed like it was going to be difficult amid the noise to follow the important bits I would need to know for the story to make sense. Would I, once again, be reduced to napping or staring at the exit signs to get through a movie I had lost track of. I should not have worried. Moonrise Kingdom is a throwback, a period piece like no other I have seen. America 1965 and despite the anachronism of the 1968 Plymouth Station Wagon, true to the times from what little I actually remember growing up in the early 70s. I found myself absorbed.

But once the quirkiness induced giggles subsided and the audience realized that what we were watching was a very serious movie as far as its message is concerned. No spoilers here. The adventure, the story, the characters, highly developed in such a short time all sucked me in and wouldn't let me go. For the first time in a long time, I was able to forget about everyone else in the theater. Well except for this.

I had forgotten that helpless feeling one gets when one meets someone and something happens. You don't know what to do, you just know you have to do something. Standing still hurts, running away sounds easy, being left alone with that someone makes its way into being the most important thing you can do. It can make you walk through a cemetary on a dark dark night, it can make you take that extra trip to Dairy Queen for a chili dog and a pineapple shake. It can make you open your window to let her crawl in, all against the rules, so she can watch a movie with you.

The most intriguing aspect of Moonrise Kingdom, for me, was how it vividly reminded me of how, when, and where I first fell in love with my wife. Perhaps she experienced the same response. On the way out of the theater, she looked at me and said..."I want a chili dog".

Monday, July 9, 2012

Disle Lives!

Disle came home Friday, running better than ever. I think she had been starved for air and oil for the last decade. Many things have improved. Her breathing is better. Her circulation is robust. She starts and warms up quickly in the morning and the ear shattering "clatter" she always had upon accelerating is gone. Where once she was a little sluggish taking off she now puts me back in my seat - she's smooth and quiet, well except for the rumbling growl of her big 5.9 L V8.

She's still got some issues. With her new found power she idles a little rough but, hey, can't complain. No oil leaks. Gonna try to give her a little spruce-up if the weather ever gives us a break. Researching trim availability and price and will be installing the RAM badges on both front fenders. Patt is going to help me reupholster the seat, and I need to figure out how to recondition her brushed aluminum wheels.

And all is right in the world...