Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Until Spirit Touches spirit

“We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit”
-- Richard Foster

Monday, April 15, 2019

Wisdom from Will Rogers


1. Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3. There are two theories to arguing with a woman . . Neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.

8. There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

11. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.

12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

13. If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else's dog around.

14. It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

15. When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.

16. When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
17. No man is great if he thinks he is.

18. Personally, I have always felt the best doctor in the world is the Veterinarian. He can't ask his patients what's the matter. He's just got to know.

19. Everybody is ignorant. Only on different subjects.

20. They may call me a rube and a hick, but I'd a lot rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.

21. Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.

22. Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.

23. The American people are very generous people and will forgive almost any weakness, with the possible exception of stupidity.

24. The minute that you read something that you can't understand, you can almost be sure it was drawn up by a lawyer.

25. Income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf

26. If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?

27. A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.

28. We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures

Innovative cultures are generally depicted as pretty fun. They’re characterized by a tolerance for failure and a willingness to experiment. They’re seen as being psychologically safe, highly collaborative, and nonhierarchical. And research suggests that these behaviors translate into better innovative performance. 

But despite the fact that innovative cultures are desirable, and that most leaders claim to understand what they entail, they are hard to create and sustain. That’s because the easy-to-like behaviors that get so much attention are only one side of the coin. They must be counterbalanced by some tougher and frankly less fun behaviors: an intolerance for incompetence, rigorous discipline, brutal candor, a high level of individual accountability, and strong leadership. 

Unless the tensions created by this paradox are carefully managed, attempts to create an innovative culture will fail.

--  Gary Pisano, The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures , Harvard Business Review

Friday, April 12, 2019

Look Well to the Growing Edge

All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. 

The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new lives, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge!

 It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. 

This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. 

The birth of a child — life’s most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge!
—Howard Thurman

Friday, April 05, 2019

Come Let Us Reason Together

Come Let Us Reason Together, by J. A. Ludwig, of New Brunswick,  is a delightful 10 week Bible study guide to help Christians with practical dimensions of their faith.  Filled with great stories and creative lessons, this book is a great resource for small group leaders who want the Gospel in shoe-leather.  It includes helpful study guide questions and a spiritual gifts assessment.  Purchase Here at Christian Books.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Two Hammers: The Problem With Comparisons

I have a sledgehammer in my shed, and I also have a small finishing hammer. They are both equally important to me.

If I had to choose between the two, I suppose I'd pick the little guy. He's been a real help to me over the years -- but I'd rather not choose at all. Both hammers are my good friends and trusted companions.

Thus, the hammers teach me a valuable lesson; bigger isn't always better! Smaller isn't always better either.  The value of the tool is determined by the task ahead.

Driving stakes for a circus tent? Use the sledge!  Repairing the living room coffee table? The finishing hammer will do perfectly.  My wife, Cathy would not appreciate me using the sledge for that!

This brings me to an important point. Why do we compare ourselves with others? Why do we allow ourselves to feel inferior (or superior) to the people around us? We're all equally important -- though we have different roles and functions in life. We're all a part of the same toolbox! We all belong to the same garage.

It would be silly for the finishing hammer to glance furtively at the sledge and murmur, "I'm so small and insignificant! Compared to that guy, I'm just useless!"  Likewise, the sledge could say, "I'm too awkward and clumsy. I wish I wasn't such a klutz and could be more graceful, like the finishing hammer."

Comparison with others is always a dead end street -- leading to inferiority or arrogance.

The importance of the hammer is determined only by the carpenter, not the hammer (or any other tool in the box!)

All the hammers -- both big and little -- are needed to build great cathedrals.

When it all is said and done, it won't matter which hammer was used for which part. Nobody will look at the majestic cathedral and say, "Wow, what a hammer!" Instead they will be inspired to glorify God and say, "What a Carpenter!"

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Challenge to Deep Thinking

"In our culture of multitasking, the neural circuits devoted to scanning, skimming, and multitasking are expanding and strengthening, while those used for reading and thinking deeply, with sustained concentration, are weakening or eroding.”"

--  Professor Clifford Nass, Stanford University

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Someone is Praying for Me

When the sad news of Shirley's unexpected death arrived, I immediately called her husband Dannie.  Before their move to Missouri a couple of years prior, Dannie and Shirley were pillars of our church in northern Wisconsin, and we missed them dearly.  Now, Shirley was gone.

"I'm so sorry to hear about Shirley."

Dannie was glad to hear from me.

I continued, "All of your friends up here in the Northwoods are praying for you."

"I can tell," he replied, "I've been amazed at the peace and strength I've felt all the way through this terrible ordeal. It has been just unbelievable. How could I possibly have such peace at a time like this? Then I thought, 'I know why! Someone is praying for me.'"

Dannie continued, "You know, Pastor Mark, light travels at 186,282.397 miles per second. But I've discovered something that travels even faster than that -- the prayers of God's people!"

"Losing Shirley is the hardest thing I've ever experienced, but with good Lord's help, I'm going to make it. Actually, when you think about it, I didn't really lose her, because I know right where she is. She's rejoicing in heaven. Someday, I'll get to see her again."

Tears filled my eyes as we finished this amazing conversation. How ironic;  I had called to encourage Dannie, but this dear man turned it around and encouraged me.

Three "take-home" points from this conversation:

1) Faith in God brings peace in the face of life's most bitter circumstances.
2) Praying is the most important thing you can do. It covers the distance and expresses our deepest love.
3) Since this is the case, I encourage you to stop right now, and whisper a prayer for somebody.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Praying for Guidance

"Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today?  How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person's seemingly small act of obedience!  Rest assured: do what God tells you to do now, and, depend on it; you will be shown what to do next."
-- Elisabeth Elliot in Quest for Love

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Ash Wednesday, Lutefisk, Lent and Great Faith

In honor of Ash Wednesday, I'm re-posting the following story from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out:  How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.

Northern Wisconsin is Lutheran and Catholic territory, and this means two things: Lutefisk before Christmas, and Lent before Easter. I didn’t know much about either growing up. Until moving to Hayward, I had never heard of Lutefisk, and figured Lent was stuff you trap in the dryer.

Living in the Northwoods, I’ve discovered that Lutefisk is a piece of cod that passes all understanding. (Actually, it’s a rather unappetizing, gelatinous Nordic dish made from dried, salted whitefish and lye.) We’ll let the Lutherans keep it.

Lent, however, is something we’ve happily pilfered from our more liturgical brethren. We start with Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter. I smudge ashes on the foreheads of willing (and some not-so-willing) parishioners, repeating, “From dust you’ve come, to dust you shall return.”

For a few years, I drove over to St. Joe’s a couple days before the Lenten season and borrowed ashes from my Catholic priest buddy, Father Bill. He pulled my leg when I asked him where he obtained the ashes. “From the funeral home, of course.” He said it with such a straight face that I believed him at first.

When Father Bill retired, I lost my ash stash. Before leaving town, he finally divulged that the ashes come from last year’s Palm Sunday branches. So now I hoard dead palm branches in my filing cabinet.

The first time I tried to burn palm branches, I nearly set the house on fire, and our smoke alarm shrieked. Cathy sent me and my pan of smoking palm fronds out the back door, and instructed me to never burn them in the oven again. So, I’ve had to take my cremation operation outdoors.

It’s fitting that the ashes are leftovers from Palm Sunday. We can’t depend on yesterday’s praises to get us through today’s problems. Former glory fades to ashes and dust.

A couple of years ago, while smudging foreheads, I decided what to sacrifice for Lent. Normally, people give up stuff like candy, coffee, television, and Facebook in order test their spiritual resolve.

I gave up doubt. I determined that for forty days I would respond to every situation with this question: What would great faith have me do?

This commitment was tested immediately. In fact, I still had the ash smudge on my forehead when our high school pastor, Loretta, came bursting into my office with an exciting but expensive idea. Her enthusiasm bubbled over. “So, what do you think?” she asked eagerly. Dollar signs rolled in my head. How on earth were we going to pay for that? But I needed to keep my vow. What would great faith have me do? I gulped, grinned through gritted teeth, and replied, “Sure, what a splendid opportunity. Let’s go for it.”

And that’s the way it went for the next forty days, responding to every situation with the greatest faith I could muster. Was I ever glad when Easter came, so I could go back to my old pattern of doubting and fretting!

Monday, February 25, 2019

I Do Have Choices

My journey has taught that I have choices...
I can “repent” or “repeat”. 
I can “soar” or be “sore”. 
I can “smile and grin” or “pout again”.
I can “believe and receive” or “doubt...be without.” 
I can “get up and try again” or “stay there, quit there, die there”. 
I do have choices.

-- David Griffis

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

You Have Loved Us First

Father in heaven! You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment.
But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves.
You have loved us first, O God, alas!
We speak of it in terms of history as if You have only loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing You have loved us first many times and every day and our whole life through.
When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You – You are the first – You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You, You are the first and thus forever. And yet we always speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once.
– Soren Kierkegaard