Thanksgiving

Colossians 3:15-17

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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“Just A Janitor”

Re-posting this 2013 piece in honor and remembrance of my dear and great friend, Algie.  Al’s wife called me Saturday evening to share that, after a long and hard-fought battle for his health, he went home on Friday.  There’s no doubt in my mind where Al is today – among the angels, where he so belongs.  I will forever be grateful for my friend and mentor, Al.  And I will miss his random voicemails reminding me of what’s truly important – though I’m grateful to have discovered a couple that I managed to save.  God bless you, Brother.  Rest well and well done.  Everyone needs an Al.  Everyone should be someone’s Al.  Algie Jones, CWO…indeed.

I remember it as if it was just yesterday, yet it was January 19, 2004 – just over nine years ago.

Fredericksburg, VA – I was “the new guy from the Home Office” – there to do what needed to be done to turn around the business and earn the company its “expected return” on the investment made.  The investment of course, was based solely on spreadsheets, financial statements, and a balance sheet – with no conscious awareness of the greatest assets there.

I spent the first couple of hours walking around on the main floor – meeting and greeting the physicians, nurses, and other team members.  There were about 72 of them – perhaps I met most that morning.

Around 08:45, I was upstairs unpacking in what would be my “temporary-but-for-a-while” office.  I had my favorite coffee cup in my hand when a determined knock was made on my partially-open door.

I looked up to see Algie – or “Al” as most called him.  With a serious look and piercing eyes he inquired, “Boss Man, got a minute?”

I invited him in…”Al, right?”  I remembered him as our lead housekeeper – we’d met briefly downstairs.  “What can I do for you, Al?”

He paused for a moment and then, with a bit of a nothing-to-lose perspective, took a deep breath and said, “Look, Boss.  I just wanna know about you and what kind of person you are.  I gotta know who we’re dealin’ with so I can decide if I’m gonna stay and work for you.  If this is just another steppin’ stone for you shirt-n-tie kind of guys, just tell me.  I’ve had two or three jobs most of my life – I have two full-time jobs now!”

Before I could interject, he went on…”There are a lotta good people here, Man.  They work hard, but their spirits are broken.  Nobody’s straight with ’em – they know this place is broken, but they don’t know what to fix ’cause nobody talks to ’em.  So, what about you?  You gonna fix this?”

I was stunned.  And I appreciated his boldness.  Then he said it…”This is your ministry, Man.  Are you up for it?

Still holding my coffee cup – perhaps tighter than ever – I asked if he’d join me for a cup.  This conversation needed more time and attention.  Al quickly informed me that it wasn’t time for a break, but I convinced him that we could have a cup of coffee together while we worked through his questions.

Al and I spent about the next hour together.  He wanted to know about my family, my interests outside of work, and what was important to me.  He asked me if I attended church and wanted to know about my relationship with God.  Al was peelin’ back the onion – determined to learn about me at my very core.

I guess I passed the test, as Al finally told me “Ok, then…I guess you’re alright.”  And he smiled.  I asked him if that meant he was staying and he replied “Yeah, I am – for now.”  So, we agreed that he would stick around at least through the week…maybe longer, if he liked what he saw.

That afternoon, we had a meeting with the entire staff.  We laid it out – the good, the bad, and the opportunity.  We made it clear that the business was at risk.

From that day forward, Al was a great resource.  We talked just about daily – about family, life in general, and perhaps what was going on with this team member or that one.

I’d bounce ideas and strategies off of him and he’d give me one of three responses – 1)  Yeah, that’d be alright – go for it; or 2) No, don’t do that!; or 3)  Gimme a day or so and I’ll get back to you.  And he would.

I knew what Al was doing.  He was runnin’ traps with other members of the team – gauging their reaction to things like adding hours to create growth capacity.  Then he’d come back and give me “his” feedback.  Throughout it all, Al would remind me “Hey, Brother – I’m just a janitor.”

Our unique partnership worked magically.  Granted, there were other managers imortant to the team’s success, however, the key element to our collective gain was Al’s insight and ability to bring people together.  Our swingman was “just a janitor.”  Indeed.

The team gelled.  We gained momentum.  People took ownership of quality and service.  “Owners” stepped up, while “renters” rose to the occasion and bought in – or left.  Either way was fine.

We became profitable in 90 days.

Ten months later, our team cleaned house at the annual company conference.  I proudly returned to share their awards with them.  The same team that struggled 10 months prior and was losing $100k – $150k per month received the top awards for patient satisfaction, physician satisfaction, and EBDITA improvement.  Unprecedented success.

Before I moved on to manage other opportunities in our expanding region, we adjusted our organizational chart a bit.  A new leadership role was added:  “Algie Jones, CWO.”  As in, “Chief Wisdom Officer.”

Even after I left my short-term assignment at that facility, Al and I remained friends.  If I went back to Fredericksburg for a partnerhip meeting, I’d try to carve out some time to sit and chat with Al – always a way to bring perspective back in-line.  Occasionally, I’d call him while doing some windshield time.  Whenever we talked, he always asked about my family and reminded me “take care of your people.”  So true.

It’s 9+ years later and I still talk to Al, though not quite as often.  He’s enjoying a well-earned retirement with his bride of many years.  He’s a deacon in his church and has a brigade of grandchildren in and around the area.  And, while he’s aging and has had his share of challenges, he’s as optimistic and upbeat as ever.  I never come away from a conversation with Algie with less than a smile.  And a “God bless you, Brother.”

Al taught me a number of valuable lessons.  The importance of transparency of management.  The value of input from all levels of the organization.   Tasks and titles do not define the person or their value.

Algie Jones, CWO.  “Just a janitor?”  Hardly.

Keep it Lit, Y’all.

T.

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Roots in the Wilderness

Heard a great message this past Sunday…

“You are not tied to your roots.  You are tied to whom you belong.” – Suzie L.

A great reminder, indeed.

1 Cor 3:23.  Praise God.

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Ohh, Ginny…

I’ve often called myself a “Proud Virginian” – yet, for the first time I can recall, I cannot say that with honesty.

The events of the past 10 days or so are disastrous, casting a humiliating and shameful cloud across The Commonwealth in broad view of the world at large.  And yet, the events and press coverage of the past 10 days or so are not indicative of “news” – no, rather, they are indicative of long-known and whispered hypocrisy by those who represent us and represent to the world a Virginia that is not true.

“Virginia”…once known for its roots as the first English colony and the “Mother of States,” given those states that evolved from her in the earliest days of our democracy.

“Virginia”…once known as the “Mother of Presidents” for her roots in the presidencies of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson.

And yet, today, she is known for mockery, disdain, and an inherent lack of leadership for the people by the very “leaders” the People elected to serve.

If true healing and unity were his priority, it would have already been on the top of the Governor’s list of most imperative objectives.

If truth and transparency were among his core values, the Attorney General would have foregone his criticism of the Governor – at least not without first making it part of his own admission and concession.

And, at some point, due process must be given and the costs of disruption and distrust must be reconciled.  So may be my hope for her Lieutenant Governor and for all of The Commonwealth.

Not since 1865 has Richmond seen such scorched ruins of what was once viewed as future promise.

There was a time in this country when philosophies and priorities differed, but did not impede friendship, honor, and ability to compromise.  Remember the example of the relationship enjoyed by Tip and the Gipper – a relationship that allowed business to be conducted with honor and compromise, perhaps with heated debate, but never at the expense of core friendship and understanding that they cultivated and gained over time.  We must learn from our history.

And, by the way…when we erase past chapters of our history from our landscape, governmental buildings, and our places of learning, we lose the very opportunity to teach ALL of our history – the good and the bad.  Some of those who held the erasers yesterday hold the very instruments today that will write our next chapters and reveal who we really are in these moments…and what we have or have not learned…and what we do or do not stand for.  May they pause, consider, and step cautiously.

We should ask ourselves if we should continue to trust and follow those who have newly found passion for humanity, discovered in their own moment of self-preservation.  Or, if we should demand better.

These are only partisan issues in that healing, improvement, and sensitivity are needed on both (all) sides.  These issues pertain to what is right and best for all Virginians.

And so, to those who occupy her statehouse on the Legislative side of the equation…come together, as the Executive branch flounders.  Honor your oath.  The time for leadership is now.

And “leadership” is not synonymous with “partisanship.”  The best way to start the healing is to reach across the aisle – perhaps even stepping beyond the aisle’s midpoint – and taking whatever steps necessary to ensure that, collectively, you represent the interests of all Virginians.  Act on your inward reflection as much or more than you react to what you see across from you.  Dare to dream.

The second section of Virginia’s constitution declares that all power is in her people and that her magistrates and officers are their trustees and servants, amenable to them.  Wouldn’t that be grand?

Ohh, Ginny.

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41

Perhaps more noteable than the elegance of the celebration itself…or the example of the life so well lived…was the bi-partisan civility demonstrated as our leaders came together to remember 41.

Maybe we weren’t quick to realize it, but it was there – prominently on display as political rivals and enemies came together to honor a true American and gentleman.  After more than a decade, it’s no wonder we didn’t recognize such Washingtonian civility.

Yes, it can still happen.  If only we could find the same civility and common purpose looking at what lies ahead, imagine the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

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Feels Like 4…

14 degrees…weather app says “feels like 4.”

Friends gathered…food in abundance, a bit of guitar and piano under the vocals in the next room.  After all, this is Music City.

The notorious ball on the tv screen…a fresh log on the fire crackles, leading to thoughts of those cold tonight.

A day on the firewood ministry trail yesterday was, like most, a day filled with stories of great challenge and the most fundamental needs.  18 tender souls encamped on a hill on the edge of downtown, where the wind whips through to the core of those who call that empty lot home.   A man and his bride, both ailing in their later years, struggling to keep a modest home warm – ultimately grateful for strangers stopping by to share a few caring words and carry a few more logs to their fireplace.  A lone soul in a quiet tent behind a bustling restaurant where a much-needed meal is but steps and dollars out of reach.   And a young family living primitively in a home of no electricity, domestic water, or septic …where the only light and warmth comes from the small wood stove by the door…and from within their quiet prayers for mercy and provision.

As we anticipate 2018, remember those with the most fundamental needs.   And if you’re looking for something to resolve as to your own purpose and accountability, consider charity and kindness for our most vulnerable.

If you need a recommendation as to how you can get involved and lend support to those among us who endure cold and hunger, drop me a note.  I’m happy to help you make connections, wherever you may be.

Peace.

T.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is Christmas

A sanctuary overflowing with standing room only…families gathered, young and old…a spectrum of anticipation ranging from reverence and thanksgiving to cherub glee, as Christmas Eve can only mean that the magic of Christmas morning is but moments out of reach.  Candles lit, the praise team’s instruments fall quiet as the congregants finish the final verse of Silent Night, a cappella.  Yes, this is Christmas Eve.

Among the commercial grandeur and holiday haste, it’s easy to fall victim to distraction.  A secular approach to Christmas is laced with excitement and anticipation, but…of what?  True Christmas has nothing to do with shopping malls, Amazon, or a jolly sleigh pilot from somewhere north of Cleveland.

“Advent” means “coming.”  In this Advent Season, we celebrate the coming of Jesus.  And it is not so much a simple celebration of His birth as it is a recognition of the miracle of His birth – and with anticipation of His promised return.

You see, had it not been for Christ’s miraculous birth to Mary; had He not lived as He lived; and had He not died and risen as He did, there would be no Christmas.  The true faith, hope, and promise of Christmas is that God saw fit to give of His only Son, sending Him here to walk among us and be persecuted for our sins, so that we may find eternal life in Him, follow Him, and await His return.

And so, consider that the greatest gift we celebrate each Christmas is the gift of our savior, Jesus.    And once the wrapping paper is nearly destroyed and discarded, the feast is over, and it’s time for the many lights and decorations to come down, the holiday may be over, but the promise of His gift endures as unconditional love, world without end.

Merry Christmas to all.

T.

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