Monday, December 11, 2006

3 Questions of Priority

I ran across the following quote in a text I was reading today.

"Constantly ask yourself these three questions:

  • What shall I do?

  • What shall I not do?

  • What shall I do first?"

Attributed to Harold Ivan Smith in No Fear of Trying (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), these are three great questions for setting priority. The first is a question to reduce complexity to simplicity. The second is a question of eliminating those things which contribute little or nothing to the pursuit of our priorities. The final question is one to prompt action - planning must give way to action or nothing happens.

The Apostle Paul had it right: "but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal..." (Phil 3:13-14 NRSV)

And those are good words to live by...

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Who sees you (in the car lot).

At the intersection of Ocean Drive and the Causeway from the island, there is a vacant lot where people put their cars, boats, RVs, etc. on view "for sale by owner." As my daughter and I drove by one afternoon this week, I found myself laughing out loud. I could only point the scene to my daughter who joined me in laughter.

A late model SUV had drawn the attention of a young family. "Mom" and "Dad" stood beside the vehicle and pressed their faces against the window between their cupped hands to look at the interior. You know what I mean. You shade the light around your face and lean in to examine the details.

Standing to their side was their son - maybe 3 years old. Just about the same height as the front tire. Following the example of his parents, his hands were cupped around his face as he pressed firmly against........... the fender.

I'm not sure what he expected to see. As the light changed and we drove away, I found myself hoping that they picked the child up and allowed him to look through the window.

What I am sure about is that he was simply following the example of the adults. I was reminded again that people are watching me (and you). In their naive trust, they imitate us. Our faults. Our failures. And, our faith.

Who sees you? What are they missing? What should you do to help them?

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Salt shaken?

A friend and I were talking recently about the objectives of a conference our church is hosting in 2007. Our question was: “What is the our responsibility as a church to confront our culture collectively and individually?” Our discussion took me back to an understanding God helped me gain a year ago as I prepared to come to Brunswick.

Many churches elect to relocate their buildings to places of visibility and access. For many, that’s not a bad decision. However, I think there is a deeper principle. The thought I had a year ago, and believe more fervently today, is that our church currently “relocates” hundreds of  times a day. Monday morning, the people who were present in church Sunday go to school, to work, to shop and hundreds of other places in the normal course of their lives. My new question is: “To what degree are we using these experiences to confront the culture with the love of Christ?”

We confront our culture collectively when we engage it individually. “Salt, shaken out into our community.”

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Is bloggress a word?

In a discussion with a friend and colleague today, I asked if she would like to be a bloggress. Her response was "is that a word?" Frankly, I don't really know... if it's not, it should be.

I googled bloggress and found 107 hits. So maybe its coming along.Of course, if google is our standard of what is true and right... well, that's another issue.

Words do have meanings. Sometimes we can't find the word we want, so we're tempted to invent a new one. Same thing with sound effects. Now that I think about it, that explains a lot about Hollywood... can't find what you want, invent it.

I ran across this Mike S. Adam's article yesterday entitled The Bible Told them So. It's a great essay and illustrates how people have, through the ages, invented or discovered concepts that were already described in the Bible. I wonder how often we resort to inventing concepts, words or solutions to problems when the answer already exists... if we know where to look?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Who knows?

Well, this is an experiment. I read on LifeHacker of this new tool "Qumana" that is supposed to make it easier to maintain multiple blogs. This is the first post. So far, it appears to be pretty straight forward. So, I'll try it and maybe be more proficient at posting.

Of course, now all I need is a tool to make it easier for you to read my posts, right?

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Monday, June 26, 2006

I Saw a Bird Sing

As I sat in the sun room this morning watching the sun rise over the marsh and burn the fog away, I heard it before I saw it. The voice was simple, short and pierced the silence. A clear whistle. I looked into the crepe myrtle and saw the bird silhouetted against the bright sky. I do not know it's species. Perhaps a Blue Jay, or a Mockingbird - it really doesn't matter.

I watched as it seemed to crouch against the limb, wait in preparation, stretch it's legs, lift it's head, open it's beak and sing. Again and again: crouch, wait, stretch, lift, open and sing. On one hand, it reminded me of a cartoon bird, it's name long forgotten, who, with great effort, crouched, then lifted, puffed it's chest and sang. The animator had it right. How many hours must she have watched a bird to draw her sequence.

On another hand, I reflected on what it means to find one's voice. To discover one's unique song is to strike a chord of harmony found at the intersection of giftedness, purpose and opportunity. One crouches and waits, then stretches his legs, lifts his head, opens his mouth and sings! A clear call that he is made for a purpose, uniquely shaped, formed and gifted, to sing with the dawn a song. The song pierces the silence in which the singer finds himself. And those around him are blessed.

Find your voice. Sing. Crouch, stretch, lift, open and sing!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Yes? or No?

Credibility. It's hard to build and easy to destroy. This is a life lesson we're working on in our home now. With one child a year away from her learner's permit, we're trying to think now about what life will be like for a teen driver. (She's not real thrilled with our idea of curfew right now, but that's for another post.)

One of the lessons we are working on now is trust and credibility. The idea is simply this: if I can trust you today with the little things, I can trust you tomorrow with greater things. Our motto has been "Let your yes be yes and your no be no." That is pretty self explanatory. Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

A couple of nights ago she came to her mother with a little twinkle in her eye. Pointing to the Bible verse James 5:12, she read: "Your 'yes' must be 'yes,' and your 'no' must be 'no...'" Her conclusion? This is cool! It's in the Bible.

So, what did I learn?
  1. I took it for granted that she knew it was a Biblical admonition. My bad... (though I used the teachable moment to encourage her to find the other reference where the same words are used).
  2. She was reminded that the wisdom found in the Bible is practical.
  3. We all have much to learn about credibility....
Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tourist or Traveler?

As the summer travel season approaches, I would like to ask you to consider this question as you go: Am I a traveler or a tourist?

Being a new resident to the Georgia Coast, I suspect that I am going to meet many of the latter. Tourists breeze into town, see the sights, wonder why things are not the way they are back home, spend a little money and leave. Travelers, on the other hand, take time to explore off the beaten path, get to know the people who live here to understand their unique insights and recognize that while things may be different, that variety offers opportunities to learn and leave richer for the experience. And, yes, they do spend a little money and eventually leave.

I think Jesus was a traveler on earth. He always had time to stop and spend time with people. He took boat rides, hung out in the town square, climbed mountains and hiked into the desert. He often enjoyed good food and fellowship along the way. As you travel, do not be content to be a tourist. Learn to travel.

The metaphor extends to life as well. You can choose to rush hurriedly from "sight to sight" and miss the opportunity enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way. Or, you can learn to travel and savor the people you meet and the experiences you enjoy. And, if you take time to get to know them, you will hear them express the little hurts, the confusion, and the frustration which opens the door for you to share the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). Be safe. Travel well. Give them Hope.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mariachi Mass

While in San Antonio last weekend, we took the opportunity to attend a Mariachi Mass at the San Jose mission south of town. This mission is 200+ years old and has an active congregation today, though they made up only 1/6th of the attendees.

The chapel is of the baroque style, simple and plain in it's decoration. The unique aspect of this worship service was the mariachi band - trumpet and guitars - that filled the chapel with music. It was a celebration and I enjoyed the experience of worship.

During the service, a statement was made that has stuck with me all week: "When you love someone, you're more concerned with their pain, than in how they express their pain."

That's true isn't it? When people are hurting, they often lash out at others. I think that in their loneliness, Biblical heroes Job and David each expressed their pain and frustration with strong words directed at others and at God. But God loved them both. And He was more concerned with their pain than their words.

I've found myself being a little more patient this week with people who lash out in anger, frustration, bitterness or hurt. If I love them, I'm more concerned with helping them overcome the pain than in the way in which it is expressed.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Time Released

It's allergy season again. Have you heard the ads for time released medicine. Time release. It's an interesting concept. To be released is to be set free or loosed. It suggests a potential that becomes actual.

Think of things that are released. Lions. Medication. Prisoners. Floods. Parachutes. Each has the potential for benefit or harm that is realized only when that potential is released.

It seems to me that people are often time released. There is potential that lies dormant until the time and occasion intersect to see that potential become actual. What, then, binds people? History. Past missteps and mistakes. The agendas of others. A lack of training. A Lack of relationships.

A debate often rages about leadership: are leaders born or made? I enter the fray and state emphatically - "yes!" They are born AND made. And I think there is a third option, which may be more important than these two. Leaders are called. By this, I mean that the skills and abilities, the characteristics and traits, and the charisma and virtue with which one is born or develop often lie dormant until the time and opportunity presents itself. At that time, they are released and the potential for leadership becomes actual.

Think of the leaders you know. Is this born out in your experience? What about you? Is there a circumstance or occasion that is today waiting for you to be released? It may be your moment. Answer the call.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sleep Study...

Adjacent to our local hospital is a "sleep research center." As I left the hospital parking lot about 8:45am one morning this week, I noticed a new sign on the door. It appeared to be hand-lettered on red posterboard and read "Sleep Study in progress. Please be quiet!"

My immediate reaction was "How can I get a job like that?"

As I write this afternoon, I'm reflecting on the events of the week: the President's State of the Union Address and succeeding commentary, the release of Oscar nominations for a western with a twist (or is it a twisted western?), a stat that I heard that suggests 95% of sexual relationships depicted on TV are extra-marital and I'm wondering if I, like many others, are already participating in such a study?

Could it be that our society is asleep, that a study is being conducted to see just how far things can go? Maybe there are too many who are asleep, afraid to stop the test. If that's the case, I'm ready to shout it out: "WAKE UP!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Church Signs #2 (an occasional series)

"Have you taken your pet to the vet?"

Well, ok, it's not a church sign, but obviously a veterinarian clinic. It made me chuckle. It's a good sign. The rhyme makes it easy to remember and sort of fun to say... (relax and repeat "pet to the vet" 5 times, real fast and see if you agree.)

And I don't even have a pet - aside from the squirrels in the attic and the frogs and lizards that show up everywhere.

Rhymes, alliteration and rhythm are devices we can use to help us remember important things. For example:

  1. Your attitude determines your acts
  2. Your beliefs drive your behavior
  3. Your character is manifest in your conduct
  4. Your demeanor is reflected in your deeds

This little ABC&D is a good reminder that what's on the inside will eventually show up on the outside. Computer programmers used to say (and I guess still do, but I don't know many programmers these days) GIGO; "garbage in, garbage out."

  • Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:23 (HCSB)
  • For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Matthew 12:34 (HCSB)
  • A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Luke 6:45 (HCSB)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Out of failure

I read the following story this week in Michael Michalko's Cracking Creativity:

"Michelangelo's masterpiece, David, was the result of another sculptor's failed attempt. Back in 1463, the authorities of the cathedral of Florence acquired a sixteen-foot-high chunk of white marble to be carved into a sculpture. Two well-known sculptors worked on the piece and gave up, and the badly mangled block was put in storage. Other sculptors were brought in and asked to carve a statue. They refused to work with the mangled block and demanded a new block. Their demands were not economically feasible, so the project was scrapped by the cathedral. Forty years later, Michelangelo took the mangled block of marble from storage and carved it into the youthful, courageous David within eighteen months. He took what existed and sculpted it into one of the world's greatest statues."

While Michalko's recitation differs slightly from the record at wikipedia, the emphasis on starting from another's failure is well taken - as is building on another's success.

I was reminded when reading the story for the first time, that my preconceived notions are often wrong. When I move beyond them and begin to experiment, not giving up as if all were lost, I make some of the greatest discoveries. I also recognize that my failures, which I perceive as total and absolute, may not ruin things forever, but open the door for someone more gifted than I to construct something of great value. I could give examples...

It seems better to approach life with an understanding that I am unique and have unique abilities. When I live from my strengths, I live as my Creator intended. When I live from my weakness, the block may lie ruined until the one with a true gift takes it up and releases what is contained within. So, as with Paul and Apollos, I may sow while another waters. Ultimately, God uses both to nurture the growth He brings to pass.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Remote Channel

Did you see the Garfield comic for January 12? (You can go here, and click on "the vault" to see it). Garfield is sitting in his comfy chair, and clicks on the TV. There's a new channel - the "all remote channel" which says "put down that remote, we'll click through the channels for you."

That's an easy trap to fall into, isn't it? What I wouldn't give for a "todo list that would execute itself - or a blog that would post to itself daily. Apparently others are looking for the same solutions. Did you ever notice how many e-mail and phone messages you get from people who want you to do something for them? There are a lot of Garfields out there, I suppose.

Of course, the programmers of the remote channel have it figured out. Find a need and fill it. Make someone else's life easier and they will be loyal to you - at least until someone else finds a better way to meet their need.

"Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant." (Matthew 20:26) Other focused. Meeting the needs of others. Making others successful. That's a great step of leadership. And in the process, you earn the right to lead. Followers give their loyalty to those who they trust.

So, will you be the remote channel? Or are you comfy? :)