Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sometimes we're shoulders ...

Sometimes great leaders are used by God to be the stepping stone for the next great leader.

Take King David for example. David wanted to build a temple for God, " When King David was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies, 2 the king summoned Nathan the prophet. 'Look,' David said, 'I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!'3 Nathan replied to the king, 'Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you'” 2 Samuel 7:1-3.

But God had other plans, which meant that David wouldn't be the one to build the temple, but that work would go to his son, Solomon (see 2 Samuel 7:5-29). Instead of David being allowed to build the temple, he had the privilege of making the preparations for the temple to be built, but it would be Solomon who would actually see the building and completion of the temple.

"5 David said, 'My son Solomon is still young and inexperienced. And since the Temple to be built for the Lord must be a magnificent structure, famous and glorious throughout the world, I will begin making preparations for it now.' So David collected vast amounts of building materials before his death," 1 Chronicles 22:5.

Sometimes we're called on simply to be the shoulders on which others stand, the stepping stone from which someone else will lead the way to something greater for the Lord. Sometimes it's our job to do the preparation and work behind the scenes, while someone else steps into the spotlight.

Whether we're the "shoulders" or the "builder," each role has it's importance in accomplishing the work and the will of God.

Embrace the role God gives you, big or small, doing it all to His glory.


United breaks guitars ...

If you think not offering genuine customer service isn't all that important then here's 4.1 million reasons to think again.

More than four million people have been exposed to a colossal customer service failure on the part of United Airlines because of a specific incident where they demonstrated the very essence of lousy customer service.

In 2008, singer Dave Carroll and the Sons of Maxwell were flying to Nebraska on a one-week tour. While in Chicago, a passenger noted out the window that the ground crew were throwing guitars. As Carroll looked, it just so happened one of the guitars being thrown was his $3,500.00 Taylor guitar, damaged to the extent of $1,200.00 in repairs.

Carroll immediately pursued the issue with three different United employees, only to be responded to with indifference. After spending nearly a year pursuing the matter, Carroll has gotten nowhere in trying to get United to reimburse him for the cost to repair the damage United employees caused to his guitar.

So United got away with not having to pay?

On the contrary! They have paid significantly in bad press.

Carroll has written a song about the negative experience, which has now been viewed by more than 4.1 million people via YouTube, not to mention any of the audiences who hear the song performed live (see the video post below).

What could have been a situation that could have been resolved between Carroll and only a handful of United employees has now become a story of bad customer service known to millions.

One customer not treated properly affects your brand exponentially! That's a simple but HUGE lesson business leaders need to get serious about.

To that end, let me encourage you to read "Raving Fans!" by Ken Blanchard. It's an easy, quick read, but an awesome resource on the topic of developing truly great customer service.

For my Christian friends, there's a great lesson here for us as well. We've often heard our lives touch many other lives in ways we don't even know. But let me suggest that how we live our lives, and especially how we treat and interact with others, can be as exponential as throwing guitars ... only far more significantly.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Help a young person ...

A comfortable hammock on a breeze-cooled warm day ...

Listening to the waves rolling in on a white-sand beach ...

Talking for hours with your very best friend about everything and nothing ...

An insane sale at Nordstrom's ...
Those are a few simple things many people "love."

Like everyone else, I have things I really enjoy. Actually, I'm one of those guys with broad interests ... probably too broad because I couldn't possibly pursue them all.

But there is something that I enjoy more than anything else.

I really, passionately love serving others in the name of Jesus Christ. Now THAT is something I really love.

On a very personal note, other people matter to me. Profoundly so. But I will say over the last few years that has even increased, to the point I sometimes think I feel the hurts of others too sharply!

But there is one thing that really stands out to me. It hurts my heart! And that is to see young people struggling in life and no one really caring.

I read recently about two teenagers found at a murder scene. Why?! Just teenagers!

Over the years, as I've had the opportunity to counsel thousands of people, lead several workshops on parenting, and work directly with young people, I've seen children, teens, and young adults struggle with all kinds of issues in life, and see the adults in their lives just let them struggle on their own.

I find that heart-wrenching!

Maybe it's because of my own very harsh childhood, and personally experiencing the great value of having someone ... at least one person ... who cares and comes alongside to help.

Every young person needs the chance to become that whole person God would have them to be. And we adults need to help them have those opportunities, and boost them forward so they can become all God would have them be, experience all God has for them, and contribute in the way God would use them.

Every young person needs to be loved and supported!

To those ends, when I worked in youth ministry, I used to challenge adults to personally get to know at least one young person. Not just become acquainted with someone, but get to know a young person on a personal level, and be at least one of the adults in their lives who encourage and support them and cheer them on.

If every adult did that, then children, youth, and young adults would have a brighter future.

Let me encourage you to extend your heart to a young person this week. Find a child, a teenager, or a young adult for whom you could make a difference by being in their lives and give yourself away the very best way you can.

Make a difference!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

The wooden bowl ...

Usually everything on this blog site will be my own writing. However, occasionally I come across things so rich or profound I must share them; additionally I do post some videos. The material below isn't my writing, but when I first heard this story years ago I found it to be moving and thought-provoking, so I share it with you know. The original author is unknown.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson.

The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.

"We must do something about father," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor."

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded,`"Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up." The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Good cardio fitness ...

Have you ever watched others do a physical activity that seemed enjoyable, and so you wanted to do it as well?

That was me with running.

I've never been a runner. I have ran as needed for sports or physical activities, but have never been a regular runner. Years ago I remember watching runners and, seeing how they seemed to be really enjoying the physical challenge, I thought perhaps I was missing something.

So, for several months, I took up running.

I wanted to make sure I gave it a fair and full try. So I ran not less than five miles five days a week. I was disciplined enough to keep this regimen going until, one day as I was running along in the Chicago area, I realized I wasn't enjoying myself.

I didn't like running.

Coming to that conclusion, I stopped, and continued with my other activities that make up my personal fitness regimen.

For those who enjoy running ... awesome! Keep at it! I'm a huge proponent of good cardiovascular conditioning, and if you enjoy running as a key part of your cardio exercise, keep going and enjoy it!

But for those of us who don't like running, don't sweat it! Studies have shown that walking (not strolling, but walking at a brisk enough pace to raise heart rate) is as, or sometimes more, effective than running. Additionally, walking puts less trauma on the body and can be just as enjoyable.

There are a variety of ways to get and enjoy good cardio conditioning, whether it's outdoors or in a gym using equipment, playing sports or being active around your home or community. The important thing is to try to get 45 minutes to one hour of cardio conditioning three to fives time per week (yes, this is in addition to any muscular conditioning you do). Cycling --- whether outdoors on a bicycle or using a stationary bike indoors --- can be fun but is the least effective form of cardio as compared to the same amount of time or distance on an eliptical machine or even a treadmill. Swimming can be effective for both weight-loss and toning as this exercise uses all of the major muscle groups. Additionally, the resistance of water is less harsh on joints than that of using weights.

Any time you are about to engage in exercise, make sure you warm up first, then exercise, and then cool down following the exercise. Stretching should be done after the exercise --- or at least after warming up. Stretching cold muscles could potentially result in pulling or tearing a muscle.

And, as always, be sure to consult a physician before starting any exercise program.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Off to a good start ...

It just ain't so!

From calendars, to coffee cups, to Twitter tweets, there are a vast number of platitudes thrown our way every day that simply are not true.

Here's one: "You must fail in order to succeed."

Show me the biblical substantiation for that one!

If that were the case, parents need not discipline or teach their children. They would be better off to let their children wander into failure so they could become successful!

If that were the case, no need for pastors to teach their flocks the right way to live. Instead, better to let them go their own ways into failure so they will then succeed!

If that were so, there would be a great deal more "success" in this world!

Adam and Eve would have had things much better had they never eaten the forbidden fruit ... and so would the rest of us.

The best way to live is to listen and learn first, then apply the correct thoughts, actions or behaviors the first time out and simply avoid failure all together.

In fact, one reason for scripture is to provide us with warnings and direction from the past so that we can avoid the same mistakes and make the right decisions the first time out. Look closely at 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:

"1 I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 3 All of them ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, 'The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.' 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. 9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age."

Too often our classic approach to life is like the guy who buys something that requires assembly. Instead of reading the directions first so that the item can be properly assembled on the first attempt, we tend to try assembling the item from our own reasoning ... often failing and eventually resorting to consulting the written directions.

God doesn't want us just trying life by our own reasoning first. Instead, He has supplied us with written instructions and examples to instruct, educate, and equip us first so that we can be successful in our adventures in life on our first attempt.

That does not mean we won't fail sometimes. Nor does it mean we can't get to success out of failure. But it does mean there's a better, less painful, and more successful way of living ... by avoiding failure in the first place.


From super-sizing to super-soaking ...

"Super-sizing" is still the American mantra ... bigger, wider, deeper, more!

Super-size me please!

It hasn't been such a good idea to do so with our food. The results have been weight gain to the point of obesity, regressive personal fitness, and even negative affects on our health.

Yet Americans still love the idea of "the next size up" ... the larger house, better car, plusher office, and bigger job title. The portable soda cup the size of a human head. And a flat screen TV the size of a living room wall. The magazine cover screaming 1,001 new ideas you absolutely, positively must try.

We like "lots" ... gimmie lots!

Preachers have gotten carried away with this "soak 'em" philosophy as well. It's not just that we try to load our churches with as many programs as we can imagine, but we soak our congregations with so many thoughts on a Sunday morning it's no wonder few people rarely remember more than 10 percent of the message ...

"10 tips for ..."

"8 ways to improve ..."

"5 methods to achieve ..."

"The top 9 ways to ..."

Yet, with all those numerous steps, methods, ways and means spilled out every week, just how many do the listeners actually absorb and apply?


Ok, how about 9?

Surely 7?!

Uh, at least 3?

More often than not, when you get positive feedback from someone, it's something along the lines of, "That one thing you said about such and such changed my way of thinking ..."

"... that one thing ..."

Perhaps instead of plying listeners with so many things they will never pursue, maybe lives would be more impacted if they were challenged with a single step to pursue. Just one idea to actualize. One thing they would directly apply to their lives to bring about real change.

Wouldn't that be better than 10 ideas that are interesting but soon forgotten?

Maybe church leaders need to step out of the cultural hype of more, to a focused message that is realistic for their audiences. After all, our genuine goal is to bring about change.

There's nothing wrong with breaking scripture down and having a few key items to study. But this constant multi-stepping all too often leaves listeners more confused and confounded than enlightened and enabled.

Try giving your people a single step to move their lives forward and see how much impact that may cause.


Monday, July 6, 2009

A crafty scheme ...

I was feeling guilty.

I think part of it was my age.

I had just turned a teenager, and I had never had to deal with something so impactful. I didn't know how to handle it.

You see, I was the youngest of eight children and childhood consisted largely of the trauma of never knowing a day where I didn't fear abuse from my father. But on the other side of that, I never knew a day when I didn't feel deeply loved by my mother. She was the person in this world who gave me strength and guidance through those rough childhood fears.

So when my mother suddenly died as I turned a teenager, it was a devastating time for me.

As the months passed after her death, I realized one day while looking at a picture of my Mom, that one reason why I was looking at the photo of her was because I didn't remember her as well as I thought I should.

Certainly I remembered what she looked like, but the image wasn't as crisp as if she was still with me.

Of course I could remember the sound of her voice ... but not quite the same as if she could still call out my name.

Then I realized I had finally had a week in which I had a day that I had not thought about her.

I felt guilty because I didn't remember her like I thought I should.

There is something to the saying "out of sight, out of mind" and that increases the more someone or something is out of sight.

Jesus understood this tendency of ours to forget. Even the big stuff. Even the really important stuff.

Even Him.

So he devised a method to help us remember something that is critical we never, ever forget.

We read about His plan in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, "23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.' 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it'.”

There isn't anything more important in our human experience than the fact that Jesus Christ offered His body to be broken, and His blood to be shed, so that humanity could be saved. And yet, how often, in any given week, do we recall that specific, vital event?

We forget.

Even the big stuff.

When we come together as the family of God, and partake of the bread and drink at the time of Communion, we do so to remember. To remember the incredible sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf.

Remembering draws us closer to Him, and prompts us to worship.

So as often as you do this ... as often as you come together to partake of the elements ... remember!


Friday, July 3, 2009

A fishing tale ...

Fishing is something I've done very little of. I've gone out a few times as a teen, and a grand total of once as an adult.

The outing as an adult was probably a decade ago. A friend from church wanted to take his boat out near the Carquinez Straits in the San Francisco bay area to do some fishing and he invited me to come along. I thought it could be fun and looked forward to spending some time with my friend.

We were on the water the next day by 9 a.m. I looked forward to the possibilities. Would I snag a monster sturgeon? Well, it didn't have to be such a grand prize but I'm a competitive guy so I was ready for the challenge to begin.

So I waited ...

... and waited ...

... and waited ...

... and then waited some more.

At about ten minutes before 4 p.m., I hadn't had a single bite.


Hours earlier I had already semi given up and focused more on listening to my friend tell his many tales than give any real attention to the fishing. So I was ready to pack it in.

Just as I was about to suggest we head back, I got a bite.

A big hit!

I battled with whatever was on the end of my line for nearly ten minutes before pulling in a large sting ray, which we let go.

But suddenly, I was thinking ... you know, maybe a few more minutes. A few more minutes and possibly I'll get another bite ... let's just give it a few more minutes at least ...

What was the difference between being ready to pack it in verses now wanting to hang out a little longer?


Catching the sting ray gave me hope that I could possibly catch something. that it could happen.

Hope is that essential element that helps you "hang in there" when life is rough, or simply slow. It's an expectation that something better, something just, something right, or even something enjoyable, can come your way.

That's what Christ brings to our lives, hope for living a life of purpose and substance. Romans 15:13 says, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."

If you've been lacking in hope, let me encourage you to put your trust in Jesus Christ. He will strengthen you through the Holy Spirit, and give you confidence through your trust in Him.