Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Scriptures of Thanks

Here's a short litany I pulled together for Cedar Park's Thanksgiving service. Join us Thanksgiving morning at 10:00.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4,5)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
  by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
  present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
   since as members of one body
 you were called to peace.
 And be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
  as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom

through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
  singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
    do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus
  giving thanks
 to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

Rejoice always, pray continually, 
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Through Jesus, therefore,
    let us continually offer to God a sacrifice
 of praise—
  the fruit of lips
 that openly profess his name. 
And do not forget to do good and to share with others,
 for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  (Hebrews 13:15,16)

Thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  (1 Corinthians 15:57)

All the angels were standing around the throne
   and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They fell down on their faces before the throne
    and worshiped God, saying:


  Praise and glory
     and wisdom and thanks and honor
   and power and strength
    be to our God for ever and ever.
 (Revelation 7:11,12) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pay Attention, Show Up, and Vote

In President Obama's post-shellacking news conference Wednesday, he looked into the camera and told the voters that he heard what we were saying. If only he had stopped there. He followed up by saying to the majority of people who didn't vote, he hears them too. The remainder of the 80-minute news conference revealed that our president has no intention to change course. Presumably the resounding voices of the majority who didn't vote were urging him to stay the course.

I heard one pundit cynically snort that he wondered how he could hear the silent voices of those who did not vote. I snorted along with him in the moment, but then realized that President Obama was likely certain that he could hear those voices. He has the results of extensive and reasonably-precise research, he has advocates lobbying on behalf of the masses, and he has experts interpreting it all and feeding it to him daily (even moment by moment). These are the tools of marketing.

The thing is… we don’t ask our leaders to lead via the tools of marketing; we demand that our leaders govern. And we don’t govern via market research, polls, the voices of advocates, or the interpretations of experts. We vote. And voting matters.

We don’t govern by taking random samples of those passively being governed (polls), asking them what they want and who they want in power. We govern according to those who show up and vote.

I fear that our President truly believes that his interpretations of the desires of the non-voters really matter… matter even more than the voice of the voters. I know liberal pundits think so; they have broadcast such things the past few days. They say that low turnout was to blame… that if only people had voted, things would have turned out differently. It is as if they want us to pretend that everyone voted, and also pretend that we know how they would have voted.

(Warning… right-wing rant coming.)

Liberals do this all the time. If they get the vote they want they call it a mandate; if they don’t, they call it some sort of mistake and determine that they know better. Two years ago, I recall conservative pundits observing low turnout in the election that resulted in our President’s reelection. But I don’t recall anyone turning that into a rationale that we should govern pretending we knew what the non-voters wanted. Conservatives put the responsibility of low turnout on themselves and those who stayed home; we didn’t factor the imagined desires of the non-voters into the governance equation.

Voting matters. Paying attention and showing up matters. The system does not, and should not, govern according to the imagined voices of the unengaged, uninterested non-voters. Our government is certainly responsible for their well-being and safety, but their imagined voice is irrelevant and should certainly not be “heard” like the real voice of the voters. 

(Thus endeth the rant.)

These are lessons that extend beyond opportunities like this week’s election.

I am, and have been, part of a number of membership organizations. Most adults are. For me it has included student organizations, academic societies, churches, ecclesiastical bodies, and even my homeowners association. I’ve observed that active participation in such membership organizations is becoming less and less important to folks. We don’t bother paying attention or even showing up, thinking that voting on such things doesn’t matter.

And voting often doesn’t matter… until it really does.

I’m thinking of a few organizations that I’ve been a part of, and a few others that I’ve intently observed, in which the membership displayed (by their inattentiveness) that they didn’t want to bother with governing. So in order to keep the organization moving forward, the governance moved from the membership to the administration. What once required the vote of the body moved to a decision made by a committee. What once required action by a committee moved to a decision by the administration. What once required agreement among officers moved to a decision by the CEO.

All that resulted in greater efficiency, and even prosperity and happiness… until there was a problem. Then, when faced with a problem that only the membership could/should handle, the membership’s governance muscles had atrophied and the organization’s governance model was ineffective. Those who should have been paying attention, showing up, and active all along attempt to reinsert themselves, and there is friction. In some cases the friction only results in a season of discomfort for the organization, in other cases the organization doesn’t survive.

Paying attention, showing up, and voting matters. We can’t expect that our voices will matter if we have not been paying attention and showing up. Voting matters all the time, not just when there is a problem or challenge… maybe especially when there is not a problem or challenge.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where Coaching Happens

I did a few more coaching classes last week. I learned a lot. But the most important thing I learned (or relearned I suppose) is the fundamental thing. I solidified a better definition of coaching for myself. Here’s what I have now:

Coaching is a purposeful, customized, adult, learning experience.

Each word is important… and one is most important for me.

  • Purposeful: Coaching is goal oriented. I have coaching friends who often describe it as helping people get from where they are to where they want to be
  • Customized: Since it is driven by the agenda, pace and knowledge of the person being coached, each coaching experience is customized.
  • Adult: Coaching builds on the knowledge, experience and desires of the person being coached, thus it is mostly suited for adult learners. 
  • Experience: Coaching is practical. Not merely an academic exercise… coaching should result in action.

    And the word that is most important for me to remember…
  • Learning: The most prized result of coaching is when the person being coached learns. The aim of coaching is learning… more than merely solving problems or gathering data, coaching is meant to facilitate learning. 
For me… I get it best when I think in terms of this question: Where does coaching happen?

Coaching happens in the brain of the person being coached. That may seem obvious, but there are other possibilities.

Some might think that coaching happens in the coach’s brain. Of course the coach’s brain is important in coaching; we want the coach to bring their brain to every coaching session. But the real, most important work in coaching is not happening in the coach’s brain; that would be something more like analysis or therapy. If at the end of a coaching session we find that much of the thinking and learning happened in the coach’s brain, then it is isn’t coaching.

Others might think that coaching happens in the space between the two brains. Prior to last week, that is how I thought of coaching because I thought of coaching primarily as problem solving. Coaching certainly can be problem solving, but it should not merely be problem solving. Problem solving is often tactical… a one off experience that may only have temporary impact. But coaching should be more than problem solving; it should be a learning experience that is more strategic, resulting in learning that should have a lasting impact.

Coaching not only ends in the client’s brain, but it starts there and stays there too. Coaching is meant to help us learn from what we already know (whether we know that we know, or even don’t know that we know). It starts in the client’s brain both in that the agenda is set by the client and the raw materials are drawn from the client’s knowledge and experience. It stays in the brain of the person being coached too; coaching is meant to build new learning. 

What do you think? Does your experience match this definition? I’d be glad to have your feedback!

And... let me know if you're interested in coaching; I have more info posted at