“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . .”

— Colossians [3:23] (NIV)

LOVING YOUR CUSTOMERS

I received an e-mail from my local gym recently stating that my five previously paid for training sessions would be canceled in two weeks. Stunned, I sent an e-mail back protesting this action. I am sure that buried somewhere in the multiple pages of fine print in my contract, the gym they had every right to take this action. But at no point during the purchase was I advised of this practice. Some distant attorney had foiled my plan to spread my sessions out over many months. Very shortly after my reply I received a call from Leo, a manager at the gym. 

“He put his customer first by listening and seeking a solution.”

Leo warmly asked, “How can I help? I understand your point of view.” When I told him that I wanted the sessions spread out to help with my current triathlon training, he replied, “How long do you need?” I told him three more months. Leo gave me four just in case. In the course of this call he listened to learn my goals. He was accommodating and flexible. In the end, he satisfied a customer and defied some distant attorney’s rules. He put his customer first by listening and seeking a solution. The customer service role of many people like Leo is hindered by excessive rules and paperwork. Fortunately, Leo’s heart was determined to help, and his gym was thus well represented.

Many companies become so burdened by rules and bureaucracy that they lose sight of their customers, the very people who provide them with their lifeblood, revenue. Their hearts move away from the thing that most sustains a business, their customers. In my work, I review many strategic business plans and can very quickly pick up on whether an organization’s heart for its customers exists. All based on what they include about them in their plan. If serving their customers is not mentioned, I know that sales will be struggling, because the company has lost focus on the single most important aspect of their success, that customers are the lifeblood of a business. 

“When we treat customers as if they were the Lord, we take on a completely different perspective.”

Paul the great apostle of Christianity and who was inspired by God, wrote today’s verse. In this verse he describes the Christian attitude and focus towards our work life. Paul suggests that we work with all our heart, as if we are working for the Lord. If Paul was a modern day business consultant, he would advise any business to treat their customers the same way they would treat the Lord. When we use this viewpoint, rules melt away and solutions appear. When we treat customers as if they were the Lord, we take on a completely different perspective. We become warmer and better advocates for our customers. The people we serve in our business lives become more important than rules created by bureaucracy. In our work lives we feel enriched because we have helped, we have served and we have improved our customers lives.

A simple change in perspective gives our work more meaning. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Is customer service the most important part of our business plan?

What examples do we have of how we can treat customers as if they are the Jesus?

In our own personal lives, how do we live out the concept of working for the Lord?

 

 

“And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

— John [1:14]

THE WORD AND THE BIBLE

A pastor friend of mine, Rich, relayed a story about a crusty cop from Atlanta who was a member of his congregation. The man was forced by his wife to go to church, and each Sunday he went. At first he sat and fidgeted. Then he started to like the music, but he was still resistant. After service one Sunday Rich approached the man and asked him how he liked church. He replied, “I only come because my wife makes me come.” Rich suggested, “Why don’t you read the Bible each morning and see what happens?” Silently each morning the cop got up when the house was dark and began to read. Slowly at first. Then it became a habit. Something he looked forward to each morning. Church then began to mean something to him. 

“He’d become more social and trusting. He still was a quiet man. He still was serious, but his heart had lightened. He began to understand grace.”

Over the next year he completed reading the whole Bible, a feat that he was proud of, something akin to running a marathon or riding a bike for a hundred miles. But Rich noticed other things. He smiled more, he went to a Bible study class, and he began to participate in serving his community. Periodically Rich would check in with him, and the man talked about a change of focus. He’d become less interested in the news of the day. He’d stopped obsessing about his savings account. He’d become more social and trusting. He still was a quiet man. He still was serious, but his heart had lightened. He began to understand grace. 

“If we read the Bible for fifteen minutes a day, within a year we will have read it cover to cover.”

Today in America, a vast majority consider the Bible a sacred and blessed book. But only one in five read it on a weekly basis. We are too busy or stuck in our routines. We are intimidated by its sacredness. The Bible is for us, to read, to consider, and to be with in spirit. But can we find fifteen minutes a day to read the Bible? If we read each day for fifteen minutes, then at the end of the year we will have read the whole Bible. Here’s the math: reading the Bible from cover to cover for the average person takes seventy two hours. If we read the Bible for fifteen minutes a day, within a year we will have read it cover to cover. To do this means creating a new routine in our lives.  Psychologists tell us that our routines are become a habit after doing the same thing for seven days. Those first seven days are the hardest days, but then we created a habit. We have invited God’s word into our lives. The Bible becomes our companion and not just a book.

Jesus the Word came among us and brought the Word of God. In the Bible we will see the richness of his story. The Word was among us and is still among us in the words of the Bible. What stands before us is grace and truth. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Do we have fifteen minutes a day, and if so when during the day?

Where is there a quiet spot in our house?

What would we have to give up to find fifteen minutes?

 

 

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

— Luke [11:28]

FINDING GOD IN UNUSUAL PEOPLE

While at Drew University getting my Master’s in Divinity, I noticed an unusual woman named Theresa. I had seen her a few times, sitting alone quietly on a bench. Prior to class we students often milled around the school’s front door and shared our weekly stories. Theresa usually sat waiting on the bench. She was a large woman and sat there quietly ignored by her classmates. After noticing this a few times, I went over and introduced myself and asked her how she was doing. She smiled and after a few brief questions about her life, she opened up. She told me she worked at night in a hospital as a chaplain. By day she went to seminary to get her master’s degree. She also ran a successful business cutting coupons that she used to help others save money. There was sitting on that bench an unusual person, leading a wonderful life.

Previously, She had been destitute and without money, shunned by society because she didn’t fit in. She prayed for help, and she felt that God had shown her how to earn a decent living cutting coupons and splitting the savings with her customers. Over time, she developed a sizeable following and began to earn enough money to dress well, feed herself, and pay for school. At night she sat with the dying in a local hospital, guiding them home. Only when asked would she reveal these magnificent experiences of transition. 

“Over time my other classmates began to see the richness of this unusual woman.”

Over time my other classmates began to see the richness of this unusual woman. I frequently ran ideas by her, which helped me with practical insights into theology. We all grew to respect her faithfulness and commitment to God. Just before we graduated, a fellow student, who was an extraordinary artist, created a mural of our classmates that he donated to Drew University. It hangs today in Seminary Hall.  At the top of the mural, bathed in light, is this magnificent woman. 

“There is a rich person beneath the quiet. Perhaps a blessed person, who can inspire us.”

How many times have we seen that quiet person sitting alone? Why does that person sit alone? What is deep inside him or her that we should know? Perhaps such a person is blessed because he or she knows God. Perhaps that person has a story to tell. In school and in the marketplace we know these people. In each of our lives there is at least one of them. There is a rich person beneath the quiet. Perhaps a blessed person, who can inspire us. Perhaps a person blessed by God. We won’t know unless we ask.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What is the name of the person we know who sits alone on the bench?

What can we learn?

How can we discover greatness in all that we know?

 

 

“Go out and stand on the mountain, before the lord . . . and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence”

— 1 Kings 19: 11–12

IN A QUIET PERSONAL MOMENT, A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY WAS SAVED

A friend of mine, Bob, was in the process of selling an important asset. The sale would be a crucial part of his future and success. Bob was determined to be a good seller. To not hide anything from the buyer and provide the buyer with a product that exceeded their expectations. Bob responded faithfully to all the buyer’s requests and went further than his lawyer or broker expected him to go. But the requests didn’t end. After each obstacle was resolved, another popped up. A meeting was scheduled between all the parties to find a clear path to resolution. 

“He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.”

The day before the meeting Bob’s wife announced that the doctor had found something during her checkup that needed a radiologist’s opinion. The appointment with the radiologist was scheduled at the same time as my friend’s important meeting. His wife told him to go to the meeting and she would be okay. Bob felt besieged. How can I ignore my wife? But how can I secure our future? He prayed throughout the day. He prayed for God to give him the wisdom to make the right decisions with his business and to help his wife.  Then he went to the meeting and his wife went to the radiologist.

During the meeting, there were many questions. Tough questions. My friend answered them all honestly. At one point the broker for the buyer became unrelenting. Bob felt a spirit of resolve fall over him and became quietly serious. Normally Bob’s mannerisms were friendly and engaging, but now he became dead serious and firm. Looking firmly into the eyes of the buyer and without hesitation he stated, firmly and in a quiet tone, “If there is a problem, I will pay to have it resolved. It is what I have done to this point and will continue to do.” He left the meeting wondering about his wife and at the same time about the state of this important sale. 

“A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers.”

At home he sat in his favorite chair and waited in silence. A short time passed and he got a call. The broker said, “It is done, you have done everything and had no more to do. The sale is going forward.” Shortly after, his wife called and stated that the radiologist had found nothing serious and she would need some minor medical attention only. My friend rested. A wave of joy overcame him. While Bob had waited in silence, God had answered his prayers. No great bell was rung, no fireworks, just a brief moment and the quiet winds of life had brought his answer. Life was back in balance. 

“But then in a moment, a quiet personal moment, we hear God’s voice. We are reminded that God is with us.”

How many times have we all worried about life? We go to pray and we are still tested. We hear no answer from God and we wonder where God is. But then in a moment, a quiet personal moment, we hear God’s voice. We are reminded that God is with us. God talks to us sometimes in sheer silence, when we are open and ready to hear. Not necessarily with loud clanging or grandiose fireworks, but in a deeply personal way that restores our faith. In this moment we know God has passed by like a cool summer breeze. Emmanuel, God is with us. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What moments of our lives have we heard the sheer silence of God?

How does God let us know that it is him who has answered?

In reflection, how do we think back on those events?

 

 

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew [4:23]

 

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Are we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?