Monday, October 31, 2011

Fault Finding vs Solution Finding

I have to agree with Perry Noble who said, “Negative, critical people have NEVER come up with a positive solution for anything.”

Now, I realize that’s a pretty strong statement, but through the course of my life, I’ve found it to be quite accurate.

In any given situation, there are two kinds of people:  Fault Finders and Solution Finders.

Fault Finders immediately see the flaws of the world, the nation, the community, and others.  They seem to get a morose satisfaction in pointing them out.  Of course, there’s no intelligent alternative solution offered – only criticism.

Fault Finding isn’t rocket science.  You don’t have to be very bright to gripe and complain.  In fact, such behavior indicates small mindedness.

Great minds talk about great ideas.  Average minds talk about the weather.  Small minds talk about other people.  Or, as Benjamin Disraeli said, “To belittle is to be little.”

Solution Finders, on the other hand, commit themselves to the harder work.  Like the Fault Finders, they see the problems – but unlike them, they believe there’s a positive solution if you keep looking.  Solution Finders believe that every problem contains the seeds of its own solution.

Fault Finders arrive at the problem, and then pitch their tents at Complaint Campground.  It’s easier to whine about a problem than to go about the hard work of tackling it.

Solution Finders won’t let a problem stand in the way for long.  For them, difficulties are detours rather than destination points.  They believe in GROWING through the hardships rather than just GOING through them.

Fault Finders spend their energies fixing the blame.  Solution Finders invest themselves in fixing the problem.

Fault Finders view little bumps along the path as roadblocks to progress.  Solution Finders view huge mountains as challenges to be conquered.

At the end of the day, the Solution Finders make things happen, while the Fault Finders criticize and condemn.

I’d rather be criticized for doing something, than to criticize and do nothing.

I’m reminded of the great evangelist, D. L. Moody, who was rebuked by an agitated detractor, “Moody, I don’t like your methods of evangelism!”

To this, Moody replied, “And tell me sir, what are your methods of evangelism?”

“I don’t have any.”

“Then,” said Moody, “ I like mine better than yours.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Learning to Pray Without Ceasing

photo from A Faithful Walk
A pilgrim, on a quest to "pray without ceasing", travelled widely and heard many sermons on the subject.  None of them seemed to help.  He heard many prayer lessons, but none taught him how to do it.

Finally, he heard of an old prayer warrior in a little village, so he went to him with his inquiry:  "How can I learn to pray without ceasing?"

To this, the old saint replied, "Ceasless interior prayer is a continual yearning of the human spirit toward God.  Pray and ask God to teach us to pray without ceasing.  Pray more!  Pray more fervently!  It is prayer itself which will reveal to you how it can be achieved unceasingly. . . but it will take some time."

(From The Way of a Pilgrim)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wrestling at Church

Our children's pastor, Jeremy Mavis, has recenly joined the blogging team at CM Buzz.

 Check out this delightful post where Jeremy shares how he disciplines four boys who were wrestling when they were supposed to be singing.

Brolick's Formula for Leadership Success

Emil Brolick, the new CEO of Wendy's was recently interviewed by USA Today reporter, Bruce Horovitz.

A highlight of the interview was when Brolick described his formula for success:

"Have a vision, a strategy, define reality, give hope and execute."

If he goes to all this bother to merely sell hamburgers, it seems pastors should be at least this intentional about their business -- the greatest mission on earth!

Attitude in the Work Zone

One person with passion and conviction can accomplish more than one hundred with mere interest.

You have to dream it in order to achieve it.

Nothing can take the place of hard work - but smart work makes hard work go a lot further.

All true leaders are readers. If you read a lot, you will automatically grow.

Reaching a goal loses its fulfillment if you have to run over people in the process. People are more important than processes.

Intentions never get the job done.

Imitations never get the job done either.

Jobs don't finish themselves. You have to finish the job!

The joy is multiplied when you accomplish the dream as a team.

It's amazing what can be achieved if you don't care who gets the credit.

Sometimes plans should change - but not values. Write you plans in sand and your values in cement.

You can accomplish a lot more than you think.

Small changes make a big difference through the power of compound interest!

If you never risk anything, you will never accomplish anything.

Failure is a tremendous growth opportunity. The greatest failure is failing to learn from your failures.

To succeed in life, you need to major on the majors and minor on the minors.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


During Tim Tebow's miraculous come-from-behind victory for the Denver Broncos last Sunday, he dropped to one knee for a moment of prayer.

Tebow's outspoken Christian faith is widely admired, scorned, and now imitated with a new internet craze called Tebowing.

A recent website,  displays pictures of various people in random places, on one knee, heads bowed in prayer.

Pehaps this is is done in jest -- but I cannot think of a position more worthy of imitation!  It certainly beats Hawking or Mossing.

A Few Thoughts on Troubles

1. Troubles are common to everybody. We shouldn't be so surprised when they come. Often, a
problem arises and people freak out. "Oh my goodness! This is just awful! What am I going to
do? Why did this happen to me?" Instead of being shocked when the difficulties come, expect
them. A trouble free day is exception rather than the rule.

2. You can't choose whether or not to have troubles. (They come to everybody.) You can't
choose when they come (They always seem to come at the wrong time.) -- but you can choose
how you are going to react to them.

3. If you remain open-hearted, you will grow through your troubles. If you close down
emotionally, the hard times will make you bitter.

4. You do not have to face your troubles alone. God promised to be a present help in the hour of
trouble -- Can you think of anyone better to have beside you when you face life's problems?

5. Troubles are never neutral -- If they don't do you good, they'll do you harm. You can mine
them, or waste them. The choice is yours.

6. Troubles are like babies -- They grow larger by nursing!

7. Troubles don't seem so bad when you maintain your sense of humor.

8. The "school of hard knocks" provides wonderful learning opportunities!

9. Troubles are seldom solved by procrastination.

10. "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level at which we created
them." Albert Einstein

11. Many troubles can be avoided by looking ahead. Remember the 5-P Principle "Prior
Planning Prevents Poor Performance."

12. Remember, there is always somebody worse off than you. Socrates said, "If all our
misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most
people would be contented to take their own and depart."

13. "Have you got a problem? Do what you can where you are with what you've got." Teddy

14. "Just take things as they come and handle them the best you can." Robert Frost

An anonymous poet penned the following message of hope in adversity,
"The Hard Way."
For every hill I've had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat,
My heart sings but a grateful song -
These were the things that made me strong!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How's the Fun Factor?

 “We are in bad shape when we cannot laugh from the gut, play like a child, and simply let go.  How’s the fun factor for you these days?”  -- Nancy Beach

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"Never put a period where God puts a comma.  Never put a comma, where God puts a period."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Makes A Good Sermon?

Lenny Luchetti interviewed four outstanding preachers:  Keith Loy, Steve DeNeff, Linda Keefer and Dave Ward on the art and craft of preaching.  It's a fascinating conversation, which can be found on .

I especially liked Steve DeNeff's perspective that a good sermon must be. . .
  • Relevant
  • Biblical
  • Interesting
  • Convicting
To this, I add one more. . .
  • Anointed
A preacher's job is to deliver a message -- not to give a sermon.

Pastor, when you're in the pulpit tomorrow morning -- may you preach a relevant, biblical, interesting, convicting, and anointed message!  Amen and Amen!

Resignation Letter

Shawn Lovejoy Resigns -- and You Should Too!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Memory or Hope?

HT Jesus Creed

Wisdom from Franklin

A few years  ago, our family went on a "field trip" to Philadelphia. One of the highlights was our visit to Ben Franklin's grave in the Christ Church cemetery. Keeping with tradition, I tossed a penny on his tombstone and said a prayer, "God, give me wisdom. Even a fraction of Franklin's wisdom would be nice."

Although Ben was never a president or king -- he was a genuine leader. Leadership is influence -- and Ben Franklin certainly had a lot of that! In fact, he still does! Even from his grave, he influences us.

It was Ben Franklin who said, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." I'll bet every kid in America has heard that one at some time or another.

I'm sure northwoods residents can relate to this one: "Fish and visitors stink after three days."

Here's another good quote: "People who are wrapped up in themselves make small packages."

Franklin tried hard to "live on purpose". He didn't want to let life slip past him. "Does thou love
life?" he asked, "Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of."

Two centuries before people started talking about core values, priorities and goals, Ben Franklin
had already discovered his!

His 13 Virtues are worth examining today:
1. Temperance (Be moderate in what you consume.)
2. Silence: (Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.)
3. Order: (Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.)
4. Resolution: (Do what you should.)
5. Frugality: (Waste nothing.)
6. Industry: (Make your minutes count for something worthwhile.)
7. Sincerity: (Be honest and true.)
8. Justice: (Do what is right.)
9. Moderation: (Avoid extremes and don't nurse resentments.)
10 Cleanliness: (Be clean in body, clothes, and habitation.):
11. Tranquility: (Be not disturbed at trifles.)
12. Chastity: (Sexuality should only be expressed in appropriate ways.)
13. Humility: (Maintain a servant's heart.)

For Franklin, achieving these virtues was a lifetime journey -- never fully complete. In the process, he determined to, "work as if he was to live a hundred years and pray as if he was to die tomorrow."

No wonder Ben made it on the one hundred-dollar bill!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Put on Love

"Therefore, as God's people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." --  Colossians 3:12-14

Monday, October 17, 2011

28 Relationship Mistakes People Make

  1. Loving opinions more than people.
  2.  Imputing negative motives onto others
  3. Believing that love means never having to say, "I'm sorry".
  4. Thinking that love is a feeling rather than a commitment.
  5. Failing to let go of hurts and resentments.
  6. Not listening.
  7. Not speaking up when you should.
  8. Taking others for granted.
  9. Rehashing old offenses.
  10.  Being dishonest.
  11.  Being insensitive.
  12. Closing down the heart to avoid hurt (it keeps love out too).
  13.  Forgetting to express appreciation and gratitude.
  14. Believing you are better than others.
  15. Believing others are better than you.
  16.  Comparing yourself to others.
  17.  Competing with others.
  18. Emphasizing flaws and shortcomings (faults are thick where love is thin.)
  19. Being petty.
  20. Refusing to take personal responsibility.
  21. Manipulating.
  22. Controlling.
  23. Focusing on what you don’t have, rather than what you have.
  24. Expecting perfection.
  25. Waiting for someone else to read your mind.
  26. Griping about people behind their back (gossiping, badmouthing, criticizing).
  27. Quitting when things get tough.
  28. Forgetting that all true love comes from God (not from yourself).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halitosis Chorus

"Brothers and sisters,  join in a rousing rendition of the Halitosis Chorus!"

The God Pocket

The God Pocket, by Bruce Wilkinson, is a powerful little book which challenges the reader to practive faith by putting it into action!  In this follow up to his earlier book, You Were Meant for This, Wilkinson gives simple, step by step instructions on how to look for opportunities to bless people.

He advocates setting a sum of money aside, devoting it to the Lord as a "God Pocket."  The money, then, is no longer yours but God's and is to be given away as He directs.

This direction happens through a gentle nudge of the Spirit -- and brings blessing to those who desperately need it.

The God Pocket is packed with heart-warming and inspiring stories of special encounters using this approach. 

I have tried it myself -- and it works!  It's a beautiful way to let God's love flow through you!

He owns it!
You carry it!
Suddenly, everything changes!

(A complimentary copy of the book was provided to me for review by the publisher.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Preach Christ!

"Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, preach Christ, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme."
--  Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students
(HT Tolle Lege via Greg Teegarden)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thoughts on Writing

It finally happened!  I wrote a book! 

It’s a resource for pastors and church leaders – but I’m pretty sure everybody else will be able to draw some inspiration from it.  I’ve included plenty of Hayward stories.

The manuscript is completely edited and ready for typesetting.  They tell me it will be published next April.  I can hardly wait!

Authorship is quite a pilgrimage.  When I began, I had no idea what this project would entail.  Of course, that’s true for most worthwhile endeavors.  They take more energy than one initially supposes.  The process is somewhat like a pregnancy.  I was pregnant with an idea – and it took a lot of work to give birth.

But, my baby has been born, named,(Filled Up, Poured Out),  and is now being groomed for the public!

For over 20 years, I’ve said I wanted to write a book, but never got around to it.  Each January, I wrote a list of goals for the year – and “write a book” made the top five annually.  I had the dream, but it never became a reality.

Then, I happened upon a little book by Keith Drury, on how to write a book.  Drury explained that most books remain in the authors’ minds, unwritten, because there is no plan for turning the idea into a reality.

“If you are serious about writing,” Drury said, “you need to make a regular appointment with yourself to do it.”  If you wait until inspiration strikes, you’ll never get it done.  That was my problem,   I had the desire without a plan.

So, I immediately scheduled a weekly writing time – and stuck with it.  That was harder than I imagined.  On my first writing day, a parishioner called, wanting to meet with me that morning.  I almost caved in – but explained my situation, and found it was no problem at all to schedule another time.  Close call!

I created a writing space (a little desk) which represented my commitment to the project.  I also bought a special writing shirt, that I wore as a uniform.  Whenever I donned it, I became Mark, the Writer.

One of the most challenging aspects for me was outlining the whole project first.  My tendency is to dive in and see how things flow – but my editor wouldn’t let me do that.  He said I needed a map so I’d know where I was going.  It took a dozen false starts before I finally had a good outline.   After we finally nailed it, the project flowed.
Here are a few things I learned from my book writing process:

  1. The secret to good writing is rewriting.  Every first draft stinks, but by the sixth or seventh edit, it takes shape and sings.
  2. Word reduction makes writing crisp.  Don’t use four words where you could use one. 
  3. Avoid passive sentences.
  4. Play with your words.  Have fun creating pithy phrases and colorful word pictures.
  5. Eliminate as many adverbs as possible.  An adverb should never be used to prop up a weak verb.  Instead, kill them both and use a stronger verb.
  6. Declare war on exclamation points and quotation marks.  This was a challenge for me.  I love exclamation points, and riddled my manuscript with them.  Then, my ruthless editor eliminated them all.  “If you must rely on an exclamation point to give punch to a sentence, then it needs to be reworked.”  A good sentence carries its own punch.  When I protested, he relented and allowed me two exclamation points – to place wherever I wanted.  (I snuck in a few more, but don’t tell him!)  I think exclamation points are like pepper.  They add a zing, but should be sparingly.
  7. The same thing applies to quotation marks.
  8. Think of a specific person as your target, and then write with him/her in mind.  This makes the writing more personal, and less stilted.
  9. Don’t force material, even if you love it.  About 30% of what I wrote didn’t make the final cut.  It killed me to chop out good stuff I’d worked hard to create.  Yet, a good book requires sacrificing a few good ideas.  (Cut and paste helped soften this for me.  I imagine I’m going to use it somewhere else.)
  10. When the bus stops, get on.  The publication bus stopped for me and I hopped on.  This project wasn’t what I’d imagined my first book to be, but it was the one that presented itself, and gave me a golden opportunity to help others.
  11. Writing multiplies influence.  You can impact people you’ve never met with your thoughts – even after you’re dead.  That thought makes all the effort worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Three important questions:

1.  Who are you investing in?
2.  Why are you investing in them?
3.  How are you investing in them?

If you're unclear on the answers to those questions, it's time to go to the mountain.

(HT Scott Hodge)

Monday, October 10, 2011


An insightful post by my friend, Phil Stevenson:  Expecta-nomics which addresses the tension between what God expects of us, and the expectations of others.

Speaking of Jesus

My friend, Mike Morrell, sent me a complimentary review copy of Speaking of Jesus, a new book by Carl Medearis.

I dove into eagerly, as I've deeply appreciated Medearis' previous writings, and speaking of Jesus is somethign I love to do!

The subtitle, "the art of not-evangelism" intrigued me.  I teach evangelism courses for FLAME (nontraditional students pursuing ordination in the Wesleyan Church) and wondered how "speaking of Jesus" fits with "not-evangelism"

Basically, Medearis says the Gospel is a person -- Jesus.  It is not a program.  It is not a worldview.  It is not a belief system, a doctrine or a creed.  The Gospel is Jesus, pure and simple.

If we focus on Jesus in our conversations with unbelievers, rather than trying to defend Christianity, we'll make far better progress, Medearis suggests.  He speaks from the unusual perspective of having lived  among Muslims in Beruit for several years.

"Muslims respect Jesus," he observed, "they just don't like Christians."

I appreciate how this book reminds us that our faith should be a vibrant relationship with a living Being, rather than dead religion.  At times, Medearis takes it to the edge, when it comes to being a "friend of sinners."  But I wonder, where would we find Jesus if he showed up at our town in the flesh?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Going Deep

Gordon McDonald's new book, Going Deep, tells the inspiring story of a pastor and congregation that made cultivating deep people their highest priority.

This mission was sparked by the following quote from Richard Foster:  "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

This fascinating tale chronicles the birth and development of a new approach to ministry.  Making significant schedule adjustments, senior pastor (Gordon) and his wife, (Gail), invested a full year in nurturing, mentoring and training young, emerging leaders -- developing them into deep people.

The significant (and most neglected) step in "deep people development" is training -- and the book outlines, through narrative, what an effective, relational training strategy could look like.

I became more excited as I turned the pages.  (It captured me so completely, I read all 400 in three days.)  This is exactly what our church needs to do!  Finally, someone has given us a proven model for growing young believers and training them in godliness.

Then, came the big disappointment.  Somehow, I glossed over the preface, and missed an important piece of information.  I didn't know until I finished the book and glanced at the back cover. . .

This book is a piece of fiction!  It didn't happen!  Gordon and his wife are real enough, but all the other characters and events were purely a figment of the author's imagination!

Now, I still think the idea has merit -- and is worthy of investigation, but  but now that I know it is still an unproven idea, I'm not quite so eager to jump off the cliff.

(A complimentary copy was provided for review by the publisher.)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Credit:  Jonathan Mark Long

"The death of Steve Jobs may be the first time in history when it could be said that most people on earth learned about the demise of a leader on a device created by the leader himself."
--  Doug Phillips

It's a Bad Idea to Teach Pigeons to Read

HT Rob Lamont

Deep People

"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."  --  Richard Foster

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Will You Please Buy a Goat?

This article about my amazing friend, George Voss and his "Goats for Grandmas" in Zambia is definitely worth the read -- but be warned.  You'll want to send him $25 when you're finished reading it!

God Provided a Dream

A heartwarming story in Living Stones News about our dear friends, Horst and Elisabeth Braeuner, who own the Riverside Motel and Mallard's Landing in Hayward.

Cultivating Deep People

"Disciples (deep people) are not manufactured wholesale.  They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train one that is younger."  -- Oswald Sanders

(I found this wonderful quote in Gordon McDonald's inspiring new book, Going Deep)

Cult of the Mediocre

"A walloping great congregation is fine and fun, but what most (churches) really need is a couple of saints.  The tragedy is that they may well be there in embryo, waiting to be discovered, waiting for sound training, waiting to be emancipated from the cult of the mediocre."
--  Martin Thornton

Monday, October 03, 2011

Are You on Mission?

The terms “mission” and “missional church” are code words for reaching lost people and turning them into Christ-followers. If a church makes this its highest priority, nothing much will stop it. If it doesn’t, nothing much will help it.  -- Dr. Aron Willis, in God's Cure for Declining Churches

From the End of It

I've been promoting this idea for years:  You can touch the world from the end of it!  Artist from Small Town Wesleyan Church Performs Internationally

Eight Reasons Your Church is Stuck

A powerful little e-book from Tony Morgan:  The Leisure Suit Trap

Good insights for church leadership teams.