The Bottom Line

These past few months have been an eye-opening experience for me, especially at my new job catering at Ashland University.  It’s a great place to work and I’m impressed with how tight of a ship they run.  Everything is based off of contracts that are made from initial conversations from sales and marketing office.  We host over 1000 events a year!  Some are small gatherings for executives at AU, and some are enormous gatherings that host over a couple thousand people at one event.

Typical contracts list the basic info as where the event or delivery will take place, who the event manager is, tables, linen, food, beverages, plate-ware, and even a chocolate fountain if you so choose!  It’s an open book test and can usually be carried out without a snag depending on whether there is proper attention to detail and timely execution.

The only snag in my sweaters working at Ashland University have come from me not reading the contracts on time, or in full detail.  If you know me personally this comes as no shock to you.  I have always been a big picture person which means I dream a lot…

That’s right.  I was writing about not paying attention!

My manager has a nice system in filing events and deliveries in our plate room, which is where we enter, clock in, check in, and mingle during the day.  I have had to remind myself constantly to look at the contracts immediately when I come in for the day.  And not just the ones for that day but also for following events (Imagine me… thinking ahead!)

Overall this has been an excellent way to further discipline myself in thinking ahead, working with a team, self-leadership, and ultimately delivering the goods.  If you’ve seen Downton Abbey, I’m in essence a footman.  I run.  I deliver.  I clean.  I report… you get the idea.

This last semester I’ve been in a class called Homiletics.  It is a course on learning how to preach an expositional sermon.  Basically preaching the Bible verse by verse as opposed to topical preaching.  I have been a topical preacher for 15 years and have never had the guts or attention to preach a full book of the Bible all the way through.  I still see topical preaching as a valid way of preaching the Bible but I at least wanted to option and training to preach the Bible verse by verse.

The class gets a “contract”, or syllabus, at the beginning of each semester.  Every detail is in it to ensure students know what is expected and when the work is to be turned in.  It’s pretty straight-forward and completely doable – IF you read the entire thing.  I’m four/five weeks in to this class and I was informed last night that the bulk of my work was done using the wrong chapter of the Bible (Phil 1 not Phil 2).  ALL assignments work off of one another and I’m 6 huge assignments in.  I have multiple hours in to these assignments and they were done with academic excellence.  It’s not my professors fault, but frankly I’m surprised he didn’t let me know sooner.  He’s graded all 6 assignments turned in and he must have missed it too.

The struggle is real.

I have consistently overlooked tiny, yet crucial details in much of my work as a student, hubby/daddy, pastor, etc.  This is not me arguing for limitations. “Anyone who argues for their own limitations shall have them”, said a wise old Mark Twain.  A few years ago I would have complained that I would never get better at this in this lifetime.  It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I have no choice but to get better in any line of work or relationships.  The good news is that I can get better.  Make no mistake, I will not be teaching a course on how to organize in the foreseeable time I have left on the earth.

BIG TRUTH: Tiny particulars create trust if handled appropriately.  At the end of the day trust is all you and I have.  It is the currency of all relationships.  I’ve been arrogant enough thinking God would allow me to experience growth in the areas I’ve led just because I thought I was good at preaching.  It also didn’t hit me until these past 6 months that preaching good sermons does not guarantee that I communicated effectively with others.  A good sermon is only the tip of the iceberg of communication(s).

Good communication entails clarity, simple truth, follow up/follow through, feedback, evaluation, and adaptation if necessary.

1 Corinthians 14:8 says,”For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?”  The apostle was speaking of the necessity of having and keeping order in church meetings.  You may be a first chair trumpet player in your line of work but if you regularly play sour notes you won’t get asked back for the four gun salute.  For the minister, there MUST be clarity from, not only the pulpit, but also from the pastor’s desk.  God has graciously taken me out of the ministry at this point in my life to show me a few key elements that needed addressed and/or completely overhauled.  

I would not be so cocksure to say I’ve thoroughly learned my lesson though.  Each time I write about how I’m improving, I can’t help but feel like Red (Morgan Freeman) in the Shawshank Redemption, when he comes before the parole board offering up an explanation on why he feels like he’s worthy of being released.

Parole Hearings Man: “Sit.”shawshank-redemption-17
[a nervous looking Red takes a seat] “We see by your file you’ve served twenty years of a life sentence.”

Red: “Yes, sir.”

Parole Hearings Man: “You feel you’ve been rehabilitated?”

Red: “Oh, yes, sir. Absolutely, sir. I mean, I learned my lesson. I can honestly say that I’m a changed man. I’m no longer a danger to society. That’s God’s honest truth.”

Too further illustrate why I know I haven’t completely learned this is how in this past week at work I was helping with an event and completely ignored a delivery.  It wasn’t until some students who were waiting for their hot chocolate and donuts came and informed me that I had failed to bring them over at the appointed time.  It was really neat to see the wait staff at AU come together in the plate room and help me gather everything  I needed in 5 minutes flat!

In the end, whether it’s doing 60 hours of work in the wrong chapter of the Bible, not sending out the very important email on time, or altogether dusting over one party’s order of pastries, I have to change.  I can also choose to blame it on others for not warning, or reminding me but ultimately it is my responsibility, not theirs.

I love what John Maxwell says.  “Don’t wish it were easier.  Wish you were better.”

There comes a time when chalking up your latest failure to genetics (“my grandparets did it to me”), or emotional scripting (“my parents did it to me”) doesn’t work anymore.  You and I MUST take responsibility for our own lives or reap the consequences.  Get help.  Go to counseling.  “Confess your sins to one another, and God, so that you may be healed (James 5:16).”  That ugly monster of detail avoidance will be reduced and you’ll be better prepared for whatever God sends next.

Just promise yourself never to give up.  Life is the only class you can’t drop without penalty.  Even then, others will still experience the wake your boat left behind you.

The Bottom Line:

I don’t claim any authority on this outside of these truths being self-evident based on costly experience.

  • Grow – Commit to growing everyday.  Read, teach what you learn to others, go to conferences, buy the monthly leadership material.  Get the help from someone to extract the best music inside you that has never been played.  Don’t fulfill Oscar Wilde’s pith that says “Some die with their music still inside them.”
  • Growing – Accept the fact that change takes time and much more of it than you think.  Let God do the work who is “…enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose (Philippians 2:13).”  God creates not only the ability to grow, but gives you the much needed desire to do so in the first place.  It’s okay not to be okay.  It only means you really are human.  Just don’t accept things as concrete that were meant to be changed and strengthened.
  • Grown – One day, when you see Jesus face to face, all this will seem like an insignificant footnote.  Until then, his “…grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me (2 Corinthians 12:9).”


2 thoughts on “The Bottom Line

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