The Bell Ringer

Most of my professional career has been spent in the commercial real estate industry.  Development, property management, asset management, accounting, finance, leasing, executive suite – 25 years leaves a lot of room to practice a variety of services!

I admire the common practice of celebrating successes at the close of a transaction in real estate.  For some transactions, the celebrations culminate with a large ‘closing dinner;’ the parties participating in the deal share stories over a lavish dinner.  Often, a group will create a ‘deal toy,’ a little prop that notes details from the project, and ends up on someone’s desk or bookcase.  You might have seen some ‘brag shelves’ in your day?  Those are deal toys…..it’s a game to make them as creative as possible.  Take for example, this one, celebrating a closed transaction with a hospital:

hospital bed deal toy

By far, my favorite way to celebrate is with a ‘way to go!’ in the heat of the final moment of the deal.  I’ve seen this done in a few ways.  One office would ring an old ship’s bell at the conclusion of a successful deal.   Some offices would ring the bell when a broker brought in a new client (which leads to more deals).

ship bell

I’ve seen other offices which had makeshift sirens installed, and the siren was switched on to celebrate meeting a goal or closing a deal or signing a client.

alarm siren

Now that I am working my way out of real estate and into church ministry, I find myself wondering if there are similar celebrations in our relationship with God.  I think the answer is “yes, but ….”    When we baptize, we celebrate the expanded family of Christ.   We celebrate weekly worship with traditional hymns and liturgy.   We finish our bible study, or Sunday morning class, by attending lunch or dinner together as a group.

So yes, we celebrate.

But let me ask you this – and it’s important – what is it in your relationship with God that gives you the feeling of ringing a ship’s bell?  Or the glee of turning on the siren?  Or, if you had a snippet of “Hallelujah Chorus” on your phone, the joy to blast the music at full tone, because you are so excited about something?

Is it prayer?  Is it music?  Is it teaching, or giving, or healing, or pursuit of justice?  Or maybe a few in the list?

Those ‘things,’ my friends – those are your spiritual gifts.  Do you know yours?  I’m sure there is a more proper definition for the term ‘spiritual gifts,’ but let’s try this:

Spiritual Gifts are those gifts which, when activated and utilized, turn us into Bell Ringers for God.

‘Bell Ringers for God.’  I kind of like that.  And I know, with the talent we have in this world, we could form a huge choir of master Bell Ringers.

This Sunday is Stewardship Sunday at many United Methodist Churches around the world; we will be asked to share our pledge of time, money and talents for the next church year.  Consider the list, and answer this for me:  Where can you be involved to make you a Bell Ringer for God?

See you by the bell, my friends!  Let’s ring it together, every day!

The Side Door

There’s a meme making the rounds again in social media, starring a toddler who wants to go home after church, but his mom is still ‘chatting’ with others:

church over and trying to leave

My son and my husband (both sans tie) have experienced this emotion.  I can see their faces now: “Will she ever stop talking?  Is there anyone she doesn’t know? How does she know every.single.person’s.name? ”

The answers to those questions: I don’t know.  Grandma Mary just passed on the gift of gab to me; part of that gift is being aware of what others are going through in life, trying to make them feel better, and being genuinely happy to talk with them.  I don’t pull it off half as wonderfully as she did, but I try.

So yes, I linger in the lobby, talking with those who want to say hi, catch up, give a hug, etc.  It’s usually a festive area, with lots of laughter and smiles.

But here’s the thing.  If I only use the front door, and if I only talk with those in the area that is known for smiles and joyful chatter, I have to ask myself, “Who is not included here?”  In other words, “Who is using the side door, and why?”

Stop to consider – is anyone using the side (or back) door because they feel out of place?  Is anyone using the side door because they don’t feel deserving?  Is anyone using the side door because they think no one cares whether they were here or not?

If we are all, truly, one body with Christ as the head (as I discussed last week and referenced by the verses in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26), then we must care for each individual part, to keep the body healthy.   We need to care for each other – the familiar and the stranger; the rich and the poor; the healthy and the sick.  We need each other.

And what happens when we show we care?  I don’t think I can show you any more clearly than in this video from one of my favorite You Tube sites, Soul Pancake: http://bit.ly/1VFvxkN

How can you show someone you care, today?  Are you willing to search out those using the side door, to let them know they are equally important?  I’ll bet you are.

And if, when you check out those in the side door, you run across a 15 year old trying to sneak out because his mom is still talking …. feel free to chat him up until I arrive.  His Great Grandma Mary would be proud to hear he’s carrying on the tradition.

 

 

 

Am I a 10?

Wait, that sounds a bit too much like the loaded question, “Honey, does this outfit make me look too big?”  Hint to honey:  respond ‘no’ under all circumstances.

Perhaps clarification is in order.

perfection

I have a friend who insists that accuracy is important.  And he’s right, especially as it relates to financial analysis, the context in which he was speaking.  In that particular case, ‘perfection’ is important; but even then, inaccuracies are measured in material terms.  Are the errors material to the statement?  If not, probably ok to pass on correction.

Another example, same friend.  This one has to do with those pesky annual evaluations from our friendly human resource department.  You know the ones – rank, on a scale of 1 to 10, a number of attributes on which a person is ‘graded.’  My friend’s outlook on these forms is insightful:  Should we expect that everyone should strive for a 10, on every attribute, every time?   The answer, it might not surprise you, is ‘yes and no.’

See, we are not ‘practically perfect in every way’ Mary Poppins.  And, if you believe as I do, only one human who ever walked this earth was perfect.  So what do we do with this expectation of perfection?  Let’s look at it in three points:

  1.  We shouldn’t try to be a 10 in all categories in all circumstances, at least that’s my friend’s motto.   He is right – especially if we are working as a team.  See, one person might be an 8 in analysis, but a 2 in creativity;  another might be an 8 in creativity, but a 2 in administration.  The question I’ve learned to ask is this:  In which categories am I most likely to move my 8 to a 10?  Is it likely that if I consistently score a 2 that I should expect to raise it to a 10, or even an 8?  Probably not.  So it appears we should be focusing on two things:  finding the strength of each person, and making sure those strengths are appropriately additive to the team results.
  2. Finding our strengths.  Outside of those fun (and often predictable) social media quizzes, how do we know?  Some of us know by instinct; others don’t realize until someone points out the gift.   In a biblical setting, these strengths are referred to as ‘spiritual gifts,’ and once identified to us by the Holy Spirit, we gravitate toward those gifts with a passion.  In            1 Corinthians, 12:4-11, Paul writes about these gifts using the Greek word for ‘charisma,’ or that of which someone is graced.  See what he does there?  We are ‘graced’ with ‘gifts.’
  3. OK, I think I know my gift – what now?  Funny thing – Paul continues to answer the question for us.  In 12:12-31, Paul creates an image that we are all parts of a body, with Christ as the head.  More importantly, each part of the body relies on the other parts.  It matters not what your individual function is; what matters is that together, we make up the body.  Together, we create Christ on earth, to be each other’s strength.  Together, we strive for a 10.

And how exactly do we do that, you ask?  1 Corinthians 13:  The gift of love.  When we act in love – the love taught by Christ – we score a 10.  1 Cor 13:8 tells us that love never ends – all of those other gifts:  prophecy, tongues, teaching, knowledge:  all of these are only part of a whole and will eventually end.  But when we love – when we love and act on that love as Christ calls us to love – that is the perfection for which we strive.

So maybe we should think about changing the answer to “Honey, does this outfit make me look big?”  Consider, instead, the answer: “It doesn’t matter, honey.  I love you even where you aren’t a 10.”