Food for Thought-JFK 2:48 pm

Arrived from Dublin,

tired and wasted,

broke but not down,

accents strange on the ground,

sharing an outlet with a rabbinical brother,

God’s power flows all around,

witnesses to mercy abound,

making this bench,

Holy Land,

for a moment,

while we pray,

for this sweaty day,

people needing rides,

to their lives,

points in between,

flying machines,

holiday dreams,

and overwhelming fatigue.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Gratitude on the Last Tuesday in April

Grateful Card.2jpg

I have much to be grateful for today.  Why is that different from any other day?  It isn’t really.  It is remarkable in that I witnessed an incredible act of mercy.  This mercy was not for me but for someone else.  Someone from my congregation received a miraculous reprieve and was not sent to prison.  I am grateful for her, for the sake of her family, her infant son, and her partner that today turned out differently than once anticipated.  Though a sense of ending  has finally come; questions remain in the hearts of many people.  How does one make sense of this and things like it?

We impose an unrealistic sense of order upon the chaos we inherit to create a sense of meaning (for ourselves) on the world around us.  It does not make the world any less chaotic, more sensible, orderly, or just.  Instead, it makes our world easier for us to deal with and accept when the distortions of our well-ordered unreality unravel as they inevitably will.  When we can begin to take apart, piece by piece, (either in our own time or through external events that force us to do so) our unrealistic sense of order, it is easier to create a new sense of being that doesn’t try to understand chaos and rationalize the unthinkable.  Instead of wasting our time and energy to understand it, we can move beyond it.

Food for Thought-3 Leadership Lessons from Jerry Seinfeld

imagesJerry Seinfeld is one of the greatest stand-up comedians of his generation.  One might argue, he brought Kierkegaard and Sartre to America’s television screens for nine seasons by making an existential show about nothing funny.  What can we learn from Jerry?

1.  Don’t be afraid to question the ridiculous things that surround you.  In other words, if you see something that’s absurd, such as your local post office closing at 4:30 on April 15th (the day Americans file their income taxes), you should use Jerry’s patented brand of observational humor and ask (as my friend John did this week when this happened to him), “what’s the deal with that?”  Not only is it a good question but it illustrates how things in our world don’t make sense and we need time to laugh at that stupidity.

2.  Jerry worked hard.  On Seinfeld, Jerry was always on the road doing his stand-up shows.  He was and still is one of the hardest working people in the entertainment industry.  He was either coming or going from a gig in distant cities all over the country. In many episodes of Seinfeld, we saw him writing out his jokes, with pencil and paper in hand working on his material.  If something came available and a space for him opened on a bill, he would change his schedule to do a show.  He was always ready to work and to practice his craft.  Work ethic matters.

3.  Find your Kramer.  Everyone needs a Kramer in their lives.  We all need a kooky, eccentric who lives among us and who helps keep us grounded and give us perspective.  Our Kramer is named Jordan, she is 15, and is our daughter.

Food for Thought-3 Leadership Lessons from Grover


Grover has been one of the mainstays of the Sesame Street and Muppet Community since the very beginning.  Along with Fozzie Bear and Gonzo, he forms a comic trio at the heart of the Muppet’s identity.  Grover, like many of the others, has much to teach us both about being in community and being a better leader.

1.  Be positive.  It was hard to find Grover having a bad day.  Much like a small, furry Telly Savalas he would run up to Kermit, slap him heartily on the back and say, “Hey, froggy baby!”  He was that way with people he knew and with people he didn’t know.  Grover started making travel documentaries.  That same outgoing personality shone through all around the world.  It’s basic Will Rogers.  He never met a stranger.  How good are we at reaching out, saying hello, and being friendly to everyone?  Try it, you’ll see some wonderful reactions.  Start with the people you are closest to then head outside.  Be ready though, your world just might be getting ready to go Grover!

2.  SuperGrover.  Grover was also a superhero, though it wasn’t really a secret.  His costume (homemade) was easy to transform out of (given whatever job he had) and seemed to always involve a viking helmet that never quite fit.  Is there ill-hidden super hero inside of us?  I know we don’t need to give our team unreal expectations.  However, do we see ourselves as having abilities in a leadership toolbox, that when called upon, can be used to address problems and crises.  What skills do we offer as leaders and team members that may be unique within our organization?  How do we continue to cultivate those skills?

3.  The dignity of labor.  Grover has held lots of jobs.  He has sold door knobs door to door.  He has been a waiter, a taxi cab driver, and a singing telegram delivery person.  I know I’ve left out some.  Yet for Grover, all work was worthwhile.  All work gave him a space to be a superhero.  Each position gave him new place to be positive.

Food for Thought-5 Leadership Lessons from The Shakers

A Group of Shakers

Implementing certain rituals can make for better leadership practices.  These same habits can also help hold us together, especially through tough times, as individuals within a organization.   That’s what the 18th and 19th century American religious movement known as “The Shakers” illustrated in their community life.  Here are 5 leadership lessons that helped shape the core of their existence.

1.  Reflection.  The Shakers always left time for meditation, prayer, or reflection during the day.  Although they were hard workers, off building furniture, buildings, or farming, they managed to take time out to stop and reflect on why they were doing what they were doing.  What was the larger purpose behind their labor?  What was the “why” behind the “what”?

2.  Honest work.  The Shakers are known for their beautiful work and craftsmanship.  They’ve made pieces of furniture that are now considered by some to be valuable examples of early American art.  Their designs are beautiful and timeless because they are honest and simple.  Their work is the product of a time when there were no distractions other than those of sunrise and sunset.  Honest work makes for integrity.  Working without distraction, as much as possible, makes for honest work.

3.  Simple living.  Simple seems to be a word that keeps popping up when talking about  the Shakers.  You might have heard of the song Simple GiftsSimple Gifts is an early 19th Shaker song that is still sung today.  The Shakers lived simply and without excess.  That simplicity is seen in the design of the furniture and buildings.  It’s seen in the words of one cook, “we eat to live, not live to eat.”  Like an ancient Roman stoic, if they are liberated of the bonds of complexity and worry, they are then free to enjoy everything else.  Are we living for the wrong things?  Are some of our priorities backwards?

4.  Recognize gifts in everyone.  Everyone had something to offer.  All people had skills or gift to contribute to the community.  Are we looking hard enough at everyone around us to see where they could plug in and help out?

5.  Value everyone.  The Shakers were pioneers when it came to gender equality.  Men and women held equal roles in sharing leadership of the religious community.  Are we promoting equally and looking for the right people, regardless of who they are, as long as they are the right person, to take a leadership position  in our teams or organizations?


Food for Thought-Gratitude at the Close of a Slightly Warmer Irish Day

At the close of a slightly warmer Irish day, I’m journaling about these gratitude points…

I am grateful for laughing hysterically with my wife and children as we played music together as a family.

I am grateful for our children and the joy they give.

I am grateful for my wife, my partner and my best friend.

I am grateful for praying with our youngest daughter last evening.

I am grateful for my wife’s wisdom.

I am grateful for our middle daughter engaging with us more and her smile.

I am grateful for the opportunity to work with our parishioners.

I am grateful for the communities in which I serve.

I am grateful for the birds which have made the tress in our garden their home.

I am grateful for the opportunity to take our youngest daughter out for a scoop of ice cream.

I am grateful for the epic scenery I can see each day.

I am grateful for the opportunity to seek perspective.

I am grateful for the challenge to chase my calling in this time and place.

I am grateful to be able to live out my calling in unique ways each day.

I am grateful for the home, shelter, and clean water that my calling provides.

I am grateful for the food we share together.

I am grateful for the gift of health and well-being.

I am grateful for the gift of laughter.

I am grateful for our family.

I am grateful for our friends in their many places

I am grateful for the health and well-being of my wife and our girls.

I am grateful for my parents and their graciousness toward each of us.

I am grateful for my parents health and well-being.

I am grateful for the opportunity to teach this evening.

More Food for Thought-Gratitude at the Close of a Blustery Day

As the sun sets on a blustery Irish day, I’m journaling about these gratitude point:

I’m grateful I watched my youngest daughter play with a baby turtle in the pet store.

I’m grateful for be able to have great conversation and dialogue with my wife.

I’m grateful for seeing all three girls build a snowman together.

I’m grateful for the support I receive from my family in America.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to live out my calling.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with wonderful people who are committed and dedicated.

I’m grateful for my health and well-being.

I’m grateful I have home, our family is warm, there is food to eat, and clean water to drink.

I’m grateful for another day of sharing food for thought.