Tag Archives: Celebration

Measurement and wonder – counting and celebrating

This is an article I posted on my business website, but I thought my readers here might enjoy it too – those of you who haven’t entirely given up on another Wondering Preacher post.)

‘Soon man will count all his days, and then smaller segments of the day, and then smaller still—until the counting consumes him, and the wonder of the world he has been given is lost.’    Mitch Albom, The Timekeeper

Ians HourglassMitch Albom has hit on one of the missing ingredients of our modern pressurised existence. A sense of wonder. We seldom get or make the time to stop and enjoy. Counting and measuring is far more important to us.

I read Mitch Albom’s book, rather significantly, while preparing a workshop on performance management. Managing performance comprises a great deal of measurement. We measure success against our targets, of course, but we also want to know how we fared against others chasing the same targets. Because everyone knows that first is the only position that really matters.

Measurement is essential in business, of course. In manufacturing, mere seconds saved in one part of the process can translate into thousands of rands off the price of the product. In accounting, accurate records ensure efficient management of funds. And cash flow is one of the most important measures in any business.

However, in all the measuring, it is easy to forget the wonder. Wonder? In business? Has all this ‘soft skills’ training made Simply Communicate soft in the head? Actually, no.

Steve Jobs, for all his drive and lack of people-management skills, never forgot the wonder of innovation. He delighted in what he could show us, and delighted us as well.

Richard Branson has always been ready to throw out measures that restrict rather than empower, and in his latest book, The Virgin Way, he explains that he has thrown out the measurement of annual leave.  With employees expected to be available 24/7, a company can no longer measure time spent on the job; how can one justify, therefore, trying to measure the time spent off the job?

It comes with a risk, but it will deliver more empowerment to employees than dozens of other initiatives might. Employees are expected to be up to date and organised before riding off into the sunset, of course, which presupposes that other measures are in place. An employee must know what their job is, for example, and what their deliverables are.

Brand Pretorius writes in his book, In the Driving Seat: Lessons Learned in Leadership, ‘I’m all for chasing the numbers in business, but … I found more satisfaction in the so-called “soft issues”.’
‘I believe that business is about much more than just the numbers. It is about making a difference to the lives of employees and the community. It’s about doing what is right for the benefit of all.’

Do the things we measure add to our employees’ sense of wonder, their enjoyment, their sense of achievement, or do they act as a burden, slowing employees down? Do employees become focussed on the measurement rather than what the measurement enables them to achieve? Indeed, are we so obsessed with measuring achievements that we forget to stop and applaud the achievement itself?

When a child comes home, excited at having come second in the race, do we ask them why they didn’t come first? If their report card says 80 percent do we ask them why they didn’t get 100?

Albom pleads with us to celebrate the moment. Take time to wonder. Applaud the achievement. Most people respond with enthusiasm to recognition and applause. We want more of it and we will do anything to get it. Give your employees and your children something they will want to experience again and again. Celebrate the moment; take time to wonder. And that goes for your own achievements, your own moments of celebration as well.

What have you stopped to celebrate recently? Tell us in the comments below.

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A celebration: and you’re invited

Ballet dancer strikes a pose outside her home in KhayelitshaThis is an unusual post.

I am reposting an article from my business blog for those who are not linked up there.

It is an appeal from a dear friend, Ana Houston, who is a medical doctor working in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Please find the post here. If you would like to get in touch with Ana, please leave a comment below and I will ask her to get in touch with you.

Read the rest on Simply Communicate


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Easter celebration, a matter of life and death


Easter (Photo credit: 427)

We went to the gym last weekend (Easter Saturday morning); I hope everyone is impressed.  Oh alright, to be brutally honest, after swiping our cards and going inside, we sat down at the coffee shop to enjoy a healthy breakfast.  What weights?  What treadmill?

While enjoying the fare we heard the folk at the next table talking about religion, and bits of their conversation drifted over to us.  “You know what they say,” one of them joked.  “Jesus saves, but Moses headed it in on the rebound.”  (I wondered whether it would become more profound, or was that it?)

“Religion’s a good thing I suppose,” said one. “Especially for those who are dying; it helps people get ready.”  (Well, it wasn’t much, but it was better than the joke.)

“Yes, that’s true,” another one added.  “But really, I don’t believe all this Christianity. I mean, Christ wasn’t really born on 25 December. That was just a pagan festival. The people who invented Christianity decided to use it because it would get more people involved.” (That’s what he said: “Invented”.)

“Ja,” another one agreed. “Easter too, with those Easter eggs.  It’s all part of a fertility cult that the Christians have taken over.  It’s not Christian.”

On the same day a man was quoted in a vox pop conducted by The Witness.  “I do not celebrate Easter, neither do I associate myself with anything that has to do with this holiday. I’m a Christian and don’t believe that it has anything to with Christ.” 

Well, however cynical it all sounds, all of them have got it right; but they have also, sadly, got it spectacularly wrong.  Of course we don’t know when Jesus was born; we could use any day of the year.  It’s not the day that matters, or what other people do with it; it’s what we do with it.  Whether it’s on that day or another, we celebrate with the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and to earth peace and goodwill to all humanity.”  Immanuel, God with us.  That’s something to sing about. That’s something to be excited about.

There are those touched by Christianity who refuse to celebrate Christmas.  For some it’s a theological rejection of the humanity of Jesus, but that’s a topic for a different time.  Others refuse to celebrate Christmas and Easter because they have been commercialised.  But that means they have thrown out the Babe of Bethlehem with the bathwater of commercialisation.  How sad to allow the world to dictate what we will hold on to and what we will discard. If the world misinterprets or misappropriates part of our faith, must we jettison it?  In that case, instead of confidently proclaiming our faith, we are constantly looking over our shoulders, and we end up with a cut-and-paste set of beliefs pretty meaningless to everyone, including ourselves. 

I have absolutely no theological or religious reason for eating hot cross buns.  I eat them because I like the taste, and I love the tradition of eating them after service on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday morning just after a sunrise service.  On the other hand I don’t eat Easter eggs as a rule.  But again there is no theological reason.  I simply like chocolate too much to spend money on a hollow shell made from poor-quality chocolate.  Of course, if you insist on buying me a Lindt bunny (or reindeer) you will find me most gracious and appreciative.

But do Easter eggs and Easter bunnies, or a white-haired old man in a red coat, define our faith?  Are they even peripheral to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? Of course not.  Yes, the commercial word has muscled in; that’s what it does.  But that’s got nothing to do with us and our faith, or with how we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection, or with how we share the Good News with the world.

What happened that first Christmas and that first Holy Week goes way beyond such trifles.  And it is far greater than our celebration of it in any form.  I also have news for my neighbours at the gym: it goes way beyond preparing us for death.  It is not about death, although a death is at the heart of it, but about life.  God has always participated in history not to prepare us for death but to prepare us for life—life in all its fullness.

When we as Christians bicker about Halaal stickers on “our” hot cross buns, or when they should be eaten, or whether people of other faiths should be allowed to have Christmas Day off work, we cheapen our faith, and we give the impression to a cynical world that faith is trivial and has no real meaning for life.

When we spend more time quarrelling about the “right” way to worship than we do reaching out to a broken world, when we spend our time pointing out the faults and shortcomings of others, criticising and condemning instead of encouraging, we engage in activities that lead to death rather than life.

In our worship and celebration, in our ceremonies and traditions, let us never forget that it’s about life not death, and that the focus is on God and not on our limited understanding of him.  Let’s put aside those things that hinder our relationship with God or our relationships with others, or that make it difficult for others to relate to God.  If they are too precious to put aside then let us at least ensure that in the way we live and the way we celebrate we keep the focus on Jesus, and not on the mere elements of our celebration.

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Filed under Christmas, Easter, Through the Year

Stress, Milestones and Pillars of Cloud

This is a view of the main street in Peitermar...
Image via Wikipedia

I have been away from here for far too long.

My colleague was asked how he manages to de-stress from our demanding and rather over-crowded days in Human Resources management.  His answer was easy; he pounds the pavements.  He’s a Comrades Marathon runner (six finishes so far).  And me?  Well, my best method of de-stressing is to write.  You can imagine therefore, since writing hasn’t happened this last month, that things are rather frantic.  But this blog doesn’t usually require parental guidance so I shall refrain from listing the frenzied activities crowding our diaries at the moment.  One good thing, however, is that we have reached a settlement with our recognised union over wages, thus averting a strike that appeared imminent.  Now THAT would have pushed up the stress levels.

In spite of all the fun and games, on 1 July I made it to 15 years working in Human Resources management at the local newspaper. That was celebrated with a gift which helped me buy the laptop I’m using to type this post.  A more important milestone reached on 7 July was Jen and I celebrating 20 years of marriage.  Quite a milestone; it seems more like ten but we won’t ask Jen how long it seems to her.  Dinner at Porcelli’s last night, a wonderful Pacific-rim-cuisine restaurant here in Pietermaritzburg.  John Porcelli is an Aussie who had restaurants in Sydney and elsewhere but has settled here, much to our delight.   And on 21 June my grandson celebrated his first birthday in the rather wobbly city of Christchurch.  Well, to be strictly correct, everyone else celebrated; he simply enjoyed the fuss and the fun things happening around him.

Milestones such as these help remind us of our roots and of our journey.  We celebrate the journey and remember people and places along the way.  We remind each other of what it has taken to get here and encourage each other for what lies ahead.  The danger of course, one that Israel faced in the desert, is that we remember the past with rose-coloured spectacles and wish ourselves back to a distant time and a different place; we become dissatisfied with who we are, where we are, and who we are with.  “If only…” becomes our watchword; the Promised Land is a threat rather than a gift, and Egypt is where we want to be.

I may not have an Egypt I want to go back to but I don’t find myself marching into the future with confident strides either.  A pillar of cloud as a guide during the day and a pillar of fire in the night sounds like a pretty good deal (Exodus 13:21).  I feel pretty sure that I would wait patiently or march forward in confident faith if it were only that easy.  But the fact that the Israelites struggled, even with those advantages, makes me realise that things are never quite that simple.  Is that really God’s fire, or is it Moses messing up the braai (barbecue) again?  Are you sure that’s God’s cloud telling us to move on?  Perhaps it’s just the early morning mist?

Meanwhile I write.  This is where I can (sometimes) distinguish the mist from the cloud and the fire of God from the braai.

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A Seminary is Born

SMMS Witness It was a great privilege to attend the opening and dedication of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS) in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.

Dignitaries included Methodist leaders past and present from around the country, visitors from Duke Divinity School in the USA, and the daughter and granddaughter of the late Rev. Seth Mokitimi.

It is a beautiful cluster of buildings creating in its heart a sense of community, space to become, a place of hope and possibility.

The Chapel DoorsThere have been complaints about the cost (over R60 million or $8,5 million), there always will be. It could of course have been spent on any number of other worthy causes. The reality is that it wouldn’t have been. Other very worthy mission-oriented fundraising efforts by the MCSA have not succeeded, but this has. Almost all of the money has come in. Why? Is it an idea whose time has come? Is it a tangible project where the results can be seen and measured? Or was its very conception inspired and blessed by God? The latter seems certain, the others probably also.

The celebrations and the service were very moving and very meaningful. I know some were apprehensive but it was not, on the day, about the hype. It was about a real celebration of something exciting God is doing in our midst.

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