Rejected!

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On Tuesday, I wrote about the fear of rejection and how tough that can be for children and adults alike. I was scheduled to speak twice that day- once at a place in OKC called Concordia (which went well) and later in the evening at the City Rescue Mission (which went not so well).

Last year, I shared my testimony at the City Rescue Mission, so after prayer, I felt that I should speak about something different. I settled on a topic that’s not so popular… that man is not “good.” Even David said in Psalm 51:5 that:

“5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

After the fall of man, there’s not much that is “good” about human beings — the 20th century was the bloodiest century ever recorded in the history of man. YET, we are capable of good — for God is the only one who allows us to show good works in our life through fruit of the Spirit by the work of the Holy Spirit.

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Within about 5 minutes of the talk, several women just walked out! At first, I faltered in my speech. As much as I speak, I am not used to people just walking out. I am used to people coming up afterwards to argue or tell me I’m wrong about something (that happened earlier in the day at Concordia, but the man was respectful in his disagreement). So, I stopped in the middle of my sentence and watched them get up and go out of the place. Within seconds, I smiled to myself  and was amused because I remembered what I wrote about that very morning! 🙂 Talk about timing!

So, I took a deep breath and continued where I left off.

It’s funny when you get called out on the very thing you are telling others to practice in their life. As I mentioned in that blog – I am not immune from the feelings of rejection. It makes me sad and messes with my mind! I am also not writing this so you will feel sorry for me… instead, I am writing so you will know that public speaking – especially sharing the Gospel of Christ is no joke! I don’t take it lightly and I know that it can be irritating to many.

This is what was promised… so now go out there and live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28) to share the Gospel and yet, share the reason for your hope in Christ with gentleness & respect.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

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Inspire or Expire

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Did you know that to INSPIRE means to BREATHE? My husband is trained as a respiratory therapist and when he was in school, he was always talking about inspiration. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that inspiration is to breathe in and expiration is to breathe out, or to die.

I was getting a presentation ready for the State of Oklahoma on Employee Engagement and what really gets people plugged into an organization’s vision, mission and culture. Being able to INSPIRE others was a theme that emerged from all the research. Inspiring means to motivate others to go out of their comfort zone. It means to stimulate or get people charged up – not just about coming to work day in and day out, but to truly get them to see how their daily work can have a lasting impact on the organization and their community.

Encouraging others is a constant theme for me as I mentor other women in business (see CCBWOKC on Facebook). To be able to breathe life can be daunting… especially on those days that I might be struggling to even get ready in the morning. So how do you do this? How do you inspire others to be something different?

For me, the answer comes through the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God is “RUACH.” Ruach means wind or breath. It’s an onomatopoeia which means that the word is the same as the sound it makes. This is the same Ruach God breathes into Adam in Genesis 2:7 (KJV)~ And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. The breath of life is the same as the inspiration we should pray for today. God is the same  yesterday, today and tomorrow. He doesn’t change. The same breath he breathed into Adam is the same inspiration you need today.

The way to help others is to share words that bring life to others. As Christians, our speech should always be full of grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). By the way, this is the verse I use for the header of my blog! For me, it means that if my words are not glorifying to God and wrapped in love, I should not be speaking them. This is not easy to do!  However, if you become mindful of what you are getting ready to say to someone and think about it for just a second or two, you can quickly evaluate to see if it is tearing down or building up.

Inspiration is to breathe into someone, to encourage, build up and motivate. Let’s focus on doing these things instead of discouraging, tearing down, and hurting. Inspire others so you can be a light in the darkness!

HR View on Mike Pence’s Stance on Women

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USA Today photo

Some of you may know that I teach Human Resources (HR) and do Corporate Training. I have taught many courses including  Business Etiquette, Business Ethics, Human Resources regulations and Cultural Diversity. When I do Executive Coaching for Businesses, we discuss not only business related topics but also personal conduct in the workplace.

I try not to watch the news or read the paper. The news bothers me and I find it depressing for the most part. Yet, I find that my friends always fill me in on what’s going on as it relates to my passions. A sweet friend told me on Friday about the media frenzy surrounding Mike Pence following the Billy Graham rule about not being alone with a woman (other than his wife). This was reported first by Laura Turner of the Washington Post article here about Karen Pence and her support of her husband. The description at the start of the article is surprisingly sweet, giving examples of how Mike Pence and his wife support one another and care deeply as a faithful, married couple. It’s towards the middle of the article that raises questions about the current times, stating “But colleagues and employees engage in a relationship between grown-ups who ought to be able to have an appropriate work-related conversation or a meal together” [bold & italics mine]. True, if we all could get along, then maybe people who are grown-ups wouldn’t sue one another or talk about each other behind their backs either. The very next line gets to the heart of the matter “Affairs start in secrecy, and to guard against them is good.” This is why Billy Graham started his rules – so that all he did was out in the open. As an Evangelical Pastor on the global stage, he had to protect himself and guard against things that could be misconstrued by others.

I am shocked at the media backlash this has garnered. Given the amount of lawsuits served up in the HR field, male and female relationships in the workplace are tenuous. For people in higher positions, this can mean being at further risk for workplace lawsuits and also personal lawsuits. For example, I generally advise managers to keep the door ajar when doing performance reviews (good or bad ones – doesn’t matter) so that employees will not charge them with duress or false imprisonment. Before you balk at that, there have been cases where someone of the opposite sex claimed both sexual harassment and also duress during a closed-door performance review. She stated that her male boss made inappropriate comments to her, said that he would raise her ratings for sexual favors and then wouldn’t let her leave because the door was closed (not locked, but simply closed). He denied all accusations, he was well-respected by his staff, but the company settled the case out of court because they did not want to go through the expense of fighting he said/she said in public.

The same holds true for lunch time conversation or long car trips. Why put yourself into that position with someone of the opposite sex? Why not invite someone else to go with you? My recommendation is always this: if you are a female in a position of authority and you want to invite a male to lunch to discuss something, have lunch in the company break room or cafeteria, where others can publicly see you and you are accessible. Do not go to another location outside of work by yourselves. Invite another person to go. This way, if there is an accusation of wrongdoing, at least you have another witness present.

I believe that both Billy Graham and Mike Pence are both correct on this issue, not just from a religious viewpoint that honors and protects their spouse and marriage but also from a secular, business viewpoint. Placing yourself into a situation that can cause doubts and show favoritism can cause tongues to wag in the workplace. This is a great way to invite lawsuits. I’m not the only one with this viewpoint. In a blog  titled “When Genders Matter” by Molly Donovan for The Muse, the same idea is supported. It’s not just a matter of male and female anymore either. The same principle holds true for transgender and LGBT orientation. The person across from you could be another female who may make sexual advances towards you as a female boss. It could be a male employee having lunch with a gay manager who might make inappropriate advances.

In this day and age, it’s good to error on the safe side. Yes, you may offend people when you leave the door slightly open. Yes, you may offend people when you ask for someone else to join you on the one hour drive to the client meeting. However, at the end of the day, you may find that it’s a bit easier to sleep at night knowing that you are not crossing the lines or sending out messages that could be misinterpreted by others.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and profound insight, 10 so that you can discern what best, that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.… Philippians 1:9-11

As Christians, we are held to a higher standard by God. We are to look towards Christ and not allow ourselves to be placed in situations that may mar our witness. May we choose to err on the side of caution and use the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment to conduct ourselves in a way that’s stated in Philippians 4:8 ~ “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ”

Think about how the world will perceive you when you go out for lunch or go for drinks with that ONE female employee after work. Think about what that does to your reputation (man or woman) in the workplace. Think most of all about what message that is sending out about you as a child of God. Mike Pence is suffering from media backlash, but from the examples given about his daily choice to not be alone with women, his witness as a Christian man is to be blameless in his interactions with others. May we all strive to focus on what God wants and not what the world wants. Amen.

Every Nation, Tribe & Tongue

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Crescent Project National Conference – Houston, TX

Last weekend, I had the honor of being invited to speak on a panel of Believers of Muslim Backgrounds (BMB) for the Crescent Project National Conference in Houston, Texas. The conference had about 400+ people in attendance. Fouad Masri, founder was spoke on the first night about how Fear exists not only for Christians who believe the media about Muslims but also for the Muslims in the United States who believe the media about Christians. There is a desperate need for an AUTHENTIC Christian witness to all people.

The panel was both exciting and interesting. I want to walk you through the details. There were only two women (myself and the other woman to my left in the picture) and all others were men. The moderator, Fouad Masri, had us sit in a particular order by country from left to right – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, another from Iran, Morocco, and Palestine. I want to point out that there were many more Believers from Muslim Background at this conference, about 21 of them (but not all were on the panel). This is the most I have seen gathered in one location. When we were introduced according to country, the man from Iraq put his arm around the man from Iran. They said something amazing “Only Jesus can bring these two countries together like this – arm in arm.”

Each of us had the chance to briefly tell our story. There were several questions asked by the moderator, that included why we decided to follow Christ, what made us follow Him, what is the one point we want people to know about Muslims. If you don’t know my story, let me briefly share it with you. I wasn’t looking for Jesus. I wasn’t interested in following him. In fact, I was trying to become a better Muslim. My family is considered to be moderate Muslims or nominal Muslims. In other words, we were Muslim in name, not by practice. We did not pray 5 times a day nor did we uphold many of the pillars of faith.

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After 9/11, I decided that I didn’t know much about what I believed, so I went into a deeper commitment to Islam. I started by reading the Quran (or Koran – different spellings can be found). The Quran brought questions for me – I didn’t have any questions about my faith, but just wanted to know more. The Quran actually was confusing and troubling in it’s treatment of women (Sura Al Nissa). It also contained a whole chapter on Jesus (Sura Maryam) that I didn’t understand – why did Jesus have so much power to do miracles like raise people from the dead? Why could he alone give life and heal?Through prayer, the Holy Spirit led me to a church where the associate pastor helped to connect the dots.  This was not an overnight thing, but was a journey that took over a 3 and a half years. At the age of 35, I accepted Christ and was baptized along with my husband and 3 children! What a huge praise it is and I still thank God for His mercy and grace on our family.

Sometimes I think that people in the United States sell Christianity & themselves short. They think that Christianity is just a religion for “white people.” Revelation 7:9 says “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Christ didn’t come for just one group! He came as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and for the world. 

This was the most amazing part of this conference. To share the gospel of love with Muslims, you don’t have to go across the world (unless you want to) or to the Middle East (unless you want to). You simply can go to the local grocery store, University classroom, or restaurant. God has brought Muslims here to the United States. There are many who are lost, who need Christ’s message of hope  and need an authentic witness in their life. What are you doing to help reach out to them?

God said “GO” in the Great Commission. Are you going? God said “LOVE” in his commandment to us (John 13:34). Are you loving others in the world or just the ones you are comfortable around? God said “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7). Are you fearful?

Today’s the day to change all that. Decide to live for Christ and watch what happens. A world of new relationships awaits… from every nation, tribe, people and tongue…

 

Invitation

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I had a chance two years ago to see Author Nabeel Qureshi speak about cultural expectations. He shared a very poignant example about how a foreign exchange student came from Saudi Arabia with two suitcases full of gifts. When his roommate asked him if he had family or friends here, he replied that he didn’t know anyone in the United States, but when he was invited to their home, he would be sure to bring a gift as is customary. The worst part of Nabeel’s story is that the student returned home to Saudi Arabia with two suitcases still packed full.

Last week, I wrote about the need for Hospitality in a world full of isolated people who were focused on their technology and relied on iPhones for communication. An article on Bloomberg Business by Bruce Weinstein even coined a term way back in 2007 called “iPhone iSolation.” I think that the author was way ahead of the game. There is something still said for conversation face-to-face. Even our kids are plugged in at the restaurant, in the car, or at home.  Still, the draw of personal contact, communication is present. I was at the car dealership last month to get the oil changed. A lady next to me was actually reading a book, while I crocheted. It was not a normal situation – usually in waiting rooms, everyone seems to be staring down at the glowing screen in their hand. We struck up a conversation about her book and ended up sharing phone numbers and e-mail. I love getting to know people. It’s a joy. One on one communication is falling by the wayside, but the satisfaction of getting to find out more about another person and to make a connection is wonderful. One only has to go and see that more work-related decisions are made over a round of golf or a glass of wine than in the office. There is a sense of ease, a familiarity that allows us to get out of a formal setting and into someone’s personal life.

Now, before you shake your head at me and say something like “Not everyone likes to be everyone’s friend, Mona” or like someone I know says to me in good humor “I have all the friends I need right now. If I meet someone else, I will have to bump someone out on my list of existing friends!” I understand that not everyone likes to strike up random conversations. HOWEVER, most of you reading this article do have a circle of intimate friends and then others in the periphery. What I am asking for is to reach out those in the periphery – get to know them more than just in passing at the water cooler at work, at the kids’ school or soccer game, or even at church.

Human Beings were created to be social. In fact, in the book of Genesis, it states “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” Genesis 2:18 I do think this is one of the reasons so many men become more isolated than women. Women have a natural tendency to be a “helper” to one another. Men do this also, but not as much as us women. We like to socialize, to share stories and to work with one another.

I taught at the State of Oklahoma about Cultural Diversity in November 2015. The class was very diverse in make-up and we had several individuals who had either visited foreign countries or were immigrants. I posed a few questions to the immigrants:

  • When was the last time your colleague asked you about your family or children?
  • When was the last time you received an invitation to share a cup of coffee or tea with someone American?
  • When was the last time you received an invitation to their home?

A man from China raised his hand and his answer made me so very sad. He said that this training was the first time that anyone had asked about his home or family. He had NO invitations to have a cup of tea or coffee – not even at Starbucks or a coffee shop. He has lived here for 8 years and has had NO invitations to come to someone’s home – not even an invitation from his neighbor.

I then asked if he has extended the invitation to others. He smiled and said yes. He said it was a part of his culture to do so but no one has the time to visit him. He stayed after the class and we chatted for a bit (yes, of course I invited him to come and meet my family!). It was one of those things that stays with you. There is a sadness in the world that is caused by us living in bubbles. We drive in our little bubble and wave quickly to neighbors. We come into the office and sit in our little bubble of a desk. We stay in that bubble at lunch with our phones. We then drive back home in the bubble and quickly close the garage door in case a neighbor wants to talk or worse, complain. Why don’t we pop that isolation bubble and go make a new friend or go deeper in a relationship with someone you might be thinking of right now?I think you might be surprised at the blessings you will receive! If you reach out and extend that Invitation to join you in conversation, a cup of coffee or even dinner, let me know how it turns out for you. I think we truly can change our culture one Invite at a time.

 

 

Lost in Translation

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It’s not a secret that the English language is hard to grasp. There are grammar rules that differ from the other Latin languages, idioms, cultural variances, and top of all that, there are words with multiple meanings. Right after the attacks of 9/11, my poor father received a notice on his email that it had been monitored and that he needed to explain what his involvement was in a “plot in Pakistan to bring money over to the United States to fund the three in his charge.” Sounds incredibly suspicious doesn’t it?

My dad didn’t know if he should get mad or laugh. The word “PLOT” can have multiple meanings. One is to scheme or plan as in “a plot to topple the king,” which even the Merriam Webster online dictionary doesn’t even use. Another is used by farmers to designate parcels of land for a purpose. Third is used by authors to design a series of events that are critical to their writing, such as the main plot of a book. Fourth is to chart lines, as in plotting a course or to plot coordinates for a straight line. Last is to designate a parcel of land for usage as a unit, usually for real estate purpose. It was this last definition he was using in his e-mail. He had purchased a plot of land a long time ago in Pakistan that had three sections as an investment for his three daughters. These are the three in his charge.

I don’t disagree that it was probably not the best time to leave out details of the “three in his charge” or to use the word “plot” instead of land, but one can easily see how our communication can easily take a wrong turn, especially during emotionally charged situations. The word “run” is similar in its multiple meanings, except that instead of four or five meanings, it has a whopping 177 definitions!

When I teach business communication, it is usually to native English speakers. English was my second, almost third language (I was taught Arabic, English and Urdu almost simultaneously when I was little, living in Saudi Arabia). I try to stress the importance of why we have issues in talking with one another especially in culturally diverse settings. If you add non-verbal (body language), tone, inflection, listening, written (e-mails, text, Instant Messaging), and slang or jargon into the mix, it is an absolute wonder we can understand one another at all!

With the English language changing all the time, communication becomes more difficult even for native speakers. Consider for example, the new speak that the Millennials and Generation Z (yes, we are on the last letter of the alphabet now) are using in texting. If you don’t know what “totes” means (no, not the ones you store or carry stuff in), then you might not understand some of the messages that are being thrown around out there on social media (like, totes cray). There is an article by the Washington Post that just came out in January that addresses the new way to speak. You might want to check it out if you are over the age of 40 – no offense, but just want everyone to be on fleek (yes, that’s a new word too – just not in the dictionary yet).

To help foster good communication, whether it’s with your spouse, teenager or co-worker, we have to start somewhere. Here are a few things to consider from the authors of Crucial Conversations on Stereotypes, Distrust & Bias:

Focus on the Facts. We tend to jump in with an emotional appeal and don’t look critically at the facts surrounding the situation.

Examine the Story. Re-examine the conclusions drawn from the facts. Again, emotions can color the situation and make it seem amplified when it’s really a small issue or something that was overlooked by the other party.

Visibility and Exposure. Reconsider your initial views, and to be open to new information.

Own the Problem. No blaming. Taking accountability for actions is critical for both sides

Follow Up. Sometimes we walk away, thinking things are resolved, but it may just be the other person agreeing to something so the situation will just go away. It is important to follow-up not just for clarity in communication, but also to review and reinforce the relationship.

By doing the suggestions above, we will not only clarify misunderstandings but will be able to lead by example to make a foundation of trust with the other person. Misunderstandings can get cleared up in a new way, with new information that you may not have known about that individual’s background or a different way of speaking.

As for my dad, he is still plotting the course with consideration to the sale of his plot so he can plot another chapter of language communication issues with e-mails…

 

Elusive Happiness

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In the Undergraduate Business class I am teaching this week, as well as in a training seminar on Stress & Time Management last Thursday, the theme of “Happiness in the Workplace” kept coming up. There are so many things out there that are telling us as individuals to be HAPPY – in the 80’s, the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” sparked a whole marketing array of T-shirts with smiley faces that reminded us to be happy. Pharrell Williams’ song is so HAPPY that I cannot listen to it without wanting to dance! 🙂
The more I ponder this, the more I think that much of that has spilled into the workplace. Leaders and Managers somehow believe that they are solely responsible for the “Happiness” state of their employees and that there should be a general feeling of well-being at the workplace. Employers are also convinced that if their company is not making them happy, maybe they should leave.

Where did this idea come from and is it something that can be achieved?

There are many companies out there that state they love their employees and put them first. I think this is not a bad place to start. Disney is simply amazing in this category of employee well-being! They even have a book called “Inside the Magic Kingdom” and it shares some of the things that they tell their employees to do in order to help make the customers happy. One of the most interesting parts of this book is where they explain to their employees that the whole park is a stage and they are simply characters playing a part. So, if you are a Disney Street Sweeper, you are playing the part of the Street Sweeper and you must do that well!

I have a friend who took her family to Disney World a few years ago. I got so tickled from the story she told me when they got back. While at Epcot Center in France, her elderly mother-in-law asked the Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast “Where are you from?”  She dutifully answered “I grew up in  a small village in France.” Then, the grandmother said, “you are so very beautiful, is your family here now?” She gave the answers from Beauty & the Beast, about how her father, Maurice was an inventor and he was sent to prison for no reason at all; how she loves to read books and how she ended up at a large estate (the Beast’s) – the grandma never caught onto the fake movie answers… she simply believed it!

I think there might be something to that approach Disney takes. Belle cannot have a bad day (well, she can, but she has an important job to do). If you have your employees, especially those in Customer Service take on a role, they may see things a bit differently. For example, every time I go to teach or train, life is not always rainbows, roses and sunshine! I have had to go into some very tense situations at work. You cannot just bring your own junk to the party. You have to address what is going on and cope with today’s issues.  So, I play the role that I was hired to play that day- as a trainer, teacher and motivator. I have to deal with what I am supposed to be doing that day. Jesus had a saying for that…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own ~Matthew 6:34

Think about this… if you could just deal with what’s in front of you (instead of going on a flight of fancy for all the other things that you need to get done that week), I think your attitude might be a bit different. A friend once told me that she heard someone ask “What if tomorrow, you would only get the things that you were thankful for today?” Yikes! Did I thank God for my health, my home, my marriage, children, my job, shoes (yes, lots of them!), food, bank account, car…? What if we take just a moment out to think of all the things we should be HAPPY about and not dwell on the negative? Glass half-full is not just a philosophy, but is a commitment to CHOOSE one thought over another. It is known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the Psychological world. In the Bible, it’s known as 2 Cor 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 [emphasis added]

When will we learn that our thoughts and negative thinking can multiply and poison not only our minds, but of others around us? How about weeding out that negative thought in the mind as it sprouts forward, not allowing it to grow and take over the flower bed? If you do take those thoughts captive, not only will you find happiness, but also JOY – that is a more permanent state of the fleeting happiness we see daily. JOY comes from a deeper place, a calm and restful place that says “It is well with my soul.”

 

 

Unity out of Diversity~ God’s Way

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Last week, I talked about how diversity is looked at here in the United States. I think in order to understand the Unity piece of it, we need to go to the beginning. The VERY beginning, namely, Genesis. My husband and I were guests at the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) Founder’s Weekend Conference the past four days and author, apologist Amy Orr-Ewing spoke on the very topic. She stated that when God put forth the heavens and the earth in Genesis, He worked in pairs. He made the Heavens & the Earth, Darkness & Light, Day & Night, Land & Sea, the greater light to govern the day & the lesser light to govern the night, and finally, male & female (see Genesis 1). There is a natural pairing that God does, yet He makes them complementary. Just as the sun lights the day, the moon offers a gentle light at night. Even though they are different, they work together as one.

If you have a significant other, you can further see the diverse nature of man and woman in a relationship. When married, these differences can either make the marriage or break it. So diverse are we in our gender. Take for instance, the difference between my husband and I when it comes to packing for a trip. We used to take one suitcase when we were newlyweds (how stupid can you get?). Now, after 22 years of marriage, we take our own. It’s just better that way. It takes me at least a day or two to pack and even then I don’t feel like I bring enough stuff. I am constantly saying “Oh, I wish I would’ve packed XYZ.” There’s nothing like that for him. It takes him under one hour to pack and he’s good. We have a different way of looking at just about everything – from relationships, to child-rearing, communication, work, weather, and of course, maps & following directions.

Yet, there is something special about the way we work together. It is truly wonderful. One of the greatest blessings is when we end up with the same thoughts on things of importance. We tend to have the same values on religion (God has helped us in an amazing way), family (we had to learn more about each other here), and also how to use logical thought for problem solving. These are things add meaning to our marriage and help us to become one. The most important thing in our marriage, however, was to stop focusing on each other and instead to focus on God.

I think that is also the secret to understanding diversity – whether it’s in marriage or at work. If you focus on what God has designed and look at people for what gifts God has given them, you gain a fresh perspective that is tinged with excitement. I love asking people about what spiritual gifts they have. If you are a believer in Christ, the Holy Spirit has given YOU a gift. If you don’t know what it is, there are many spiritual gifts inventories you can take (try this one here)!

There is diversity in the way that God has made us and He did that because He can – what a glorious creativity! As we walked through the airport, I marveled at all the different types of people I walked past just in the terminal. So many features, skin color, backgrounds… it’s not boring to people-watch. Christ unites us, while the world tries to divide. The world wants to divide into categories: rich, poor, slave, master, Jew or Gentile.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Yet, when He looks at us and calls us, He tells us to keep the unity of the Spirit. One body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and the Father of all. This is true unity and only through that unity, do we keep the bond of PEACE. That bond of peace only comes through the Holy Spirit and the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6

Unity out of Diversity

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I have taught at several universities in California and Oklahoma over the last 18 years. Many times, I teach Cultural Diversity. Of course, there are trends, like women in the workplace or hot topics like the SONY Executive e-mails that made racist comments, but still, we continue to tackle the same issues over and over.

Many people don’t know that the term ” University” means  “Unity out of Diversity.” (Uni= one Versity= groupings). Diversity has the similar word base, but in this case, the “Di” stands for division or separation. So in technical terms, diversity is actually about looking at groups separately. It’s good to start with word origins because we get confused sometimes when discussing terms that have an emotional charge associated with them.  When you look at how the dictionary defines Diversity, you end up with more of a normative definition – how we have changed the term to represent it for our culture and needs today.

Diversity: the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.

: the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization

When I work with businesses on developing a Diversity program or initiative, there’s almost a panic – what if we aren’t doing this right or worse, what if we leave something out? I guess I come from a totally different (dare I say “diverse?”) point of view. Having been raised in six countries gives me some insight to the United States. In Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, you mainly see one type of people – Arabs. Now, granted, there are ex-pat communities, but they tend to live separately and not really join the mainstream public. In Pakistan, it’s homogeneous – everyone looked the same. The only other group I saw was the Chinese and even then it was because they owned the Chinese restaurant we were dining at.

So, coming to the United States was a it of a culture shock (to say the least). There were different people everywhere. It didn’t help that we came to New York City first. Talk about diverse! Moving to California was no different – lots of people from all different backgrounds. In fact, it was very easy for us to find a tight knit Muslim community and settle in nicely. There were many here that spoke the language as well, so it was a small piece of home.

I think as Americans, we don’t stop to admire what this country offers us – a vast variety of groups that don’t have to give up their unique identity, but are able to function as a whole, My family and I never felt any pressure to be Americanized or to take on something we were not comfortable with. Now, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t face discrimination. Moving to the US was the first time I felt discriminated against, but it wasn’t for what you might think. I was in the fifth grade and no one would play with me. No one. When I finally got the courage up after almost two months of having no friends, to ask a girl who seemed remotely kind (=she didn’t say “eew, get away”) , she acted like she didn’t want to tell me. I then started crying and said that I had no friends. She was embarrassed, but was kind enough to tell me it was because I smelled bad. She even told me that maybe I should wear deodorant. When you cook with curry at home, you have to put the spices into hot oil so they develop their flavor. With long hair, that absorbs the aromas and some oil along with it, I am sure I smelled like what we cooked – and still do at times, but take a shower and wear some good deodorant now!

Trying to teach diversity from an immigrant’s eyes has a value. I think that I bring a little appreciation for what we have in the United States. In fact, on our money, it says “E Pluribus Unum”- out of many, one. I believe that is the strongest way to address diversity and the importance Americans place on the value of differing opinions, backgrounds and cultures.

Careless Trust

Yesterday, I was doing training for a private company on the merits of Mentoring in the workplace. It seemed like every conversation led back to building trust. If you cannot trust your employer or co-workers, you will not have a productive workplace. In fact, it would be quite dysfunctional. In a study done by the founders of Airbnb (an online Craigslist type of site for renting out your home to complete strangers who are traveling), they found that in 1972, 46% of people said that others were generally trustworthy. Today, that number is down to 32%, resulting in a lower trust of everyone – from identity theft, to fraud, to organizational ethical situations like Enron and Sony Executive emails.

There’s no doubt then that employees don’t want to share personal information with others and make deeper connections. But that’s where things get lost. We complain about how management doesn’t understand my needs or lament about lack of communication. The complaining doesn’t stop there either. It trickles down into a lack of trust for your spouse or family relationships. Let’s face it: there is a strong correlation between personal growth and trust.

I love Focus on the Family’s article on building trust in a marriage. I think those rules also apply to the workplace. They said that the Hebrew word Batach (baw-takh’) means TRUST. Not just that, but it has more meanings: bold, careless, confident, secure. You can see the application in Psalm 91:2

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

When the psalmist uses Trust here, he is speaking of being careless. This is literally without a care! When was the last time you were without a care or worry? Seems incredible, but that is what true trust means- when we can be at peace in our relationship and not worry that someone is going to talk behind our back or break a confidence at work. When we can trust our spouse to go on a business trip and not worry about them breaking  their vow of marriage, when we can trust that our children are really where they say they are with their friends.

I believe there is a formula for building trust. I call it “The Three C’s.”

Credibility

Confidentiality

Consistency

Credibility – speak the TRUTH. Some take this to mean blurt out what you are really thinking. Please don’t do that. We are called to speak the truth in LOVE (Eph 4:15).

Confidentiality-Keep your mouth shut. So difficult and tempting to share, but that sharing that seems harmless can turn into vicious gossip in about 20 minutes… And then come back around the office to bite you in the behind

Consistency – I had a boss once who was all over the place. She was sweet one day and sour the next. She would lavishly praise your talent and then tear you up for the same thing. It was stressful to be around her. You never knew what you were going to get from one day to the next. Being consistent means being fair. Give benefit of the doubt. Allow your relationship to flourish by building and encouraging, even while giving constructive criticism.

These are not easy to do, but then anything that’s worthwhile takes time. When you start trying to raise your awareness and practice trusting others, while building trust, you will find that you will become careless… In a good way!