Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Break My Plans

I heard the group This Hope present this song last week at the Georgia Baptist Convention. Frankly, it was a high point of the meeting for me. Based on the "story of a Romanian hymn writer imprisoned in 1959 for
exercising his faith through music, the song is an
emotionally stirring ballad of faith under oppression. While in prison,
and without pen and paper, Nicolae Moldoveanu composed 366 hymns!"

It has encouraged and challenged me this week, so I'll pass it along to you.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Context and Perspective for the Family (and our nation)

I read Patrick Lencioni's new book, The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family this week, and really enjoyed it. Lencioni takes the principles he has applied to organizations and business and applies them to the family. It is a worthwhile read.

Question #1 is "What makes your family unique?" Leadership scholars recognize that core values, mission, purpose, vision and strategy collectively define an organization's unique identity. They define the organization's context: the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc. Defining context is a way of plotting our position on a map in terms of culture, economics, politics, geography, and so on.

The frantic family does not have the same desire to define context as businesses or organizations. Lencioni simplifies the concept of context to a simple question: What makes us unique? What do we believe? What do we think is important? What do we do as a matter of routine? The answer to these questions is our context.

Pat's 2nd question is "What is our rallying cry?" Given our context, what should be our priority for the next few months? This is a question of perspective which is defined as "the state of one's ideas, facts, all relevant data etc., in meaningful interrelationship." In other words, my context (facts and circumstances) feeds my perspective on the future. The interrelationships represented in context give me perspective to make decisions on the next actions I should take to move toward my desired future.

For question #3, you'll need to buy the book, check it out from your local library or go to Lencioni's resource page.

Defining context and understanding perspective are essential roles of leadership. This is the development of clairity of purpose and direction for an organization. Context is complex and dynamic. Because perspective is about interrelationships, it is even moreso. Oh, and there is no "right" answer, because everyone's context and perspective are unique! The more effective a leader is at this task, the greater her ability to bring simplicity out of clutter, harmony from dischord and discover opportunity in difficulty (hat tip to Al E.)

This post is an illustration of context and perspective. We are three days post-election and have a new president. I did not vote for President-elect Obama. My perspective - my view of the interrelationship of his policy positions and my personal values and belief system (context) - would not allow me to do so. However, he was elected. So, our country now has a new context.

If we view our country's context through only one lense - politically, for example - we recognize that the presidency and both houses of congress are controlled by one party. Should we fear the immediate implementation of the agenda articulated in the campaign? Probably not, because another fact that informs context is that the majority is not "fillibuster-proof." Perhaps the minority party will provide a moderating influence (from my perspective, that would be a good thing.)

But to really define context, we have to add other lenses. Take economics. With the debt crisis, increasing unemployment, and the global nature there is a real limit as to how much tax policy can really change. And the lense of globalism? What would really happen if we left Iraq and Afghanistan? And culture? Will 48% of the people who did not embrace the new president's policies really just roll over? Oh, and my context is that God has not been surprised by anything this week!

Ok, must close. Here's the final application and thought. In the midst of our circumstances, our context is at risk of being narrowly defined. We can be paralyzed if we see only the negatives in a narrow context. On Wednesday morning, many expressed grief, angst and other negative emotions because their context was defined by the outcome of an election. To move forward, we need to back away and get a perspective that is shaped by the interrelationships of broad context. And when I do so, my optimism increases, the sky is not falling, and I have a responsibility and ability to shape the future!

And mid-term elections are but two years away! ;)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Google Perspective

A text message was forwarded to me today which read:

"Google stock has lost $70 per share in the last few weeks. If you owned 10,000 shares, you would have lost a lot of money."

My response was that if you owned 10,000 shares of Google today, you would still own $3.45 million worth of Google stock.

It's all about perspective...

Thursday, October 09, 2008


How do you know that you respect someone? They ask you to change and you do.

Do you have the respect of others? Why not?

What's Up with "The Shack"

The Shack has been something of a publishing phenomenon in the last few months. The topic of many discussion groups, it's popularity speaks for itself. However, the Shack has also been criticized by many in the Christian community. I'll not repeat the theological critiques here. Instead, I'd rather make some observations on reading The Shack and other books in the "Christian fiction" genre. BTW, to a believer, that sounds oxymoronic - which should reveal my bias.

I'll begin by acknowledging that The Shack is fiction. While it may be based on facts, like historical fiction, the author is at liberty to let his or her imagination run freely in an attempt to engage the reader in the story. Parable, allegory and metaphors are powerful devices for communication. While not to be taken literally, they may be most valuable in driving the reader to explore the facts behind the fiction. If The Shack does this - drive the reader to explore the truth upon which the story is founded - it serves a noble purpose.

The challenge for readers is to separate fact from fiction; to recognize where artistic license crosses the boundary between the two. Unfortunately, authors don't necessarily help in this manner, leaving it for the reader to do the work. The back cover of The Shack says

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question,"Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.

This synopsis suggests that The Shack contains truth (it does) within fiction (it is). Many (that includes me) would suggest that the line between the two is blurred.

It is then the reader's responsibility to recognize where the author's imagination has been bound by truth and where he may have crossed the boundary between presenting, at best, imagination, and, at worst, heresy. As an aside, this same challenge exists when reading any author of the genre such as LaHaye & Jenkins, Peretti, Dekker, or Oakes for that matter.

How does one go about determining the line? Well, the most obvious truth is that one should know the Truth. Christians believe the Bible is God's Truth on matters of life and faith and questions such as those with which The Shack wrestles. So, I'll be so bold as to suggest that if one wants to know where the boundaries are, one should spend at least as much time in the Word as in The Shack. Otherwise, one's theology is informed more by pop culture's authors than the Author of the universe.

One final thought: Many have suggested to me that The Shack has been a great discussion starter. I suppose this blog post is evidence of that discussion. Ok, I'll buy into that argument - if and only if the discussion moves beyond fiction to Truth.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Paradox of Sharpie

Someone wrote on a display in our church with a Sharpie permanent marker. After a quick web search to determine how permanent "permanent" is, I discovered there are actually a lot of ways to remove a sharpie stain. But, the best way for me to remove this particular mark was, using what I had on hand, ... drumroll, please... a dry erase marker.

I simply scribbled over the permanent mark with the impermanent mark, let it dry about 30 seconds, and wiped it off. <trumpet fanfare!>

That seems strange to me... It does remind me how easy it is to ruin a habit, reputation, or resolution with a simple moment of inattention.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What the Bible Says About Alcohol...

A big shout-out to my friend, Mark Marshall, pastor of Clearview Baptist Church in Franklin, TN for this post on What the Bible Says About Alcohol?

Let me get this part on the table right up front. Nowhere does the Bible prohibit the use of alcohol in all circumstances. In other words, nowhere does the Bible say you are to avoid alcohol completely. However, Scripture gives a number of very strong warnings about its use.

He then goes on to outline what the Bible does say. Well done, Mark!

If you've ever wondered what the Bible says about alcohol, take a few minutes to check it out here today.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Consider the Source?

I was confronted today by someone whom I love dearly and trust greatly. He drew my attention to a personal flaw and challenged me to face it and change it. He is right. I know it and will continue to work to right it. But there's a larger question that I considered after our discussion.

Why is correction so much easier to take from some people than from others? I mean, correction is correction, right?

If someone observes something in us that needs to change, and tells us, that should be enough, no?

No. Because we have a hard time separating the message from the messenger and the motive behind the delivery. Some comments and critiques come easier from people whose motives are noble and unquestioned.

Noble motives are those based on love and altruism. In other words, people who act selflessly, for the benefit of others, doing the right things right for the right reasons with nothing expected in return are noble people. Noble people also act consistently, therefore their motives are unquestioned. That's the kind of person we desire to be: one who can offer critique that is received eagerly.

We know all this, do we not? It's why we console ourselves when we receive a message we don't want to hear with the cliche "consider the source."

Here's the gotcha. We dismiss criticism coming from some people at great risk to ourselves. Though the messenger may be ignoble or inconsistent, he may still offer us valuable insight into our character and our behavior. Critique is easier to receive from some more than others. "Considering the source" may ease the pain now while shielding us from what we really need to hear.

Job said, How painful honest words can be! (Job 6:25). But the writer of Proverbs says whoever listens to counsel is wise (12:15) and listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life (19:20).

No caveats. No disclaimers. No "consider the source." Instead, consider the critique. Regardless of the motive of the messenger, there just may be something there.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wood rot...

This subject deserves a little more treatment than I could give in a Tweet and a Facebook status update.

After Tropical Storm Hannah passed through last week, my wife noticed a water stain in the window sill in our sun room. I looked a little closer and when I pressed on the wood, it felt like a sponge. It was definitely rotten.

The paint was just as clean, bright and white as it was on day one. Only when pressing on the wood was the damage obvious. I looked outside and found that the caulking around the window had begun to dry and a hairline crack was evident upon close inspection. It was enough to let water in and, over time, the damage was done.

Last night, as I pried, chiseled, pulled and levered the old wood out, the parallels to our lives became more and more evident. It is easy to paint over the blemishes and imperfections in our lives. It is just as easy to hide the private, inner thoughts that we want to protect from the scrutiny of others. But they are still there. Like the water. Creating an environment in which the damage occurs on the inside. Then, when a little stain appears, and someone prods a little deeper, the rot is exposed.

So what to do? First, find the leak and caulk the seam. Stop the intrusion of whatever is tempting, gnawing, chipping away or attacking you. Then, expose the rot and get it out. It will be painful (think hammers, wood chisels, and Dremel tools), but necessary if repairs are to be made. Then celebrate that healing has come.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Our best? Or just good enough?

Dilbert.comYes, I do like Dilbert. Scott Adams can certainly present extraordinary insights into organizational behavior by observing what are all too often ordinary occurrences. Sadly, I find "us" depicted in the strips. And it challenges me to change.

This strip reminded me of a book I picked up in seminary: An Enemy Called Average by John Mason. This book is a great collection of devotions, quotes, anecdotes and thoughts that challenged me then and now. I think it was the first place I saw the concept that the enemy of "doing our best is not doing our worst. Instead it is doing 'just enough.'"

Let's raise the bar today. A new benchmark. Our best.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What are you doing right now?

Is reading this post the best thing you could be doing? I hope so... <G>

Merlin Mann, over at 43Folders posts "Right Now, What Are You Doing?" noting how easy it is to be distracted by the web, social networking, etc. He illustrates a "fix" with a page that loads with his browser or tab-sets, that is an instant reminder that the path of distraction lies directly ahead.

That's true spiritually as well. It is easy to be distracted from the most important things by otherwise good things. They're just not the best things.

When your focus or attention begins to drift, Merlin suggests "Catch the drifting as it happens, refocus, then repeat as necessary."

That may be the best thing you do all day. In fact, repeat often enough, and it could change your life.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Spill the wind

One of the things I like about sailing is the infinite number of adjustments that can be made to the trim of the sail. Some days I just set them and forget them. On others, I tweak them in all sorts of ways by easing or tightening lines, trying to eke out that last bit of speed drawn from the power of the wind.

Today, the wind was blowing about 15-20 miles per hour in the St. Simons Sound, with gusts much higher. Several of the gusts led to our being overpowered, which is evident by the heeling of the boat and the excited shouts from my crew as they awaken from their seasick-induced slumber.

One of the sail adjustments available is to increase the amount of twist in the sail. Simply put, the bottom of the sail is presented full on to the wind for power, but the top twists away, spilling the wind from the sail. This reduces heel angle without sacrificing too much speed, especially in breezy conditions.

While James said "resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7), Paul suggested that there are times we need to run rather than resist: from immorality (1 Cor 6:18), idolatry (1 Cor 10:14), and youthful passions (1 Tim 2:22). Paul's words suggest to me that I need to spill the wind when faced with temptation. While resisting the temptation, I need to run toward righteousness, faith, love, peace and a pure heart (1 Tim 2:22). I resist the enemy by standing firmly in the word, but I present him less of a target as I head off in pursuit of higher aims.

So, if you are being overpowered today, spill the wind. Don't try to stand against everything that comes your way. Stand firm where you can and then run from the rest.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

What happens after the meeting is over?

Had a hard couple of days last week with late night travel and haven't had time to post this thought.

I was driving home Thursday evening and heard bits and pieces of Barak Obama's acceptance speech. It obviously was well received by the crowd in Denver. Almost immediately, I began to wonder how many would remember what he said the next day? I also thought about how easy it is to be enthusiastic when surrounded by people who think as do I. The real challenge is to maintain the enthusiasm after the crowds are gone and I find myself all alone. This is even more difficult when I am alone and face opposition.

Is is not the same with discipleship? And maintaining a Christian witness? When the service is over, and I'm all alone, and I face opposition, the excitement can wear off quickly. That is the danger of relying on emotions. They can quickly turn against you when your circumstances change.

That's the value of values. Knowing what you believe and why can provide the stability you need and the motivation required to be steadfast in your witness and testimony. That's true of politics. And it's true of discipleship.

But I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed... 2 Tim 1:12 (HCSB)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Carpe Daddy

In the early pre-dawn hours, my eyes fluttered open as I sensed my wife sitting up in bed. "What time is it?" I whispered.

"6:27" she replied.

"Good, you have three minutes to hug me before the alarm goes off," I said.

As she snuggled up to me, she said "Carpe Daddy - seize the daddy."

I laughed. I liked that.

Then, alarm went off....

The movie Dead Poet's Society popularized the phrase carpe diem - seize the day. The challenge is to embrace every day with it's opportunities, challenges and experiences with total abandon. That's a good way to live. Live the moment. Capture every opportunity to serve others and demonstrate God's glory. Sieze the day.

Of course, sieze the daddy is a pretty good start as well. Oh, and a casual glance at a Latin dictionary this morning showed me that "carpe dea" means "sieze the goddess." I can hardly wait to get home!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Connector, Maven or Salesman

This was a neat article from Mary at Stepcase Lifehack. Referring to Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, she asks which type might describe you. I'm a maven... And you?

From the original post:
Know Your Strength for More Success: Are you a Connector, a Maven, or a Salesman? - Stepcase Lifehack
The strategy of enhancing our talents means that we should foster the strength we have as a Connector, a Maven, or a Salesman.

* As a Connector we can focus on connecting others with each other, as well as creating groups where people feel at home.

* As a Maven, we can focus on sharing our information with others so that they can benefit from our research.

* As a Salesman, we can focus on making others happy with our good cheer.


I don't know how long it will last, but I'm going to try Twitter. I don't really understand it, so I'll try it. I'm not really a read the instruction kind of person - more of a jump in the middle and figure it out.

If you twitter and are interested in following me, you can go to Twitter, and search for me by name, or username (ncordle). I already see two limits I'll have to set for myself:
  1. Limit posts: otherwise one spends more time telling what they are doing rather than doing it.
  2. Limit how many people I follow (So, don't take it personal if I don't add you immediately.)
I guess that's the extraordinary leadership lesson today. Think in advance about the limits you have to impose when you are embarking on a new endeavor. And don't be afraid to adjust those limits as you gain new information.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Influencing Like Jesus

Finished this little volume last night. It's a good read. Dr. Zigarelli lists 15 principles of persuasion as illustrated through the life and teaching of Christ, including prayer, modeling, service, asking for their opinion, telling stories and others.

One of the things I liked best is his focus on practical application. He suggests that you think of someone whom you would like to influence and what kind of attitude, behavior or circumstance you would like to change. Then, as you read each chapter, you are challenged to apply the principle to that situation.

I am becoming more and more a fan of "short books." Get to the point and let me move on. Influencing Like Jesus fits that category. It is to the point and the point is sharp. You can find it here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Teaching with the end in mind...

It has been my experience (that's both personal and what I have observed) that too many teachers (did you catch the part about this being personal) both prepare and present with too much focus on what is personally important. The remedy: seeing things from your learner's perspective.
The post at PastorHacks: Teaching with the end in mind... has five great questions for pastors and teachers to help them prepare a lesson that will affect attitudes and behaviors.
Yes, it takes more time to prepare and present lessons in this way. But consider the return on that investment.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Wolf Hunt

I often listen to the local police and fire departments on a scanner when I'm driving around town. This morning, on the way to the office, the following dialog occurred.

DISPATCHER: Unit 441, respond to Glynn Ave and 4th Ave. Caller advised there is an orange colored wolf walking around checking out the neighborhood.

OFFICER #1: Dispatch, you advise a wolf?

DISPATCHER: That's 10-4. Orange in color.

OFFICER #1: Ok, I'm in route.

OFFICER #2: 448 to 441, What's your location?

OFFICER #1: Glocester and Glynn Ave.

OFFICER #2: I'm on 4th Ave. I'll take that call if you want.

OFFICER #1: Ok, 448, you go look for the wolf.

DISPATCHER: I'm clear. 448 is looking for the wolf.

(a few seconds later)

OFFICER #1: 448. You see anything?

OFFICER #2: Negative. I see a bunny.

OFFICER #1: The wolf is probably following him.

OFFICER #3: 448. Call if you need backup.

OFFICER #2: The bunny's got my back.

The wolf was never located.

But, I was laughing out loud... as were the officers. Remember, no matter how routine or mundane, there is novelty and uniqueness just waiting to burst on the scene. Don't forget to laugh and encourage others to do so as well.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sailing sideways

I was sailing off St. Simon's Island last week on a beautiful Friday afternoon. The wind was light and there were still about three hours before the tide turned as I headed the boat toward the marina.

When I looked at the back of the boat, the water rushing from beneath the hull left quite a wake. The sails were trimmed so that they were maximizing the power from the wind. I could feel the breeze across my face as I looked over toward the lighthouse. After some minutes, I realized that I had not moved in relationship to the lighthouse. The water still raced by. The wind was still blowing. Through the water, it seemed as if I was making 3 knots. But, in relationship to the island, I was not moving.

It did not take me long to realize that the force from the wind propelling me forward was in almost perfect balance with the force of the tide pushing me backward. In fact, my GPS device calculated that my net progress was .5 knots... sideways. That is a little bit less than a foot per second.

It became something of a game: read the wind, trim the sail, shift the tiller and maintain almost perfect balance. In fact, I played the game for about 20 minutes. And found myself about a quarter mile closer to shore than when I started. Had I played long enough, it is possible that I would have run aground. So, I gave in, fired up the Nissan and motored across the current toward home.

Compromise can be like that. You can think you have the forces of two opposing values in balance, when in reality, you're sailing sideways. If you do not have a full range of references, you will not be able to accurately assess your location. And if you do that long enough, you'll be aground.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dense Fog

When I launched my browser a few minutes ago, a little window appeared with a "severe weather warning." When I clicked it, I was informed that there is a "dense fog advisory." Well, duh, I thought. I just drove through it.

It was thick this morning. It is something to be dealt with in Coastal Georgia. Many mornings the fog is so heavy, sight is obscured beyond 50 or 100 feet.

Such fog calls for a different set of driving skills. I find myself more alert to lights, the reflectors in the middle of the road and the white lines on the edge. I slow down and pay much attention to giving more room to others.

On several occasions last week, I heard references to wilderness experiences. The speakers were referring to the times in our lives where nothing seems to work out the way we plan, we are confronted with feelings of isolation and loneliness and there is the sense that we are lost and without direction.

The wilderness is like the fog. It calls for a different set of driving skills. Paying more attention to the things right around us. Slowing down. Building more "white space" into our lives. Be patient. Don't rush the experience. It may take a while, but eventually, the fog will lift (my weather applet says by 10am) and the wilderness will end.

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