Archive for the ‘Growth’ Category

Getting Comfortable In Our Self

February 15, 2017

He was sharing about his early experiences in the Navy. Today he is famous around town as a “joker.” Guess he always was.

“Life is too serious to take serious,” he told me.

So, he’s on his first ship. First trip. Sees the Captain. “Morning, Sir. How’s it going?” he said.

Junior officer hears him. Begins to yell at him, “Don’t you ever talk to your commanding officer that way.”

He says that later he observed that senior officers were much more laid back about that sort of thing.

I thought, yes, that’s true. Do we remember back to being in our late 20s or 30s and trying to make it? And how serious we were? And how we were sticklers for protocol and rank? In fact rank was quite important to us.

Then we matured. We were comfortable with ourselves. We stopped worrying about rank and privileges. Maybe we became human.

Spiritual life is like that.

At first we need the rules. Paul calls that like being babies who need milk. Then we get on the maturity track. We realize that the goal, if you will, is to mature. Paul says that is like going from drinking milk to eating steak.

As we mature, we are more comfortable in our spirituality. No more trying to impress people. That’s a lost cause for us anyway.

We are just us. Well, sort of like me and God. “Just us, Lord, right?”

We don’t impact anyone through our opinions or rules. We impact people through example. What we do shouts louder than what we say.

Training For The Super Bowl

February 6, 2017

I’m writing this while watching the “Super Bowl.” The championship game of American professional football.

These are skilled and highly trained athletes. They train physically. They train intellectually. They are coached to recognize situations on the move and respond appropriately. They study. The strengthen their bodies.

The apostle Paul often used analogies from athletics to encourage our spiritual life.

How trained are you?





It is hard work to train. But confidence comes from developing our bodies and minds.

And the payoff is reaching the goal. The olive branch wreath. The Lombardi trophy.

Union with God.

I Feel Safe In My Cocoon

January 30, 2017
There’s a world where I can go
And tell my secrets to
In my room
In my room
In this world I lock out
All my worries and my fears
In my room
In my room
–Beach Boys, Brian Wilson

We wrap ourselves so tightly in our cocoon. So warm, cozy, comforting.

We seldom venture out further than places we know. Where we feel comfortable with people who look and sound just like us.

And ideas? We don’t need new ideas? Those that were passed down from parents, or peers, or preachers–that’s all we need. Research from 50 years ago revealed that we only read those things that reinforce our prejudices.

Today, entire business models that make billions of dollars are built on that research. Do you watch Fox or MSNBC? Ah Ha, we can type cast you. And target you with advertising. And you keep coming back for more advertising because you need the hourly fix of information targeted to your prejudices.

Remember when rock songs were targeted to teenagers? Brian Wilson reflected the adolescent years of growing, but not yet grown. Wanting to be with my peers, yet needing to be alone, in a sanctuary, safe.

[Side note: this of course was written to the middle class kids with parents and families that offered safety; unfortunately today we know that too many kids never feel that safety. Something we need to correct.]

There is the story of the boy who found a cocoon. He showed it to a wise man. The guru said, “Just one thing. Do not help the butterfly get out of the cocoon.”

But sadly, the little boy returned to the guru later. The butterfly was dead.

“You helped it, didn’t you?” he asked the little boy. “You see, in order to grow, become strong, and mature, the butterfly must beat its wings against the cocoon. Struggling with all its might to get out. Then when it breaks through, it is a beautiful butterfly that can fly among the flowers.”

What about us? Do we struggle and try to grow? Or do we try to stay safe in our cocoons?

Change In Personality–It’s Inevitable

August 29, 2016

Don’t you understand, I’m never changing who I am. — Imagine Dragons

No, this song didn’t come from the rebellious, “us-against-them” Heavy Metal genre. It played on Sirius XM Coffee House–acoustic, folk, coffee house type of music.

But it reminds us of our rebellious teenage years. “I’m never changing.”

Do you recall your teenage years? I do–with deep regret and chagrin over my social and relational stupidity. Now, I’m only partially challenged relationally and socially.

Even that statement implies change over time.

My wife is not even close to the same person I married. She’s changed a couple of times. Then I think, “poor woman, I’m not even close to the guy she married.” It wasn’t some sort of bait-and-switch marketing. We just grew. That’s life.

I like to “joke” about some people of my acquaintance who used to be addicted to substances and now are addicted to Jesus. Sort of a fundamental addictive personality, but growth happened. Jesus is much better than drugs.

That’s the process of spiritual formation. We grow intentionally toward being (OK, here comes the M-word) spiritually mature. That’s not so bad.

A spiritually mature person grows to enjoy the fruit of the spirit. Paul, writing to the Galatians (5:22-23), tells us that a person mature in the spirit has the fruit of the spirit–But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Really, now, do we want to remain selfish, anxious, obnoxious people? Adrift in life? Slave to every whim and emotion that buffets us?

We are designed to be free, strong, and caring. People who’ve never grown up may scoff at such people, but wouldn’t you rather be around people filled with such fruit? Wouldn’t you rather be a person filled with such fruit? The Proverbs tells us about scoffers and their inevitable end.

Know That You Need To Ask For Help

May 25, 2016

The Lord helps those who help themselves.

That is not in the Bible. Sorry. Grace is not dependent upon our works. It is dependent upon our attitude–the attitude of turning to God and asking for help.

Henry Cloud’s new book, The Power of the Other, is all about the power relationships–good, bad, indifferent–hold over our lives.

He was talking about his work as a consultant and coach. He has sufficient track record and fame, that boards of directors of companies, even large companies, send their failing CEOs to him to turn them around.

A man came to him one time who had failed terribly. It was a personal failure, but the results bled over into every aspect of his life–marriage, family, business, volunteering. Being a highly successful and driven person, he came with a list. He asked for help, but then he laid out the plan that he had devised to correct the situation.

Cloud said it was sad. Every point depended upon the man’s action. There was no place for relationship with another.

Cloud said that he’s reached the point of life that he really doesn’t want to waste time with people who are sent to him to be fixed but who think that it all depends on themselves.

I understand. In my consulting and coaching career, I have met several people who only wish for outside reinforcement. They don’t understand why nothing changes.

At some point, you must come to the realization that it’s not all dependent upon your own effort.

Ask someone for help–and then listen.

Ask someone close to you how they feel about the situation–and then listen.

Humble yourself (that means be willing to not be the person in charge) and realize that others will help if you ask.

Thank people for helping.

Remember God gives us grace. It’s there for the asking. Be open to receiving it.

You ultimately are not in charge; stop acting as if you are.

The Lord helps you, and so will others, if you ask and are willing to listen and absorb.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

April 29, 2016

This week witnessed the annual reunion of the world’s largest manufacturing trade show. Many of the brightest minds in manufacturing technology gathered. These were people who are changing the way we’ll be doing manufacturing in the future.

I know many of them. It’s exciting to meet with all these people and share ideas, learn, grow.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet people changing the face of how we do mission work, how we serve the poor, how we bring other people to discipleship.

God meant for all of us to change the world around us for good. There are numerous stories of developing and using whatever talents we were born with.

While I was pondering this on the 9-hour plane ride home yesterday, I thought about all the people who sell themselves short.

While I was in the Customs line entering the country (30 minutes before I learned I had been accepted into the Global Entry program and could have avoided the queue, sigh), I saw a small group of maybe three older couples. All their faces were shaped into pictures of bitterness, sadness, negativity. Same with body language. My heart ached for such loss of life before their loss of life.

How many people do you know who blame other people for their lack of success? It’s never their fault, right? “They” are always against them. The “breaks” never came their way.

Can these people be reached with hope? The self-help gurus of the 80s and 90s certainly tried by using preaching skills. Get you all fired up and ready to take charge–until you got home and reality set in again.

Then read the New Testament and stories of the first and second century Christians. Here were ordinary men and women who turned their lives around and did extraordinary things.

It is so important that we reach people early in life with the message of hope. The message that despite any adversity they, too, can change the world around them. That’s called leadership on a personal level. Or mentoring. Or making disciples.

The Power of Changing Our Minds

February 22, 2016

I was so smart. I knew the best distribution model for an electronics product  we had developed in the late 80s. It didn’t work.

Great leaders don’t always know everything and pursue the course originally set with no deviation until the end. Al Pittampalli, a management consultant, witnessed so many leaders delaying decisions through endless meetings that he concluded what was needed from leaders was single-minded consistency and pursuit of a way forward.

Then he discovered he was wrong. The best leaders today obtain constant feedback by whatever means it takes to get it. They honestly weigh the feedback, painful though it may be, and are prepared to change course if necessary to achieve the desired outcome.

His work is documented in Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World.

The small group is reading through the book of Acts of the Apostles. Reflect on the number of times Paul says he wants to do one thing or visit another city and then he changes his mind and goes elsewhere. New facts enter the picture, he considers them, prays about them, and is not too proud to change course and go another direction.

Pittampalli writes about a therapist who was working with an overweight, depressed teenage girl. He asked her to fill out a simple evaluation each session so he could get some feedback. The evaluations were always overwhelmingly positive, yet by the third session he could tell that they were making no progress.

He noticed that the score for “helping me achieve my goals”, although 86 out of 100, was much lower than every other score. He asked specifically about that. She said that he had ignored her goal of becoming a Miami Heat cheerleader.

Ah, breakthrough. He went back and started acknowledging her goal. No, she didn’t become a Miami Heat cheerleader. She did organize cheerleading and fund raising for the basketball team at the agency that sent her to counseling, though. A clear win for the girl.

As for me, that company went out of business before I could get enough feedback to change–even if I had wanted to. But I think I’d have gone with the flow if another avenue had opened. But we needed immediate sales. The computer board was already almost a year old when they hired me. I had about six months before the technology would need updating.

My boss didn’t understand the dynamics of the computer business almost 30 years ago. You needed updated products every six months to a year. Kind of like today. My iPhone 5s was getting pretty obsolete after 18 months. Now I have a new iPhone 6s 😉

The key to leadership, and probably to achieving your personal goals, is soliciting–yes, even demanding–feedback. And then making adjustments based on it.

Only God Can Label You

May 13, 2015

He was a quiet kid. Kept to himself. Freshman trumpet player in the university marching band. Away at band camp before school even started. Probably his first college experience.

We were in the same cabin. I was also a freshman, first experience away like that, percussionist. We shared the cabin with the drum major. Head guy.

He sensed a weakness, I guess. I only thanked God that it was the trumpeter he picked on. Labeled him a nerd. I guess that’s worse than geek. He was merciless the entire week. 

The trumpeter? He kept his head down and never said a word.

Labels that others give us can really hurt. They can also misdirect our lives.

Label someone as fat early in their life, and even though they may get fit as an adult, chances are they’ll always feel fat. It’s really hard to outgrow the hurts of adolescence.

I think it was third grade when they gave us some kind of intelligence test. I was clueless. All I know is that my parents got called to visit the teacher. When they came back, I had a label–smart. I’m still clueless. I’ve been trying to disprove that my entire life. <smiles> But that resulted in lectures every time I didn’t get straight As until dad gave up on me while I was in college. I never played the game to get a grade. I’d learn enough from the class and then go off and  study what I wanted to study. (And, yes, I did get a degree. The department shut down the graduate program before I finished my master’s work, and I never finished that. No need to have a paper.)

Yesterday I listened to Andy Stanley talk to a group of 8th graders about labels. He warned them about letting other people label you. What great advice!

We are children of God. That is the label God puts on us. We don’t need another. It’s hard to overcome a label that someone in authority puts on you–even if it’s just the drum major. 

By the way, I recommend listening to Stanley every week. I listen to Bill Hybels, John Ortberg, Gene Appel (when they load his talks into iTunes), Stanley every week. I also listen to technology news and other podcasts that broaden my experience. I recommend finding your favorites and listen to something daily for your growth.

What Is God Like?

April 21, 2015

“He is an old man with a long, white beard.”

“He is angry, vengeful, and if we don’t do the right things to satisfy him, we’ll go to Hell.”

“He is so full of love that he blesses everything and everybody.”

“She is the creator giving birth to the universe.”

“He constructed the universe and developed all the physical laws that run it.”

None of these, of course, can be found in the Bible without the use of much imagination. Jesus said Father. John said spirit and love.

The old man and many other myths come from the Middle Ages and its particular blend of fears and incorporation of pagan ideas into Christianity.

We must be mindful of how we come to God.

If our emotions rule us, they will construct a God in the image of whatever prevalent emotion we may have: fear, sympathy, love, disinterest.

If our intellect rules us, it will construct a God of distance, impersonal, giver of physical and other laws.

We work out our relationship with God bringing our whole self before the Father pleading for wholeness in our mind, body, soul. We move, as Paul put it, away from childish ideas about God. 

As in all relationships, this relationship grows over time. We discover more and more about each other. We grow closer, then more distant. We correct each other (well, maybe we don’t correct God, but we certainly try, don’t we).

Take care what rules us. Every morning ask for God to rule our emotions, thoughts, and actions during the coming day.

Doing The Difficult Thing Adds Value

March 25, 2015

There are two types of organizations. Two types of churches. One assumes customers or members. Its leaders see their role as stewards of what is. Others believe passionately about their mission. Their products will change the way people live for the better. Their gift of spirit will lead people to better lives.

The first is easy. The second one often challenging. The first leads to the path of decay and organizational death. The second leads to energy, growth, kindling that passion in others…and others.

Seth Godin made his mark as a marketing guru in high technology. He wrote recently:

Of course it’s difficult…
Students choose to attend expensive colleges but don’t major in engineering because the courses are killer.

Doing more than the customary amount of customer service is expensive, time-consuming and hard to sustain.

Raising money for short-term urgent projects is easier than finding support for the long, difficult work of changing the culture and the infrastructure.

Finding a new path up the mountain is far more difficult than hiring a sherpa and following the tried and true path. Of course it is. That’s precisely why it’s scarce and valuable. 

The word economy comes from the Greek and the French, and is based on the concept of scarcity. The only things that are scarce in the world of connection and services and the net are the things that are difficult, and the only things that are valuable are the things that are scarce. When we intentionally seek out the difficult tasks, we’re much more likely to actually create value.

Think of his comment about raising money relative to your church or non-profit. I am. It is condemning of the approach I took over in my ministry. Buffeting from project to project. No real stability or plan for growth. No real involvement from the larger group. No commitment to the hard work of a sustaining ministry.

What is scarce these days is attention. I wrote yesterday about distraction. We have so much information–24-hour news channels, 24-hour sports, the Internet, apps, check Facebook every couple of minutes–when do we have time to put our attention, our focus, on what’s important?

What sort of leader are you? Do you need a kick start? Take time to focus our attention completely, if only for 30 minute time slots, on thinking about the long, difficult work? Or just slide along becoming ever more comfortable in a state of distracted disinterestedness?