Tag Archives: relationship

talking coffee

smiling coffee cup“FYI to Brands – Trust does drive sales. 10 mins of tweets will now lead me to try McD’s coffee. Simple example, but true.” @cc_chapman

“The real point of the coffee conversation? Coffee is relational.” @jnswanson

“It unites us.  Coffee can do that. What else can we talk about and be relational? @debworks

Some friends were talking about coffee, talking about what kind to drink, talking about how they like it fixed. It was, in a sense, pointless conversation. To anyone who doesn’t like coffee–or twitter (which is where the conversation was happening), there was little of value in this conversation.

Of course, as Deb pointed out from Iowa, it is a common denominator. It is a safer topic than religion and politics and the Red Sox/Yankees/Cubs. But I think it is something more than merely a safe topic. It is a topic which relates to a ritual with warm emotional attachments for many of us (pun partially intended). Many of us delight in the process of making coffee, of drinking it as we think, read, converse. A cup of coffee, for many people, symbolizes both contemplation and community.

I know that many of us also drink coffee for the perceived energy. It keeps us awake, alert, wired. In that, it is the antithesis of reflection. But such uses, if they were all coffee represented, would not be the source of a conversational culture.

Thanks for the conversation this morning, friends. And the relationship it both reflects and extends.


Relationship is the argument

A bunch of guys are eating supper together. It’s Thursday. The week is almost done.

It’s a pretty normal group of guys, a cross-section of personalities and incomes and professions that you might find in any startup.  Which is what this is. A couple are really loud. A couple are sitting quietly, eating. One is picking at his food.

The don’t realize it at this moment, but they are at a corporate strategy meeting. The boss knows. He’s the thoughtful one in the middle of the group. He’s watching the chatter. He seems quieter than usual, more deliberate. At one point he moves away from the table for a bit. He moves from person to person, picking something up from the floor by each one, or something.

Eventually, he sits down. He talks quietly.  Everyone leans back, surprised. The guy who was picking at his food looks up. The boss hands him a chip with salsa. He takes a bite, and then excuses himself.

The boss sits up straight. Somehow, it just became clear to everyone that this isn’t a social gathering for dinner and drinks after a tough day. As he starts talking, this sounds like the beginning of a major marketing push, a whole new phase of operation.

“I’m leaving soon.”

“Here are my new directions.

Love each other.

You know the way I’ve treated you, been patient with you, given you encouragement and hope and patience, the way I’ve loved you? That’s what you have to do with each other. The way people will know that you are part of this group, the way that people will know that I was ever here, the way that people will believe that what I have been saying and doing are true is if you love each other the way I’ve loved you.”

And of course, the first guy to speak says, “where are you going?”

And of course, the boss’s response is patient.


I’m heading to SOBcon this afternoon. It’s a conference for bloggers, a small event for people who are wanting to do better, to be more effective. The theme this year is “the ROI of relationships.”

I’m not a business blogger. I almost don’t fit. But I like the people and I like the conversation. And this morning, as I read the story above, I had a new level of understanding of a familiar story.

What Jesus was saying was that the ROI of relationship, the return on the investment in other people is this:  people will only believe that you actually follow Jesus if you love other people who follow Jesus.

So if you are a church and you want to have an effective marketing plan, one that tells people that what you are doing is real, pour your money into helping people love each other rather than into advertising. Or pour your time into building relationships rather than just buildings. Or pour your love into people who are different than you are but are following Jesus.

I know. There is supposed to be love outside churches. But we often can’t even love inside churches.

I laughed a little this morning when I thought about the story from that Thursday night dinner. I thought about the guys listening to Jesus, and Jesus saying he was leaving and that they were to love and then Peter saying “where are you going?” I wondered what really came next.

Did Andrew give his brother a dope slap and say “doofus, didn’t he just say we couldn’t go?”

Did Matthew the tax collector and Simon the insurrectionist look at each other and think, “love him?”

Did James and John go back to the conversation from earlier and say, “as long as we get the best seats in the church.”

And as I wondered about those conversations, I realized that if that group had been left to themselves, they would have spilt up. But they weren’t. And they didn’t. And when groups of people who follow Jesus actually care about each other in times of crisis and with differences in personality, people notice.

And when people who follow Jesus don’t care about each other, people notice.

Make sense?

a smaller group is still full of people.

Sunday mornings, I teach.

I’m part of the staff at a church and so on Sunday mornings I run around helping  with many details, but at 9:00, I teach. It’s a class of about 18 or so.

I’m aware of our larger congregation as well. I greet or chat with many people. I find cables and equipment and rooms and answers. But I like to help people understand. So I teach.

Yesterday, I almost thought it didn’t matter. As I stood in the shower, having spent some time studying, before driving the 20 minutes to our building, I thought, “but no one will be there.”

It’s spring break here. In the culture of our small community, spring break is a big deal. It’s big enough that we set up fewer chairs on the first Sunday of spring break. Last year, my first year with this congregation, I was amazed at the drop in attendance.

That’s why I thought, “but no one will be there.”

I shook my head. I remembered that there would be people in the building. There would be people in the class. I still needed to be ready.

Our attendance was a third less than usual. Our class was half the usual size.

But 2/3 of our usual attendance is still bigger than the number of people I got stressed out about for 7 years at our previous church. Half a class is still a whole group of real people with real concerns about real kids living real lives. The individual conversations that I had are still real conversations with people who need encouragement and affirmation and challenge.

I understand maximizing influence. I understand numbers. I understand the significance of traffic.

But I also understand that when your business is relationships, in our case with God and each other, your primary measurement must be “whether” rather than “how many.”

“Did you care for the people you had?” is far more important than “how many people showed up?”

It turned out to be a good morning.

Sunday mornings, I learn.

sharing delight

Nancy and I got to spend a night at the Potawatomi Inn. If we had to pick a place that is “our” place, that’s it. We’ve been there half a dozen times across the years.

We were sitting at supper Friday night when Nancy saw someone looking toward us. Pam came carrying a gift certificate. A friend had seen where Nancy and I were staying. This friend had called the Inn and had a certificate delivered to us while we were still eating.

Pam, the desk manager who had taken the call came herself. She stood and talked for a minute…and then sat down. We chatted. She listened to us talk about the friendship. She was interested in the idea of someone reaching out that way. She was interested in how much we like the Inn. I think she was surprised enough by the concept that she wanted the event to last a bit longer.

This could be about the generosity of my friend. But it isn’t. At least not about the generosity to us.

In addition to the food for us, the phone call gave Pam an opportunity to be part of a conspiracy of delight. And she rose to the occasion.

How often to you allow other people to carry good news? How often do you build connections of celebrations?

As I was writing, I remembered a time I did this.

Five years ago, I wanted to do something fun for Nancy for our anniversary. I got a picture of the flowers that she had used to decorate for our wedding, a picture of flowers in the backseat of her car. I took it to a florist that I knew. I said, “I would love a basket that has all of these flowers, but I don’t even know what they are called.”

Somehow, that request captured Barbara’s attention. She figured out what the plants were, ordered what she needed, and prepared a basket. As much as Nancy and I enjoyed the flowers, I think we enjoyed Barbara’s response to this project even more.

This week, plan a small gift for a friend or spouse or child. Enlist the help of other people to pull it off. Ask someone who lives in a different state to mail the card for you so the postmark of the anonymous card is completely unexpected. Order a set of cards from someone you met online. Ask your friend’s coworker to make a deliver in the middle of a meeting.

And do it this week, when there are no holidays to make it obligatory.

And then let us know how it turned out.


(And, by the way, thanks for the dinner. And breakfast.)

Reflections over coffee.

If you know me, you know I drink coffee. In truth, even if you don’t know me, you know I drink coffee. I offer it on twitter. I have a mug in my hand most of the time. I bought a domain just to have a made up place to go about coffee mug values: coffeemugvalue.info.

Over at smallbizsurvival.com today, there’s a post I wrote about customer service at a coffee place that advertised the world’s best coffee. I still don’t know how good the coffee at Biggby‘s is. I know that their process for helping me have the best possible opportunity to have a good experience is great.

You can read the post over there to find out how they served me. Over here I have just this obervation.

How we treat people matters.

From a business sense, certainly, it is helpful. But there are examples of people who provide lousy customer service and still have a lot of business. (A Seinfield character comes to mind.) And at times, in a business sense, there is a financial benefit from niceness. I mean, Biggby is getting some traffic which may lead to some sales from this (unsponsored) post.

But it’s more than business.

If I say that I am about life-transforming love, if I shout from the (digital) mountaintops that God is great and God is good and we should thank him for our food…and I do not have a life that is shaped and showing, at some level, love, then I might as well be a pair of marching band symbols. Getting attention, yes, but in no way conversational or compassionate or relational.

Not a perfect life, mind you. Our opportunity is to grow, to be shaped. But our lives are shaped by our relationships. Who we hang out with, who we drink coffee with, what we talk about while we are drinking coffee will shape us.

I understand that more people would be interested in church if we spent more time over coffee. It is valuable to sit side by side and sing and listen. (It really is.) But somehow, I think I need to spend more time sitting face to face talking and listening.

Biggby Coffee had two people sending me emails and coupons and asking for clear information about how they can help me have an accurate experience.

Of one short cup of decaf.

What could we do to spend that kind of attention on what is important to us?

8 ways to make Thursday better.

1. Put down the mouse. Pick up the keyboard.

2. You don’t get replies if you don’t ask or say something.

3. Gratitude takes actually noticing someone else.

4. Out of all the possible things to do, you have to actually pick one and do it.

5. Humans can get used to lots of things. That isn’t exactly positive.

6. Cynics have feelings, too.

7. The chorus isn’t the lead, but all of them are on stage.

8. Okay. Can we try that again? I think I see what I can do to help you this time.

How is it with your soul

John Wesley started a church.

That’s a very condensed statement, so condensed as to be false.

He, with others, started a movement. They had smaller groups. In the groups, people cared enough to ask each other, “How is it with your soul?”

There is a tendency to lie as we answer that question, to not disclose what is really going on. We can talk about our busyness as if that needs must shape what is happening inside. We can talk about how everything is going well, as if that is what the person wants to hear. We can quickly turn the tables with, “Fine.! How’s yours?”

Or we might actually be honest.

“My soul is as vivid as a black and white photograph of stained glass.” – Ornate, created in detail, capable of incredible faith, but drained.

“My soul is feeling thin, stretched.”

“My soul is thirsty.”

“My soul knows it is loved.”

A doctor, a mechanic, a counselor, a coach…each depend on honest answers to be able to help. And with our arm, with our car, with our relationships, with our business plan, we often find it easy to acknowledge what is not working so that we can get feedback about what could work.

But somehow, with our soul, we’d rather not acknowledge the cracks. We might have to acknowledge the causes. And that could hurt. So we come to an agreement with everyone around us: “I won’t ask if you don’t ask.”

I understand very well. But still, I’m curious.

“How is it with your soul?”


My advent ebook is now available as a downloadable pdf, advent2008, and as a digital book on yudu.