Five Business Lessons From the Garden

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Many of you know that I have been reading a lot lately about Social entrepreneurship, business and imagination. Lots of new and stimulating books out there but probably the greatest lessons I have learned in this regard come from the garden, and as I read some of the books on my pile it seems that many of them just reiterate what I am learning:

  1. There is no failure in the garden – if something doesn’t work this year, try again immediately or next year or plant in a different place in the garden. One of the primary tenants of social entrepreneurship is fail well, some even say we need to become masters at failure. (see Imagination First 187) Failure is not disaster it is a learnable skill that is necessary for success.
  2. Plan for surprise – there is nothing more wonderful than going out in the garden and discovering something totally unexpected. Developing a business is a little like that too. Routine can stifle our imagination. We need to regularly rinse out our expectations (Imagination First 158) and allow the random unexpected happenings to take over. This year for example my best autumn greens in the garden are a patch just behind my raised beds that self seeded. One of my garden helpers almost covered them over thinking they were weeds. Fortunately I stopped him in time and have just encouraged everyone to walk around the patch. This unexpected surprise has provided an amazing harvest for my green smoothies.
  3. Look, listen and learn. Stillness is a fertile breeding ground for ideas (43). Wandering through my garden with no other intention than to breathe in the stillness of God and admire the flowers gives unexpected rewards. For example, to fill in my flower pots which had been decimated by the summer drought here in Seattle, I planted gomphrena – I knew nothing about it but the plants in the garden nursery caught my attention. Usually I look at them from a distance but a few days ago I walked close and was stunned by the beauty. The wonder of the leaves covered in dew and then the emergence of tiny yellow flowers has awed and stirred me.

    Gomphrena covered in dew

    Gomphrena covered in dew

  4. All good things begin small. We are easily overwhelmed by the immensity of the problems in our world- gun violence, poverty, sex trafficking, climate change – no matter what the issue we want to respond to, we can easily become powerless because our own small efforts seem so trivial. But every plant grows from a tiny seed – a seed that germinates in darkness away from the world. Forcing it into the light too soon destroys it.
  5. Share with others. Gardeners are the worlds greatest sharers or cross pollinators. They love to talk about their garden designs, share recipes, produce and techniques. they love to hear the stories others have to share and never feel they know it all. Along the way they learn, rethink their ideas, experiment and come up with new and creative plans that improve their harvests. For too long we have thought that the way to effective business is to hold our ideas to ourselves – patents and copyrights though sometimes necessary to protect our intellectual rights can also stifle creativity and new design. When we share all of us benefit.

Why Should We Raise the Minimum Wage

Today is Labour Day here in the U.S. and I find myself reflecting on the plight of those who suffer because of low wages and inadequate benefits. My thoughts have been stimulated by several things.

First this info graphic that was posted on Facebook.

Minimum wageSecond by this article talking about the budget that McDonald’s suggested for its minimum wage workers. It includes a second job and with only $20/ month budgeted for health care and $27/week for food and gas, obviously expects that workers will take advantage of food stamps and medicaid. One response I read to this article even mentioned these as justifiable additions to their income. Which sounds like corporate sponsorship to me.

My third stimulus this morning was this reading from James:

Listen to me dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonour the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: Love your neighbour as yourself. (James 2:5-8)

Loving our neighbours means being concerned for their welfare – that they have a place to live, nutritious food to eat and health care, education and retirement plans to sustain them just as we do.

In many countries of the world minimum wage is calculated on what it takes to live with 2 dependents – on one job. Here in the U.S. even two minimum wage jobs make that difficult. Most of these people are in the service industry – waiters in restaurants, maids in hotels. People live in their cars, sometimes whole families. Or they live in overcrowded apartments in the most dangerous parts of town. And they are dependent on food stamps and medicaid.

These people work very hard for a living (or should I say a non-living). I think they should receive a living wage. Yes it would mean we have to pay more when we eat out but surely that is part of the true cost of living. What do you think?

 

Have We Settled For Cheap Faith?

Death to the World

This morning in my post The Ugly Tomato, I included a link to a post that I did on Cheap Faith a few years ago. I have been thinking about that ever since and decided that I would update and republish it. Part of the reason for this is that I am struggling because more and more speaking invites expect us to work for free. The real cost of a conference or event is not really taken into account. And Christians don’t want to have to pay the full cost. Yet I know that in the secular world people expect to pay much more because they know and accept what it costs to put on a conference.

MSA has not held a large conference in the last few years mainly because of some of these concerns. We have always liked to start planning a conference by asking “What are God’s kingdom values we want to represent at this gathering?” It is often an uncomfortable conversation, hopefully not just for us but for everyone who is involved.

In all that we do, I grapple with how to provide resources, technology and events within the constraints of a limited budget. I struggle with how to live and operate our ministry sustainably without jeopardizing our concern for the environment and for the poor.  Fair-traded tea and coffee is more expensive than regular coffee.  Lunches from Fairstart that provides jobs for the homeless are more expensive than the local supermarket that only pays workers minimum wages. Environmental concerns create even more constraints as we struggle to reduce waste & provide environmentally friendly alternatives.  How do we bring in speakers and participants from around the world in fuel guzzling aeroplanes and still show respect for the environment?

I love the way Shane Claiborne approaches some of these concerns.  Whenever he travels he gets people to commit to reduce their fuel consumption in compensation for the additional fuel he is using by flying.  Not easy but I think it is a great way to show how seriously we take these issues.  Or maybe we should all cut back our fuel consumption for a month beforehand to compensate. Maybe we should hold more local events that don’t require a lot of travel or expensive accommodation and encourage us to cooperate with each other in what do.

Not easy but why should I expect it to be easy?  It is never easy to choose deliberately to live by God’s kingdom values in all our actions.  Unfortunately we live in a world that wants everything especially food, clothing, household goods and technology at bargain prices but, at what cost to the poor and the environment?  For us to have access to bargain priced food, technology and resources often means that those who produce and sell our goods are not paid a living wage.  Our bargain goods often are produced in conditions that devastate the environment and add to our polluted air.

What concerns me most is that our obsession with bargains extends to our faith as well.  We want to buy salvation and Gods grace at bargain prices too.  My quest for bargains encourages me to believe I dont have to pay the full price for redemption either.  Which is great because I would much rather settle for a relationship that demands little of me in terms of penitence or repentance.  Like many Christians, I would rather experience Gods grace and forgiveness without sacrifice, without commitment and without the need to change.

It is not surprising that in a culture like ours, few people practice fasting and self-sacrifice during Lent anymore.  Deliberately walking with Christ towards the Cross never comes at bargain prices, it is very costly.  In fact it demands our whole lives but it is absolutely necessary if we want to become the disciples God intends us to be.  It means recognizing that the true self is made in the image of God and reflects the characteristics that are true to Gods image love and compassion, concern for justice for the poor and freedom from oppression…considering the needs of others as more important than my own.

I think many will get a shock when they enter the kingdom of God.  It will be a real cross-cultural experience for them because the bargain price values they have lived by will be totally worthless.  Fortunately, Gods spirit continues to work within all of us enabling us to confront the false self and its cheap values.  It constantly breaks down the barriers that distort our ability to lead a life that is fully integrated with God and Gods ways.

The question I find myself asking this morning is “Where do I still go after a bargain and sacrifice God’s values as a consequence?”  Maybe you would like to ask the same question.  Where is the spirit of God nudging you to change so that your false self will be transformed into the true self that reflects the glory of God?

What Gift Do We Leave to Our Children – A Message from Archbishop Rowan Williams

I was just sent the link to this video which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, recorded in advance of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in which he asks “What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?” I thought that many of you would appreciate it.

“All religious people see the world as a gift from God.  And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation?”

In the video, the Archbishop says that this question poses “a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world.”

Viewing our environmental and social legacy as a ‘gift’ to be passed to the next generation, the Archbishop suggests that one such gift is “the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.”

“Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?”

He highlights the key role that both governments and faith communities play in achieving this vision of justice for future generations, working collaboratively for an equitable and inclusive green economy:

“Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this.  Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development.  They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste.  They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide.  And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.”

“Big changes come because small changes happen”

A transcript of the Archbishop’s message follows.

The big question that faces Rio+20 is: what kind of world do we want to leave to our children? And that’s not just a question about what kind of material environment we want to leave – the answers to that, in a way, are quite simple: we want a world that’s free of pollution, a world where everyone has access to clean water, a world where food supplies are secure, a world where people have learned sustainable methods of agriculture and development.

But just as importantly, it’s a question of what kind of habits and what kind of lifestyle we want to leave to our children – what sort of skills we want to see them developing in living sustainably in this world.

That means, as in so many areas, we have to start small and we have to start local. Big changes come because small changes happen. And in the work I do, I have the privilege of seeing quite a lot of small change going on. Last year in Kenya I was able to see the work done by the Anglican Church there in developing the Umoja agricultural methods, methods that lift people out of subsistence agriculture to real sustainable production of food for themselves, and training also in nutritional information so that agricultural development, food security, and healthcare go together. There are many other such local projects, and I have also been deeply impressed by the way in which people locally across the world have challenged and resisted some of the depredations of the extractive industry, in many areas one of the greatest threats to a sustainable future.

Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this. Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development. They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste. They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide. And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.

But at root, the question remains the same: what kind of world do we want to hand on? Imagine that you have a child’s or a grandchild’s birthday coming up. You want to give them a present. You want to give them something that will genuinely mean something to them, that will enrich their lives, that will be part of lasting growth and well-being. And that’s what we’re challenged to do here. It’s a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world. Simply enough: what’s the gift we want to give? The gift of a world that’s more free from pollution, a world whose future is more secure, a world where more people have access to food and clean water and healthcare? Yes. But also a world in which we’re transmitting the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.

All religious people see the world as a gift from God. And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation? How do we do justice by our children and grandchildren? How do we act fairly by them? Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?

Salvation in the Neighbourhood – Creative Ideas from the Parish Collective.

The Inhabit conference which the entire MSA team attended this last weekend was one of the best conferences I have been at for a long time. So many creative and committed Christians gathered in one place inspiring each other with how they have seen their neighbourhoods transformed. Many of us are being stretched in our faith and life practices as we grapple with what it means to be the shalom of God in our communities.

I have been following with great interest the continuing conversations and story sharing that is occurring on the Inhabit Connect facebook group too. To encouraging to hear about the ways that God is planting mustard seeds that are growing and producing fruit.

I particularly enjoyed this video by Paul Sparks this morning. Do listen to the whole video – the end of the interview is particularly inspiring.

salvation-in-the-neighborhood-2

And this is a great article by Craig Goodwin over in Spokane – hope to have him over for a conversation at the Mustard Seed House some time

Wendell-Berry-the-inhabit-conference-community-gardens-and-the-kingdom-of-god

This one is very close to my heart as I strongly believe that we need to encourage our urban centres to become more self sustaining. it is an inspiring and imaginative way to use an old warehouse in Chicago

A-former-chicago-meatpacking-plant-becomes-a-self-sustaining-vertical-farm

A great website worth exploring – the work of Candy Chang an artist, designer, and urban planner who explores making cities more comfortable and contemplative places.

And finally a story about a church helping to develop a grocery co-op in an impoverished community.

Learning to be the presence of God is part of what salvation is all about. God desires wholeness not just for us as individuals but for the entire human race as a community. And people like those who attended the Inhabit conference are busy planting seeds and light beacons that are quietly transforming our world.

 

More Resources for Lent 2012 from the Episcopal Church

A couple of days ago I posted this list of resources for the coming Lenten season. Since then I have added an Ash Wednesday prayer and links to previous prayers. Yesterday I received this email from the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia with some great additional resources.

Resources, meditations and study guides for experiencing a reflective Lenten season are available from the Episcopal Church. Most of these are free downloads. I wish that there was more time to take advantage of them all.

Also on the Episcopal Church facebook page, an ongoing conversation focuses on Ash Wednesday/Lent.

The resources have been complied by the Mission Staff of the Episcopal Church.

Seeking God’s Justice for All:  Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery Part Three: This resource focuses on  responding to the Doctrine of Discovery and the injustice experienced by Indigenous peoples of the Americas for 500 years. It seeks to reconnect justice with the very heart of the Christian tradition – the reconciling, transformative life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Elder Abuse Awareness:  This study helps raise awareness and foster a better understanding of the importance to offer intentional and ongoing ministry to, for and with a wide variety of aging adults in your church and community.

Carbon Fast: Beginning Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, participants will receive a daily email with the day’s suggested carbon-reducing activity.  Or you can sign up on facebook to receive the updates

– Lent 4.5: Christian Simplicity: a seven-week faith formation program which inspires and informs individuals and Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, bringing forth and just society, and nurturing a fulfilling spiritual life

Episcopal Relief & Development 2012 Lenten Meditations. the focus this year is on health and I have contributed several of the reflections for the season.

Good Friday Offering Lenten Education Series from the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem:

– “Claiming the Vision: Baptismal Identity in the Episcopal Church”: video resource produced as a collaborative effort of Bloy House (the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont), the Episcopal Church Center, and the Evangelical Education Society.  Here or

– World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Water Network: a Lenten course titled “Seven Weeks for Water: The Blue Economy.” In 2011 they produced a great set of biblical reflections on Water and Just Peace. This year the focus will be on the green economy.

– The Anglican Communion’s Bible in the Life of the Church: a five-week course for Lent 2012 titled “And It Was Good”.

Eco-Palms:  harvesters gather only quality palm fronds in a way that allows the plant to keep growing.

The Lenten Resources will be available throughout Lent and Easter.  Additional resources will be added throughout Lent.

 

 

Leading Spiritually – What I learned from the Business World

Starfish at Esperanza Canada

The art of leading spiritually

This is the final post in the series on Leading Spiritually. Thank you for joining with me in this journey. I particularly appreciate your thoughts and comments which have helped me grapple with these issues.

Check out the other posts:

The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Why Are We Leading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Where Are We Heading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – How Do We Do It?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Discerning Together

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Discerning on Your Own

Leading Spiritually: What I Learned from the Business World 

Not everything about leadership in the business world is counter to what good spiritual leadership should look like. However, for me personally the insights I have gained from the business world are more likely to affirm or flesh out what God has already been saying to our discernment group rather than give new or fresh ideas.

Sometimes they have helped us name the processes we are using. When we started using a more organic approach to strategic planning, it was very encouraging to find information on organic strategic planning which is a recognized model in the business world. It bears a lot of resemblance to the group discernment process we use, but has helped us refine what we do and walk with confidence in our new approach.

When we were looking for networking models The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations  was an excellent resource to help us think strategically about what we wanted to accomplish and how best to achieve it.

I love articles like Productivity Lagging: Take A Nap  that remind me that taking a siesta increases productivity and creativity affirming my belief in the importance of balance and rhythm to our lives.  The business world even affirms the importance of contemplative practices in the creation of good leaders as in this article: Mindful Leadership: Compassion, Contemplation and Meditation Develop Effective Leaders  

Unfortunately most of the best messages I have learned from the business world are about how not to lead. The grasping after position, power and wealth, the centrality of self ambition and the use of others to gain these ends is widespread. It is also devastating to those they supposedly lead and is often destructive for society. Surely this was one of the lessons of the recent recession. Spiritual power looks very different from this.

What I am strongly convinced of is that there is no substitute for the wisdom of God when we want to discern how we should operate as leaders and the ways of God are often foolishness to the world. God does indeed delight in using the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. As Richard Rohr says:

The bottom, the edge, the outsider… is the privileged spiritual position. In a word, that is why the biblical revelation is revolutionary and even subversive…. Stop trying. Stop forcing reality. Learn the mystery of surrender and trust, and then it will be done unto you, through you, with you and very often, in spite of you. You could say that God’s forever pattern is creatio ex nihilo; Yahweb is always creating something out of nothing…. God “brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist” (Romans 4:17) You could call it God’s primary job description. (Things Hidden p 90)

So let me end with a prayer from the apostle Paul who I suspect is speaking here to all aspiring spiritual leader.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:9-14 NLT)

May you grow in wisdom and become the leader and the follower that God intends you to be