Integrity – The victory of losers

Integrity

Integrity is living in the way we believe to be right. It’s doing the most right thing we can possibly know to do in any circumstance, in the most right way we can think of, with the best ability and skill we can muster to bring to the situation.

 Over a lifetime integrity includes recognizing who you are and pursuing your calling through actions that are based on your design. This would mean setting goals according to your deepest passions, and developing skills that are aligned with your basic design, in the process of, and in order to pursue those goals.

The word “integrity” comes from the same root as “integrated.” A life of integrity would be a life where all these are integrated into a strong, single, coherent whole. When we integrate all these elements into the definition of integrity, then the effort of living a life of integrity is guaranteed to be worthwhile and deeply fulfilling.

It is very difficult to build a life of integrity by design

Pondering all this, I could not help but realize how difficult it is to build a life of integrity. Mostly we can only see in hindsight if something really fits into our lives. Similarly we can only tell whether something suits our design when we try to do it, and then take note of our failures and successes, and the emotions and inner experiences these create for us.

The result of this is that we build our lives mostly haphazardly. Even when we try very hard to be goal oriented, intentional and deliberate about it, we find that time after time our lives seem to consist of a bunch of randomly attached pieces, rather than being a well-integrated whole.

Most of the time when we make decisions that violate our values (or am I the only one who sometimes does this?) it is because we’ve slowly painted ourselves into a corner, and we were too slow to let go of what was busy taking shape when we saw the first danger signs. We become attached to something, or some outcome, and it is when it looks like we’re going to lose it, that suddenly, without us noticing it, this “thing” becomes for a moment more important than whatever is the right decision in the heat of the moment.

Build integrity through loss

For every step of growth, we have to lose something of who and what we thought we were, to prepare us for the next step.

 It would appear to me that the art of building a life of integrity is found in building a life of constant and regular loss.

This will help you to get rid of the things that don’t really fit. In fact, I think it is more important, in building a life of integrity, to get used to loss, than to get better at planning and living deliberately. Trying something and discarding that which didn’t work, or ended up not serving a purpose, seems to me to be easier, simpler, and probably a whole lot more interesting, than constantly fretting over whether we are making the right decisions or not – just as long as we discard regularly – almost constantly.

Good wine comes from well pruned vines.

The benefits of being a loser

I can see several immediate further benefits to building a life of constant loss:

          It will make you used to loss – which will enable to you be more willing to take risks that might cause loss.

          When you face losses you didn’t engineer yourself, you’ll be much better equipped and well exercised in the art of dealing with loss – enabling you to bounce back faster, and more effectively.

          When you are facing a situation where making the right decision has a very high risk of significant loss (e.g. refusing the compromise your values and thereby missing out on some big opportunity), you will be much more comfortable with the idea of that loss – knowing that loss is a normal, good, and productive part of your life.

I’m sure you can think of more. The point is this:

Embracing loss is one of the foundational principles of building a life of integrity.

Love

      Ashton

 

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A strategy of justice and righteousness

Feeling hopeless in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds is a tell-tale sign that we do not truly believe that God has a strategy for overcoming those odds.

An overcrowded train … a symptom of bigger problems

I was watching a train slowly pass by this morning. People were closely packed into it, and some people even had squashed themselves in between the cars – looking to me to be in a situation that is lethally dangerous should the train go around any sharp bends.

I guess that’s one of the reasons the train was going so slowly.

This was just one of the many problems in the country. People are talking about a tax revolt, and this morning someone pointed out that if you pay tax, then you are funding the whole Gupta corruption process. You are effectively handing money over to be syphoned out of the country into the hands of international criminals.

The answer starts with God – but do we believe that?

“Lord, how does one address all of this?” I asked.

And I felt some answers beginning to formulate.

It starts with prayer. Prayer that God will intervene, and prayer that listens and asks God for His strategy in this situation, with a heart of obedience.

Then I felt God asking me a counter-question:

“Do you not think that I have a strategy that is rooted in justice and righteousness, that will resolve and turn this situation around?”

Trying these days very hard be honest, and especially having been inspired this morning by a post on LinkedIn by one of my clients to speak truth in my heart (i.e. where it’s just God and I) I had to admit that my sense of defeat at seeing all that is happening around me, is because I do not truly and firmly believe that God does have a strategy.

Ps 15:2 (ESV) He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
  and speaks truth in his heart;

God has a strategy – And he’s inviting you to be part of that

Clinging tenaciously to the belief that I am normal, I suspect that these are issues that many Christians in the workplace struggle with. It is difficult to sometimes believe that God has a strategy for your company, your career, and your country. Part of why it is difficult is because we do not see how it all fits together.

But God has a strategy.

He wants to reveal that strategy to us. He wants to execute that strategy through us.

To be part of that strategy, we have to make every effort to walk as closely to Him as we can, and to seek to walk blamelessly before Him, regardless of what people around us are saying.

PSALM 15:1 (ESV) O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
   but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Be Blessed

Ashton

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Are you defending your position? You should not be.

The key is to move forward. Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church (see Matt. 16:18). Gates are defensive weapons, not offensive ones. This means that the only way they can prevail is if you do not attack them. But if you do, they will not prevail. Move forward!

           Silvoso, Ed. Anointed for Business (pp. 135-136). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

We are taught that the word is the sword. It is an offensive weapon. In church we often refer to scripture to confirm the authority, but in the workplace this is likely to create resistance, rather than to establish authority.

Some time ago I attended a strategy session with one of my favourite clients, and today my thoughts were drifting back to that. I was thinking back to one of the most senior investors getting up and saying that “Where there is no vision, a people perish,” and then connecting his opening speech with this truth. It was a brilliant, subtle and simple way in which he brought God’s truth into that meeting, without mentioning the Bible, without mentioning God – and thus bypassing all the objections and resistance many would raise when trying to bring God into the workplace.

Simultaneously he created a clear connection to all the Christians in that meeting and, in a language they understood, he effectively said, “We are taking this space for God. We are declaring God’s truth here, and as one of the senior investors in this venture, I am telling you that God’s word, God’s truth, and thus God himself is welcome here.”

In fact, in that moment this reminded me to be quietly praying and inviting God’s presence into that place, and into that company.

The principles in scripture can stand on their own feet, and they can be questioned and defended.

Imagine the power of beginning to insert just two or three scriptural truths into every meeting.

If we believe in the divine truth of scripture, does that not imply that this truth also applies to the marketplace? Did God not create work as much as He created the church? Why would it be important that the teaching in the church is all based on Godly truth, and then not be important that everything we do in the workplace be also based on Godly truth?

Imagine the power we would unleash if we begin to make every effort to make sure that all our business proceedings are based on Biblically sound doctrine – and to find subtle ways to bring the Biblical truths into those discussions and proceedings.

We have the promise of God that the gates of hell shall not stand against us. Let’s take the sword of the word and move forward.

Love

Ashton

 

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The other meaning of idols

We try to help people identify the idols of their profession and the idols they use to cope with the thorns and thistles of life and the desperate peril of existence without God. Each time we strip away an idol we can turn to God, and our trust in him grows.

–          Keller, Timothy. Every Good Endeavor

Idols, on the one hand, are things we worship, and that is how I’ve always thought about them. It is only as I recently saw another meaning of the concept of idols, that I realized that to a certain extent, I’ve been caught in this subtle snare – and that there is tremendous freedom in recalibrating this concept to align with God’s truth.The reason for worshipping conventional idols, generally is not because of a sense of deep love or positive awe as exists in Christianity, but it is out of the belief that through the worship blessing will flow.

It’s not only about worship – but also about trust

Keller’s statement above made me realize that anything that you put your trust in, and pour your time, effort and energy into, in order to create security for yourself, is potentially an idol. The way to break free from this idolatry is to see your work as a gift, and the doing of your work as a worship offering to God. From there, then, whatever you receive, is a gift from God’s hand, and your security and sense of being blessed is in your relationship with the giver of the gift, rather than in the thing itself which is given. This also frees you from any fear of loss. Should life suddenly change in a way that the gifts are no longer there, the Giver, and your relationship with Him remains unchanged – therefore your foundations remain unshaken.

Recalibrate to return to trust in God alone

As Keller points out, we are brought up in a society where all our trust and security is financial and physical. It is as we recalibrate our worldview to see these as gifts, and the Giver as the source of security, that we are systematically freed more and more to live simple lives of true and deep obedience.

The change happens at the core

The outside may look exactly the same. You may be living in the same house, drive the same car, even have the same medical aid and insurance – but your attitude towards these as being gifts from God’s hand, vs. being your source of security, changes the way you experience and approach your work and life significantly.

Love

Ashton

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Selfish suffering

I started to see my work more as a crucible where God was pounding and grinding and refining me, rather than as a place where I was actively and effectively serving him.

          Katherine Leary Alsdorf, in the foreword to Keller, Timothy. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (p. 17). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This concept of God working on our character can easily be one of those situations where a subtle twist turns a truth into an idol. I’ve often heard preachers say that God is more interested in my character than my comfort. The logic goes something along the lines that God has put you where you are, where things are difficult and where you are suffering, so that He can build character, because that is what He wants.

Is character the end goal of difficulty?

However, this reasoning makes character the goal – the purpose. I would think that character is merely a tool to achieve a purpose. God is not using the situation to build character and then that is the end goal. God is giving you a situation to impact, and through the process of learning to impact that situation, you will build character – character that can enable you to impact an even more difficult situation next time.

Or does the difficulty need character?

The goal of these difficult situations, and the character that you are building, then, is to be God’s hands, feet, eyes, ears and mouth in these situations, to bring about His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. It is for you to be drawn closer to Him and for others to see and be drawn to Him, and allow Him into their lives.

What did Jesus do?

If we stop at believing that we are in a difficult situation just because God is building character in our lives, without moving further to seeing the purpose in the lives of those around us, there is a good chance that we still have a selfish view of life – where we suffer for our own benefit; rather than a Godly view of life, where we pour out our lives for those around us.

Jesus gave his life for us. He suffered selflessly.

Don’t get trapped into the lie of suffering selfishly.

Love

Ashton

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From the outside the same, but from the inside, polar opposites

The life of faith, and the life without faith can look very similar from the outside, but what is happening in the heart of men is very different.

Working vs. toiling

 Ps 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep,” whilst the Preacher reminds us in Ecclesiastes that we are to find out joy in the work that God has given us to do.

A life of faith sees work as a gift from God’s hand, which is done for the joy of the work, and as part of His design to provide for ourselves and those around us. It is how we are a blessing to ourselves and others.

A life without faith toils in fear of failure and in the quiet desperation that Thoreau so aptly depicted.

Children are great at finding the reward for work in the work itself

Planning vs. worrying

A life of faith plans for the future with wisdom and insight (go to the ant …) listening for God’s input, and using this planning to guide and shape the future in line with the vision God gives – and if there are things that are looking worrying, for which he could not make a plan, He rests in knowing that God is ultimately in control. A life without faith looks to the future with worry and a constant need to hedge and protect against every possible thing that can go wrong. A life without faith lies awake at night worrying about the things for which he could not come up with a good enough plan.

Expectation vs. boasting

Pro 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. (ESV)

A life of faith expects that every day will bring more of God’s blessing, and that everything that happens will work together for his good, as he lives a life of loving God and loving people. A life without faith boasts in his own good planning and skill and ability to control his world, and in what he will achieve tomorrow and the day thereafter.

Choose a life of faith

Look into your heart. Let God draw you into a life of faith. There is rest and expectation.

 

Love

Ashton

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This is a much better way of working

The privilege of being alone in a hotel room

I’ve recently been travelling, and had the advantage of uninterrupted evenings in a hotel room to do focused work. Far away from any distractions – protected by distance and time-zone differences. Well, that was the theory!

And the discovery that distraction is within me, not from without

It was then that I discovered that thinking that distractions come from outside was just a story I’d been telling myself – an excuse for not dealing with the truth that my distracted way of working is more from within, than from without. The realization came when, at 21:20 one evening I realized that I’d been trying to have a quiet time from 19:37 that evening. During this time, I’d gone three times to pick up parcels from the lobby, opened up those parcels, had some random text conversations with Lily, responded to some emails for a client, wrote some emails to another client and did some scattered quiet time activities in between. These were not done in sequence – they were all done in disconnected bits and pieces.

There were even a few whatsapp messages and a wechat conversation with a friend in there – and these I just responded to as they came in.

A better alternative – Working in blocks

A different way to have done these same things would have been to finish my QT, go to the lobby get all the stuff, open them, and email and chat to Lily. Then to take 30 minutes to check one client’s emails, open that client’s action list and Journal, and work on the strategy for that client. Then to have taken maybe 30 minutes for other disconnected activities like responding to the whatsapp and wechat conversations.

That would have enabled me to be more focused, and it would also have generated billable client work time. I cannot bill for those disconnected thoughts that went here and there into a bunch of random emails. If I had spent 30 minutes systematically moving a few of the strategy items forward, then I would be doing what I’m getting paid to do. Randomly throwing some thoughts after a stream of emails is hardly adding value, and it’s even difficult to accurately estimate how much time I actually spent on which client. Whether you, like me, are working for a client, or whether you are working for an employer, or for yourself – the same truth holds. You generate the least value when you are jumping around between a hundred different things.

Focus on what matters. Make what you focus on, matter.

Forcing focus is deeply satisfying

The moment I noticed this happening, I actually wrote it down in my journal – and that is more or less what you’ve just read. In immediate response I decided to focus on this concept of focus, and so I read, and re-read what I had just written. I thought about it, adjusted it a bit here and there, and repeatedly reigned in my thoughts from wandering, back to this concept and related thoughts.

The result was an immediate and tremendous sense of peace and satisfaction – which is in sharp contrast to a sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction I experienced just before that. This sense of restlessness and disconnectedness returned the moment my mind started wandering (e.g. just as I was writing that, I started thinking about my meeting the next day with another client), and the sense of peace and satisfaction returned when I pulled my thoughts back and focused on this which was before me there and then.

So not only does my work become more valuable, but it also becomes a lot more enjoyable for me, when I force myself to focus.

Focus on what matters. Make what you focus on, matter

This line of thought reminds me of this little saying.

Focus on what matters. Make what you focus on, matter.

What is there in your life, that is important? Stop allowing everything else to break these things into small distracted units that become like small change lying in your car’s ashtray and under the seats. Decide what matters. Ring-fence blocks of time to work on these things, and make them as important as they are.

Love

Ashton

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The question that changes everything

There is a question that I’ve been pondering lately, and I’m beginning to realize that it changes everything. The question is presented in different ways, and the way you would behave is not really changed by the question in many cases – but it goes to the very core of your being as a human created in God’s image of love as your core purpose of existence.

The sequence of your why and your what goes to the core of your life

In his book “Every good endeavour: connecting your work to God’s work, Timothy Keller says this:

For instance, are relationships a means to the end of accruing power, wealth, and comfort? Or is wealth creation a means to serve the end goal of loving others? One way goes against the grain of the universe made by a triune God,

His point comes from the fact that God as a triune being already displays love at the very core of His existence, and that His creation of mankind, and Jesus’s declaration that loving God and loving people are the two most fundamental laws in the universe.

Today I’m not going to tell you much. I’m going to be asking you a question in a few different ways, but essentially, it is the same question.

Think carefully about the following question:

Do you believe that building good relationships with the people around you, and helping others, is a way to gain career and financial success?

Or do you believe that gaining career and financial success, is a potential means of building good relationships and helping others?

What is for you the ultimate purpose, and what is the means to that purpose?

Is the reason you work so that your work is an instrument to love God and love your neighbour?

Or is the reason you love God and your neighbour, so that you can use that love as an instrument to improve your work?

Is the purpose of your relationships to achieve success?

Or is the purpose of your success, to contribute more to the important relationships in your life?

The sequence in which you ask what you are doing and why you are doing goes to the core of the meaning of life.

Your answer to this question goes to the very core of your life.

Love

                Ashton

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Faith vs. Fear

Lately I have been thinking about this concept of faith vs. fear. Every decision we make is either made out of faith that what we want is possible – and so we go after it; or it is made out of fear of what could go wrong – and so we avoid a certain path.

The Bible says that it is impossible to please God without faith, and it says that we have not been given a spirit that makes us slaves again to fear.

The faith vs. fear approach to life starts with a focus on God. It starts with a belief that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. If we believe that, then the next step we can take is to begin to seek Him, and to trust that He will make his will known to us.

With this as a foundation, we can make choices based on faith vs. fear. There is a pretty good chance that there will be times when you look at the path ahead that God seems to be pointing out to you, or that you know is the right thing to do, and see possible consequence that could be downright terrifying. Your natural response would be to avoid pain, and take another path. The faith route says that you should recognize the fear, and make a decision in the face of fear to act in faith. Over time, as we obey Him more and more, His will becomes clearer and clearer.

Faith chooses the right path – sometimes in the face of fear of the consequences.

It doesn’t always mean that avoiding the thing that you are afraid of is the wrong path. The book of Proverbs teaches us to be prudent – which means to think about the consequences of our actions and make good decisions in the light of potential consequences. The important point is to recognize that the moment there is fear, you are more likely to be at risk of eliminating the very option that God might want you to take. Faith simply says that we will take the path we believe God wants us to take, regardless of the consequences to our person, our future, or our things.

Love

Ashton

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God is with us, but is He with them?

Mat 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). (ESV)

John 17: 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (ESV)

Every day you go to work, and you spend time amongst your colleagues many of whom do not know God, and have very limited and probably profoundly erroneous ideas of who He is and what He is like. I do not claim that we have it all figured out, but as Christians we know that Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, and that now God is with us. Immanuel God with us as the Spirit of Christ dwells within us.

 

God is with us … but is He also with them?

 

The question then is this. If God is in you and with you, are you living in a way that that through you, God is also with them?

Love

Ashton

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