Friday, November 30, 2018

God's Names at Christmastime - Counselor

The following is from my book, The Names of God.

Isaiah 28:29 (ESV) This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.

I am married to one of the most amazing counselors. She can listen for hours on end to others as they share their problems or concerns. She has such compassion that it motivates her to work with others to find the root of the issue, bring the truth of God concerning the situation, and see them totally delivered and set free from the bondage caused by the lies the enemy has introduced into their life.

She is an example of what the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, wants to do in our lives.

The meaning of the word used for Counselor means, “to give advice, plan, or show prudence.” It is from a root word that means, “to advise, to deliberate, or resolve.”

Part of the nature that God placed inside man is a free will. The Counselor comes to us to give information (advice) on what we should do as we face decisions in life. He has a plan for us if we will only submit our will to His. The scripture He has given is full of wisdom that, when applied to our life, will result in prudent decisions.

The Counselor is a primary work of the Holy Spirit, but remember that this same Holy Spirit has gifts that He has given to the Church to empower Her to live free from the bondage that the curse of sin introduced to mankind. We need to learn to live in freedom, but know that the Counselor is ever-ready to give us advice when needed, reveal His plan for us, and resolve any issue that might present itself.

Let’s learn to hear the voice of the Counselor and follow His advise completely.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

God's Names at Christmastime - Emmanuel

The following is from my book, The Names of God, that I published a few years ago. In these days leading up to Christmas I thought it would be worth taking a second look to remind us that our life is saturated by the presence of our Creator.

Isaiah 8:8 (ESV) … and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

Matthew 1:23 (ESV) “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel”

The different spellings of this name come from the origin being referenced. Immanuel is from Hebrew; the Greek spelling is Emmanuel. The latter is the most common in our vernacular. Regardless of the origin the meaning is the same: God with us.

To me, this is one of the most comforting names of God in scripture. It is easy, as humans, to stare into the starlit sky, or cast your eye over the vast horizon from atop a tall mountain, or listen to the numbing roar of the ocean at the beach, and not see the awesome power of our Creator. It is nice to know we serve an all-powerful Sovereign that rules the universe.

However, when we face unbearable turmoil, or bend from the weight of cares that seem to overwhelm us, or hear bad news that shakes the very foundations of our existence, it is just as comforting, if not more so, to know that God is with us; Emmanuel! When you know God is with you it makes unbearable a bit more tolerable. The weight of cares is lighter because He cares for you; God is with us. Bad news is less destructive because you know that He already knew, and has a plan to move you beyond this moment; God is with us.

The incarnation of Christ is perhaps the most hope-filled promise ever given to mankind. When they learned that God was not just somewhere out there. He came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, that of the only begotten Son of God – Emmanuel. He showed us that life as a human on planet earth does mean something. We can live in fellowship with our Creator to accomplish His purpose for us. God is with us.

As a matter of fact, He is with us when we are not aware of His presence. Even if we try to escape His presence we cannot, because God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Allow this truth to become part of your conscious thinking. Brother Lawrence encouraged this in his book “The Practice of the Presence of God (The Best Rule of a Holy Life)”. Even in the mundane things in life we must realize that God is with us. When this becomes a way of life it makes it easier to allow God to help us through the “big” things that seem to make us shipwreck.

Emmanuel, God with us. Every day. Every moment. Right now. So regardless of what you are facing know that God is there, and He is able to get you beyond the current circumstances. He loves you … and He is here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Christmas Memories

I only remember about three Christmases from my childhood.

The first is when I wound up in the emergency room. My brother and I were on the front porch bouncing a ball against the house which had recently been decorated with Christmas lights. These were the old colored incandescent bulbs (the real ones). The ball hit a bulb and it burst, sending fragments of glass into my eyes. Fortunately there were no long-term affects on my vision.

The second was the last Christmas we had with my dad. It was such an amazing experience. There were more presents that morning than I had ever seen. Each of us had a pile of gifts. If we had only known that five months later dad would be gone, our focus might have been a little different.

The last Christmas from my childhood that I recall is the first Christmas without my dad. I had a very sour attitude. I knew the truth about Santa, and just wanted my presents. I didn't want to wait until Christmas morning. I wanted them Christmas Eve, when some of my friends' families opened all of their gifts.

During my middle years I did not enjoy Christmas. Even after the kids came along, there always seemed to be something that would ruin the moment: a broken gift, the wrong gift, family rifts, or just plain tired. I always dreaded the holidays.

Something changed, fortunately, that has brought a great relief from the holiday doldrums. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but part of it stemmed from a fresh look at the Christmas story told in scripture. I found the part about Anna and Simeon that had never been told, at least not that I recall, in the telling of the Christmas story growing up.

One of the most significant experiences that brightened Christmastime for me was hearing Jack Hayford speak on his book, "The Mary Miracle." It is one of the best I've ever read.

When I learned there were those who anticipated the coming Messiah all of their life, and to finally see Him, gave me hope again that life is worth living ... every moment of it, including the holidays.

Gifts still break, or the wrong gift is still given, but I believe the main difference is inside me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Glass Half Full/Empty

I'm not a glass half empty nor half full. I'm more of a "drink if you're thirsty, fill it up if you're not" kind of person. I tend to be utilitarian in my approach to most things. I focus on outcomes, but am mindful of processes needed to achieve those outcomes, and aim for doing them in the most efficient way possible.

This is not always optimal. I have learned (through many times of getting it wrong!) that sometimes people are not interested in efficiency. They enjoy the journey, even though it may not be the quickest or most effective. Some enjoy reading the backstory instead of "just the facts." The long way is not always the wrong way.

When it comes to interpersonal relationships efficient does not equal effective. People require time. An individual is not a problem to solve. That leads to Machiavellianism. Approach others as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to enjoy, not to correct. This will make you both better people.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Always Start at the Beginning

There are problems in the world. Since Eden, there have always been problems in the world. Our approach to solving them determines how successful we are at living a productive, peaceful life.

If every problem you have is external (someone else's fault) you can never live at peace. Before asking your neighbor to be nicer, why not try to be nicer yourself? Most problems are noticed because we are not at peace with ourself. This is always the first place to start.

Introspection is almost non-existent today. We have information streaming toward us 24/7/365 with no breaks to process the data. The negative, of course, catches our attention much more quickly than the positive. As the negative inputs begin to amass we start to recoil to counter act them without taking time to consider whether we are actually part of the problem.

Self-examination is usually not fun. It is hard to confront the evil that lives inside of us. That's why most avoid it. Let's keep the focus on others, because after all, they are much more evil than me!

Until you take time to find out what is on the inside, why the negative news affects you the way it does, you do not know if you are actually the one that needs to change.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Written Word - Possibly the Worst Form of Communication

The more I learn about communication the more I am amazed that humans have made it this far. Our ability to communicate seems to be fading daily, yet there is more information available than ever before. Everyone is talking, but very few are actually listening.

It intrigues me to know that our Creator-God chose the written word to tell mankind of His plan. I know He sent Jesus (in human form), but most people on earth never saw Him - before or after He lived on our planet. Words are so sterile when you see them on a page. Any emotion has to be derived from the reader. This requires actually engaging with the text and trying to envision what the author actually said.

Hence, the many, many different interpretations of the meaning of scripture makes for an even more confused people. I hear it so often spoken from pulpits that "the Bible clearly says ..." This is a misnomer. The Bible says very few things "clearly", but this does not mean we should not read it, or try to understand it. What I believe it means is we need to spend even more time with others discussing the meaning instead of arguing, red-faced with neck-veins popping, trying to convince one another that "WE have the TRUTH!"

Before you throw me into the "heresy" pile please hear me out. The Bible is God's Word sent to us. However, the written words are only part of the communication. Jesus, before leaving earth, promised to send "another" comforter, the Holy Spirit, who would lead us into all TRUTH. Without the Holy Spirit, who abides in EVERY believer, and who will lead us (the Church, the Called-Out Ones) into the Truth, we will never know the proper meaning of scripture.

Personally, I do not believe it is as hard to understand as many make it out to be. I do not think it is a "code" to be deciphered. I cannot imagine a Creator leaving us with His instructions for living without knowing that we could understand it. Let's read it as the "open letter" that it is, and not as some secret handbook that only a chosen-few will ever understand. Let's talk about the Bible's contents instead of arguing over it. We might actually learn something.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Real Cost of Thanksgiving

Everything these days seems to be broken down to show the cost. Every action is dissected to determine who caused it. Even the slightest thing can explode into a major deal because of perceived intent. I personally believe one of the mitigating factors is the number of lawsuits filed on a daily basis, but I digress.

What is Thanksgiving? If you parse the word itself you find a very simple meaning: to give thanks. Then, you are left with the "interpretation" and that is where we find the difference of opinion. Who is to be thankful, and to whom should thanks be given? And the more important question, why should we be thankful, and for what?

One of the first things that has to be sacrificed in order to give thanks is pride. By thanking someone else you in essence are admitting you did not do it all yourself. None of us have done it all alone. Everyone has received help. To deny this is the ultimate display of pride. All of us have reason to be thankful.

The primary reason I resist allowing Christmas to overshadow Thanksgiving is because of the importance I place on giving thanks. First and foremost, each of us should give thanks to our Creator-God for the very breath we have in our lungs. Secondly, we should be thankful for our parents for bringing us into this world (regardless of how they treated you). If you live in the U.S.A., you should be thankful that you have the freedom to pursue any dream you have.

In all of these, it requires us to confront realities that we are not self-sufficient. This, I believe, is the reason Christmas has eclipsed Thanksgiving. We tend to shun the idea of exalting others above ourselves when instead we could reap all the gifts that we want others to bestow upon us.

The real cost of Thanksgiving: humility.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Life Through Your Eyes

Everything we see is filtered by our life experiences. If you are the firstborn you had time alone with your parents and could easily see the presence of your siblings as an interruption. If you are the lastborn in a large family you rarely had time alone with your parents and could view the presence of your siblings as an intrusion.

If you grew up in an underprivileged household you may have a greater appreciation for things like your first car, new clothes, or a meal out. If you were born into a family of influence you may never know the hurt and shame in being left out.

It is very difficult to see life any other way than through the filters of your experience. To be able to view things differently would require an event that would alter your world-view. The phrase “paradigm shift” is a ‘90s term, but I can’t think of a better, more up-to-date one, that describes what I’m trying to say. In Steven Covey’s book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, he gives a description of a paradigm shift.

“I was riding on the subway in New York. There was a father with three young children on the train. The children were very rambunctious and loud, running around, disturbing those around them. The father sat there and said nothing. The more this continued the angrier I became. ‘Why doesn’t he do something about those little brats’, I thought. Finally I had to speak. I said to the father, ‘Your children seem to be a little wild today.’ The man looked up and responded, ‘Yes. We just buried their mother and I guess they don’t know how to act.’”

Instantly, you see things differently. If only we could do this in other areas. We can try, but we can never feel the emotion of missing a meal, or having no place to sleep. We anguish over what to wear, not where to find warm clothes. We choose the job with the best pay and benefits instead of hoping to find a few hours of work for unskilled laborers to buy formula and diapers.

The only way to be able to see life differently, other than being thrust into it yourself, is to allow the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to what is around you. We must become sensitive to His prompting, and be willing to follow His leading. It may not meet our standards, and it may not be comfortable, but following His direction will bring “joy unspeakable” to you and those you encounter on the way.

Live with eyes wide open. Be aware of those around you and realize they may be hurting instead of “acting up.” The reason for their desperation may be survival, not terror. Let us learn, as The Church, to be Jesus to our world.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Contents Should Match the Label

One of several books that I have started but haven't finished is called "Managed Expectation". It describes the idea that if we can properly set expectation to match the delivered product or service we will win every time.

One of my many pet peeves is realizing after the fact that what was promised is not what was delivered. It's like opening a can of creamed corn to find beets. For me, that would be a major disappointment. Or, you go to your favorite restaurant to order the Special of the Day only to learn that they have sold out.

My most recent experience came with the computer language I use at work. SQL has a data type called "Numeric" (only numbers, no letters). It seems pretty simple. A common thing we do is convert pre-formatted text data into Numeric. SQL even provides a test to ensure the contents of the target field is, in fact, Numeric.

The problem is they use different definitions for the word "numeric". The data type "Numeric" only contains numbers. The test provided, IsNumeric, will return a positive result if it "looks" like a number!  This means it can contain "$" or "," and still be considered a number, but it is not a SQL Numeric.

This slight difference cost me a couple of hours over the weekend. It led to much frustration before finally figuring out the distinction. I know I harp on language and communication a lot, but it is so important. Be sure that what you are advertising is, in fact, what you plan to deliver.

Deception may earn you a few quick bucks, but it will never produce the lasting brand success that most businesses are attempting to achieve. Let your contents match your label. You will win in the end.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Setting the Standard

How does something become the standard?

Before the game of golf was invented, how did we measure hail?

Before sauerkraut was created, how did we know how cold something was?

It's curious how idioms develop in a language. The examples I gave are humorous, but they illustrate things to which we compare other things. Some of these are not as humorous.

When the United States first created its currency it was based on gold reserves. The amount of money in circulation was dependent on the amount of gold the U. S. Treasury had in the vault. In other words, we were solvent as a nation. When we moved away from the gold standard inflation was an immediate result.

Standards matter. Some standards never change. For Christians, the Bible is THE standard by which we shape our lives. Other standards are dictated by culture. Unfortunately, these standards change over time.

The lack of standards seems to be the norm these days, or perhaps it's just my age showing. There are many things in our Western culture that seem to have no prevailing standard by which things are measured. Most things are determined by the individual's "right" to be however they choose.

I know this didn't develop overnight. It has taken decades to arrive at this place. I wonder how long it will take the pendulum to swing the other direction? I hope within my lifetime.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Keeping Perspective

Years ago while helping with a seminar at our church, there were a few details that got dropped. Since I was responsible, I was fretting quite a bit, to the point of extreme frustration with myself. Evidently my frustration was apparent to those around me.

During one of the small group sessions (I did not lead a small group) the facilitator came to my office. I had retreated there to try to regroup. He came in and sat down. I immediately began apologizing for the errors. In a very solemn voice and calm demeanor he said, "Dudley, it all matters."

But before I could begin another round of apologies, he continued, "Just not very much."

He helped me learn a valuable lesson that night. While it is important to plan and execute the details, EVERYTHING is not critical to the mission. Sometimes you have to let some of the extraneous things slide to protect the success of the principle goal.

So, when things are not all going according to plan, I can hear Joe's words ring clear, "It all matters, just not very much." My measuring stick for importance has become this: Will it matter a year from now, ten years from now, or a hundred years from now?

Most things will not even matter tomorrow. Learn to let them go. First of all, you cannot change the facts of history. Learn from them so you do not repeat them, but let them go. Everyone will be better off if you will.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trivial and Non-Trivial

My favorite college professor was Dr. Tom Cheatham. He spoke six words that changed my life as a young college student. "You have the aptitude for this." It was like the line that Don Rickles used when he appeared in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. He said, "I'm not inept. I'm ept!"

No one in a position of influence in my life had ever said such words to me. It empowered me achieve great things in my studies of math and computer science. I have never been the same.

I took every course I could under Dr. Cheatham. He was such a good teacher, and showed great concern for all of his students, both in and out of the classroom.

One of my favorite phrases he used had to do with the difficulty of a particular problem or project. He categorized everything into one of two buckets: trivial and non-trivial. Sometimes his description was a little different than what I thought of the same problem, but you knew immediately when he said something was non-trivial you better grab your bootstraps, because it was going to get deep.

I believe this simple categorization has helped me in other areas of life. Most things we deal with are trivial. Even some of the more complicated issues we face are under the surface quite trivial. The problem comes when we treat EVERYTHING in life as non-trivial. I have met people that make everything hard. Any issue they face seems to be insurmountable.

Before making a decision about the difficulty of a particular thing you face try to keep things in perspective. Everything is not hard. Some things are trivial. Treat them as such and move on. Then when you face something that actually is non-trivial you have the energy and mental capacity to properly evaluate the circumstances, devise a solution, and execute a plan.

Non-trivial does not mean impossible. It simply means it will take some time and effort to accomplish.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Shaping Your Narrative

We observe in the national media the attempt to shape the narrative of a particular subject. This is done overtly by organizations like the Associated Press dictating language that has to be used or cannot be used when reporting certain subjects. Other news outlets are given "talking points" by "their side" (both left and right) to include in the news cycle for the day. These are some of the reasons I no longer watch network news on TV.

We, as individuals, do not have the luxury of an organization to help us shape our narrative. We must rely on our own conversation and lifestyle to speak for us. We may not have a national audience, but people are watching - your family, spouse, children, friends, enemies, coworkers, etc. Some are watching to learn because they see the success in your life. Some watch in hopes to see you stumble. Others see you by chance and need to catch you at your best.

Consistently walking out your convictions is difficult. We all have bad days. We all are presented with circumstances that strain us to the breaking point. It is in these moments that our real selves are revealed. It is in these times where our core values are tested.

It is important for us to work on our narrative when life is good. Because when the heat is on, there is no time to develop your beliefs, only to reveal what is already there.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

It Goes Without Saying

I read a book recently that discussed the way we misinterpret information given us because we make wrong assumptions about the meaning. Much of our communication happens non-verbally. We see the facial tics when talking face to face (in person or electronically), or we hear the voice inflection to cue us in on the important things contained in the words. This is part of the "Goes Without Saying" aspect of communicating.

However, this only works when the people communicating share the same background, culture, experiences, etc. When these vary, the "Goes Without Saying" leads to major misunderstandings.

The female from a very affectionate (not sexually) family can send very wrong signals to a male she may spend time with, leading to embarrassing (or worse) situations. Someone from a culture that exudes courtesy could wind up getting played by another, taking advantage of their kindness.

People with similar cultural understanding and experiences can still have missteps in communications because of current moods or recent encounters. This is why we must be diligent in communication, every day, every conversation, every act.

Bottom line, the "Goes Without Saying" is in essence our prejudice (this word applies to much more than just race, socioeconomics, skin color, etc.). Our minds "pre-judge" (the meaning of prejudice) things every minute of every day. Every conversation, every personal encounter, is carried out with certain prejudices in play. This is the danger. We must be conscious of our words, actions, and even thoughts, because our response speaks volumes, even without saying a word.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Nationalism and Election Day

Today is election day in the United States. I hope you vote. It is the primary way we can help shape our government. It is the duty of every American to use this right to voice their opinion on laws and policy which our political leaders will pursue.

Much has been said about nationalism in the past few weeks; most of it negative. It is a good word that has been caught up in the political churn and made into a bad word. Nationalism simply means, "patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts." Recently the meaning has been changed to add, "... and hate all other countries, and the people of those countries." In other words, ethnic prejudice.

Part of the reason for this change is due to our inability to tolerate anything that is different than our own views or opinions. For some, if you say, "I love American," it implies that you hate everything else. That would be the equivalent of saying, "I love my wife, therefore I hate my mother, my sister, or any other woman." That is just not true for most.

It is possible to love something without hating everything else. But, one of the most effective political tools of late is that of "hate". We have passed laws called "Hate Crimes" as though that will make the punishment worse. One of the more disconcerting developments is the term "Hate Speech." If you even say something deemed "hateful" by another you can suffer dire consequences.

It is unfortunate that society has devolved to this level. We need to find a way to be civil again, and not feel the need to attack anyone that does not agree with our ideals.

So, vote. Vote your heart. Vote your passion. Vote your conscience. Vote your beliefs. But vote. It is the most patriotic (and nationalistic) thing to do.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Presumption, the Step-Child of Prejudice

Prejudice is a scourge on our society. It has been for centuries, even millennia, but longevity does not equal justifiable. Great strides have been made in the past 200 years or so to reduce, and in some cases, eliminate prejudice, but it is still there. We must be vigilant in our effort to remove it, first from our own thinking and behavior, then that of our systems of government, commerce, and faith.

There is a closely related blight that is not directed toward a particular people group, and anyone can be found guilty of this. It's call presumption. A few examples:

1) You're late for a meeting because you were not finished eating. It's ok. Everyone will not mind waiting for you.

Wrong! They did not finish their meal so they would be on time. You were operating in presumption.

2) You're in a hurry to get home to watch a program you had on your calendar for two weeks. The line is long at the register so you break line. Everyone will understand because you are in a hurry.

Wrong! They need to get to the daycare to pick up children, or headed home with the medicine they are waiting to purchase to give to a sick loved one. That is presumption.

There are many, MANY more examples, but you get the point. Presumption is any time you project your thoughts onto another. Be considerate of others. You are not the only person on the planet. Just because it makes your life more convenient does not make it right. You do not know what others think.

Before presuming your will on others, ask. Most people are kind, and if possible, will prefer another over their own convenience. But ask.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Old Days

I'm not sure of the age when one becomes "old". I know some people that have been "old" their whole lives. I don't think of myself as "old" until I look in the mirror and realize I'm no longer a "young" man, but I still feel "young" and still think "young" in some ways.

Lately I've been pondering the "old days". Things like, when Christmas was hardly mentioned until after Thanksgiving. When watching sports on TV was actually entertaining. When interaction with friends was simple and heart-stirring.

The world has certainly gotten smaller. We now know everything about everything, or so it seems, but yet we know very little about the few crucial elements that make life worth living.

Maybe my thinking is not as "young" as I believe it is, because things like these are usually pondered by "old" people.

Friday, November 2, 2018


Did you know that "critic" did not originally mean something negative? Webster's says, "Critic: a person who judges the merits of literary, artistic, or musical works, especially one who does so professionally."

The reason it has come to be a negative is because no one wants to have their flaws exposed. We know they are there, but we hope no one else knows. Then, when someone points them out, we act as though we never knew anything about it.

Our attempts to hide our flaws indicates, at best, a lack of willingness to correct them, and at worst, pride.

What if instead of hiding our flaws, pretending no one can see them, we were able to be honest with one another to the point of asking for help in improving them? It would mean admitting we don't have it all together, but no one has it all together. Why not allow someone that has found a way to improve a certain thing to help you, and you can help them in areas in which you excel?

It's ok to be a "critic" in the original sense of the word, but try to keep things positive.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The "Why" Really Matters

My former pastor used to tell a story about tradition. When someone would cook a ham they would always cut off the butt-end of the ham before placing it in the pan. Curious, the husband asked, "Why do you cut off the butt-end of the ham?" Since she wasn't sure, the wife called her mother. "Mom, why do you cut off the butt-end of the ham before cooking it?" The mother responded, "Because it wouldn't fit in the pan!"

We do many things "just because". Some are family traditions we inherited without thought. Some are habits we develop in living life. Others we simply do out of ignorance. These are the most dangerous.

Recently I noticed several businesses emulating some of the practices of Chick-Fil-A. The Cathy's have built an amazing company using non-traditional business practices because the "why" of the company mandated it. A couple of things they do that are not common are these: when you thank a CFA employee they respond with, "My pleasure." The other is regarding the drive-thrus at the free-standing stores. They post real people at the "sign" where you order that process the order and payment on the spot. This ensures correctness and relieves this burden from those inside so they can focus on filling the orders quickly.

These two rather simple things set CFA apart from all the others. And, they also sell great chicken. Without some of the other intangibles many would never know about the chicken.

Two companies have begun an attempt to "borrow" some of CFAs practices, but it does not have the same affect.

Occasionally I stop at a Burger King because it is convenient. They have begun emulating CFA, but they have missed the point completely. When placing your order at the drive-thru "sign", the person inside taking the order responds with, "My pleasure." They are not responding to you, like CFA, for saying, "Thank you." It is just a rote phrase management has instructed them to use every time they take an order. It does not add to the experience. Actually, in my case, it detracts from it because I know it is disingenuous.

The other instance is the local car wash. A national (or at least regional) company has purchased all the car washes in the area. They post real people at the "sign" where you order and pay for the car wash (a totally automated process) to "help" you. Their real purpose is to try to sell you a membership. This is not a "help" to me, but instead for the ownership to earn more money.

Both of these examples reflect a lack of understanding of the "why" behind much of what successful organizations do. Before emulating the practice, seek first to understand the motivation. It makes all the difference.