Thursday, December 27, 2007

good questions for '08

A couple days ago I was sitting in Barnes & Noble skim reading a book over a cup of joe (I love reading $25 dollar books for the cost of a cup of coffee). It was a simple little leadership book called, QBQ!, (which stands for the Question Behind the Question), which was written by John Miller to encourage leaders, coaches, mentors, and anybody else who wants to live more productive lives to start asking ourselves and others the real questions we need to ask to eliminate blaming, complaining, and procrastination.

Miller asserts that:
“Why” questions (Why me? Why this? Why do they…?) often leads to powerlessness, victim-like thinking.
“Who” questions (Who did that? Who didn’t do that?) often leads to blaming and scapegoating.
“When” questions (When will that happen?) often leads to procrastination

His principles of good questions are simple, but really helpful. They’re built on the conviction that we are accountable for our thinking and for our behavior, and that we’re free to choose differently, to think differently, and to live differently. Here are Miller’s 3 characteristics of good questions:

1. They start with “what” or “how,” not “why,” “who,” or “when.”
2. They contain an “I,” not a “they,” “them,” or “you.”
3. They contain an action word like “do,” “contribute,” or “build.”

Here are some really helpful examples of bad questions (BQ) we often ask ourselves and others, and good questions (GQ) we should start asking:

(BQ) Why don’t they communicate better?
(GQ) How can I better understand you?

(BQ) When is somebody going to train me?
(GQ) What can I do to develop myself?

(BQ) Who dropped the ball?
(GQ) How can I contribute right now?

(BQ) Why don’t people follow through?
(GQ) How can I be a better coach?

(BQ) When are they going to get it?
(GQ) How can I communicate better?

(BQ) Why is he so self-absorbed?
(GQ) How can I be a better friend?

Those are simple, but profound questions that move us towards greater personal responsibility and personal accountability, and that’s a pretty healthy direction I'd like to move in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

the painted veil

If you like movies that take you to another time and place, you'll love The Painted Veil. This one takes you deep into the interior of China circa 1925, and deep into the pain and struggle of adapting to culture and the healing of broken relationships. There are several scenes in the movie which are profoundly spiritual, the most explicit being a scene between the Mother Superior of an orphanage and Kitty Fane, a young British volunteer whose marriage is all but dead. In this really profound scene the Mother Superior vulnerably confesses:

“I fell in love when I was 17, with God. A foolish girl with romantic notions about the life of the religious. But my love was passionate. Over the years my feelings have changed. He’s disappointed me. Ignored me. We’ve settled into a relationship of peaceful indifference. The old husband and wife who sit side by side on the sofa, but rarely speak. He knows I will never leave him. This is my duty. But when love and duty are one, then grace is within you."

I don't want to settle for peaceful indifference. I want the deep grace within that comes when passion allies itself with faithfulness. I want it in my marriage, and I want it with my God.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

prince of shalom

We typically translate shalom as "peace," but "peace" just doesn't really get us there. Shalom has a far more profound meaning. It's not just the absence of conflict, war, or even anxiety. It's also the presence of a deep contentment and a satisfying wholeness. It's the prevailing presence of a radical harmony in our souls and in our worlds. John Ortberg says it like this:

• In a world where shalom prevailed, all marriages would be healthy and all children would be safe.
• Those who have too much would give to those who have too little.
• Israeli & Palestinian children would play together on the West Bank; their parents would build homes for one another.
• In offices and corporate boardrooms executives would secretly scheme to help their colleagues succeed; they would complement them behind their backs.
• Tabloids would be filled with accounts of courage and moral beauty. Talk shows would feature mothers and daughters who love each other deeply, wives who give birth to their husband's children, and men who secretly enjoy dressing as men.
• Disagreements would be settled with honesty, grace, and civility. There would still be lawyers, maybe, but they would have really useful jobs like delivering pizza, which would be non-fat and low in cholesterol.
• Doors would have no locks; cars would have no alarms.
• Schools would no longer need police presence or even hall monitors; students and teachers and janitors would honor and value one another's work. At recess, every kid would get picked for a team.
• Divorce courts and battered-women shelters would be turned into community centers, which would be staffed by professional ball players.
• Every time one human touched another, it would be to express encouragement, affection, and joy. No one would be lonely or afraid.
• And in the center of the entire community would be its magnificent architect and most glorious resident: the God whose presence fills each person with unceasing splendor and ever-increasing delight.

May the Prince of Shalom come this Christmas!