Sunday, December 31, 2006

Today and Daily

Do you ever get that feeling that your prayers are becoming a little one-sided? Sometimes I feel that I never stop asking for things in my prayers. As I pondered this for a while, I decided to go back to one of our chief models for prayer to see what I could learn.

The Lord's Prayer is one of the most concise pieces of the theology. You can study it, and study it, and the nuggets just keep falling out. Specific to my current concern I focused on the single phrase:
Give us this day our daily bread.
So direct, and what a full sentence. We are to ask for our needs to be met, but we ask for them for today. Not for tomorrow, or all week, or the ambiguous future, but today.

Just like with a genie you can't ask for more wishes. No fair asking for enough bread for all time. You ask for what you need now, today. The bread should be daily, continually, consistently.

As I considered the impact of this on my own life, I realized that there are aspects of this that weren't immediately apparent. By asking for today, and only today, we give ourselves opportunity to come back again tomorrow. If we truly seek relationship then we desire to come back daily. But because we are human and flawed, it doesn't hurt to have the incentive, the reason if you will.

When we ask for our current needs to be met, we acknowledge our dependence now and continually. We build into our habits and lifestyle, a recurring reminder of the nature of our relationship.

It was also worth noting that we aren't asking for our daily riches, our daily extravagance, our daily luxury. We are only asking for our bread, our needs. The daily continual praying is for needs. There is a time and place to address our wants, I believe, but that's a completely different phrase in this prayer. ;-)

Are your prayer habits what you'd like them to be?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jump On Up

There is a part in each of our hearts that wants to help others and allows us to respond compassionately to people in need. Sometimes we must realize that at times it is ourselves that need that extra push, we are the ones that require assistance beyond our own abilities. We desire someone who understands our limitations and is able to take up our slack.
A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. "I am willing," He said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
--Mark 1:40-45
In the life of Jesus, we always see great compassion. It is widely understood that God's love extends to those who are considered "untouchable" or "unclean". Throughout scripture we can read of the people who came to Jesus, people who whose lives were in disarray and chaos, people faced with illness and disappointment. People wracked with grief, the diseased, the broken ones.

The truth is that we are all broken in some way. We deal with our addictions, our selfishness. We face stressful work situations and depression. We realize how we let down our friends and loved ones, and wallow in our inabilities.

Why do I so often lack the courage of the leper? I have an open pass. We can't we take our needs directly to the Lord? So quickly and easily I forget His outstretched hand over my life.

I think perhaps it is to easy for me to idealize some perfect standard of worthiness. To imagine that God only loves those who measure up to a certain standard. His grace must surely be reserved for those of certain righteousness and goodness. I become mired in my own feeling of uncleanliness and worthlessness. In my own mind I remove myself from my family, my friends, my God.

Somehow, He always finds a way to remind me that I come into His presence because of His love and His love alone. It is by His grace and not by my works.

Remember the confidence of the little child in the presence of his loving parents. It brings to mind when my children run to greet me. When I am sitting on the couch, they run and jump into my lap, and crawl all over me. My son doesn't ask if it is okay, he just does it, and I love it dearly. He has confidence that he can draw close to me, that I would welcome them, and they did not need to ask permission.

Jesus tells us that we should look on our relationship with God as children who know that they are loved by a loving parent. We don't need to ask permission first. We can just jump up on His lap (as it were) and we know that He'll always be happy to see us, He always longs to enjoy our company.

I guess it can be hard to remember. But even if some days I feel like a leper, even if I'm having a bad hair day, or battling my low self-esteem, even on those days (or maybe especially on those days!) I can come to my loving Father just as I am.

If only the doing were as easy as the doing.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Leave Yesterday Alone

Many times when I am working I get called in to settle disputes amongst the engineers on my team. There are often many ways to solve technical problems and getting people to agree on which is correct in a given circumstance can be a challenge. Sometimes I have to bring out a new way of looking at the problem to drive consensus. This can be very hard for some because they are so focused on the past. It can talk a lot of work to accept that the past is gone and move on.
"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."
-- Matthew 21:28-32
In this parable, the father asks the son to work and the son says no. Later the son changes his mind and goes. The key here is that we get that second chance to get things right.

Notice how the father asks the son to work "today ". The invitations we receive are daily. Each day we get up and are invited again to go work the vineyard. And even if we didn't go yesterday , even if we didn't go the day before or the year before that or ten years before that. We still get that invitation every day. Again and again. Without failing.

This is not just about being invited to church, but to the many decisions we make each day as we live our lives. Today is always a new day. A new chance to express our love, to encourage, to forgive, to share.

Even after we say no. Even after we've said no a hundred times, we can still say yes. In Christ we maintain that freedom. We can receive that invitation, we can answer that call.

While understanding these concepts in a spiritual sense is an imperative, internalizing them as part of our walk is also truly foundational. For myself, the necessity to be adaptive and flexible is exercised constantly. And just as constantly I am found wanting. I find it easier to be forward-thinking about my work then about my faith. It is easier for me to make intuitive leaps in engineering than my spirituality. Perhaps because I spend so much more time working than praying? My thoughts are more often on the issues of my job, than the issues of my faith.

The good news, is that I get invited fresh every day. Every morning I have a new opportunity to say Yes. To commit and embrace. Every day is a new walk.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

His Will, My Walk

Resolving paradox and addressing conflict remains two of the most difficult skills to master.  I continue to see evidence that issues with these areas trip us up more than any other.

An example of resolving paradox is how we respond to the workings of our faith and the conviction of our beliefs on our lives.  All around we see injustice and arrogance, self-centered expressions of free will and rebellion.  To walk with faith we must daily reconcile this with a conviction of faith.  How do we go forth boldly then when so little around us seems fair, just, or honorable?  How do we keep from overlooking our failures in the light of irresistable grace?
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"
- Romans 9:19,20
There are appropriate ways to submit our lives to His will, and proper ways to express our questioning and to voice our lack of faith to our Savior, even as we walk.

Consider in Luke 1 when Gabriel comes to the Mary and says, "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus."  Talk about addressing conflict and resolving paradox!  Rightly taken back and bewildered, Mary could have been dismissive or disbelieving.  Instead she asked clearly, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?". The important thing is notice that she didn't say or even imply that it couldn't happen. She wanted simply to know the "How?"

Compare this with another visit from the might Gabriel upon Zechariah who was to be the father of John the Baptist. When Gabriel says, "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John", Zechariah responded with skepticism and a challenge "How shall I know this?" How will you prove it to me is a much different answer which Gabriel did not like. The angel responds , "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time".

From this we must conclude that humble questioning and a teachable attitude will be well received. Wanting to understand about the how and the why God does what He does is acceptable. After all, the same angel responded to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you". Just because it wasn't the answer you expected, doesn't mean it won't be the answer you need.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I Would Be

One of my favorite actors is James Woods.  Seriously.  He has an ability to breathe life into his roles as  if to squeeze tar from a turnip.  He definite is one actor who holds twenty pounds of talent in a ten pound sack.

My minor fascination with him today is the roles he continues to choose. The man James woods portrays is the man I aim to be.  Now I am not so naive as to elude that James Woods is the man he portrays. I am aware, he is an actor.  But his unerring choice of roles that so vividly gives voice to the person I aspire to be, must have an anchor and foothold on his true nature. As is well known, the more you become a behavior, the more that behavior becomes you.  I do not desire to be the man James Woods is, but the man James Woods portrays.

From the first time I was privileged to witness him in Diggstown, to the panache he demonstrated as the villain of The Specialist.  Most recently, his role in the new television show the Shark as a man evolving on the redemption road brings to mind my own meanderings.

In his characters I find myself drawn to a few key constructs.  He is unflinching and resolute regardless of circumstance.  He is adaptive and volatile but with rationale and intent intact and obvious in each endeavor.  Decisive and direct, but not malicious. He pursues with prejudice even the hard choices and continues amidst conflict with comportment. His words speak of the world as it really is, his actions speak of the world as he would have it be.

Resolving the paradoxes and conflicts we each face every day is a challenge for any man, whether  his words are scripted or not.  If in my own walk I were to respond as James Woods would, then I would be the man I would be.

Monday, October 23, 2006

On Posting and Pictures

I've been working on a ton of new posts, but have been too busy to keep the words flowing as they should.  Not to leave you wanting, here is a little something from one of my foremost inspirations.
Here's some simple advice: Always be yourself. Never take yourself too seriously. And beware of advice from experts, pigs, and members of Parliament.
-- Kermit the Frog

You can find the latest picture sets here or here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hear That Voice Again

One of my favorite Bible characters is John the Baptist.  He broke molds, and shattered perceptions in pursuit of God's voice.  This is easy to understand if we think of him as only a successful speaker.  When you are someone that everyone listens to, or are powerful, you are allowed to be eccentric.  As we study though (for example Luke 3), we find that he was not always so effective in getting his message across. He is a voice crying in the wilderness. He speaks but people don't listen. He offers an inspiring hope, the promise of better things.  To little avail.  I know it is often that I miss the God's voice when it should be clear.

My study has led me to understand that there are several ways we are made ready to hear His voice.  Let me suggest a couple that have been readily apparent to me.  Firstly, He disrupts our ordinary. Second, He provides opportunities for us to give of ourselves for others.  Lastly, He strengthens and emboldens us in our trials.

Let me give you an example of how my ordinary was disrupted recently. A friend of mine that I hadn't heard from in quite some time called me out of the blue.  The call wasn't particularly significant, but this friend I hadn't seen from prompted me to recall obligations and touchpoints I had been neglecting.  The call was the catalyst that woke me from my everday routine of reverie and allowed me eyes to be opened to my larger world again.
"It is true that the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes strong as the tempest and loud as the thunder; but before reaching the heart it is as weak as a light breath which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise, and is silent amid agitation."
- Saint Ignatius of Loyola
When we are aware of the world around us, God gets our attention focused by inviting us to give of ourselves for others. Take for example John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. Historians estimate that during the 52 years of his ministry, Wesley preached approximately 54,450 sermons. On an average day he preached two times, and very often he would preach four or five times in one day. Pursuing his Father's will was like that single acorn that sprouts to become a mighty oak tree from which grow 54,450 acorns.  What sermons are you supposed to be delivering today?

In our lives, we are each meant to replicate and produce, to give back to God generously and overtly for the abundant gift that God has given us.  We are each to be like acorns that become oaks that sprouts thousands of other nuts! In giving to others we imitate the bountifulness of our God.

By giving to others, we are able counteract disillusionment, depression, and despair.  It is when we are each fulfilling our call that we most easily and gracefully encourage and embolden one another.  Seize those opportunities to help others and you will find others seizing opportunities to brighten your life.
"He who loves the coming of the Lord is not she who affirms it is far off, nor he who says it is near. It is the one who, whether it be far or near, awaits it with sincere faith, steadfast hope, and fervent love."
- Saint Augustine

Monday, September 11, 2006

Critical Crucial Worship

Yesterday I was out with a friend and as usual he started winding me up with a bunch of analytical questions.  Don't get me wrong, I love the kid and it's great to be challenged, but as usual I came away with a dozen things I wanted to write about.  One of them was a continuation of an earlier conversation about the state of affairs in the church today.  While he's devoted, tied, and bound to one church, I tend to bounce around because of my constant travel schedule.  The offshoot of not having a steady, every-Sunday worship place, is that the things I am looking for in a church are different than his particular list of church priorities.  Not that either is correct, we were just analyzing the differences.

One major difference concerns the worship service.  He's old school and I'm modern worship.  He delights and finds comfort in the ritual and formality.  I find it confining and too easily insincere.  I take more from the worship and environment often, then I do the message.  Well, right away anyway.  It can take a little time for the message to sink in, but the worship can move me immediately.  Expanding this into the rest of my life, I find I take a lot of my strength from good Worship music.

As an example when I workout or run I've found that the best music to listen to is Worship music.  It's no secret that I'm a huge PlanetShakers fan, and I am constantly on the lookout for more Worship music that moves me.

How is it that two people can attend a service, and find two totally different paths to the same God?  For me, this only reenforces my belief in the personal and not corporate nature of my relationship with my Savior.   For my friend, his anecdotal evidence suggests that the contemporary worship is the more shallow of two types of services.  We are at both ends of the spectrum staring at the opposing pole and wondering how they do it?  I guess it's true what they say:
You can't clap with one hand
Nowhere is that any more true then when we consider the myriad of choices in worship style we find in churches across the nation.  There must be one for every kind of person so that way we all get feed.  I'll leave you with a quote from one my favorite worship artists of all time.
I pray that more than ever God will lead each of us into a place of true worship, that we will encounter His presence and power and that His desire will be accomplished in us.
-- Twila Paris

Monday, August 21, 2006

In Your Boat

The last day or so I've been feeling really beaten down and discouraged.  One of my friends actually said my writing was depressing.  That is not what I'm about, so I was sought out ways to adjust my thinking.

I can across this great story in Luke 5 about about Peter and disciples when they were out fishing.  They had worked a long, hard night to no avail and were exhausted and ready to head in.  Jesus asked them to throw their nets out one more time. When they did they pulled in so many fish they almost sank their boat!  In a flash there efforts paid off and they had more rewards than they were ready to receive.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to have that kind of success.  I struggle to remember that I am truly blessed.  Whining about my petty problems, stressing over stupid stuff.  Keeping my eye on the prize reminds me that there is so much worse than how I have it.  Of course, my self-centeredness doesn't stop me from wanting the kind of abundant reward that Peter was given.  A huge heaping helping of success to feel encouraged about.  As I read about this, there were some specific take-aways I noticed in how Peter set himself up to be blessed in such abundance.

First, he asked Jesus onto his boat.  We know that Jesus waits for our invitation, He stands at the door of our life and knocks.  He wants to be with us in our boat, but we have to ask Him to join us.

Secondly, expect the miracle while in the boat.  Christ works within our situations, within our trials.  He doesn't just remove us from them.  While we are still in the boat, He works His will to bless us.  This isn't particularly doing the impossible, but about a change that is most needed.  Usually a big part of that change is within our lives.

Lastly you have to be honest with Him, and follow His guidance.  Being honest is essential to receiving grace.  Without honesty there can be no growth.  Without growth we miss the biggest part of those changes that will become our miracle.  Jesus tells Peter to cast his nets in deep water; so too do we need to dig deep within us to find our confession and confront our need for change.  When we know what needs be done, we must pursue it steadfastly, unerringly, and boldly.

When we tire of the race, when we feel beat down from the change, then we do it all again. Invite him into the boat, expect the miracle in the boat, be honest and follow His guidance.  His sufficiency will supply.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Choice of Time

This morning I woke up with a choice.  Actually, I went to sleep with a choice hanging over my head. This evening there is a worship concert that I've been wanting to attend.  A worship group that I've been hoping to see for a couple of years (yes, years!) is finally touring the US and I have an opportunity to go worship with them.  Okay, I know it sounds like another concert.  That's part of where choice comes in.

Firstly, I'm busy with work. Aren't we always? My head flip flops between the importance of a few more minutes I might be able to accomplish something with the joy of recreating.  This is all tied in with my concern that if I leave work early, what will people think? Am I setting a bad example?  Will my client think I'm not "putting in the time"?  It's only a few minutes, and it's not like I don't work a ton anyway.  Surely they can understand, right?

On the other hand, this is more than a concert to me.  It is an opportunity to worship.  Something I treat as precious and valuable. Should the perceptions from work, or any of that even matter?  If my faith means as much to me, shouldn't I sacrifice anything to keep it healthy?  Obviously, that is subjective argument.  No more so than the arguments for work/life balance, getting enough sleep, or eating your vegetables.

Anyone who knows me would agree that I have a pretty solid work ethic.  This is solely thanks to my remarkable parents.  At first blush, this seems to be coupled in my angst about maintaining my work ethic.  Juliet Schor writes about this topic in Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure.  Since its release there have been numerous other studies that speak on this same topic, but one thing is sure.  We are working harder and longer.  My own life is no exception.

What was needed to shake me up this morning was to take a point from Mary and just be quiet and listen.  My spiritual health, my mental health, these are non-negotiable.  What sacrifices those, must be sacrificed.

I guess I know my choice.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hillsong United

One of my most favorite worship groups, Hillsong United, is on tour in the US!

This is great news for anyone who wants to experience what it is like to worship to high-energy, faith-filled music alongside fellow believers.

Find more about the concert schedule here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Overturning the Tables

When it comes to holding a position of leadership, truth and integrity are the most important pillars that uphold your claim. Those who speak with truth and integrity will always be influential because they can be trusted and are found to be reliable.
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.
- Matthew 22:15-16
As I find myself walking amongst men of no particular faith, followers with no clarity of vision, the weight of responsbility to be a leader becomes very real. At first this brings to mind the oft-touted claim to be In, Not Of.
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
- John 17:14-18
I take this seriously and hold it be very tangible but I find that it only addresses one facet of how we are to seperate ourselves from the world. Reading these words we see clearly the importance of truth in this seperation. But simply being someone who speaks the truth when asked is not enough. Even the demons acknowledge God and tremble. We must go beyond what we speak in reaction and address how we speak proactively. Which takes me to the crux of a call to leadership and why I think every person of faith has such a calling.
In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
- John 2:14-15
When faced with depravity, oppression, and disrespect Jesus didn't ignore it. He didn't politely lobby for change. He didn't stay calm and proper. He fashioned a whip and drove the offenders away. He overturned their tables. He did it personally, immediately, and deliberately. He took ownership and corrected the wrongs, reproving the offender. This is leadership. Speaking the truth personally, immediately, and deliberately. Sometimes it requires a whip; it usually makes a mess.

As we bring these points to their logical conclusion we find that the path to sanctification lies through the deliberate, immediate and personal application of truth. His word is truth, and it must be applied. The application of truth is what makes us leaders. As we apply truth we exercise our leadership and we become sanctified. We are called to be sanctified, therefore we must become leaders.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Mental 409

Lately, I've been struggling with vision.  Since turning a vision into a reality is a big part of my job, this was creating quite problem for me.

Then I read this...
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in You.
-Isaiah 26:3
...and no more problem.

I was just feeling the pressure of too many people trying desperately to derail the vision into chaos.  Perspective can truly make all the difference.  Faith helps too.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Dixie Chicks? Seriously?

As is often the case when I have a little downtime, my mind wanders and rambles in fits and starts.  Eventually I fall asleep and if I'm lucky wake up having forgotten the self-inflicted stress survived the night before.  Today was not like that.

In those times, I start to read.  My quiet time is first in the morning and nothing can calm like scripture. Many times the case is that my thoughts aren't immediately quieted, but given some perspective.  Often times it takes a while of walking in the day before something finally strikes home.  Today was a little like that.

Sexless in the city was writing about...well a bunch of things, really.  But in her post Taking the road that's given I found some words remarkably relevant words...
For years these women were the ones I envied, but I’m finally seeing that just because their path is different from mine, it’s not necessarily smoother or better. It’s just different.
Of course, I had to invert the gender, but it sure smacked me senseless how important that little distinct can be.  I'm no stranger to politic, so the phrase "It's just different." is one I've heard and used myself a thousand times.  In this case, I needed only to hear it thrust back on my own thoughts to have the scales drop from my eyes and realize this little attitudinal adjustment was perfectly precise in only the way God can be.

My mental gymnastics had little to do with point this exquisitely eloquent writer was undertaking.  But in His way, it was just what I needed.  I guess sometimes the words of a strangely sexy and sometimes saucy scribe are supremely suitable for screwing my head back on straight.

Thanks Anna.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Obedience Produced

Recently, I bantered with a colleague about compromise.  That particular conversation was about business but it stuck with me long after.  In the context of faith specifically, I don't understand compromise.  For quite some time now I have been what I call a Practical Absolutist.  I believe in Right and Wrong, Good and Evil.  That's the absolute part.  But I reserve the right to switch them as necessary to keep my world view consistent and myself sane.  That's the practical part.  For example, murder is wrong, capital punishment is not.  Eat healthy, except on vacation. Don't burden other people, but lean on friends.  In my own warped way, this is how I resolve paradox.  In the case of faith, I struggle with how I see the majority settle their discord over salvation.

So often we create ways to talk about our faith without obedience, our walk without perfection, our life with compromise.  We seperate our faith and works to such extent so we can expose our faith while downplaying our failure to produce works.  When pushed even in small ways we lean on grace and forgiveness, claiming freedom through our salvation.  Don't get me wrong, my freedom does come from grace.  My salvation is by grace alone! But that is only first part of the truth.

Let me digress a little on why I split this hair so finely.  The gospel of forgiveness is “ bring about the obedience of faith...", Romans 1:5. This epistle has forgiveness as a major theme but the conclusion I feel is often overlooked; “ bring about the obedience of faith...” Romans 16:26.

Faith is not merely an assent, a decision, a recognition. Faith, by its very nature is solely defined by obedience.  Faith can't be something simply talked about (Psalm 50:7-13).  And it should not be merely referred to as a means to classify oneself.

The two major modern evangelical interpretations, dispensationalism and covenant theology both teach that good works accompany genuine faith. In dispensationalism the emphasis is usually upon the work and influence of the Holy Spirit. In covenant theology the emphasis is usually upon the relationship nature of works as a consequence of faith. To my mind, they are both indirectly supportive of this decline from spiritual excellence.

Paul writes twice to the Thessalonians about the “the work of faith” (I Thessalonians 1:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1: 11). Is this not the same as “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1 and 16)?

To my eyes, true faith is not merely accompanied by good works, as if they may or may not be present. True faith is itself the source which produces obedience. If we have true saving faith, it causes us to lead a life of faithfulness. Our life of faithfulness produces obedience because of the essence and nature of what faith is.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Devil in the Details

Don't you hate it when you go to read someone's blog and it starts with how Busy they are? You ask your friend how it's going and of course, they say Busy. It seems everytime someone inquires about me my reply just naturally starts with Busy.

One of my big efforts lately has been training some colleagues. Helping a few diamonds-in-the-rough be a little less rough and a little more diamond. The net result is a better team, a better company, and individuals who are just simply better at their work.

While the effort required to produce something elegant is far greater than that required to produce something only middling, the side-effects are orders of magnitude different. Ask anyone who appreciates any form of art. Constructing the commonplace is easy, uncovering the exceptional requires vastly different aptitude.

Demanding excellence and discipline from undisciplined and mediocre talent necessitates meticulous attention to detail and a willingness to worry over seeming minutia. Which of course, most people find petty and inconsequential. We generally regard people who do agonize over the little things to be over-controlling, fanatical, or dare I say anal-retentive? I see their eyes gloss over in the conversation as they slowly start to write off the relevance of the miniscule point you were trying to make that appeared to them totally tangential to the task they undertook.

When I stop and think about how self-centered it sounds to champion excellence so resolutely, I can't help but wonder where that motivation comes from. I'm sure there are more than a few people who have wondered what makes a freak like me tick. As it usually turns about to be about most of the motivations I manage to maintain with my limited mental capacity, the fulcrum is my faith.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
--2 Corinthians 4:7-9, NIV
It's not possible for me to read this without hearing the words of my inner monologue assuming the voice of a southern preacher pounding each phrase out like a thundering bellow. And I must admit an "Amen" usually squeaks out its way out there at the end.

Faith is why I pursue excellence. Excellence is why I pursue discipline.

They say the devil is in the details and I appreciate the point being made. But in my journey, that's where I witness people most find their Savior and Salvation. If you aren't being persecuted you aren't trying hard enough.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Relentlessly Relevant

Late last night I had an opportunity to with one of my mentors.  Some struggles with schedules, work, and focus had been cluttering my mind lately and I relished the objective conversation.

During our time, I was repeatedly pointed back to Scripture, 1 Timothy specifically.  As I let hot water consume me this morning, the song Guard The Trust by Steve Camp came up on my IPod.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
-- 1 Timothy 1:12-14

Sometimes, you need is the truth you know.  I have referenced Timothy for other people so frequently that perhaps it just became rote.  Does that ever happen to you?  You find yourself singing the words because you know them, not because you mean them?  You say the prayer because of the habit not the heart?

In this case, stepping back to re-read the book instead of skipping to the pointed passages removed the scales from my eyes.  This little shot of encouragement was all that was needed to reset my foundation and give me the clarity to address reality.  Sort of like when I skip work-outs over a weekend and I feel tired on Monday.  My first thought is I need to catch up on sleep.  If I do that, invariably I find myself off to a slow start the next morning.  But if I jump into a , the endorphins kick in and I perk right up and move strongly into the week.

Once again my bumbling has proven that if you are truly seeking, the truth will find you no matter how lost you've become.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Maybe there is a difference in how Christian men and woman approach the dating scene.  Or maybe there is just a difference in how GOOD people approach the dating scene.  Theviewfromher expanded on a post at all kinds of time that frankly I could have let alone. Evidently she got to me because I couldn't help myself but post again today. Hehe.

I'm not sure about the rest of you guys, but when I'm on a weekend mission trip or doing service projects for the community, the last thing I want to be distracted with is some lady flirting me up. ;-)  I'm there for the service,  not to meet people.  If you are working beside me at a function, I'd like to believe that's why you are there too.  If I felt you weren't, I'd probably think you were a little sketchy.

Okay, so that probably wouldn't happen regardless.  Let's be honest, I haven't been flirted up in like...well weeks, at least.  But the point still stands.  The sum total of our advice for becoming active and social cannot be service projects and weekend missions, can it?  Oh, and batting cages.  Can't forget that totally stereotypical proposal now can we.

Why is it that our choices are either Church Stuff, or Gross Bar Stuff? I meet ladies all the time at Church Stuff, but invariably they can't keep up or even hold a conversation.  And I meet ladies all the time at non-Church Stuff and I almost always enjoy the conversations more with them.  I join my friends in Gross Bar Stuff on occassion and while I do meet people they are invariably not what I am looking for and this is expected.  So as you can imagine, if I were truly looking for a companion and not just being social I would find myself in that middle category that was sorely neglected in both of these posts.

Sure coffee shops are one way to go, but I find it very limiting.  Concerts, art shows, frisbee on the beach, house parties, fundraisers, bookstores, amusement parks, minature golf, bowling alleys, food courts, these are all places I've meet people.  Some are activity based, I'll concede, but some are very passive also.  I think the key is that these places give you something more than location to start the conversation with.  Consider something simple like the difference between watching how someone eats in a foodcourt and watching them drink coffee while reading.  Listening to a lecture or standing in line to ride the ferris wheel is bound to stimulate much more of a conversation than a poppyseed muffin and some Chai tea.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Did You Expect?

Recently there was a Washington Post article about The Problem with Men.  It was blogged about in several good posts including by Coloring Outside the Lines and theviewfromher.  It's not worth noting that each of these authors was female.

The core article, while giving a nod to a balanced view is fundamentally alarmist in its slant towards key symptoms with little or no perspective on underlying cause. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for alarmist if it gets people discussing root causes. ;-)

Each of the various posts made me consider the core issue from different perspectives which I assume was the point.  As I considered a variety of responses, I decided to just knock them down in the order they came to me.  So while I'll repost on this subject again with other angles, this one covers only my initial reaction.

Reading the article my first response was "What did you expect?"  In today's workplace we are required to give women special treatment but equal pay.  The legal system gives preference to mothers over fathers at almost every turn. Our child support system is woefully corrupt. Casual sexuality leaves men completely disadvantaged in the dating scene. The education system is in majority geared towards a liberal arts education whereas the workforce continues to give preference to the aggressive and technically adept. The number of support and specialty resources for women vastly outstrip the parallels for men. And so on...whine, whine, whine.

Don't get me wrong, many of the protections afford women and mothers are necessary, crucial even. But if a woman can expect equal investment from a company while reserving rights not available to a man for example maternity leave, that's clearly shifting the balance of power.  When a woman can choose to leave a relationship for no cause and still enforce primary financial dependence on the man, clearly the balance of power has shifted.  When the scholarship basis is weighted almost 4 to 1 in favor of female applicants and the cost of education is stratospheric clearly fewer men or going to consider higher education.  Because I'm a coward I don't even want to get into the other more inflammatory examples.

Rest assured I am not so naive or ignorant as to be unaware that there are many examples of how power has been and continues to be abused by men.  I concede that men can really stink.  My point is that anyone can really stink, gender-neutrally.  As we continue to emphasize legalities that are gender-specific we only make this whole problem worse.

I'm all for gender-equality (or race equality or preference equality or height-equality or pc/mac-equality or...) but it has to actually be about equal, not just a form of special treatment.  Let me give one clear, simple example.  It doesn't make every point and surely has multiple impact points.  But it specifically showcases my point about equal pay and special treatment.

As a business owner I currently have to invest equally in women and men in my workforce.  However I must bear an increased cost in the health-care of women that I don't have with men.  As the business owner I am required to fund the cost of preserving a womans job during a maternity leave, regardless of the business disruption. In this simple situation I have employees that cost me considerable more but I am expected to pay them equally.  Of their own accord, they can choose with their health and family planning decisions to increase my costs and the associated business disruptions by more than 100%. Clearly, these employees are not being treated equally because of the special protections afforded one group by our legal system.  Keep in mind this isn't a bogus example, these are actual facts from current reality.  Because these costs are real, and the business must plan to cover them, the average pay available for anyone in that position is pulled down.  This impacts men because now they are faced with taking a lower wage job with no additional benefit to them.  Women however are afforded the equivalent pay but with added benefits. This isn't just one level of inequality it is actually a double impact. A negative impact for a man and a positive incentive for a woman.

When faced with a myriad of special treatments and challenges such as this, it is becomes possible to understand how this environment is demoralizing at a minimum, and ultimately debilitating. With women getting special treatment in the workplace, the legal system, and the education system, did we really expect men to continue being competitive?  If we increase their challenges to success (in the workplace, the social scene, and in education) and hobble them seemingly at random when they attempt to integrate (the child support system, the divorce courts, and the disparity with benefits and support resources). We can't expect them to do as well as women at keeping up, even if we assume they aren't completely beaten-down and demoralized to begin with.

Add to all of this the idea that women are, generally, more capable then men, is it really such news to discover that men aren't being as "successful" as women?  I use the terms "successful" in quotes because it was used in many of the posts and is another aspect I intend to discuss in future follow-ups.

Okay, so I covered my first response and gave away more of my controversial opinions than ever before.  Well, what's a blog for anyway? Flame away.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Revolution vs. Kingdom

On the encouragement of a friend, by way of a gift, I recently read Revolution by George Barna.  Unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed.  His basic point I find useful and thought-provoking.  And you get it in the first 5 sentences.  The rest of the book is mostly hot-air masquerading as an attempt to justify his initial conclusion.  However, it is devoid of factual information or any real supporting data at all.  Which would be fine if he wasn't trying to present his conclusion as based quantifiable changes instead of his potentially experienced perspective.

I have no issue with an experience or uniquely positioned individual postulating in a public forum.  And if this person has a reason via experience, intuition, or just an artistic-like ability to draw an actionable reality from the abstract, then I'm willing to listen.  But your position should be clear.

Following on that, I've been re-reading The Kingdom of Christ by Russell Moore.  While verbose and a little thickly worded it's a much better foundation on the perspective of change in the evangelical church.  I would love to see someone take Barna's concepts and ideas and address as thoroughly as Moore has done.

Personally, I agree with Barna's core idea and find myself a participant to some degree in this Revolution.  However, I disagree with his generalities and find myself drawn much closer to the theology resident in Moore's writing as convoluted as it can be.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Church Waltz

This weekend I got the opportunity to visit a new church with a friend of mine in Phoenix.  We shared teen years in the Reformed church together and our theological discussions have always been a solid help to me.  He's well-read, a sound thinker, and aggressive in his search for truth and meaning in his spirituality.

This particular church, being Lutheran, is pretty traditional but they have been working to make the service more contemporary.  Overall, I was extremely impressed with their friendliness and warmth.  The message was very thought-provoking if a bit verbose.  (I'm critical and opinionated, deal with it.)  The humorous part of the morning for me was about halfway through worship when I realized that I was the singing louder than...pretty much everybody.  I truly loves me some worship and don't pay much attention to the people around me once I start clearing my mind.  I'm sure those poor traditionalists thought I was a little weird for just closing my eyes and letting the song emerge.  Oh well, so much for first impressions.

So my question to you is simple...what's the proper response in a situation like that?  When you are in an environment specifically to worship, how much should you modify your behavior to fit in?  I'm not talking about being disruptive or disrespectful.  My general rule is that when you are in a place where they don't raise their hands, you probably should keep your hands in your pockets.  When in the presence of believers who always sit and stand only when directed, you probably shouldn't waltz the aisles.  But if a church is singing quietly, should you put a sock in it?  If no one says a word all service, is it wrong to say "Amen" at the end of a prayer?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sometimes All-Pervasive

I've been a little busy to keep my posts flowing, but The View From Her has been doing an excellent job stimulating dialogue lately.  As I was visiting family this weekend I kept getting the probing questions and suggestions about relationships and women in general.  In all honestly, I'm just not at a place where that is a priority for me right now.  I'm in a very self-centered place with work and other things going on.  Being aware of this, I've been deliberately not thinking about the whole relationships and dating thing.  Having it pushed back in my face repeatedly, regardless of how good-intentioned, was more of a nuisance than I was ready to accept.

As I caught up on my blog reading, I noticed the theme of physicality and sex pervading the posts.  That's cool, I kind of expect it from a writer with as much focus on male/female relationships as Her.  But I can't help but wonder if pushing us to consider our views and perspectives on physicality and sex on a continuous basis is healthy.  Don't get me wrong, I find the posts and discussion on these subjects as interesting as the next guy.  But for someone trying to keep God at the center of my thoughts, and not be continually impacted by sexual desires, it frustrated me a little.

Can't the non-sexual aspects of interpersonal dynamics be as intriguing and frought with pitfalls?  Or is sex really 99% of the issue with the relationships even in the Christian community?  (That last was rhetorical, I'm not that naive.)

I guess the seed of my post came from asking the question to myself...  "She seems so savy and in the know, where's the depth I've so greatly appreciated in keeping my Walk matching my Talk?"  Rough I know, but that's just how I roll.

Perhaps I need to remember that even the ones who seem to have it so together still face the same struggles.  Or maybe, the reason they seem to have it so together is because they actually face the same struggles head-on. Could it be that addressing this area that is most troublesome in such a persistent fashion is the key to practical success for this area?  Maybe she's on to something with this...

Point taken, here's some slack.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Cycle of Salvation

We've all heard (or been a part of) the story about the believer with and unsaved friend. The believer prays for the friend every day, year in and year out, for many years. Finally, just when the believer is ready to give up, the friend has an experience and comes into the fold. Now hearing a soul saved makes my joy resound like it would for any Believer. My take-away from`the story, however, I find to be greatly differing from many. At least my hubris tells me this.

You see, for myself, the story is not a particularly great testament to perserverance or commitment or the power of prayer or any of the traditional bells rung from this tale. For me, it serves a clear counter-point to the not-by-works infestation of laziness and relativism that pervades modern Christianity.

It seems so often to me that the Church compromises the hard back-bone right out of our faith. If you aren't impacting the world around you, it could be that you aren't working at it. If you are constantly besieged by the trials of adultery, greed, or some such, then simply saying "Oops! Good thing I'm saved!" isn't an acceptable answer. Sure, the occasional mistep, the infrequent lapse in character is to be expected. Our failures are part and parcel of our humanity. They don't diminish the person we are or our Salvation in the least.  It is when we fail to keep striving, fail to remember that following Christ IS work, that is when we are defeated. Then our fruit will cease to bear, our actions become meaningless, and our hearts will harden.

Because we are saved, doesn't mean we stop reaching. The sweeping grace that gives us immeasurable freedom in no way removes from us the responsibility to perservere, to struggle, to attempt.

Salvation demands Faith.
Faith inspires the Walk.
The Walk requires Work.
Work succeeds by Faith.
Faith allows Salvation.

It's not quite the circle of life, but it's my immature way of expressing how these things are connected.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Undivided Heart

So I'm growing. I can deal with that.

During this process of self-examination I continue to be faced with the stark reality of my isolation. Walking by faith becomes a straight-forward exercise when you surround yourself with God-fearing counselors who will unabashedly bounce your commentary and actions back to you as needed. Working on the road, amidst the decidely unreligious, makes me strain against my relativistic leash.

One of the key things that I find help my walk align my talk is striving for an undivided heart. Perhaps I'm just helped by the visualization, but knowing my heart and my motivations is how I keep my clarity and sanity in the world gone mad. It is common today to rationalize ways to accommodate our faith to the culture we imbibe. This is contrary to our identification in scripture as "a peculiar people." As disciples we have been sent out “like lambs among the wolves.” I'm not sure about you, but that would sure be easier for me if wool didn't make me itch.

Living with an undivided heart and an open mind is hard but I've found two aids to keep the walk and the talk in sync. Be deliberate and be articulate.

Knowing your heart and motivations is crucial to keeping on the straight and narrow. It is a necessity if you want your mind to be open to the world around you. The early Christans had this same problem when their monastic and ascetic faith was suddenly overtaken by rich, successful Roman Christians. The Roman Christians really wanted to find a way to live their faith, without giving up their influence in the world that was enacted through money and relationships. The new Roman Christians wanted to party and be faithful and the figured if their heart was in the right place, why wouldn't that be okay? It's the same rationalization I've heard over and over. I for certain have used it myself.

For much of life I have no problem with this, especially when it comes to interpersonal issues. You have to have an open mind about style, taste, and comfort level. If you link your own ideals of behavior, dress, adornment, worship-style, or whatever to maturity and depth of faith then you remove your ability to be impactful on those around you. Simply put, you stop being in the world. There is no excuse for elitism or formality in faith and God-following. I'll save the extremes of this (tolerance, relativism) for another post.

The earlier Christians had a problem with this blind rationalization which Paul argued for them. The crux of the argument is that the rationalizations can't be done in a vacuum. You still have to be able to interact and communicate those things you are being deliberate about with those around. For example, Paul urged them to consider if another weaker Christian might be led astray by this action. He wrote, “by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.” I'm personally not too keen on destruction so this would be a side-effect of my walk I'd rather avoid.

Being articulate isn't just about being able to tell others your story, your intentions, or about your faith and reasoning. It goes beyond your actual communication and speaks to the transparency of your life. You shouldn't have to actually defend your beliefs and movitations, they should be crystalline and obvious even to the casual observer. Don't shoot me, I know that's incredibly hard, and it continues to be my challenge daily. Thankfully Christ understood this intimately and gave us Scripture and Spirit.

In my own world-view, it is being deliberate which keeps me impacting my world (living in it), but it is being articulate which keeps me seperate from the world (not of it).  Maybe as you stew on this, you'll find your own ways to express how you straddle this particular razor.

In truth, I could write and write about the undivided heart and about being deliberate and articulate ad nauseum. This particular post is just to start giving the concepts some structure and start some thinking. Future posts will address and expound on these topics. I'd appreciate any feedback to guide this study.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Really struggling.  I'm a very easy-going person and the interpersonal stuff usually comes easy for me.  Unfortunately, I've been choosing to grow.  Which always means self-inflicted pain of the highest order accepted by a smile wherein your teeth are clenched.
Can I relate to you the way you relate to me?
Can you help me out with my chemistry?
I don't want to be precieved the way I am.
I just want to be percieved the way I am.

- Chapstick, Chaped Lips And Things Like Chemistry
It's remarkable to me how easily we as humans deal with near-constant paradox and dichotomy throughout every facet of life.  We encourage people to deal with us in ways that are counter-productive and conflict-driven.  Then we stress over the fact that we are misunderstood or ineffectual in our relationships.

Sometimes I think the point of a friendship is to have those people in your life who will see past the image you actually present to the world and instead drink up the image you'd like to present to the world.  All the while, encouraging you that the person you actually are is valid, coherent, and suitable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Activity, Weariness, and You

Another day begins and with it the frantic pace of daily life swings into full gear. We each prepare to engage in the activities that seem to rule our lives -- commuting, caring for children, working, going to meetings, shopping, paying bills, running errand, planning parties, working out, phoning family members, cooking, cleaning, and so forth…. Instinctively we feel and readily admit that we are over-committed. And yet somehow when we look at the roles we play and the tasks of each role, the very idea of reducing our responsibilities seems unlikely bordering on impossible.
As long as there were no roads, you had to interrupt a journey at nightfall. Then you had all the leisure in the world to recite psalms at the inn, to open a book, and to have a good talk with one another. But nowadays you can ride on these roads day and night and there is no peace any more.
-- Tales of the Hasidim
This constant exertion towards activity opens us further to the madness of consumerism and materialistic living.  An infinite cycle of weariness leading to openness to the promises of merchants and peddlers. Their subtle web persuades us that buying just one more thing, one more item, will relieve the pressure of our responsibilities that feel so burdensome and take so much of our time. All the modern conveniences, and at the end of the day, we still feel the assault. Our body is exhausted and our souls are empty. We lack the sense of significance and fulfillment that we thought we were supposed to have in life. We have misunderstood the role of activity in life.

Which Way Is Up Again?
Our model of activity and business is hardly new. Often, this ascribed solely to the compromises of living in the modern world. Sure we take phone calls about work in the middle of dinner, but that's just the trade-off for the convenience of a cell phone, right? We get bombarded with offers for Viagra, mortgages, and from helpful Nigerian millionaires, but that is balanced out by the convenience of email.  While we naturally assume that this is a modern issue, Jesus addressed this same concern centuries ago.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
--Luke 10-38-42
What a profound answer! Jesus was not proposing that we all sit around and do nothing. He was pointing out that we shouldn't allow business and activity to steal away the best part of life.

Sometimes just getting things done is a necessary part of life, but it is only a single aspect of the experience that is life. We need activities and we need accomplishment, but not at the expense of our relationships. The story about Mary and Martha should remind us that being over-committed is not about time, it is about our faith, about our growth, about our relationships.

A Story
A man was walking down the street and saw a lady weaving. She was so focused on the weaving that she didn't even look up as he drew near. The man said a cheerful hello and asked what she was making. The lady simply muttered that she did not have time to talk. But the man was insistent and again asked her what she was making. The lady refused to even look up, she just kept right on weaving and mumbled something about interruptions. The man tried again and still could not inspire a reaction. Finally, the man said simply, "Everything that you are worried about is in God's hands. You need only look to Him with reverance and be amazed." At this, the lady glanced up from her work and for just an instant she was reverently amazed.

The quickest way I know to keep faith vibrant and robust is to look up with reverence and be amazed. The most efficient way to grow in strength, is to worship.
If you see me on my knees, it's not because I'm weak.  I'm getting stronger.
-- Bob Carlisle
Nothing stops the onslaught from the world around us.  We will continue to be asked to take on new roles and responsibilities.  We will continue to look for ways to eliminate unnecessary activity in your life. We will continue to commit and to perform.  As you exert in your activities, ask yourself this:
  • Is this activity making me less or making me more?
  • Is this activity deepening my relationships or diminishing them?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Soft Touch

If you were going to be caught in your worst failure, who would you want to catch you?

For myself, I'd want someone who would treat me as gently as Jesus treated the woman at the well. I think His interaction in that particular situation models how Believers are called to live, and how spiritual leadership should be exercised. Funny enough this has significant spill-over into the practicalities of everyday leadership as well.

One of my current struggles revolves around being gentler, more soft-spoken, perhaps even tactful if the planets happen to align properly. In the midst of my becoming, wouldn't you know I come face to face with an environment in which a delicate touch and mild manner are at the same time both necessary and onerous. Fortunately, this post isn't really about my current situation, my sincere apologies for the tangent.. [Editors note: no llama's were harmed in the writing of this post.]

A common thread I find in both the secular and spiritual environments is "How does leadership function in a relationship-driven environment?". When taken specifically from a spiritual perspective this is often linked with the notion of Relational Christianity. In this context alone, the question brings to light two significant issues with our perception of church and organized religion. Since I'm not really writing about secular leadership (prior tangential paragraph excluded) let's stick with the spiritual aspects.

First, this question clearly shows how we are so dependent on the leadership of men and women that we lose our ability to function without it. This is quite tragic actually. You see, if our dependency isn’t in Christ we will never discover the power and simplicity of being truly faithful.

Before you get your knickers in a twist, I'm not suggesting that if you subscribe to a leadership doctrine or an organized religion that you are somehow not a Believer. I am simply implying that to be a living richly, sold-out, on-fire, at-peace, on-your-feet, free-to-dance, all-you-have-to-do-is-fall, can't really afford to get to wrapped up in an organization structure per se.

The second issue brought to light with this question is how our perception of leadership is so imbedded in managing or controlling institutions that we cannot recognize it without titles or positions.

The protest at this point usually involves the leadership evidenced in the early church. I am by no means contesting this point. Leaders must exist, leadership must always be exercised. This point is well and truly conceded. My dissent requires asking the question, "What kind of leaders were they?".

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. -- Mark 10:42-45

We read here clearly how Jesus warned His disciples that in God’s reality leadership serves a vastly different function than it does in the world. The crux of this difference is because spiritual leadership is not based on management. Take a walk through Barnes and Nobles and see how many books on Christian leadership today are supposedly adapted to the business world. This alone should make us stop and question how the popular view of leadership has been tainted.

The Gospel portrait of leadership doesn’t portray leadership as the power to command, but instead it is the passion to serve others. My own views on leadership have matured over the years away from viewing leadership as power, influence, or even giftedness. Thinking on my own life I came to realize that those who have helped me most to grow, didn’t hold positions of power at all. They simply loved me enough to point out the way to God’s heart and then let me decide if I wanted to follow it. In my walk today I notice how it is those who have been most transformed with a Godly character who disregard the power of the Religion I once thought so essential to furthering the kingdom. It is these Faithful who reject anything that doesn’t reflect the child-like freedom to walk together in right relationship with the Father.

Considering my own walk and reviewing the life experiences of those I respect, a subtle truth emerges. Those who most effectively function in leadership don’t need titles, salaries or positions of authority. On the contrary, those things only distract from a true calling. Those who have been called to effective leadership know there is an inherent conflict between spiritual authority and institutional power.

Today people qualify for leadership in our religious institutions based on their educational background or eloquence. They are hired for Biblical knowledge or for their ability to draw a crowd. We recruit for positions from those who can manage a vision or motivate people to help achieve the organizational goals. If they draw a salary from a religious organization, if they have a title, we believe them to be leaders even if their lives don’t reflect a walk with Christ. We now have an entire industry of seminaries and educational programs to "prepare" people to lead our Religions.

The Gospel describes leadership as being evidenced by a transformed life. A life lived in daily, right, relationship with Christ. Leadership in the early church had nothing to do with what gifts a person possessed or lacked. It mattered only that their character had been transformed in a visible way. They began to treat others with truth and tenderness, just as Jesus did.

As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. -- 1 John 2:27

This in no way downplays the importance of wise counsel and teaching. The crucial perspective is to realize the fleetingness of it. The role of a leader is only temporary, helping as needed, then returning to the permanent role as brother or sister.

But you are not to be called "Rabbi", for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth "father", for you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called "teacher", for you have one Teacher, the Christ.The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. -- Matthew 23: 8-12

This doesn't leave much to interpretation does it? That is one of the things I love most about Scripture. When put so simply, it becomes obvious what leadership is not. It can be less obvious what leadership is.

The best piece of advice I've ever distilled usually comes out when talking about being successful in life in general. As is often the case, that same piece of advice is what I have found to be crucial to spiritual leadership as well.

Be Deliberate, Be Articulate, and Be Transparent.

When you are about your business of life, it should be clear what you are doing, why you are doing it, and you should be able to communicate clearly about it. If you are doing something you can't or don't want to talk about publicly, you probably shouldn't be doing it. If you can't explain why you are doing something, or your intentions aren't obvious, then there is a good chance you need to reconsider your motivations. Of course there is place for discretion, and everyone doesn't need to be all up in your business, but in general I've found those three little words to be a handy measure of whether my Walk and my Talk are lining up.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Where You Are

Sometimes when I'm synching my Ipod, a random song I haven't heard in a while jumps into the mix unexplained. Then later, when I'm working out I get a treat listening to music that somehow seems to fit me...just so. I really needed to hear this song, this morning. Do you?

I think we're going somewhere,
we're on to something good here.
Out of mind, out of state,
trying to keep my head on straight.
I think we're going somewhere,
we're on to something good here.
There's only one thing left to do,
drop all I have and go with you.

Somewhere back there I left my worries all behind.
My problems fell out of the back of my mind.
We're going and I'm never knowing where we're going.
To go back to where I was would just be wrong.
I'm pressing on.

Pressing on, all my distress is going, going, gone.
And I won't sit back, and take this anymore.
'Cause I'm done with that, I've got one foot out the door.
And to go back where I was would just be wrong.
I'm pressing on.

I think we're going somewhere,
we're on to something good here.
Out of mind, out of state,
trying to keep my head on straight.
I think we're going somewhere,
we're on to something good here.
Adversity, we get around it,
searched for joy, in You I found it.

You look down on me, but you don't look down on me at all.
You smile and laugh, and I feel the love you have for me.
I think we're going somewhere,
we're on to something good here.
And we're gonna make it after all.
- Pressing On by Relient K

Thursday, January 26, 2006


The following is an excerpt I ripped off from Charles Swindoll one of my favorite authors. Perhaps later, I'll grace you with another piece that I wrote. For now, his words suffice.

The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other poeple think, or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make a break a company...a church...a home.

The remarkable think is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

- Chuck Swindoll

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Walking Non-Profit

My good friend Stephen and I have had an ongoing conversation for the last several months about (among other things) money. Okay, it's really more about cycle of salvation and whether the saved can become less-so. But we tend to wander and weave whenever we repartee.

The background is that Stephen made a bit of coin as a businessman, and is continuing to improve his financial situation through savy deals and wise management. As I can attest, once you've acquired some monetary success, you tend to become a bit of a target. The ramifications of these new relationships will truly change your world view.

In this particular dialogue, the parable of the rich young ruler was naturally brought up. We discussed how the issue with this particular fellow wasn't the rich part or the young part or the ruler part. It was that he was holding something back in his spiritual life. That the rich part (and maybe the ruler part?) were impacting his ability to give of himself completely. If you want your whole soul saved, you need to give up your whole old soul first. [Editors note: don't shoot me for the theological inconsistencies with that last phrase, I just liked how it sounded. Stay focused now.]

As we both so politically agreed that there is no problem with having money or nice things, I found it necessary to share my true perspective on the problem. One that isn't very politic, bordering on heretical. You see, I don't believe it is possible to follow God, live by faith, and have wealth. Yes, I you heard me. I said it. You can't be rich and in right relationship with God. That is honestly what I believe to be the only message to be derived from Scripture. Of course, that's not all I believe.

Before you fly off the handle, let me lay out the whole foundation for you. You see, just because a person cannot be wealthy and live by faith, doesn't mean they can't control wealth. This subtle distinction is what makes world-changing by believers a practical reality. We can have big companies that make a profit. We can have huge charities that change the world. We can have lobbies and pay for politics. We can throw parties, create television programming, build publishing houses and construct huge housing developments. But individually, our responsibility in living by faith is to never be wealthy. Remember, this is just what I believe.

So how does this play out in practice? Stephen had the answer. He called it the Walking Non-Profit. Make as much money as you want, invest in the company as much as you need. Be TRULY successful. But in your own life, make sure the balance sheet is run like a non-profit. Other than what you need, make sure the rest goes back to those who do need it. For example, a faithful CEO should never receive more income than the amount the company spent on benefits for all the other workers combined. That's how the world runs today. Do a little research and you will see that story continually replayed. I posted some stats from Forbes in an earlier post.

As we meandered around this subject it was really refreshing to me to actually be able to share something I truly feel with someone I thought would truly understand. Unfortunately, this is more rare with me than I'd like to admit. I don't like hearing my buddies talking about how little effort is involved with finding dates. It annoys me to watch someone who dances so much better than I do it so effortless while urging me, "It's easy!". People don't want to hear an accomplished person saying things are easy. They don't want to see someone they view as wealthy talking about giving it away. It just comes off as condescending and fake. Nobody believes in altruism anymore. Even the ones who say the do, are so hardened by abuses they've suffered, that their default response is disbelief and cynicism. This is one of many reasons I find that I keep my real opinions to myself and just offer blind encouragement.

Of course, no one wants to hear that God-Followers can't be rich either. We need the dream, the fantasy, the false-hope. We need to believe that someday we might have fortune or fame. Our adult ADHD means we can't simply be satisified in a life of service. No one aspires to the title of Servant anymore. Alas.

Monday, January 16, 2006


They say that work is hard and that's why they call it work. But for me, faith is much harder than works. Did someone goof it up? Or is this just another case of runaway semantics causing grief.

Don Richardson in his wonderful book Eternity in Their Hearts wrote what would be my most favorite, and often used quotes:

The human spirit houses a dynamism capable of carrying any idea to it's logical conclusion.

Simple, elegant, correct. This is the profound kind of wisdom that I can mimic and pretend understand. I flail about with words like these as if I were capable of the finesse and subtlety required to truly wield them well. In giving last minute advice to friends I may not see for some time, I bludgeon him with truths until finally he objects no more. Such lousy counsel I. But he walks in faith, or at least I've seen it's shadow in his life. So circumspectly I grant myself leave to trust him and thrust at him my tools and truths. Only afterward running down the thought that says "too much!" and "leave off, fool!".

Perhaps it is just flattery on my part. Give them unabashed assistance and let them sort out what they may. Sink, swim, or sail it truly is their own way. Let their dynamism run and then I resign myself to fuel and fire only. My experiences vast are simple fodder for their feast. I can live with this I think. But that's only because I am lazy and inept. Were I skilled and suited I would surely surpass this stopping point. My own internals would combust and drive me onwards still towards my own conclusion, not this silly stopping point.

So which is Forgiveness? Is it the hardest work, or the hardest faith? Or perhaps it is a work of faith?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Time Standing Still

This last round of vacations left me with several notes about busy-ness. Everyone I knew seemed to be in a race against the clock. Most of the time, this was more at a subconscious or even unconscious level than deliberate, hurrying up. For myself, as an example, it was a morning when I became faintly aware of the alarm clock's grating buzz. Unfortunatley, I was utterly unable to respond to it. Finally coming awake and into full consciousness, I felt a momentary grip of panic as I realized how late it was and how much I still had to do.

Mornings like that one can be disconcerting and disturbing, because of what inevitably happens. My attention gets fixated on the activities and the doing, rather than the moments that precede it. I stop enjoying the experience of dining and conversation, I don't actually relish the smiles of those around me. I don't remember why I'm running around in the first place. The danger perceived in these moments is that I have somehow lost time. As I pondered, this I was reminded of the theologian Donald Nicholl who stated it simply: "You don't notice the small things if you are moving fast. Suppose the person you most love is in a railroad station and you are looking for one another. If she stands still and you pass through the station at 100 miles per hour, you will not find each other."

When I find myself moving too quickly, I miss the subtle moments of surprise and grace that are always present. These are the moments that often go unnoticed. I don't want my days off to become hurried times where I ungraciously attempt to snatch a quick glance at a newspaper before launching into the seemingly endless errands and responsibilities of daily life that have been put on hold the rest of the year. Time is one of the most challenging aspects of becoming simple because we are so helpless to change time itself. Invariably we move in only two directions. Either we move quickly trying to make more of the time we do have, or we limit what we will do to savor the time and make it last. Both are distortions of the truth. Neither approach will make our lives more meaningful. Doing more and quickly means we cease to live fully with deliberate attention. Doing less and slowly means we become so focused on time that we miss out on life and legacy.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:34
So how do I school myself to live in the present? It starts with the following questions:
  • If you had a day all to yourself, with no responsibilities, how would you spend it?
  • If you had an unlimited amount of time, with whom would you spend it?
  • If you were put into a magical time machine, and when you stepped out time would stop for one year, what would you do with that extra year of life?
  • When you see God face to face, what will you want to say about how you spent the time you were given?
Of course, that's just me. And after all, I lead a semi-charmed life.