Jeff Haanen




How Do We Change? Formation in the 5280 Fellowship

How do we change?

I’m 34 years old, have four kids, and have been in the workforce for 9 years. And for me, there is no more pressing question in my life today than How do I change?

In the past three years, the stress of leading a growing organization, trying to be a good father, and accomplishing my professional goals has exposed, well, cracks in the foundation of my character.  My precious wife has been so patient with me as I stumble, fall, and get up again – only to find myself back where I started.

As I’ve spoken with peers about their lives, careers, and relationships – especially young professionals in Denver and Boulder – I’ve seen common traits among many of us:

  • We’re around people and “social networks” all the time, but we feel lonely, and not deeply known by others. It’s the great irony of a social media age. More noise, but less deep relationships.
  • In our careers we’ve gotten good at a technical skill for which we were trained in school, like drawing construction plans, scheduling conferences or planning lessons. But we wonder: what about the broader city we live in? Who else is out there like me? How can I go from a microscope (knowing lots about a little) to a telescope (seeing a bigger picture)? Might my career or work be a part of something bigger than just my success?
  • In the drive to get things done and accomplish more in a shorter amount of time, I feel like my relationships, my knowledge of myself, and my relationship with God isn’t what I want it to be. I long to live a deep spiritual life, but most days I find this baffling. I need help. Lots of it.
  • Only 33% of Americans are engaged with their work. Most show up, do a job, get a paycheck – and would rather be somewhere else. And even for those third that are “highly engaged,” there’s an uncomfortableness, especially in Colorado, with those who make their careers everything, and forget about family, friends, neighbors, recreation, or the needs of others. Is there a way to be engaged, but not make work an idol?

In the last three years, I’ve felt each of these feeling acutely. Changing any of these seems daunting for me. Yet what’s interesting to me is that in the first year of the Fellows program at Denver Institute, I’ve seen what looks to me like genuine change in the lives of 27 men and women.

  • Grant Stone, a banker, shares about a broadening perspective on the financial industry, and what it means for his future career decisions
  • Candice Whiteley, a vice principal, shares about the value of a community deeply committed to God, a deeper knowledge of ourselves, and our world
  • Banks Benitez, an entrepreneur, shares about a renewed perspective of God that even sees Him at work at a car wash employing autistic men and women
  • Rachel Moran, a law professor, shares about no longer feeling alone as she endeavors to live out her Christian life at a secular university
  • My friend Hunter Beaumont, lead pastor at Fellowship Denver church, has said, “This program is having a transformative impact on the culture of my church.”
  • Paul Frank, who works at a healthcare supply chain management company, said to me recently, “When I started the Fellowship, I hated by job. I had been in a tech company for over a decade – was something wrong with me? But one night, after doing a “vocational power assessment,” somebody in my cohort said: ‘Look, you have incredible vocational power as one of the most senior employees in your company. Maybe God put you there for a reason.’ I now see my work as an incredible opportunity to mentor and serve.”

Why is this? Where is this change coming from?

When I designed the program, to be honest, I kind of had a chip on my shoulder about my previous educational experiences. I loved reading and ideas, but I couldn’t stand reading 500 pages of a boring book, writing a paper about an esoteric topic, or listening to professors lecture for hours without ever asking what I thought. I also developed an affinity for older books (and shorter ones!) that had stood the test of time. Better to build my life on the great ideas and traditions of the past than the latest fad that had become popular in the academy.

In my years after graduate school, I also came to value the primacy of learning from people: people who are further along in their careers, people who have had different training than I have, people who are influencing key conversations across different sectors in our city. Jesus wrote nothing, but he instead gave us his church, a group or people. I could now see why. People were just as important “texts” as were books. And through the Holy Spirit, God actually lives in people.  Moreover, as I grew in my career, I saw myself imitating leaders I knew, and putting into practice what they were feeling and doing, far before I understood the concepts behind their actions.

I also began the incredibly hard process of self-knowledge. Only in the past several years have I really started to plunge deeply into how I react in stressful situations, how I come off in front of others, why I feel energized or exhausted, and the impact my own emotions have on everyone around me.

The Fellows program has been designed for those of us in our careers who long for a deeper change that technical training can’t provide. We built in elements into the program that take into consideration the breadth of what human being is. We are relational, social, physical, emotional, intellectual, habitual creatures who are environmentally-shaped, embedded in culture, and designed for work, for others, and for God.

So what does that mean? In the 5280 Fellowship, in means:

  • The relational and emotional context formed by the cohort of Fellows is the core of the program. God is relationship – and we grow only by first opting into a community and commits itself to a set of habits, like spiritual reading, work, discussion, prayer, vulnerability, and learning from others.
  • The community is designed around values of theological thinking, redemptive relationships, creating good work, deep spiritual health and sacrificial service. The unspoken values the community holds at the outset of the program shape the environment even before we’ve begun the formal program.
  • We strive to cultivate a deeper knowledge of God on two levels: (1) his revelation through Scripture and his church through reading great authors on topics like biblical worldview & mission, calling, theology work, Christ and culture. (2) We cultivate a direct knowledge of God, the living Person, through practicing the classical spiritual disciplines.
  • We set the context for a deeper knowledge of ourselves through a coaching process that includes an EQi assessment, 360 interviews, sharing our stories with the cohort, and evaluating our vocational gifting and power.
  • We set the table for a deeper knowledge of our culture by understanding issues through eyes of leaders actually shaping and forming those issues through their work.
  • We intentionally build diverse cohorts and expose our Fellows to a broad network of leaders in the city because we believe learning directly from other’s experiences is deeply transformative on a cognitive, relational, spiritual, professional and civic level. Experiences like the 5280 Fellowship are often catalyst experiences that open new opportunities, new perspectives, and new relationships across churches and sectors.
  • The program also requires a professional project and a personal development project. Leadership development programs that are all about papers and lectures – but don’t have the teeth of real world projects that will influence real people – are not effective. Conversely, applying your theology to real work contexts and serving real needs, from psychiatry to urban planning to corporate management, is both professionally impactful and is good for the workplaces, communities, industries and cultures we live in.

Tough thing about the program: it’s a big commitment over nine months. And it’s only for those who are serious about change. But here’s the truth: technology is fast, but character formation is slow. And we can’t do it alone. We need each other.

As I was interviewing two of our senior leaders last month during a Saturday teaching session, I closed the session, and looked up to our Fellows and said, “I just want to say one thing. Seven months ago you were strangers – but I now call you my friends. I genuinely love being a part of this community. Thank you. I needed it.”

Change seems impossible to me most days. But as we near Easter week and I take a look at the empty cross and the light-filled tomb – and the growing community of faith in the metro area – I’m filled with hope.

If you’re interested in learning more about the 5280 Fellowship, fill out the form at the bottom of the 5280 Fellowship page or reach out to me personally. We accept applications for the Class of 2017-18 through April 30, 2017.

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Affordable Housing: What You Need to Know About the Most Critical Issue Facing Colorado Today


Imagine with me for a moment.

Imagine you and your new spouse have been outbid on four straight houses in two months. Instead of buying your first home in Denver, you finally decide to work remotely, move back to the Midwest to be closer to family, and leave Colorado.

Now imagine you’re a business owner at lunch with a real estate developer who is fighting off three simultaneous lawsuits from trial lawyers representing a homeowner’s association. He tells you, “I’ll never build condos again. Never.”

Finally, imagine you work construction and rent an apartment near Five Points. In the past eight years, your rent has increased from $900 per month to $1600. Exasperated by rising costs – and stagnant wages – you move to Frederick, 40 minutes from friends, family, and your job site. Dejected you grab a beer with a friend after work. Your friend tells you that back in 2006, his grandma gave him $5,000 for down payment on a $175,000 condo. Today, that condo is worth $265,000 – and your monthly rent is now more expensive than his mortgage.

Colorado is facing an economic and social tsunami centered on a single issue: affordable housing.  

There’s a unique mix of factors at play.

  • Colorado is experiencing a population boom. It’s the second fastest growing state in the union, and population growth has far outstripped available housing for Colorado’s new residents.
  • Cities are becoming more popular places to live. With more people desiring to move into cities, fix ‘n’ flips, remodels, and urban redevelopment has transformed the housing markets in the metro area.
  • Housing costs, particularly in cities, have skyrocketed . Home prices are now a staggering 49.1 percent above the high reached in 2006. To make things worse…
  • Colorado has a labor shortage in the trades and middle skilled jobs. Which means there aren’t nearly enough people to build more houses. Sadly…
  • The rise in housing costs has hit low-income communities the hardest. For example, from 2000-2014, in historically black and Latino Montebello, monthly rent rose 18% to a median cost of $1690. Mayor Hancock says an estimated 38 percent of Denver’s renters can’t afford the rising costs.

The upshot: The state needs far more entry-level housing built to keep up with demand, such as condos. Ten years ago the percentage of new residential construction builds that were condos was 25 percent. In 2015, it had plummeted to 3.4 percent. This means that getting a starter home (either condo or townhouse) has become nearly impossible.

So why not build more condos, even if you have to search harder for labor? The answer: there is one major reason why developers have not built more condos in the last decade: They’re getting sued like crazy. Here’s how it works:

  1. A condo owner has a cracked foundation or leaky window that could be fixed for anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
  2. A second owner has similar complaint, and the condo’s homeowner’s association turns to a law firm that specializes in “construction defects lawsuits” and the case turns into a class action lawsuit. What started as a complaint over relatively minor problems (that likely could be addressed by paying the right subcontractor to fix the problem) turns into a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, costing the developer enormously (yet handsomely profiting a small group of law firms).
  3. Because of this litigious habit, developers flee from condos, often unable to even get insurance on the development because of exorbitantly expensive lawsuits over construction defects. (One firm boasts 100+ “recoveries” in excess of $1 million.)

The result of all these factors: an affordable housing crisis.

Not all of these issues can be addressed at once. But now is the time to address one of these issues on a statewide level: our state’s “construction defects” law.

Local solutions have been proposed. Cities have passed a patchwork of policy Band-Aids, such as the City of Denver’s new tax which will provide an estimated $15 million per year for new affordable housing developments. But this amount is only a drop in the bucket for a city that needs an estimated 60,000 more affordable units right now. Many have also passed laws addressing construction defects lawsuits their own municipalities.

But what needs to be addressed is how to allow the market to build condos profitably once again throughout the state of Colorado. Apart from a statewide solution, condo builders are “gun shy” on applying for new builds, thinking that an unfavorable statewide bill would trump local efforts.

Today a hodgepodge of bills are being proposed in the state legislature after years of unsuccessful attempts to address the issue. One requires homeowner’s associations to undergo mediation that makes suing developers more difficult; another addresses the cost of insurance; yet another gives builders the ability to repair construction flaws before legal action can proceed.

Most Coloradoans won’t (and shouldn’t) get into the details of the bills. This is the job of our elected officials. But the Colorado public needs to remember three things:

  1. This issue is absolutely critical to the economic future of Colorado. Our economic growth is fundamentally dependent on attracting and keeping talented labor. If talented tech entrepreneurs or skilled craftsman can’t find affordable housing, they’ll leave the state and our growing economy will start to contract.
  1. At the heart, this is an issue of human flourishing. Wealth building for most low-income families begins with an affordable mortgage. To have a home means to have an asset – often times the only major asset they have – that can grow in value. To be stuck in the vortex of rising apartment costs yet stagnating wages fuels the cycle of poverty. Getting a starter home at a reasonable price is key to the well-being of our low and middle-income communities in Colorado.
  1. Now is the time make a change. In the next 3-4 weeks, bills will either get passed to address construction defects, or they’ll get shot down in committee, often influenced by organizations like the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, who have profited enormously from the status quo. Today, both Democrats and Republicans are aligning to say we can retain homeowner’s rights (including their ability to protect their most valuable asset and, in some cases, seek damages in court) yet hinder this rampant practice that is hurting our most vulnerable citizens – and eventually, all of us.

Does shoddy construction exist? Absolutely. We need to praise an ethic of craftsmanship among condo developers, and build quality condos that can last for 100 years (and won’t fall apart in 30 years). But we also need to recognize now is the time to solve one piece of the affordable housing puzzle.

What can you do?

The best thing you can do is contact your Colorado state Senator or Representative. They rarely hear from their constituents, so either an email or a phone call will likely be returned.

And instead of getting angry with them (they get a lot of that), tell them how much you care about this issue. Tell them you believe in giving developers the chance to repair their mistakes without costly trials; tell them to find ways for peaceful resolution of disputes between home owners, HOAs and developers; tell them you want to find ways to allow builders to once again build what our state needs the most: high-quality condos.

Tell them how excited you are for them to show political courage and bipartisan cooperation to solve this issue, and that you believe Colorado will benefit for generations to come when they pass the proper bills that address each side of this issue.

And if you can’t remember all of that, just tell them this: “I believe in a vision of a good city where men and women of all backgrounds can live in homes they own, provide for their families, and participate in the flourishing of their communities.”

Photo credit.  Want to print this out? Here’s the PDF


Why Leaders Need Literature


5 Book Recommendations to Rekindle Your Imagination and Impact

When I walk through the door on Friday evening, I can usually feel a slight tingling sensation on my scalp. The speed of the work day – meetings, phone calls, emails, tweets, tasks, problems and exhilarating opportunities – is almost addictive. I can feel my heart rate slightly elevated and my words rushing through my house like a gust of wind. The pain of shutting down my smartphone for Saturday feels like I’m putting down the ring of power.

In the early morning hours, as I sip coffee before my children awake, I wonder who I’m becoming. I find it difficult to carefully listen to those whose lives are vastly different from my own. I find it difficult to consider the pilgrimage of my soul amidst the whir of leadership. I find it difficult to be dazzled by adventure as I was as a child; to laugh and to delight in the tall tales of giants and men; to find the emotional reservoir and depth of character my kids, my wife, and my co-workers need from me.

And I find it difficult to calm myself, and carve out the space, the silence, to read.

For years I’ve loved books. I became a Christian through reading, believing I had discovered a secret the world knew nothing about. But in my 34th year, pressed by responsibility on every side, on the weekends I find it far easier in my exhaustion to turn on the television, justifying that I have nothing left, even to pick up a book. Yet, when I choose the route of easy entertainment, I usually feel drawn out, thin, like “butter spread over too much bread.”

It’s tempting in positions of leadership to read the latest business book, or dilly over the latest news story. Everything is so pressing, so urgent. Yet over the last year, I’ve come to realize what’s most urgent is my own moral formation. It is goodness that my community needs most from me. Literature makes me ask questions about myself, my world, and my work that lean on my heart, and open doors to unforeseen countries of truth.

Here are five books I recommend that have found a home in my imagination, and perhaps can rekindle your own imagination – and leadership – too.

1. The Life You Save May Be Your Own, by Paul Elie

Paul Elie has crafted a stirring biography of four great 20th century Catholic writers: Dorothy Day, activist, bohemian, pacifist, founder of the Catholic Worker, and friend of the poor; Thomas Merton, rebel against the modern world, lover of literature, mystic, and Trappist monk; Flannery O’Connor, novelist of the Christ-haunted south, independent thinker, seer of tension between a longing for the Holy, and an ever-present secular doubt; Walker Percy, physician, melancholy novelist, and Catholic who found stability in faith amidst a family lineage that included generations of suicide.

Percy, O’Connor, Merton, and Day – all great readers before they were writers – became known as the School of the Holy Ghost, each learning about each other’s writings as they struggled to find faith in 20th century America.

The book is hefty, but it reads more like a novel than a biography, carrying readers from one episode to another. The value for leaders today is the book’s theme: “an American pilgrimage.” Each of them was on a spiritual journey, riddled not only with doubt but with illegitimate children, anti-war protests, the the pain of illness. Many of us long for the divine but find faith elusive. Day, O’Connor, Merton, and Percy are friends for the journey of leadership.

For me, spending time with The Life You Save May Be Your Own was not a journey of salvation, but it was certainly a pilgrimage toward sanctification.

2. Island of the World, by Michael O’Brien

Josip Lasta grew up the son of a school teacher in the remote mountains of Croatia. O’Brien’s tale takes the reader through World War II, occupying armies, the suffering and death of innocents, and a one man’s attempt to live a good, human life amidst the dehumanizing engine of the modern world. Island of the World is a story of the  courage, pain, and deep introspection of a man – and poet – not famous or wealthy, but whose journey from Europe to America formed him into a full, if bleeding, soul.

Literature, like Island of the World, allows us to feel, to weep, to mourn, and to see in character the moral conviction we long for despite the thousand miniature cuts we incur in life, family, work, and public life.

For O’Brien, the foundation of the world is not found in the city streets, monuments of steel, or, in our day, the cables of broadband laying on the ocean floor. The foundation of the world is love despite pain, hope amidst destruction, a God who suffers alongside side of us.

Leadership can be a lonely journey. After reading Island of the World, I felt a little less alone.

3. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

Vance’s “memoir of a family and culture in crisis” pulls back the veil of America’s working class, which has suffered since the 1970s, especially across Appalachia and the Rust Belt.

Vance’s odyssey sticks in your mind like a splinter: his beloved Mamaw (grandmother) who once taught her drunk husband a lesson by pouring gasoline him and lighting him on fire; his drug addict mother demanding her teenage son to pee in a cup so she could pass a drug test and not lose her job (after Vance refuses, she cries and begs: ‘I promise, I promise I’ll do better. I promise’”); the fierce honor code among hillbillies, demanding each slight be returned tenfold.

After reading Hillbilly Elegy, I felt covered in shame. A confession: I find it easy to look down on poor white people. When taking road trips from Colorado to Minnesota, I stop at gas stations in Nebraska and Iowa and quietly, smugly, look down on poor white people.

But now, after seeing Vance’s childhood, a sheep being raised by wolves (who in turn were also raised by wolves), I felt in my bones the enormous difficulty of cyclical and cultural poverty, and my own smug arrogance for not stopping to see and to know the American poor.

Hillbilly Elegy should be required reading for leaders who often have “hillbillies” working at the bottom of their organizations. This book gives the crisis of America’s working class a human face. And by the end, you come to even love Mamaw – cursing, violent, vulgar and all.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Much great literature is wasted on bored high school students; it is we adults who need it the most. After re-reading Harper Lee’s perennial classic, I was stunned. Stunned by the ability of a young author in the south to see the “other.”

Atticus Finch – old, scholarly, bright, humble – not only defended Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape, in court, but he could see his inherent dignity despite the swirl of racism in the South. Scout, Atticus’s curious daughter, defuses an angry mob coming to lynch Tom Robinson: “Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember? … I go to school with Walter … he is your boy, ain’t he? Ain’t he, Sir?” It’s as if Harper Lee can see the humanity in even the racist and bigoted. The hero of the story ends up being Boo Radley, the dark recluse thought to have stabbed his father. A strain of compassion and heroism existed even in his heart.

My life leading Denver Institute moves fast. And I love it. But when I move fast, I often put people into simplistic categories: “doesn’t get it,” rich guy, that’s a “get stuff done” person, ignorant, a “nominal” Christian. Harper Lee crushes my categories, and makes me take a second look at each person I meet.

If I have ears to hear and eyes to see, each person is a deep well, filled with virtue and stain, triumph and moral weakness.

5. The BFG, by Roald Dahl

Sheer delight. That’s how I’d describe my experience recently reading The BFG with my 8 year-old daughter.

“Human beans is not really believing in giants, is they?” Well, all of us should, because recovering a sense of wonder is right around the corner. Giants with names like Bloodbottler, Fleshlumpeater, and Childchewer (over 50 feet tall!) drool and gulp humans every night. But the BFG instead eats stinky snozzcumbers, drinks wonderfully delicious frobscottle (which bubbles downward and causes the ever-fun whizzpoppers to lift him into the air), and catches dreams, hearing them whizz through the air with his enormous ears.

Can you remember a time when both a little fear (could giants really be real?) and a sense of adventure (maybe I could be like Sophie and save kids from those terrible beasts!) were just as real as the dinner you ate last night?

Leaders need to laugh, to delight in words like Roald Dahl, and spend more time thinking like children. Children, in the words of children’s author Mo Willems, are not dumb. They’re just short.

Leaders could learn a lot from kids. After all, the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

This post first appeared on Photo credit


Health CareScienceWork

An Ancient Christian Vision for Modern Medicine


Meet the Denver doctor on a hilarious, heartfelt search for the healing ingredient in health care.

“Do you remember our handshake? The Nussbaum handshake? First you slap, then you shake, then you slide! It’s the Nussbaum sandshake, the Nussnutt landrake, the Fussbutt bandlake, the Cussbutt taketake!”

Martha, a retired nurse battling depression, found herself once again on the psych unit under the care of Dr. Abraham Nussbaum, a psychiatrist at Denver Health and author of a new memoir, The Finest Traditions of My Calling: One Physician’s Search for the Renewal of Medicine. After years of hospitalizations, Martha formalized her affection for Dr. Nussbaum with “the dreamshake.” Slide and shake, pinky swear, fist bump, explosion.

But why the dreamshake? What did Martha dream about her doctor? Was he a scientist, friend, lover, pill-provider, teacher, technician—or savior?

In a mammoth industry—in 2014, $3 trillion, or $9,523 per American, was spent on health care—competing visions for reform abound. Nussbaum, a 41-year-old Catholic physician, ushers readers through a wild, weird, head scratching, infuriating, and tender odyssey into the dizzying diversity of modern medicine.

Part journalist, part comic, part philosopher, and part shrink, Nussbaum’s search for the healing of healthcare culminates not with the wonders of technology or a recipe for cost-saving, but instead with a fourth-century bishop’s call to build a “poor house” for the ill.

Comedy and Tragedy

On the second day of med school, a young female pathology resident grabbed lunch from the cafeteria and accompanied Nussbaum to his first autopsy. She casually chatted while cutting open an elderly man’s chest—opening the rib cage, removing the organs, and plopping intestines into the sink before she “ran the bowel,” spilling out feces.

As guts spilled out of the cadaver, Nussbaum asked if she ever considered vegetarianism. “No,” she said. “Why would you ask?”

For Nussbaum, residency began by learning how to handle dead body parts; it eventually grew to learning how to handle co-workers.

As a third-year resident, Nussbaum (the rookie) shadowed Cannon, an intern with small glasses, curly hair and pearly teeth. Around three in the morning, a nurse paged them about a patient with a case of the hiccups.

“Okay, Rook, look up treatments for intractable hiccups,” Cannon said.

“Chlorpromazine. Haloperidol. Methylphenidate. Baclofen. Midazolam. Rectal massage.”

“What was that last one?”

“Rectal massage.”

“Uh-huh. That’s the one. Rook, let me teach you. You’ve got to show the nurse who’s in charge.”

The furious nurses massaged the patient’s rectum every 15 minutes the entire night—and made sure to page Cannon mercilessly for the next half decade while on call.

It’s hard to say whether the physicians, the patients, or the consultants in The Finest Traditions of My Calling are more entertaining.

Dr. Paul Bregman, one of Colorado’s many marijuana doctors, arrives to lunch wearing Air Jordans, tweed pants, and a black t-shirt, and tries to offer Nussbaum a bag of cannabis-infused Ho-Hos (“I want you to see the amazing”). Connie, a patient who is sure her sister is plotting to harm Peyton Manning, won’t relent until the star quarterback visits her in treatment. A team of health care consultants prints t-shirts with the new hospital motto. They get tossed from floor to floor by underwhelmed doctors and nurses, and eventually worn by wild-eyed patients on the third-floor psych unit who could uniquely identify with the new slogan: “I’M COMMITTED.”

Yet the comedy of medicine often gives way to the tragic.

Bao was a 43-year-old Vietnamese immigrant who regularly visited the emergency department reporting chest pain, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety. She felt “as lonely as an empty cup.” One night, Bao, a self-described virgin, requested birth control pills. When asked why, she said, “I met a man.”

“Can you tell me about him?”

“My car broke down on the highway. I was on the side of the road and a police officer helped me call a tow truck. Then he told me he was separated from his wife and wondered if we could get together some time. For sex. He told me he liked Asian ladies.”

The internist had prescribed Ortho Tri-Cyclen for birth control, but had missed Bao’s real story completely.

“The value of experience,” said Sir William Osler, founder of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.” Has modern medicine reduced people to “parts and money,” billing patients for defective limbs or organs, yet forgotten to cultivate deeper virtues?

Amidst such a circus, where does one look to discover and “to preserve the finest traditions of my calling,” to which the Hippocratic Oath refers?

The World’s First Hospital   

While enrolled in an AmeriCorps program after college, Nussbaum lived at a Dominican priory. One night, he arrived for mandatory vespers for hymn singing. They cracked open their hymnals to the 72nd Psalm,

“He will rescue the poor at their call,
those no one speaks for.
Those no one cares for
he hears and will save.
He saves their lives from violence,
lives precious in his eyes.”

Having just seen Francisnek, a homeless Polish immigrant whose sobriety was the boast of the rescue mission, slip back into alcoholism, Nussbaum longed for the fulfillment of the psalmist’s promise.

In contrast to the scotch-sipping, sitcom watching friars, the Sinsinawa Dominicans, their sister community down the road, “seemed strangely alive in the absence of men.” One nun handed Nussbaum a “holy card”—like a baseball card for Catholics—of two saints, Cosmas and Damian, “Physicians and Martyrs” who promised to turn their bearers into “willing and loving servants.” Considering the call to medicine, Nussbaum’s pilgrimage took him to Duke University, to study the history of medicine under theologian Stanley Hauwerwas.

In the ancient Greek tradition, sick people came to the temple of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, and offered gifts in exchange for health. Likewise, Greek doctors saw only those who could pay, and there was no public duty toward the sick. But the Jewish tradition of hospitality and the Christian tradition of charity to the poor birthed a new, public commitment to the ill.

In 370, Basil, the new bishop of Caesarea, built a ptochotropeion, or house for the poor, ill, and dispossessed. Located on city’s edge, so it would be accessible especially to travelers and strangers, clerics, deacons, and lay physicians gave patients rest, meals, and care. Basil believed Christians were responsible for the social welfare of the entire city, not only the wealthy. Many scholars today consider Basil’s ptochotropeion to be the first hospital in Western society, the foundation of public-health efforts, and the historical inspiration behind hospitals for the indigent ill in cities throughout the West.

Denver Health, where Nussbaum practices medicine today, descends from Basil’s vision, however loosely. Outside the hospital is a bench, cut from stone, that reads “DO JUSTICE. LOVE GOODNESS. WALK HUMBLY.” The omission of God’s name from the prophet Micah’s famous injunction is both a symbol of medicine’s forgotten origin and a testimony to longings for a deeper, more soul-satisfying vision of the physician’s vocation.

Each morning, when Nussbaum’s arises from bed, he gazes upon an image of Basil of Caesarea. “To place the hope of one’s heath in the hands of the doctor is the act of an irrational animal,” wrote Basil. But “when reason allows, we call in the doctor, but we do not leave off hoping in God.”

Engagement with Faith

The Finest Traditions of My Calling is a sparkling, heart-wrenching, hilarious success.

Even when critiquing quality improvement experts, the narrative still charms. Nussbaum once compares Atul Gawande’s New Yorker essay on “Big Med,” which promises healthcare will be saved by becoming like aircraft carriers or assembly-line restaurants, to “Famous Factory Meatloaf” produced at the Cheesecake Factory.

Yet it’s his serious and delightful engagement with Christianity that really elevates the book. He praises Hildegard of Bingen, a medieval abbess, musician, mystic, and pre-modern clinician, for gently nursing both gardens and patients back to health. Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, advocates an application of liberation theology to health care, and opens clinics for the impoverished from Malawi to Peru to Russia. Nussbaum suffers alongside of one of his patients, Eleanor, who struggles to believe in a God who let her mother die of cancer.

Most books on medicine either completely ignore Christianity (and assume medicine started in the 20th century) or see it as a tactic for converting patients. But here, faith is a surprising source of hope. Though Nussbaum doesn’t claim to be a “Catholic psychiatrist,” (he unconvincingly claims to be a “bad Catholic” in the vein of the novelist Walker Percy), his Christian commitments shine through with the humility of St. Luke the Physician.

Yet perhaps Nussbaum’s greatest triumph is turning a medical memoir, a genre that can inspire intractable cases of yawning, into an accessible adventure for a general audience, one worthy of a sequel or even a film adaptation.

Weeks after finishing the book, my daughters are still asking me to do the Nussbaum handshake.

This book review first appeared on


Investments for the Kingdom

Eventide Funds has confounded the investment world with its success—and it’s biblically based principles.

Not long ago, when reporters wrote about Robin John, the cofounder of Eventide Asset Management, a subtle snicker rumbled under the surface. One called him “The Believer”; others pointed out the odd language on his Boston-based mutual fund company’s website: business as an “engine of blessing” and “biblically responsible investing.”

Theology as the foundation for picking stocks? Is this guy for real?

Today the murmurs seem to have faded, and for good reason. Since its launch in 2008, Eventide’s flagship mutual fund (a pool of money professionally invested in stocks, bonds, and other securities), the Gilead Fund, has given shareholders a 13.70 percent annualized return as of September 30, 2016, compared to 9.03 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500. To put that into perspective, an investor who put $10,000 into the fund at its launch would be worth $26,050 today. The Gilead Fund has been covered as a top performer by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, among other publications. Over the past three years, media attention has helped Eventide explode from $50 million in assets under management to nearly $2 billion.

But there’s more to Robin John than a focus on profit. Challenging Milton Friedman’s declaration that the only social responsibility of business is to increase profits, John says, “Profit is only the byproduct of a job well done.”

John, an evangelical living in Dallas, is a leader in the growing field of biblically responsible investing, which applies Christian theology and social concern to investment analysis. Eventide, founded in 2008, has garnered attention because of both its results and its uniquely faith-filled investment philosophy, driven ultimately by Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself.

His journey to investing, however, was fraught with vocational doubt, uncertainty, and a heart-wrenching journey to India, the land of his birth.

Longing for a Calling

John grew up in a village in southern India, influenced by the faith of his grandparents. “I remember looking out my window as a child and seeing a cemetery,” John told me. “The church needed land to bury the dead, and so my grandfather, poor as he was, donated it.” John learned the Bible originally in his native tongue of Malayalam and saw a sacrificial faith lived out at an early age.

When John was seven, his family moved to Medford, Massachusetts, following his uncle, an international pastor at Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston. “We moved into a community where I was one of the only non-Italian and non-Irish students in class,” John says. Due to an error on his Social Security card, his last name became an abbreviated version of his middle name, Cheriakalath, while he was in school. It was nearly impossible for his Anglo peers to pronounce, just one factor that made growing up an Indian immigrant in American schools tough. So he studied hard and graduated in the top 1 percent of his high school class.

A few years later, John graduated with a degree in economics from Tufts University and took a job at a large bank. “I would pray for a calling to go into ministry,” John recalls. “But I didn’t hear from God. So, because I didn’t feel like I had a calling, I said, ‘I guess I’ll just make money and support those who do.’ ”

One of his first assignments took him from Boston back to Pune, India, near Bombay, to train new employees.

One day, staying in the guest house of an Indian firm, he asked the housekeepers where they slept. He discovered that in a four-bedroom house, they slept in a closet behind the kitchen on the concrete floor, with no mat or rags for a pillow. Outraged, he notified his company of the housekeepers’ living conditions. But the two men begged him not to pursue the matter or they would lose their jobs—and return to the slums.

When John returned to the United States, the air of his home office was heavy with tension. Outsourcing to India meant job cuts for American workers. Now coworkers in Boston came to John with their own plea: “If my job is going to India, you’ve got to let me know. I’ve got a family.”

“I started realizing that work is not just work,” John says. “People’s lives are being impacted.”

In the years that followed, he vocationally wandered from a bank to an accounting firm to part-time classes at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he still longed for “a call to ministry.”

While in Boston, John got in touch with a friend from high school, Finny Kuruvilla. At the time, Kuruvilla was simultaneously pursuing an MD from Harvard Medical School, a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology from Harvard University, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. (“And just for fun, Finny taught biblical Greek and Hebrew at his church.”)

John asked Kuruvilla to pray with him, hoping for a sense of God’s call. They prayed once a week for six months. “If God wants me to go into full-time ministry, that’s what I’ll do,” John said, uncertain about working in ministry or business. Together they started a house church and were joined by a Nigerian widow, Congolese immigrants, and a few Harvard students eager to serve their community.

Soon after, Tim Weinhold, an entrepreneur and Harvard alumnus, visited the house church. Getting acquainted after the service, Kuruvilla mentioned that he and some friends were thinking of starting a Christian mutual fund.

“I know what a mutual fund is,” said a skeptical Weinhold, who would eventually become director of faith and business for Eventide. “And I know what a Christian is. Explain to me what a Christian mutual fund is.”

After prayer and discussion, John and Kuruvilla cofounded Eventide Asset Management with the vision of “Investing that makes the world rejoice.”

As the Great Recession began, the sun was setting on John’s longing for a call to ministry. In response to John’s question of whether to go into business or ministry, God slowly revealed his clear answer: “Both.”

From Plunder to Blessing

“I’m confused,” I confess on stage, as I interview John before an eager crowd at The Commons at Champa, a shared workspace in Denver. “What’s the difference between socially responsible investing, values-based investing, and biblically responsible investing?”

In the audience is a young couple, eagerly listening for advice on how to begin their meager retirement savings; a pastor turned investment adviser, fearing he’s failed now that he’s no longer a minister; and a bleary-eyed investment banker, tie-loosened and over-tired, wondering if he’s made a vocational mistake.

eventide-team-ctConventional fund managers look for financial strengths in making investment decisions, John says. The problem is that profitability is a lagging indicator. It tells investors more about the past than the future. Moreover, it doesn’t show how a business made that money, whether through quality products or oppressive business practices.

Conversely, moral or ethical fund managers screen out the “vice stocks”—pornography, tobacco, weapons, or abortion—and then look for financial strengths. “This is the typical approach of what we might label biblically responsible investing 1.0. It’s a good start,” John says, “but it doesn’t go far enough, because business can harm not just through bad products but through bad practices.” For example, payday loan companies can trap the poor in a cycle of debt, and auto title loans can charge effective rates as high as 500 percent.

The biblical word for these business practices is plunder, says John, who cites biblical passages that emphasize God’s concern for the poor: “ ‘Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the Lord. ‘I will protect them from those who malign them’ ” (Ps. 12:5).

But instead of merely avoiding companies that plunder or extract value from a community, John says, “we look for companies with an extraordinary ability to innovate and create value for all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, host communities, the natural environment, and society.” Each of these six stakeholders, Eventide believes, is a primary neighbor that businesses are called to serve. John dubs this positive vision “biblically responsible investing 2.0.”

The Eventide philosophy, or Eventide Business 360, is rooted in the biblical understanding that God’s intent for business, investing, and all vocations is to serve and, in turn, bless humankind. Weinhold, Eventide’s director of faith and business, points to verses like Deuteronomy 8:18—“But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today”—to show that business is uniquely able to create wealth and provide for material needs.

Business does this, according to Weinhold, by creating products that solve the material challenges of human existence and by making a profit, thereby enlarging human wealth to make those products affordable and accessible.

When deciding what businesses to invest in, Eventide considers factors often outside of typical investment analysis such as employee satisfaction, a genuine innovation in the field of investing. They use websites with company reviews shared by employees, as well as other sources, to evaluate both how well a business is “loving” its employees and also its long-term prospects for profitability.

In the days before the Great Recession, John says, “we saw the subprime mortgage industry was exploiting its customers. We didn’t invest there.” Avoiding dishonest practices, John says, is one discipline that can help the firm sidestep the kinds of activities that may be profitable—at least for a time—but do long-term harm.

Like the vast majority of mutual fund investors, most of Eventide’s 133,000 clients are average people saving for retirement. The minimum investment in the Gilead Fund is only $1,000 (or, with an automatic investment plan, $100). “We wanted anybody to be able to invest with us,” says John.

Eventide has performed well for their shareholders, but investing is risky business and can suffer downturns. Even in down markets, though, John reminds his team of their true purpose. Gilead, the name he and Kuruvilla gave their first fund, means “mountain of witness” or “hill of testimony.”

John remembers praying for a calling in 2008, descending into his unfinished basement to “ask God to use me for his glory.” In 2015, Eventide gave away more than $3.5 million to charity, directed almost $2 billion toward businesses they believe improve people’s lives, and influenced business leaders and financial advisors across the United States in how they think about the purpose of their work.

John found his calling in an unlikely place. An investor and entrepreneur, John has embraced a higher view of business, often quoted by Weinhold: “Business is God’s intended partner in his great work as Provider for all of humankind.”

This article first appeared in the December 2016 issue of Christianity Today.



We All Proselytize


“Kelly, what does proselytize mean?”

“Evangelize, but with negative connotations.”

I had to ask my wife last Sunday night because the word came up in a discussion with a local Christian entrepreneur.

I’ll paraphrase what he said: “In my company, we believe in the power of entrepreneurship to create flourishing communities. And I’m very open about my Christian faith with my employees when it comes up. But I would never engage in proselytization.”

When he said it, I mostly agreed. The word just sounds like rude, arm-twisting – or possibly even an illegal activity. Encroaching on other people’s faith makes many of us feel uncomfortable at worst, and often offended. It’s usually a good way to seriously tick off your co-workers.

But what does “proselytize” even mean? I looked it up in the dictionary and here’s what I got: “pros·e·lyt·ize ˈpräs(ə)ləˌtīz/verb: convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.”

Well, that’s interesting. This word simply means trying to change somebody’s beliefs or opinions from one view to another.

When I read this, I had to ask myself: aren’t all of us constantly trying to convert someone from one set of beliefs to another? I mean, if we’re honest, isn’t this what is constantly happening in advertising, media, and even conversations with friends?

For example, Leonardo DiCaprio’s new documentary Before the Flood is clearly trying to influence people to care deeply about climate change. And he’s not apologizing for that. He believes deeply in the catastrophic consequences of inaction for our planet. And he wants the apathetic or the climate change skeptic to be converted from one belief to another.

Or take actress and activist Emma Watson. She recently went to a train station in England and gave away over 100 copies of Maya Angelou’s “Mom & Me & Mom.” As a “book fairy” for the day, she also included a short note in the book, encouraging readers to pass it on. Her motivation was to get as many people as possible to be reading about inequality. Her campaigns for the UN have advocated for feminism, the protecting of young girls against child marriage, and fighting a rape culture. A noble woman, to be sure. And she’s not apologizing either that she’s attempting to convert you to her views.

Even thinking more broadly than Hollywood stars, isn’t the act of proselytization simply a natural, human act? When you receive an email from Costco, aren’t they trying to convince us to buy their products? Weren’t hundreds of millions of dollars spent on political advertising trying to “convert us” to vote for a particular candidate? Doesn’t my daughter try to change my beliefs when she asks for a cookie before bed?

I’m shooting beyond my pay grade here, but it seems to me that a primary use of all human language is to influence people to adopt your beliefs. Some philosophers have even postulated that in all human relationships we attempt to exert power or influence on others. To Daniel Pink’s point, to sell is human.

But can we at least admit that we’re all trying to convert others to our beliefs? Even those who say it’s wrong to convert others to your beliefs, ironically, are trying to convert you to that belief!

But back to the specific topic at hand: sharing about your Christian beliefs in the workplace. A few things to note for my fellow Christians:

  • We should never try to coerce others. People in positions of leadership need to be careful about sharing their faith with employees simply because it can be construed as “to be accepted around here, you need to be a Christian.” That’s no good. Belief should never be a pre-condition to acceptance. The truth is, God doesn’t coerce us, but is patient with us and allows for us to respond freely to him. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” If God gives us free will and time to respond, should we not do the same for others?
  • Let’s not be angry when faith comes up. I’ve seen many Christians get ticked off at the topic of faith in the workplace. They cite their first amendment rights to freedom of religion — while about to bust a vein in their necks. Again, no need for this to become a political fight. If it does, it shows that the real issue at stake is a political issue – not theological.
  • Gentleness and respect should adorn our faith conversations with co-workers. “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,” says Peter. I’m afraid to say that this has not always been the case for people of Christian faith in the public arena (I’m practicing the art of understatement). Instead humility, openness, and respect – along with a robust adherence to the truth we profess – ought to shape our interactions with those of other faiths.

To be honest, I’ve never liked the word proselytization. I won’t be using it anytime soon. But it is worth admitting that all people proselytize. Including Christians.

“Evangelize,” is a much better word. The word comes from the Greek euaggellion, meaning simply “good news.” The word is equally noxious in our secular culture, but it shouldn’t be. Why not? Let me tell a brief story:

For the past two weeks, as I have been driving to work, I’ve listened to the Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know?” After the tears welled up in my eyes for a week straight, I decided to commit the lyrics to memory so I could sing it to my daughters before they go to bed.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the Lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s Perfect Lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the Great I Am.

This is the message I have believed. And this is the one I unashamedly share – with kids, family, co-workers, neighbors, and anybody else who will listen. And when I share my own most-precious good news with the world, I join the rest of the world world that engages in sharing their stories of good news as well…

Last night, I finished singing it to Sierra, my oldest daughter, before we fell asleep. As we both looked at the Christmas tree night light, she said to me with a little grin as I finished the song, “I like that song, daddy.”

“I do too, my love.”

As we prayed together, I thanked God for that person who first “proselytized” me.

This post first appeared at


Nourishing the World: Spending an Evening with Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills


As we walked into the kitchen, our senses came alive: the smell of freshly baked bread, the shine of stainless steel appliances, the smile of Chef Daniel Marciani, and the sight of risotto, chocolate quinoa desserts and caramelized spread. We felt like we had just walked into Babette’s Feast.

The food was the unexpected capstone of an evening the 5280 Fellows spent with Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills, the largest flour producer in the country.  Ardent Mills, a new company that was spun off from ConAgra, CHS, and Cargill just over two and a half years ago, has 42 production facilities in the US, over 2,000 employees, and – get this – serves an estimated 100 million per day with their products. Chances are, if you ate any kind of bread product today, you are being nourished by Ardent Mills.

As we gathered around the conference room to hear Dan’s story, he candidly shared about life as the leader of a $4-billion-year company: the advent of his career at Cargill, the transition to leadership over a team of commodities traders in Winnipeg, and the values he uses as guideposts for everything he does.

Values, he said, are at the core of his leadership. Trust. Serving. Simplicity. Safety. For Dye, they’re more than words: they form the heart of the company he leads – and while not explicitly or exclusively Christian, each of them are endowed with deep spiritual value. “Though I don’t always say to people, ‘These are biblical values,’ to me each value is Biblically rooted, and the Bible informs me on how to lead a company, and how I can help best serve both customers and employees,” said Dye.

Dye spoke about discerning his calling and new job opportunities alongside his wife, Alea; how to build a strong leadership team; the challenges of work-life choices as he took different roles throughout his career. He shared about being a strong emotional presence in times of crisis, especially during a time early in his career when, tragically, two employees died during an accident. “It was the hardest time of my career – and one of the hardest times of my life. The value of safety isn’t just a word on the wall – I believe in it with every fiber of my being.”

Developing a strong, values-based culture is central to Dye’s leadership. He believes values allow them to better serve their customers, but they also create a work-environment that blesses his employees. The five principles of leadership at Ardent Mills are:

  • Live Our Values: Trust, Serving, Simplicity, Serving
  • Others Focused vs. Self-Focused
  • Clear the Noise
  • Relentlessly Curious
  • We Will Win – The Right Way

The final value used to be just “We Will Win,” believing that profit is inherently good as it creates the opportunity to serve more customers and hire more employees. But he added “The Right Way” after observing the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015, in which the German automaker intentionally mislead environmental authorities to pass emissions standards. To Dye, doing business “the right way” means profit must be made ethically, upholding the highest standards of integrity.

Banks Benitez, 5280 Fellow and Vice President of Global Expansion at the Unreasonable Institute, shared a brief note with me after the Community & Culture gathering:

“I just wanted to drop you a brief note thanking you for tonight. It broadened my perspective, humanized a big industry that I know nothing about, connected us to a leader who is putting Christ in that center circle, and sparked many ideas for me in my own career and role. One thing that Dan mentioned, which I really liked, was about getting rid of the noise and bringing clarity to people. I know that’s something I struggle with in my role with our team…It was such an amazing night and I kept thinking, “this is way beyond what I expected from the fellowship.”

Dye also shared about the centrality of his faith to his work. “I remember when I was a kid, my dad would take me aside before a basketball game, and give me some clear advice: keep your cool, do your best, honor God. I’ve always kept that advice close to my heart.” Through both his father and early career mentors at Cargill, who encouraged him to keep Christ at the center of his life, role models profoundly impacted Dye’s career trajectory.

The Ardent Mills vision of “Nourishing What’s Next” has special meaning for Dye. Bread is a central metaphor in the Scriptures: Jesus is the bread of life; the kingdom of God is like yeast that works its way through dough; Jesus commands his followers to remember his death through drinking of wine and eating bread.

As Dan Dye leads a company that is nourishing the world – quite literally – he also strives to nourish the spirits of the customers, employees and communities Ardent Mills serves each day.

This article first appeared on the Theology of Business Blog at







Business Travel Have You Exhausted? Bring a Kid


Traveling for business is tough. For most men I speak to, the time away from family and on the road is usually an emotional, spiritual and often physical black hole.

My friend Danny recently came back from a business trip. Bleary-eyed, he shared that the meetings were poorly planned, his flight was delayed – and it took him at least two days to recover from a feeling of exhaustion after getting back to his wife and four kids.  And his family was a mess as a result of his week-long trip.

Another friend, Andrew, sent a group of men an email,

“I’ve been asked to head up a church group specifically for guys whose jobs have them on the road frequently. Those of you who travel regularly know that it can be challenging to get connected with other men while traveling. We also want to help strengthen men in the face of temptations that often present themselves while away from home. Do any of you have recommendations for a small group study that speaks to these challenges?”

Looks like the challenges of life on the road are pretty widespread.

Traveling loses its luster pretty quickly when you’re only between conference rooms, airports, and generic hotel rooms. Though being on a business trip has an air of importance and unhinged freedom that can often puff us up, often we quickly crash back to earth when faced with temptation, long hours, short nights, and missed kid’s soccer games. The biggest challenge most business leaders face is loneliness – and traveling solo doesn’t help.

There has to be a better way.

When meeting with my friend Dave, he shared with me that better way: take a kid with you on the trip. Whenever he travels for speaking engagements, he tells them that a part of his travel fee is that he always travels with a guest: rarely does he say it’s one of his four children.

So, on a recent business trip to visit a foundation, I took my oldest, Sierra, 8, with me on the trip. And it was a total move of genius.  Eating chocolate pancakes, spying night-time pool cleaning machines, putting on cheese heads at a Wisconsin airport – we had a blast.

Here’s why I think traveling with a kid ought to be a regular practice for dads on business trips – and why I think businesses should fund their little traveling companions, too:

  1. Traveling with kids leads to an emotionally and physically healthy trip. Sierra was delighted by the airplane, giddy as we ate spaghetti and meat balls together, and talked about our trip to Chicago for weeks prior – and months afterward. Her delight and wonder rubbed off on me. “Dad, I just can’t help being so excited about the airplane!” We smiled, laughed, and chatted our way from rental car to hotel to meetings because of the joy of my daughter. Moreover, because I had to put my daughter to bed as soon as we arrived to the hotel at 10pm, I went to sleep then as well. And woke up right at 6am. The pull towards destructive behaviors to make myself feel better after a long commute….completely disappeared. I got enough rest, prayed with my daughter, and felt energized for the business meetings I had the next day.
  1. Traveling with kids keeps families healthy. How many families have been crippled by absent dads on the road – or husbands who strayed from their wives while thousands of miles away? Having a kid on the trip draws us immediately back into the commitments and loves of our families, and instead of putting strain on the family, draws families together. For Sierra and I, it was precious one-on-one time that is rare for a family for four kids. One she still treasures – and I treasure, too.
  1. Traveling with kids cultivates spiritual health in employees, thus making them more productive. Is buying the additional plane ticket on the company dollar really worth it? Maybe a better question is: what’s the cost of spiritually unhealthy employees? I’ve spoken to dozens of men who feel an unusual pull toward pornography when away from home – and in the cycle of addiction, no productive work is done. When dads get home, often we find we need to do triage after leaving our wives with 100% of the family responsibilities for a few days. And thus we need to work less because of the additional emotional stress of being gone. (Or our time at the office the next day is tinged with a an additional level familial stress.) An extra plane ticket is indeed an expense – but if we have health incentives programs at our companies to exercise and eat right, why not make an investment in healthy relationships?

I’ve shared my affection for traveling with kids (and my spouse, when we can find a brave babysitter for four kids!) with friends and business leaders, and here are the questions I get:

What do you do with your kids during business meetings? Good question. And I have a pretty simple answer: give them homework to do.  Sierra traveled with a binder of homework – long division, reading, writing, and world geography (which we had a chance to directly experience while on the road). During lay overs and during meetings, I simply gave her work to do. To be practical, I’m not sure if doing business travel with kids before about age 6 can really work that well. But after that, if they can do audio books or iPad math, they can productively use the time to further their education – and not get behind on class work.

Won’t my kids get bored? That’s possible. Conferences of mortgage lenders or pharmaceutical sales aren’t exactly Disney Land. However, when I travel with kids, we make nearly everything an adventure. Exploring hotel hallways, ordering fun meals, exploring new lands on the Illinois toll way. Plus, just before we flew out of Milwaukee, I took Sierra to visit lake Michigan (see picture below). That half hour on the shores of one of America’s Great Lakes has been the topic of her school writing exercises for a full month after our trip.

How do I get this business expense approved? Make the case that healthy men need healthy families, and that being isolated from our families for days or weeks on end isn’t healthy. It may be a first-time conversation with your supervisor, but make the case that employees are not just human ‘doings’ that accomplish tasks, but human beings who need deep spiritual, emotional and physical health to do creative, productive work.

At the hotel in Chicago, the front desk clerk looked at Sierra and I, and she said, “How cute! I wish my dad would have taken me on business trips as a kid. Our home was always so crazy – seemed like he never had time for me.”

Time for new trend in global business travel.












That Eye-On-the-Object Look: Finding Focus in a Distracted World


The world is a distracting place.

Email, Facebook, open office spaces, iPhones, and insanity-inducing apps with red pop-up bubbles nagging for my attention. What would the opposite of a distracted work day look like?

Check out this statement by W.H. Auden:

“You need not see what someone is doing to know if it is his vocation, you have only to watch his eyes; a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon making a primary incision, a clerk completing a bill of lading, wear the same rapt expression, forgetting themselves in a function. How beautiful it is, that eye-on-the-object look.”

When was the last time you were working and you had that eye-on-the-object look? For me, at least, it’s elusive. So much clutter – mental, and physical. What can be done?

This makes me think about three things:

  1. Find Deep Work. Cal Newport’s book makes the case that unplugging from distraction is rare, meaningful and valuable. He also gives some clear tips on on how to work deeply in a distracted age, like quitting social media, embracing boredom, and “draining the shallows.” It’s the quantity of deep work – not the total hours in your day on your computer – that really matters.
  1. Serve the Work, Not the Customer. In her profound little essay “Why Work?” Dorothy Sayers says “If work is to find its right place in the world, it is the duty of the Church to see to it that the work serves God, and that the worker serves the work.” Here’s what she means: in an age focused on “customer service” we’ve lost a vision for the intrinsic value of the work itself. That is, we ought not to work ultimately for our customers or for our wages, but for God, and in so doing, our work reflects his beauty and creativity alone. Nuts to what others think about it. Do a thing well for its own sake. There’s your daily act of worship.
  1. Recover the Practice of Attention. Matthew Crawford has written a delightful book called “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.” It might be your iPhone’s fault that your distracted, or it may have deeper roots in Western culture. Crawford makes the case that hockey players, chefs and pipe organ makers need hours of undistracted focus – and that like them, collectively we could build public spaces more attentive to focus than frittering away our time.

It is indeed possible to get into a flow, as TED talk all-star Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it. It’s tough, but worth a try.

It’s high time each of us went back to the why of our work, and started to recover our vocation – and that beautiful eye-on-the-object look.


Care About Refugees? This Greek Yogurt CEO is Hiring Hundreds of Them


Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO of Greek yogurt brand Chobani, is showing the world – including Christians – how to treat refugees. Since 2007, he has hired hundreds of refugees from all over the world, and currently employs over 300 refugees across his company.

In a cultural moment when more refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean than ever before, Ulukaya has, in the words of a recent Global Citizen article, an astonishing amount of moral clarity:

“He understands that refugees are fleeing tremendous hardship and just want to be given a chance to begin or resume a normal, healthy life. His workers have escaped death. They’ve seen family members get killed or have been forever separated from their families. They’ve endured years of uncertainty and fear. Now, they just want to be normal.”

A Kurd from Turkey, Ulukaya knows what’s it like to be oppressed. Despite significant backlash against hiring refugees in the US, he continues to advocate for refugees and give them job opportunities as a way to rebuild their lives.

Ulukaya’s story has a certain allure: born to a family that operated a small sheep, goat and dairy farm in Ilic (Erzincan Province) in Turkey, he came to the US in 1994 to study English and take a few business courses. He started a feta-cheese factory, and then took a big risk in buying a defunct yogurt factory in upstate New York in 2005. His goal was to produce a yogurt without preservatives, artificial flavors or gelatins – more akin to the quality and natural yogurt he grew up with Turkey as opposed to the sugary and watery yogurts he found in America.

Over the next 5 years, Chobani – from the Turkish word for “shepherd” – would take off. In less than five years, his company would be valued at over $1 billion and is now the leading yogurt brand in the US.

Ulukaya clearly values philanthropy. He’s signed Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge, committing to give away over half of his fortune during his lifetime or in his will. But on September 29, 2015, at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, he also urged business people to do more than “just write checks” to help alleviate the suffering of refugees.

For example, he believes in paying his employees higher wages, noting that not only is treating employees better for the company, but also states that, “for the sake of our communities and our people, we need to give other companies the ability to create a better life for more people.” He even gave his 2,000 employees an ownership stake in the company. When Chobani is sold or goes public, they’ll receive shares up to 10% of the company’s values. The move could make the employees on his manufacturing floor millionaires.

In an interview with Ernst and Young Global Chairman & CEO Mark Weinberger, he unabashedly said, “Business is still the strongest, most effective way to change the world.”

Here in Denver, James Rudder, CEO of L&R Pallet, has hired hundreds of refugees from Myanmar. Other Christians have followed suit with campaigns for charitable giving to help refugees throughout the world.  But after a conversation yesterday with an investor and business leader in Denver, whom I deeply admire, I can safely say that we Christians have a long way to go to in seeing business – not just charitable giving – as an opportunity to serve the needs of our world. We could learn a lot from Ulukaya and his moral example.

A challenge to all of us in the US: Could we hire more refugees in our companies in the US? Could we intentionally start companies abroad to help the 65.3 million refugees in the world today? More broadly, how could our hiring practices reflect God’s heart of compassion for the poor, the foreigner, the widow and orphan?

One thing’s for sure: after learning about Ulukaya and Chobani, next time I go to the grocery store my wife and I will be stocking up on Greek yogurt.

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