Total Pageviews

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

36 days to go until we skydive!

I recently read this - good stuff.....

Thomas Carlyle said, "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."

Vision is essential to leadership, as is seeing the big picture—no doubt about it. But great leaders also have the ability to see and do what is necessary today.

It's the principle of first things first. Solomon said it as simply as it can be said: Develop your business first before building your house. (Proverbs 24:27)

This is what great leaders do. Whereas many flounder from week to week, effective leaders make sure that first, before anything else, business gets done each day.

What's your business? I mean your real business? What matters most to you? Is there anything on your agenda today that reflects this priority? Long term vision is great, but we also need to make a habit of taking care of today's business today.

See if you can complete these two sentences.

1. My real business is __________.

2. I will develop it today by doing this: _______________.

If your real business is following Jesus, then do something today that makes you more like him. Give. Love. Serve. Forgive. Show mercy. Develop your business (your real business) first, before doing anything else.

May you be blessed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Strong roots are necessary for a healthy, vibrant tree. It's the same in my walk with God.

Strong roots stabilize growth.
Strong roots support against the prevailing winds of trials, problems and ungodly persuasion.
Strong roots keep us straight.
Strong roots keep us standing.

Jesus one time talked about a plant that withered in Mark chapter 4. It had a root problem so it couldn't handle the heat of the sun.

Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17 (for the followers of Christ in Ephesus) that they be "rooted and grounded."

And he later urged Colossian Christians to be "firmly rooted....Built up and established." in their faith." Colossians 2:7

We need strong spiritual roots in our lives. Without them we lean and sometimes snap.

But REMEMBER THIS: Strong roots take time. There is no instant route to roots.

We want the big thrill of an experience with God at the altar (and those times can be necessary for our walk with God - don't misunderstand me), when in reality having deep roots is a lot of hard work.

It's not a high-profile process.

As one author wrote, "nobody spends much time digging around a tree trunk, admiring: "What neat roots you have."

The stronger and deeper the roots, the less visible they are. The less noticed.

How deep are your roots today?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Spiritual growth

My oldest daughter gave me a great idea today. Have a countdown to when I (and several friends) go skydiving for my 50th birthday. that spirit....only 38 days until we go!

I really desire in my life to grow in God.

Here are some things I am learning about spiritual growth:

First - Spiritual growth is not automatic. Just because you’ve been a Christian for a long time, doesn’t mean that you have grown spiritually. The fact that you’ve been saved by grace doesn’t mean that you’ve grown in grace. Hebrews 5:12-13 says:

You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right.

There is no correlation between the amount of time that you have been a Christian and the amount that you have grown. Some people have been believers for years and have hardly grown. Some just began to follow Jesus and they’ve grown tremendously already. Spiritual growth is not automatic.

Second – Spiritual growth is ongoing. Unlike physical growth, it never ends. There isn’t a person here who couldn’t grow more spiritually. 2 Peter 3:18 says, "Continue to grow in grace." It never ends. Every day when you wake up, you can either grow more spiritually or you can take a step backwards. Somebody has said that the Christian life is like riding a bicycle. Unless you keep moving, you fall off. We will never attain all that there is in Christ in this life.

People try a lot of shortcuts. Some people look for an emotional experience – "If I just get this `certain experience', then all my problems will be solved and I will be a mature Christian." Other people say, "If I could just go to this seminar.... If I could just read this book... If I could just listen to this tape..." Other people say, "If I could just keep a certain set of rules, then I could be all God wants me to be."

But the Bible says, no. It's a continual process. You have to learn to be mature. But there are some skills that you can learn that will help you grow.

Third - Spiritual growth isn’t about how many. It’s not about how many meetings you attend at church or how many verses you memorize in the Bible. It’s not about how many minutes you spend in devotions every morning or how many Christian books you read last year. Those aren’t bad things, but they’re not the measurement of spiritual growth. Just doing things doesn’t mean you’re growing. It’s not a matter of how many.

Let me tell you what spiritual growth is. It’s about how much. It’s about the quality of life. It’s about how much closer I am to God than I was at this time last year. It’s how much my character is being changed by God’s power. It’s how much more I love my wife and kids because of God’s grace. Jesus said, "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness" (John 10:10). He didn’t say he came to give us more things to do. He came to give us a new quality of living.

God didn't just give us grace to get us started. God gave us his grace tokeep us going.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Are we really listening?

One thing that is important in relationships is communication, and clear communication.

I like the story of Old Fred.

Old Fred's hospital bed is surrounded by well-wishers, but it doesn't look good. Suddenly, he motions frantically to the pastor for something to write on. The pastor lovingly hands him a pen and a piece of paper. Fred uses his last bit of energy to scribble a note, and then dies.

The pastor thinks it best not to look at the note right away, so he places it in his jacket pocket. At Fred's funeral, as the pastor is finishing his eulogy, he realizes he's wearing the jacket he was wearing when Fred died.

"Fred handed me a note just before he died," he says. "I haven't looked at it, but knowing Fred, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration in it for us all."

Opening the note, he reads aloud, "Help! You're standing on my oxygen hose!"

Even though I communicate by trade to a group of people every Sunday morning, I am still always surprised by the way something I say is filtered through different "ears" and how what I say can be taken in different ways.

And yet that is natural, it's part of being part of God's created order. We all listen through different colored lens. The lens of our background, upbringing and the experiences we have had in life.

Many times it's not that the communicate is not clear, it's that someone is not listening or really hearing what is being said. They carry too much baggage or are in the throes of a very difficult experience, or sometimes they simply do not care.

God's style of communication didn't seem to leave much margin for generalities. In the Old Testament, he told more than one prophet to speak clearly and to the point (Just read Micah 4:1-7).

He gave Moses precisely ten commandments, not "a dozen or so."

He told Jonah to go directly to Nineveh, not "whichever city seems good too you."

God mentions His interest in every jot and tittle of His Word, not "just the part that's easy to read and fun to do." (What part of the word "don't" don't we understand? And what part of the word "do" don't we understand)

Again, God is speaking, but are we listening, are we really hearing what he has to say? May our ears be open this day to his Word. May we avoid miscommunication with the Father by asking, "Lord, help to understand your direction, your will, you plan for my life. Help me to be open to you and your Word."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Turning loose in a clutching world.

This summer, Debbie has been cleaning out our basement. It's amazing how much "stuff" you can collect over the years. Decisions are to be made on almost everything. Do we keep it or throw it away?

For most of us it's hard to let go. It's hard to turn loose of things, events, and people. Whether is be allowing a child space to grow up or letting a friend have the freedom to be themselves or throwing out "stuff" from the basement, it's hard, it's difficult to give up things that we think we cherish.

We are clutchers by nature, aren't we friends. We hold on the position and power and people as if everything is dependent upon us. When that control is threatened, we cringe, we balk, we pout, we point a finger at those around us and at God.

That's why I am learning to hold things loosely. Everything belongs to God. Everything must be committed to God.

Abraham's story in Genesis 22 shows this.

It's an amazing story as he takes his son - his son that he loved, his son in whom he took great delight - and the Bible says in Genesis 22:2 that God said to him, "take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering."

Wow......It was time to turn him loose. What was Abe's response? He didn't plead or bargain or try to manipulate. He surrendered his son to God.

Here's a statement - true or false: the greater the possessiveness, the greater the pain.

What does God want us to do? Hold everything loosely. That doesn't mean that we don't care. It doesn't mean we don't grieve. But it means that we know that ultimately, everything is God's.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Solving problems

Problems. The come daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute.

It's a given. A fact of life.

How do you handle problems?

Listen to Scott Peck, from his classic book, "The Road Less Traveled."

"It is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually.....It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those things that hurt, instruct. Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us....Attempt to avoid problems. We even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so that by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that cause the pain."

And then Peck goes on to write, "this tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness."

Carl Jung once wrote, "neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering."

In other words, the substitute itself ultimately becomes more painful than the "legitimate suffering," it was trying to avoid.

On top of that, when we try to avoid legitimate suffering that means that we also avoid the growth that problems demand of us.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 5:8 that Jesus, "learned obedience from the things which he suffered." From the things he suffered, not in spite of those things.

Do you have a problem? "Well, yeah, George," you say. Could it be that your problem is a God-appointed situation that is there to instruct and challenge and deepen your walk with Him?

Face the problem head on! Lean upon the provider in the midst of your problem.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Have you ever been out with someone to an ice cream place and they end up ordering vanilla? Nothing wrong with that, don't get me wrong, but with so many choices to choose from, why get in the habit of staying with the same (and many times) boring flavor?

I read once where most people, by their mid-thirties, have stopped acquiring new skills and new attitudes in any aspect of their lives.

I read that and thought, when was the last time that I acquired a new skill? How many brand-new attitudes have I adopted in my personal life?

Do I approach a problem the same identical way every time?

How do I feel when someone brings up a new and refreshing idea?

Here's what I know. Living and learning are linked together.

I never want to stop living. I never want to stop learning.

In that way, I always want to be like a little child - inquisitive, curious about everything, probing always for the truth.

"Well," you might say, "that's just the way I am. Can't teach an old dog new tricks." (to use a cliche)

Oh really, Why not?

Learn a new skill. Break the routine. Go to a restaurant or place in the area you have never been before. Buy a book on a topic you're interested in but have never pursued and read it! Make a new friend.

Go for it!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Managing manipulation

All right, admit it. None of us like to be manipulated. None of us like to be used or coerced into anything.

I don't like to be manipulated, but I distain it even more when I sense that I am beginning to manipulate someone else.

Someone once wrote, "Manipulation is the attempt to control, obligate , or take advantage of others by unfair or insidious means."

It's not done in an "in your face" kind of way but by the little things: litle hints, well-timed comments, or even facial expressions.

Paul writes in First Thessalonians 2:5, "Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you very well know, and God knows we were not just pretending to be your friends so that you would give us money!"

There's the "I'm smarter than you are" manipulator.

In a discussion, they always know more than anyone else. They take great relish in correcting factual errors in conversations. They control arugments and look for ways to show that others are at fault. They use guilt when they want somebody to do something. They want to be the "victor" in any given situation.

There's the "Woe is me" manipulator.

They sigh. They clutch. They cry. They bemoan their sicknesses and use even emotional struggles to gain contorla dn get their way. They can appear so needy, so ill...until they see it's not working. They want to be the "victim" in any given situation.

There's the "No one can do it without me" manipulator.

They loved to me needed. Whenever someone has a problem (like one of their kids), they are immediately on the plane, going to the home of their child, even before being invited. And if their child gets a little bit resentful...well...the "no one can do it without me" syndrome gets going....."Well, how ungrateful can you be."

Down with manipulation!

What can you do when you sense someone is manipulating you? Confront them by sharing how you feel. Learn from the experience by storing in your mind how being manipulated made you feel.

What can you do when you sense you are manipulating someone else? Give someone permission to observe you, watching for any manipulative comments or actions.

Now, if you have read this far, let me ask you this: What is the difference between persuasion and manipulation? How can we tell the difference?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dealing with expectations

Have you ever been disappointed by something that you had look forward to for a long time? We all have. We all been disappointed by situations and people in our lives. And what's probably worse in when we are a disappointment to others.

Stop and think about it.

What causes you to feel disappointed?

I think we can sum it up into one word.


Something or someone didn't meet your expectations.

You had it in your mind that a situation or a person would act or react in a certain way - and it fell way short.

For example:

You wonder how on earth you could have been excited about the job you are currently in.

You feel like the spouse you are married to gave you some false advertising. The relationship is all it was cracked up to be.

You helped someone and they weren't thankful in return.

The small group you are in is nothing like you anticipated it to be.

The church I'm attending isn't meeting my needs.

You just got back from vacation. It wasn't that great. Nothing like you thought it would be.


What can we do?

Learn to take things as they come.
Be realistic.
Give grace to those around me.
Be thankful for what I do have.
Realize that nothing or no one is perfect.
Laugh a lot at the imperfections of life.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Down with Cliches!

One thing that I am really trying to work on is to avoid any "god speak" when I speak, whether it be in church or in daily life. Enough already of spiritual cliches!

"Just trust the Lord."

"I want to share my testimony."

"God, bless all the missionaries."

"Bless both the gift and the giver."

"Thank you, Lord, for this time of food, fun and fellowship."

"Bless this food to our bodies."

"God wants to save the lost."

Yawn. Sigh. ZZZZZ.

I wonder sometimes if God doesn't catch a few z's as we talk to one another and to Him in His kingdom.

Are you in agreement with me that what we might consider doing is blowing up our "spiritual language," our meaningless "God talk"?

Jesus once, rather pointedly, told the Pharisees that they were guild of using "meaningless repetition." when they prayed.

Why not stretch our verbal vocabulary to speak in a way that everyone understands from the oldest saint to the man in the street who doesn't know anything about God?

Cliche is a French term meaning, stereotype.

Webster defines stereotype as, "repeating without variation; frequent and almost mechanical repetition of the same thing...Something conforming to a fixed pattern."

In His relationship with us, I wonder if God doesn't feel like every day is a day taken out of the movie "Groundhog day."

Here's a suggestion. Ask someone at your work or here at the church to keep you accountable for every cliche that you use. Pay someone a dollar for every cliche that you use in a two-hour time period. Eliminate at least one cliche from your speech this week. Be creative!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dealing with negatives seasons

Three years the Detroit Tigers had a lousy baseball season. At the end of April, 2003, they were on track to becoming the losingest team in the history of baseball. They didn't quite make it, but they did manage to set an American League record for most losses (119) in a single season.

Now, with just a season between this one and that one, the Tigers are on track to becoming the winningest team in baseball, breaking a record set by Chicago in 1906. Even if they don't set the record this year, clearly they're having a great season and their future looks bright.

Quick turn around, wasn't it? This reversal didn't happen by accident, and how it happened is best described by the experts, but here's the point I want you to pick up on today: It happened. The worst team in baseball is now playing like the best team in baseball.

I am a big believer in seasons. Spiritual seasons. Relational seasons. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven."

That is not a fatalistic statement! Solomon is communicating, simply and directly, that the Lord has a wonderful plan for every one of us in all of our life situations in all times. No matter what the time of seasons, neither our lives nor the events we encounter are the result of chance or happenstance, good luck or bad luck, fate or fortune, the law of large number or Murphy's law.

Sometimes the seasons of are lives are bright. Full of happiness and joy.

Other times the seasons of our lives are dark. Full of discouragement and despair.

Personally and professionally we all endure losing seasons from time to time. A losing season may tell us that it's time to start over, but it doesn't tell us it's time to quit. If you've suffered some setbacks in life-and we all have or we all will-it doesn't mean that your best days are forever behind you. There's a big season right around the corner.

Peter reminded his readers of the great rewards to come, and said, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." He reminded his readers that trials and troubles are cyclical, but the promises of God are permanent.

Remember Peter's words: "for a little while..."

If you're where the Tigers were in 2003, look at where they are now. This can be you. You may be struggling in certain areas now, but those struggles are temporary. You'll experience a turn around, because God's promises are forever.

Hang in there! Seasons come and seasons go. May God bless you this week with a positive season in Him!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Overcoming discouragement

I read something today that I am probably going to share Sunday. We all get discouraged. We all get depressed. We all get discouraged. What to do?

I quote:

"In the sixth century, when few could read and fewer actually owned books, there was a greater sense of emotional involvement in reading/hearing the scriptures.

Saint Benedict began a practice that is continued in Benedictine communities and among Christians of many backgrounds to this day: lectio divina.

In lectio, one reads the scriptures (or other books that spiritually deepen the reader)very slowly. Like soil that has endured a long winter and is not yet thoroughly thawed, we need the refreshment of the words to linger and be absorbed rather than run off quickly, leaving less chance for growth.

This is not to be confused with other kinds of reading for information or entertainment.

We come to the reading gently, regularly, ready to receive a divine, healing touch into the deep places of the heart.

Ponder the word of God in your heart, like Mary in Luke 2:19. Then, like Mary, give the word access as she did: "Let it be done to me according to your word." Luke 1:38

Lectio is like reading a love letter or poetry where each word is savored, where feelings, memories, and imaginations flare with rich response.

A simple guide for lectio:

1. Come into the lord's presence quietly, with humility, ready to receive a word form God. Pray for the Spirit to bless and guide you.

2. Read/hear a few verses of God's Word for ten minutes or so. At times, a single verse will do. If a single word or phrase captures your heart and mind, rest there. Meditate on the Word. Take it in deeply.

3. Finally, select a word or phrase to take with you through the day. Let it come to mind and touch your life often as the day unfolds. Close with thanks for God's presence.

I encourage you to try lectio divina. You'll see yourself differently. You'll see the world differently.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Turning 50

I turn 50 in a few weeks. Guess what. I'm thinking about going sky diving. My oldest daughter reminded me of that a few weeks ago (I made that as one of my goals a few years ago).

I guess it's cheaper than a sports car.

Anybody out there like to go with me? Any takers on joining me in my quest to get through my 50th birthday? I plan on going in August.

We went to Missouri last week and visited with relatives.

For me it was a trip down memory lane.

One of the highlights was a family gathering where Cindy Sites (Debbie's sister-in-law) played the piano and we sat around signing the old hymns and songs of the church with my grandparents who are 93.

While grandpa can't really hear and can barely walk, it was heartwarming to see him raise his white hanky and wave it as we sang the old hymn, "looking for a city."

That will forever be in my memory bank.

Also...I had the opportunity to read a file full of letters that I wrote my mom and dad during my college years. My parents had kept them and I didn't know it!

It was interesting to read them.

The one consistent thread throughout all of the letters that I wrote was a plea for money!

Memories can be helpful and memories can be hurtful. I'm thankful that I can experince a week of wonderful, warm memories from my past that help me realize what I wonderful life I have lived so far. It hasn't been without pain and heartache, but I'm thankful for all the good times!