Friday, July 31, 2009

Matching Couples...

Susan and I don't place a high priority on our wearing matching outfits. But I can respect how some couples seem to enjoy looking like designer twins. I do feel, though, that this couple needs some immediate fashion counsel. (I'm glad he rejected the earrings as being too matchy-matchy.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Not...

I like to think of myself as an optimist. One of my favorite pursuits is looking for God-possibilities. I'm thinking that's why the optimist, God-possibility seeker in me found a lot to chew on in this recent post by Mark Batterson:

George Bernard Shaw once said: "Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why not’?”

I think we're called, as Christ-followers, to ask the why not question. We're called to take the why not approach to life. Faith demands it.

Any other parents have children that ask "why" when you ask them to do something? It can drive you crazy can't it? I wonder if that is how God feels sometimes. We're always asking why. It's like we need an excuse to do something. What if we asked why not instead.

I love the story in Acts 8 about the Ethiopian eunuch who has a divine appointment with Philip. He puts his faith in Christ and immediately says: "Why shouldn't I be baptized?" That one question reveals a why not mindset. And it changes the course of history. He becomes the first missionary to Ethiopia.

I can only imagine what we'd accomplish for the Kingdom if we had a why not mindset.

Why not.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Two Versions of a Date Night...

My daughter, Caroline, and I were enjoying a daddy/daughter date night at our local Subway last evening as an elderly couple took seats at a table near us. Dressed in matching bright orange tee-shirts, the couple carefully divided their foot-long sub sandwich between them.

They each proceeded to pull out a book of crossword puzzles. Pencils in hand, they then reached up and turned off their hearing aids. Contentedly munching on their sandwiches, the couple silently began to work their crossword puzzles.

Caroline and I finished up our sandwiches and slid out of the booth. Our date night companions at the next table paid no attention to our departure... lost as they were in their silent crossword reverie.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Email Discipline...

Could you limit your email to three sentences in length? How about five? This site offers a simple rationale for shortening your emails... and reducing the in-box overflow of those who receive a lot of it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Question of Priorities...

I've been digging into the book of Malachi for a study I'm currently involved in with SoHills' YoungMarrieds Group. The words God spoke through His prophet Malachi are full of meaning for us today. These words from Malachi 1:6-8 smacked me in the mouth:

"A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" says the LORD Almighty. "It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.

"But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?' "You place defiled food on my altar. "But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?'

"By saying that the LORD's table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" says the LORD Almighty.

The priests had the audacity to offer God what their governor would never have accepted from them. They were more fearful of the governor's rejection than God's!

Before you and I shake a finger at these priests, we need to take a moment to think about all we're involved in and all that encompasses... our commitments and responsibilities. Then think about how we approach matters that relate to God. Do our standards line up? Does our work ethic and commitment reveal God's greatness and authority?

God ceases to be honored when the other commitments of our life take a greater priority than our commitment to Him. So why is it we find ourselves cheating God in ways we would never think about in other areas of our lives?

Malachi's stinging rebuke was delivered to the priests because they publicly vowed to give God their best and then did not privately follow through. It would seem he priests were more interested in people seeing them serve God than actually serving Him.

Are we due a stinging rebuke for being more interested in impressing people than we are in impressing God?

We are called to be holy because God is holy... not because people are watching, or because holiness looks good on our spiritual resumes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bach On The Big Keyboard...

You saw Tom Hanks do something similar in Big... here's the same thing only better.

Sigh... I always wanted to play the piano with my feet.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kinda Freaky...

Start with some features of real people, add in a little Photoshop... and you end up with this image of good old Charlie Brown.

Kinda freaky.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Preach the Gospel to Yourself...

This passage from Jerry Bridges' book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate challenged me on my daily need to "preach the gospel" to me:

“Preach the gospel to yourself every day.” That is what we must do in order to daily, consciously appropriate the gospel. We must preach it to ourselves every day. Not only that, we need to personalize it to ourselves, as Paul did when he wrote of “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis added).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Playing It Safe...

Let me go out on a limb and say I think most of us walk the line between passion and peacefulness. We play it too safe because we fear failure and criticism. Many of us wake up every day with the goal of not looking bad or bringing unwelcomed attention to ourselves.

That being said, I'll make-up an axiom
that I think is true: If we're never disconcerting anyone or risking personal embarrassment with our life's endeavors, we're probably making very little impact.

That's just how influence works.
It comes with the price of personal unrest.

In almost every endeavor I've embarked on that pushes the play-it-safe, maintain the status-quo envelope... there is always that moment when I realize I've gone too far to turn back, and there's absolutely no assurance of success. I start doubting my leadership, my sense of God possibilities, and I kick myself for risking.

And then God does something amazing

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


"And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work." - Colossians 3:22-24 (The Message)

I had saved the following Seth Godin post in my "hang onto this" file. Re-reading this post reminded me to always strive to do my best... and the why for doing so.

When we talk about quality, it's easy to get confused.

That's because there are two kinds of quality being discussed. The most common way it's talked about in business is "meeting specifications." An item has quality if it's built the way it was designed to be built.

There's another sort of quality, though. This is the quality of, "is it worth doing?" The quality of specialness and humanity, of passion and remarkability.

Hence the conflict. The first sort of quality is easy to mandate, reasonably easy to scale and it fits into a spreadsheet very nicely. I wonder if we're getting past that.

Consider two eggs:

If I go the local diner, I can get a high quality diner egg, over easy. The egg is a standard manufactured egg, created in quantity by drugged chickens in prison. It retails (raw) for about 14 cents. The egg is cooked on a griddle the way it always is, a grill neither spotless nor filthy, covered with a sheen of slightly old oil. It's cooked on one side until set, flipped for a few seconds, put on a plate, given a shake of iodized salt and served, usually with a piece of generic white bread toast.

This is the regular kind. The kind most people grew up with. Easy to produce on demand, reliable and expected.

If I make an egg at home, I'll use a free-range egg from the farmer's market, which I'll happily pay 39 cents for. This egg tastes like an egg, and the extra money pays for a local farmer and a (slightly) happier chicken. I'd cook it in a very hot cast iron skillet with really tasty olive oil, and I'd leave it in longer until it gets crisp around the edges, then I'd put some David's salt on it (which, due to its pointy edges, in fact does taste better). All told, it costs about thirty-one cents more altogether.

This is the undependable kind. You might not be able to get the eggs. Cleaning the pan is more work too. But this is a remarkable egg, an egg worth talking about, an egg worth crossing the street for, an egg worth writing about.

If you can do this to an egg for thirty cents, imagine what happens when you bring the same approach to quality to your job.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Law of the Lid...

In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell indicates that the first irrefutable law of leadership is "The Law of the Lid." Maxwell's "lid theory" is that leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The point of this law is that the lid on your leadership must be raised to increase your leadership ability and influence.

When you stop and think about it, this is such a brutal law. It means that if you can't find good leaders to serve with you, it's probably... gulp... your own fault. Great leaders don't follow good leaders. And good leaders don't follow bad leaders. At least, not for very long.

This doesn't mean you have to be better
at what they do than they are. Most definitely not. In fact, if you're leading well, you'll be surrounded by talented specialists. But an indicator of your leadership ability is who is standing around you.

So... who's standing around you?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...

I thought this was a nice story told in stop-motion by taking pictures of pictures.

This is an ad for the new Olympus camera, the PEN. To make this video 60,000 pictures were taken, 9,600 prints were developed and over 1,800 pictures were shot again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Creepy Ad...

This vintage ad struck me as pretty creepy. I can't decide whether the little girl in the ad is gleefully anticipating getting her hands on the sandwich... or the knife.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don't Be That Couch...

I'm sitting in my favorite chair cooling down after a workout at our health club and flipping through the notebook I received at the Catalyst One-Day Conference which I attended in early May. Several of my notes are jumping off the page as I mentally rewind the sessions I attended.

Here are a few of the notes I took during a session Andy Stanley led that was titled "Don't Be That Couch." (Andy used a great illustration in this session that keyed on the reluctance many of us have to get rid of that old couch.)

Programming and music are what defines your church in the minds of people. All programming was designed to answer a specific question or address a specific need. Whereas programming begins as an answer to a question, over time it becomes part of organizational culture.

As culture changes, many of the questions remain the same, but the answers don't. The tendency is to institutionalize our answers. If we institutionalize an answer, the day will come when it is no longer an answer. (The reason we institutionalize our answers is we have dedicated staff and resources to coming up with the answers.)

We must be more committed to our Vision than to our programming. When what we are doing no longer supports our Vision... then get rid of it.

What programs have we fallen in love with that are really not as effective as they used to be? What are we emotionally attached to? What are we continuing to do even though it's not really working?

Don't let anything be off-limits for debate in your church. Vision doesn't change... the plan to accomplish your Vision does.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The following quote from Michael Horton's book Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church disquieted me. But perhaps you and I need to be disquieted.

I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Ultimate Goal of Every Leader...

I liked this quote from Jeff Iorg... which I discovered in his book, The Character of Leadership:

The simple goal of becoming more like Jesus should be the ultimate goal of every leader. Leaders are usually remembered for who they were, not what they did. Instead of building monuments to our ingenuity, we should be focused on building lives worth remembering.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quitting Church...

I'm currently reading Quitting Church: Why The Faithful Are Fleeing and What To Do About It by Julia Duin. Duin, who works as the religion writer for the Washington Times, interviewed authors and church leaders, and describes the trend of faithful evangelicals who increasingly vote with their feet by leaving their churches. She is also a self-described born-again evangelical, coping with the personal pain of not having a viable and permanent church home.

As I read Quitting Church last evening, I highlighted these two passages:

One of the top reasons people give for their leaving church is loneliness: the feeling--especially in large congregations--that no one knows or cares whether they are there. Midweek small groups are a help in creating connections, but fewer and fewer people are able to fight their way through traffic, wolf down dinner, then carve out several hours in a given evening to be part of a small group. The people I talk with who have found true community and then must leave it, due to family or job reasons, pine for it for the rest of their lives.

Many churches have become like supermarkets or gas stations: totally depersonalized arenas where most people no longer feel a responsibility to be hospitable to the person standing next to them.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Get Your Bypass Burgers...

A hospital-themed restaurant, Heart Attack Grill, in Chandler, Arizona offers a variety of "bypass burgers." (Pictured above are the Triple and Quadruple Bypass Burgers.) Patrons who weigh in excess of 350 pounds eat for free.

I'm having a little trouble seeing how eating hamburgers named for surgical procedures in a restaurant that looks like a hospital makes for a swell dining experience. On the other hand, it might be a great place to meet your cardiologist for lunch.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Western Spaghetti...

This is an amazingly creative video!

“Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility." - Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What Metaphor Best Describes Your Church...

You’ve most likely heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I’m sure most of us would agree that images often communicate in more dynamics ways than words. So, here’s the question and topic of the day: "What metaphor would you use to describe your church and why?"

I’ve found that these kinds of questions produce a clearer picture of who churches really are. For example, one person described their church as an airport since they saw their church's mission as refreshing people and releasing them to pursue their God-given passions for Kingdom purposes.

Once you've identified your response to the question above, consider how you'd answer the following follow-up question: "Which metaphors do you think people outside of your church would use to describe your church and why?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Respectable Sins...

I've been reading Jerry Bridges' book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate and have received a spiritual kick in the rear-end. Here are two excerpts from the book that I highlighted and underlined:

We who are believers tend to evaluate our character and conduct relative to the moral culture in which we live. Since we usually live at a higher moral standard than society at large, it is easy for us to feel good about ourselves and to assume that God feels that way also. We fail to reckon with the reality of sin still dwelling within us.

The acceptable sins are subtle in the sense that they deceive us into thinking they are not so bad, or not thinking of them as sins, or even worse, not even thinking about them at all! Yes, some of our refined sins are so subtle that we commit them without even thinking about them, either at the time or afterward. We often live in unconscious denial of our “acceptable” sins.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Conundrum of Calling...

I had approached my recent vacation with a sense of expectation. My expectation was that God would somehow speak to the inevitable frustrations of ministry I was wrestling with.

I listened for the Lord for most of my vacation week... and heard nothing. Frustration and impatience began to bubble inside me. I took a long walk one night and let God know that I really needed some direction. Ministry is hard, and I was looking for some relief.

And then, on our last day at our friends' lovely lake house, I read these words Ruth Haley Barton had written in her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership regarding the conundrum of God's calling:

This is not about making a brilliant career move. It is not about security. It is not about success or failure or anything else the ego wants for us. It is not about choosing from several attractive options. This is about the Spirit of God setting us on our feet and telling us, "This is yours to do. Whether they hear or refuse to hear, whether it feels to you as if you are failing or succeeding, you are to speak my words."

And when I had finished reading these words, I was ready to head home.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back Home...

Susan and I are back home in ABI following a wonderfully relaxing vacation. Lots of reading, catching up with a few old friends and watching season 4 of Lost (watching the previous season of Lost on DVD has become a Conwell vacation tradition). It was a great week recharging mental, physical and spiritual batteries.

While Susan and I were away, our daughters, Katie Lea and Caroline, took care of things around the house. They fed our cats, brought in the mail... and even (this was big news) killed a cockroach.

Let me hasten to say, our house in not roach infested. We do have an occasional roach making a guest appearance... and I am quickly called upon, as the man of the house, to dispatch our unwelcome guest.

However, being a thousand miles away makes it tough for me to perform my roach-killing duties... so my girls had to take care of dispatching the bug. Let me be clear, this was a big step (no pun intended) for my daughters to take. They both possess a healthy disdain for cockroaches. But the bug was on the stairs, which was the way downstairs, so a showdown between daughters and roach was inevitable.

Grabbing the nearest weapon (a bottle of Windex), my girls proceeded to douse the bug with vigorous sprays. The resilient roach resisted, but was finally rendered immobile due to puddle forming around him. The cockroach was finally dispatched with a whack from a broom.

The roach passed from this life spotless and without streaks.

It's good to be home!