Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home Depot...A Little Town

The Home Depot is like a little town. My store is made up of about 120 people, plus managers. They are a microcosm of humanity. A vast majority of the "town" come and go, but I've realized that those who stay, really understand the world scene because they have had a multitude of life experiences. They understand people. They know what makes people tick. There is far more to them than the orange apron that they proudly wear.

I love and respect the people behind the orange aprons. They often come from different parts of the country, or outside our great nation. Some are married and others are single. Some have children and others do not. A certain percentage have another job, while others have had wonderful careers and are using their lifetime of skills to assist customers and fellow associates.

My manager's name is Glenda. She is a "thinker" and can make things happen. I have never gone to her with an idea that she did not listen enthusiastically. She makes you feel that you are the most important person in the world at that moment. I've watched her do the same thing with customers, who felt like they needed some TLC from the top. You know the type of personality I'm talking about. Glenda is a customer-centered manager and above all, a leader of people of the highest magnitude. She is an asset to our company and we are fortunate to be around her.

We work in a warehouse environment where merchandising is king. Over the years, the old concept of "stack it to the ceiling" or "grab and go" has gone by the wayside to a certain degree. Today, the public wants attention and individualized information. They want the customer to be the center of attention and they will find that somewhere. The typical "fix it yourself" consumer, the average "Joe", the average homeowner is waiting for us to catch on and create a "customer environment". The whole consumer world is waiting and yet we sit back operating the way we have always operated. The world is leaving us behind, even though everything on the surface looks good. If we don't change, we will die. We may be the Montgomery Ward of the early 21st century and just don't know it yet. One day it will catch up with us.

Now, what does Home Depot have to do with Discipleship and the church? Everything! The church, for decades now, has had the opportunity to minister to people because they just automatically came to church on Sunday. It was the thing to do in America. Yet, the world has changed over the past couple of decades and we have not changed with it. We still seem to do things the way they have been done for years. We don't see a reason to change our methods. We need to stop "stacking what we offer high", or offering "grab and go" Christianity and become seeker-sensitive, or customer centered. We need to plan differently. We need to determine the needs that are out there and design what will meet those needs. What if we don't? Then the "consumer" will go elsewhere, we won't have a chance at meeting their needs, and we may die.

I would take a dozen Glenda's right now and set the world on fire. She sees the big picture. She sees the minute steps that must be taken to get where you are going over the long haul. She sees deeply into people and responds to what she sees. She is in a league of her own at Home Depot. We need some folks who are in a league of their own in our churches.

Thank you Glenda for being a good role model for our young people at The Home Depot and for being a model for me that I can use to motivate people to be more than they ever thought possible.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Vision Is Paramount

I went to the Eye Doctor the other day and they ran me through all the usual protocols before I even saw the doctor. Then the doctor did his examination and fitted me with a new prescription for contact lenses. Before I left the office, the doctor put some new contacts on my eyes and I could see!

When I got home I turned on the television while I was getting ready to go to work. I glanced at the screen and I could see the smallest print as clear as anything I had ever seen. I thought to myself, "What have I been missing?"

Vision is important to see where you are going. Without a good vision, you won't know what you are suppose to build. You will be like the person who wants to build a new house, but you don't have any blueprints. It is the same way in the area of discipleship. Without vision, you may want to put together something to grow people, but you won't know what it is.

Without vision, you will find it difficult to enlist people to help you with your dream. The best leaders that I've ever been around want to go after the best people available to make their vision become reality. The vision has to be shared with others and they have to buy into it. They have to believe in it as deeply as you do.

Without a blueprint, you will find it impossible to devise strategies to make it happen. Why? Because you don't know where you are going. How can you come up with ideas on how to get where you don't know you're going? You will, unfortunately, stay in a spinning circle that feels like gravitation is holding you in the same place. You're going no where.

How do you discover your vision? Sometimes God gives you the vision. God got Moses attention through a burning bush. Then God gave him a vision for His chosen people. Maybe God has put some kind of burning bush in your way and is just waiting to give you a vision of opportunity.

Nehemiah heard of a great need. He fasted and prayed. Then Nehemiah began to move toward the need. Maybe God is planting something in you right now and it is so bold and obvious that it cannot be ignored.

Maybe it is time to draw a mental picture of this vision that God is giving you. This mental image will become your vision. It will look like a series of pictures to you in your mind.
Are you trying to help others enter into a relationship with Christ? What does it look like? Or, are you seeing people be given an opportunity to become Christ-followers in their daily lives? What does that look like? Or, are you trying to comfort others who are going through crises mode? what does that look like to you? Or, are you trying to build Christian community? What does that look like to you?

Remember, vision must come first in order for you to know where you are going!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Celebration of Life

In Rob Bell's book, Velvet Elvis, he asks a rather thought-provoking question. What did Jesus do almost as much as He taught and healed? Can you come up with the answer? Jesus eats long meals. He spends time around the table with people.

Then Bell asks another question. What ritual did the early Christians observe the most frequently? I'll bet you've got the answer to this one. The Lord's Supper. What did the meal consist of? Now, before I give you the answer, allow me to review a few things with you.

When you are part of a Seder Meal in your church, you re-live the Passover Meal. You eat what has been observed since the days of the Israelites in Egypt. You learn the meaning behind what you are eating. Have you noticed that there is usually an air of excitement? I remember being invited to share the Passover Meal at a Jewish synagogue many years ago. The thing that sticks in my mind the most was the anticipation, excitement, and hospitality of that group of people.

Now, what did the meal that Jesus ate with His disciples consist of? What does the same meal today consist of? Here's the answer: Hours of talking, sharing, and enjoying each other's presence. Rob Bell would say that the table is seen as an altar. It is holy. Time spent around the table with each other is time spent with God. It is a gift.

Sometime around 30 years ago, Patti and I began spending New Year's Eve with the Sawyer family in Mobile, Alabama. We would go over to the Sawyer home about 8:00 P.M. and sometimes we didn't get back to Patti's parents home until after 2:00 A.M. It was an evening of just being with each other, playing games, bringing in the new year, and having so much fun that we didn't want to stop even at 2:00 A.M.

As our children grew older and made new friends, they were invited too. We watched young people come and go during the years. We watched our own children mature, change, and take on new frontiers in life. Yet, the family dynamic between the Mathews and the Sawyers remained the same. This went on over a four decade period until life changes kept us all from being home on New Year's Eve.

The Sawyers will always be special to us. They are a gift from God. I taught Sunday School with Norvelle (the dad) in the same department back in the early 70's. We saw he and his wife when we were home at Christmas, but we couldn't stay around until New Year's Eve. I've heard from both daughters in the past 24 hours. I will never forget the time our families spent together and what that has meant to us over the years. Sometimes I fell asleep on the floor during some of those late games, but my family would say that I felt comfortable enough to do that with them. That time, over the years, with the Sawyers, will go down as some of the happiest times of my life.

Today, my family is having some of those special times in our home. One of these days we may invite others to join us. Who knows? But, history is repeating itself, but I learned to enjoy good friends at the Sawyers home. Maybe we can give someone that same chance here.

Rob Bell said, "Relax. Slow down. Quit having a purpose for everything. Eat more slowly and enjoy it more. Ask people how they are doing and mean it. Take more walks. You will get more done anyway."