Have you ever ran out of the copy-paste function on Kindle?

For real? I know you’re trying to prevent people from ripping the entire book off, but if a book’s that good, I shouldn’t be limited in the amount of notes I can take! It happened to me again (the first time was with a book called Manmaker Project). This time in a book on human resources of all genres. Patty McCord killed it with her title, Powerful. I remember reading the Culture Deck a few years ago and nodding my head all the way through those 128 pages. This time, she jabbed me in the ear with a podcast interview, which I ended up listening to three times. I bought the book and blazed through it, copying furiously into a Google Doc so I could go back and make sense of it all.

I resonate with so many of the things that Patty’s talking about. There’s something powerful about our culture at Aroma. We generally attract really fun people who like to accomplish great things. But, as she astutely notes, when organizations grow, they’re tempted to create more and more policies and procedures that end up sucking the life out of the organization, because everyone is so busy staying in alignment with the rules, rather than continuing to play the game. Her alternative is to 1) find top performers (smart, right for the position, right for now), 2) help them know the business with radical honesty and ongoing debates, and 3) keep focused on the future.

The trick is implementing some of the things she notes in the book. I don’t think it’s possible to do everything, especially in light of the varying organizations we all have. But, I believe there are elements that can be useful at all levels.

Here are five issues we need to work through at Aroma if we’re going to continue building a culture of freedom and responsibility.

  • We are developmental in nature, which means we’re actually expecting to work with people who aren’t top performers.
  • Our long-term pipeline can be bogged down by the policies that are over us.
  • We are part of an organization that’s legally required to be report-heavy.
  • Cross-cultural work can add layers of nuance that must be addressed.
  • We lack the clarity around each person’s contribution to our overall, long-term vision and mission as well as our current strategy.

Anointing Helps Determine Season

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Is it possible that some of us miss out on the greatest seasons of our lives because we ignore oil?

Excuse me, this is another #runthought. Perhaps, I’m out of line. But on a recent run, I felt like I was being reminded of times that I’d seen something amazing happen: a miraculous healing, a relationship restored, a long-last friend making contact, an unmarried couple choosing to stop living together, a person deciding to get baptized within two weeks of becoming a believer, the list goes on.

In each one of these scenarios, there was something special. just what is that special thing?

I submit, it’s oil.

In Chinese we say, “add oil” (加油) to encourage someone to keep going. Maybe we’re not that far off. The Bible uses the term “anointing” when expressing this idea of “the oil.” In particular, it’s a blessing from God given to each of us for particular seasons to handle particular situations.

The original idea of anointing is quite fascinating:

The origin of anointing was from a practice of shepherds. Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep’s head, they could burrow into the sheep’s ears and kill the sheep. So, ancient shepherds poured oil on the sheep’s head. This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep’s ears because the insects would slide off. From this, anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment (article here, underlines are mine).

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From early biblical times, an anointing meant you were blessed; you had God with you. It meant you were protected; you were safe. It meant you were empowered; you had what it took to get the job done.

Jesus was oiled up, or anointed, for a particular mission. He said, “The LORD has anointed me.” He went on to list the goals of his mission. Jesus knew that He was chosen, covered, prepared for a particular purpose.

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He was quoting Isaiah 61:1:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

In my life, it seems a careful survey of where, what, who, why, how God’s oil is moving has always been a valuable endeavor. One author I appreciate calls it “Hosting the Presence.”

Here’s New Testament perspective:

The New Testament Greek words for “anoint” are chrio, which means “to smear or rub with oil” and, by implication, “to consecrate for office or religious service”; and aleipho, which means “to anoint.” In Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or call on that person’s life (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6; Ecclesiastes 9:8; James 5:14). A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc. There is nothing wrong with anointing a person with oil today. We just have to make sure that the purpose of anointing is in agreement with Scripture. Anointing should not be viewed as a “magic potion.” The oil itself does not have any power. It is only God who can anoint a person for a specific purpose. If we use oil, it is only a symbol of what God is doing.

Another meaning for the word anointed is “chosen one.” The Bible says that Jesus Christ was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News and free those who have been held captive by sin (Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:38). After Christ left the earth, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Now all Christians are anointed, chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God’s Kingdom (1 John 2:20). “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) (from here).

It seems, also, that anointing can ebb and flow as well. Here’s even one small example.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows (Psalm 45:7).

On the other side:

When God leaves a man.

What I’m finding is that in my quest for pursuit of God and His best for my life, anointing plays a huge role. I don’t always get it in the moment. But the more in tune I am with what He’s doing in the anointing, the easier it is for me to walk in the fullness of the life He has for me. This includes the ability to turn away from what distracts and dismantles me as well as the ability to run to exactly what He has for me.

Perhaps, you’ve been interested in pursuing more of God. Maybe there’s an area of personal breakthrough you haven’t seen yet. Or there’s something in your ministry or corporate work that’s being done. God wants to meet you in those spaces. One primary way He does it is through the anointing, the Presence.

Like the disciples who were told to release peace (Matthew 10:13), we have a responsibility to enter situations at home, in public, at work, and in school, with the anointing of God in us and on us! When the anointing moves on, perhaps, it’s time that we do, too. This is where sensing the anointing can help in discerning the season. Where does it appear God is moving. What flows? It’s not always that whatever is going well is what you’re supposed to do. But it is important to at least not the places where it seems that favor from God is working. Learning to discern where the anointing is, or even who the anointing is on, can give you great insights into how God wants to move in a meeting, a team, or a season. I pray for you that you’ll have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to respond to what you sense God is doing in the anointing and how you can partner with Him.

Here’s a song about it: “Anointing” by Jesus Culture that I pray is an encouragement to you as it was to me.

Transform Your Business with These 3 Things

What could make your business or organization better? I’m sure you’re constantly asking yourself that question.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that we started this cafe in Taipei called Aroma back in 2012. We choose a bustling district with many attractions for young people in the hopes of reaching them and sharing God’s love. But in 2018 (after having been open for six years), we felt the need to reassess. Is this still the vision? Are we still being effective? Are there better ways? We prayed and fasted for 40 days in April 2018. We sensed that we needed to continue, but that after the summer we would assess again. In September 2018, we took a month with the cafe closed to really press in to our vision, values, and strategies at Aroma. We got outside consultation. We packed in for almost daily meetings. We researched. We prayed. We considered different possibilities. Ultimately, we still felt that the shop should be open and in its current location, but we didn’t have anyone to manage it. We tried hiring two from the outside, but by the end of 2018, it wasn’t working and we were back to waiting. Finally, in February, we got the sense that God was moving Sarah to take on this element of our ministry. But, it meant an overhaul of a lot of the way things had been done previously.

We looked at three primary areas:

  • Aesthetic. We painted. We added some wall stickers. Jamie did a really cool book shelf on the wall project. We bought new chairs. It’s looking nice inside and out. I hear more and more comments. We also adjusted our hours to focus more on the group of people we’re trying to reach.

  • Simplicity. We wanted to keep things simple, so we actually hired our second location to make food for us. There is no more prep. We grab the ready-made, but still fresh and handmade, food and serve it to customers. This includes a new addition: pizza! And just recently, our second location, DongYuan, added hamburgers and fries to the menu as well. Having a centralized kitchen model saves on labor costs for each location, but causes an increase in food costs. Overall, we believe it will help us to focus on what’s most important to us: making connections with people.

  • Connection. This is going to be the thing that distinguishes us moving forward. Our priority is helping people connect to our brand promise of “good coffee, great friends.” We hope that by providing many different kinds of events and opportunities to connect, people will continue to see Aroma as the destination spot for healthy relationships that are a blessing in many ways. So far, we’ve hosted a DIY pizza party, three calligraphy classes, and we are prepping a Swiss Bread and Cheese tasting event. Along the lines of connection, one of the still under-actualized options I’m seeing before us will get another blog entry as well.

By tailoring our offering in these three areas, we are beginning to see how we can be more effective in our overall purpose and mission, helping people to smell the Aroma by encountering good coffee and great friends! We still have many more changes in store, but we know that we’re on the right track.

I wrote this because I believe it can be helpful for you, too. If you were to reopen again, what would you do differently? Do you need to have a refresh on your aesthetic? Do you need to simplify and cut out a business process? Is there a way to create more connection?

I literally got hit by a truck!

Yes, that was click-bait. Yes, you fell for it. Thank you. Because, it’s going to be worthwhile. I did get hit by a truck.

Jamie wants to paint the apartment for her birthday. I’m cool with that. But life’s busy and we had to sneak in a trip to the paint shop on Monday as part of her “birthday celebration.” Costco happens to be close and while she was getting the final paint choices mixed, I jutted over to grab some blueberries, coffee beans, and of course, this year’s birthday dessert of choice: cheesecake. After coming out of the parking lot, I came to a red light and when it turned green, I began driving. I noticed a blue truck making a u-turn next to me, but figured with two lanes for traffic, he would stay on his side and I’d have my lane to keep going. Then, he decided to go for a quick right turn into an alley I didn’t notice was right next to me. As he was trying to turn in, our vehicles kissed. Simultaneously, my shoulder got a momentary massage from his large mirror (which, perhaps could have been used to see me :-).

He slammed on the brakes. To keep from getting rolled over, I moved my scooter. As he’s coming out, he says, “Couldn’t you see I was turning?” No comment. I text Jamie, “Got hit by a truck, you might want to take a taxi home with the paint.” In retrospect, not the best text to send to your wife without a little more detail. Things like, “I’m ok” or “everything is fine, I’m unhurt,” seem to be useful in this scenario. He calls his work buddy who comes out and starts talking as well. We call local law enforcement to ensure that things are handled safely and no issues arise. The first officer comes, takes basic statements, snaps a few pictures, and calls in the official report-writer, who asks what we want to do. Apparently, you can choose to let it go, or you can make an official report and go through a legal process. I’m feeling good and my scooter has no new problems (honestly, I couldn’t even find a scratch), so I vote, “let’s get out of here.” But of course it’s a company truck, so he wants to make sure he’s not paying for it. When they say they want to make an official report, the second officer seems a little perturbed. I bet he’s thinking the same thing I’m thinking: “You just hit a scooter, the driver of the scooter is unscathed, your tiny plastic bumper fell off, and you want to make this into a thing?”

So, he starts filling out the paperwork. At one point, we each get to make our own separate statements out of ear shot of the other party. They go first. But it turns out the driver and his friend, who didn’t witness the accident, are telling two different stories. This doesn’t make our wonderful police officer any happier. They get in a bit of a yelling match, but eventually everything settles down and I get called over. At this point, it’s safe to say I’m a little nervous, because he was just drilling those guys on details (you’re out of ear shot until yelling starts, then you’re basically in the conversation), and I’m not even confident I can remember much in English let alone Chinese mixed with Taiwanese. But he’s got his clipboard and he starts asking questions. The first one, “Is English hard? Because my daughter is in 4th grade and she says it’s hard.” Well, with five years of experience teaching English to 1-5th graders, I feel that’s right up my alley. I give some good answers, and he seems generally satisfied. I’m not sure how the other guys did on the English questions, though.

He continues: “Why did you come to Taiwan?” I say, “missions.” He asks, “Mormon?” “No, just Christian.” This is the first frown I’ve personally gotten. He says, “aren’t there enough Christians already?” “Well, are you a Christian?” He quickly responds with a “No.” To which I promptly follow, “Well, then my work’s not done yet, is it?” Finally, by round three I’m answering questions regarding the actual event as it transpired. I do my best to recall and bring out some of those juicy deets that keep us all coming back for more. He’s gets everything written down, has me sign, and we go back to the other guy. We both have to sign a statement and we can decide to press charges or let it go. If any laws were broken, we’ll get our ticket in the mail soon.

Later, that day, the guy who hit me calls and says that he’d like to sign an agreement to pay our own personal costs and not take anything any further. Sounds like a plan. But at the same time, I’m wondering if I’m supposed to get reimbursed, or if it was his fault, or what’s the deal. I called a friend who works at a law office and she gave me the best answer: “Why don’t you ask Holy Spirit what you should do and see how you can be a blessing?” Then, it hit me. That’s what this is all about. That’s what life is about. Even when you get hit by a truck, you’re there to be a blessing. “The proof that God is with you is not that He got you out of the valley, it’s that He walked with you through it” (Furtick, and this one). So, I decided, not knowing whose fault the law says it is, or what the consequences could potentially be. But, I understood one thing: I can be a blessing. So I was kind and gracious when we signed that paper. And I gave him a red envelope, a small financial gift just saying, “I’m sorry this happened, and I wish you the best.”

I was so encouraged I had the privilege of seeing this situation in a different light. Maybe there are some situations that you’re dealing with right now and you’re not sure how you’re going to get through them. You might not know all the consequences, but one thing you do know is that God is with you. He’s getting into your pain, lack of position, sense of insignificance, singleness, brokenness, and everything else you might be dealing with. He’s good. He put you in this situation (Philippians 1) so that He can shine through you. You’re not a hostage to your situation to your situation. May you see every situation of your life for the beauty which it brings!

Why Did David Write So Much?

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I was on a 12k run after being hospitalized earlier in the week. I felt something hit me as I was listening to “Raise a Hallelujah.” In one of the instrumentals, the lead vocal says:

Just begin to raise your own hallelujah
I can’t do it for you
There’s a song written on your heart only you can sing
And when you sing enemies flee
When you sing prison walls come falling down
When you sing heaven invades the earth
So just begin to lift up your hallelujah (spontaneous from here)

So Jonathan David Helser is reminding us there’s something inside of us waiting to get out. Where did this come from?

You may be familiar with David from the Psalms. It seems there were left-handed scribes dedicated to recording everything that he sang and said out in certain times of worship (from Ray Hughes on a Davidic Lifestyle). In one Psalm, David says, “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1). My favorite, though, is this one: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). God put the song in your mouth. God put the song in your mouth. God put the song in your mouth.

David worships like we all have a song. No, you’re not writing the Bible. But you do have something to say. So say it. Sing it out! Make your life a song to God. Do your very best with everything you have. Lay it all out there before Him. Do your art. Make your music. Edit your spreadsheets. Clean your bathrooms. Parent your kids. Get to work on time. Do everything like it’s to God. Make your life a song. Sing it out at the top of your lungs! Release something that will change the Earth!

You have permission. Now go!

Give and Take

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Do you know what you’re giving and what you’re taking from your community or organization. We need to think about our contribution and what we’re getting, but it seems we rarely do until it’s too late. I appreciate what Simon Sinek said in a podcast I listened to recently.   I first heard this idea on Gary Vaynerchuk’s Podcast. This is the specific episode.

Sinek encouraged everyone to be clear about their “why” and how it compares to the “why” of the organization. What’s your why? You need to be self-aware. How can you go about discovering this? Perhaps, it’s important to start with an understanding of who you are. If you can understand who you are, then you can begin to have an idea of your purpose. Your purpose can lead you to your why.

Once you know it. It’s important to express it. How do you express your why? Maybe it would help to play a game: Give and Take. What would you like to give? How do you want to contribute to the vision, or why, of the organization. And what do you want to take? What would you like to get out of the organization. We want someone to be selfish and selfless within the game. What do you have to give to us that you think we need? What is it that you selfishly want? When those things match, you have a balanced game.

Another person I enjoy, Gary Vaynerchuk, calls this the 51/49 game. He wants to always give 51% to each employee. You should slightly over-deliver as close to the middle as possible. One of the richest guys in China always gives majority share to his partners. They once sat down and asked why he never does 50/50 deals. He responded by saying, “Cause everyone wants to do business with me.”

Here are some examples of things you might want to give.

  • I want to give my time above and beyond the required average.
  • I want to give skills that you don’t have currently.
  • I want you to give me a project you’re thinking of.
  • I want to give you piece of mind in an area you’re struggling with.
  • I want to apply my personal development to give back to the organization.
  • I want to give my loyalty and prioritize this over and above other things.
  • You’re not thinking of _____ (project/market/etc), but I will give it to you.

Here are some things you could ask to take.

  • I want a close community to connect with (non-work time to hangout with people)
  • I want money (an increase in pay after I show something)
  • I want rest time (don’t talk to me after I leave work)
    • Personal growth time (let me go for an MBA)
  • I want responsibility (I want a project to run with on my own)
  • I want a chance to volunteer with time off (send me out)
  • I want travel opportunities (send me to Tainan or Malaysia)
  • I want free drinks or food while I’m working
  • I want public recognition (post a blog about me on all Aroma’s social accounts)
  • I want access to development (pay for me to have a new laptop or a subscription to some platform, or a promise of 1 hour per week of my time)
    • tools (laptops)
    • people (mentors)
    • classes (barista)
    • language learning (free Chinese or English)
    • experiences (let me try new things, customized time behind the bar)

Which ones jump out at you? What will you give? What can you take? Has a lack of clarity around giving and taking caused you difficulty in your job or organization? I encourage you to start a conversation with someone around this topic. Your courage to have this conversation may help you break through a difficult season and will help your organization thrive.

Your #DanielMoment

Recently I had the privilege of sharing about the book of Daniel. I felt it was important to note the fact that despite the impossible situation, Daniel choose to stubbornly follow God. He created what I affectionately renamed a “#DanielMoment.” Even though he’d probably watched family and friends beaten and killed, even though he watched his city destroyed, even though he was being taken as a slave to another country, even though he was going to be brainwashed and forced to serve the king, even though he had every reason to doubt God, Daniel chose to follow the God and serve him. Daniel’s choice meant breakthrough and revival for an entire nation.

Each day you’re presented with a #DanielMoment opportunity. It might be in your family, or at school, or in your job, or on the bus. It might mean going against the crowd. It might be unpleasant. It will take superhuman strength. And yet these are the moments that change the world. Today, you can make a #danielmoment decision.

I hope to get the audio for this message here.