Showing posts from November, 2012

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Shortly before his untimely death, pitchman, Billy Mays was interviewed in American Way Magazine. He remarked, "I'm not going to let other people who may have a problem with me-the way I pitch--deter me because I have a lot to give and a lot to do yet in my life. I think there's a bigger platform out there for me now."

Dr. Jeff Myers, professor at Bryan College, happened upon this article and made the following observation:
"I think there's a bigger platform out there for me now."
Those words haunted me. How often have I pinned my hopes on the platform I could stand on in the future, or the greater good I could do tomorrow, or the ideas I have for someday.
This simple interview with Billy Mays reminds me that there are no guarantees. My careful planning for tomorrow must not trump the influence I must seek to have today.
When it comes to mentoring, coaching and discipling the next generation, this moment, now, is the most important platform there is. Take …

Good Morning Ozarks Radio Interview

Enjoyed doing an interview about my book, Filled Up, Poured Out this morning with Charlie and Keith on KLFC's  "Good Morning Ozarks" radio program in Branson, Missouri.  Listen online here.

On Zig Ziglar's Passing

I was saddened today to hear that motivational speaker and writer, Zig Ziglar passed away after a brief bout with pneumonia.  Through his inspiring writing and speaking, he helped me develop a positive perspective on life.

We'll see ya at the top, Zig!

Stressed Out? Try This Approach

I saw an interesting sign on a box a while back-- "Warning, contents may explode under stress!"

Don't you wish volatile people had labels like that? "Warning -- This person is stressed out and ready to explode!" Then, we'd all know when to steer clear! Of course -- from time to time, we'd all have to wear a label like that -- because stress is common to everyone.

Life is stressful. The day you're free from stress is the day they carry you away in a coffin. We can't expect to be stress-free this side of heaven. Businessman, Malcolm Forbes recognized this when he said, "If you have a job without aggravations, you don't have a job."

We can learn to deal with our situations, however, so the stress won't get the best of us! Here are a few thoughts on beating stress in your daily life:

1. Try to take life one day at a time.
Poet Robert Frost said, "Just take things as they come, and handle them the best you can."

2. Remember…

Giving Free Reign to Complaint

Reading Job this morning, I happened upon an interesting verse (10:1) which strikes me as profound:  "I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free reign to my complaint."

Frequent complaining reveal more about the condition of one's soul than the conditions (or people) causing such upset.

How to Nurture a Grateful Heart

Humans are created to be thankful. Deep in our hearts, we know we're supposed to be content. Unfortunately, envy, resentments, and various circumstances derail us along the way.
Instead of being positive and thankful, we become negative, ungrateful, and petty. (In other words - hard to live with!)
Think about it for a moment. If you were to measure your uplifting thoughts of gratitude v.s. your mental visits to the "complaint department" during the last week, which would win out?
Most folks would find that the complaints far outweigh the praises.
Nobody is grumpy on purpose.  We don't intend to be ungrateful. Discontent sneaks up on us and attacks us from behind. Often, we don't even realize when we are being a negative pain in the neck!
The Bible recognizes this fact of human nature, and reminds us to "Give thanks in all circumstances." (I Thess. 5:17)
If you wish to nurture a grateful heart, consider these suggestions:
1) Declare war on petty negati…

Whatever Comes. . .

I referred to the following experience in my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.  It holds deep meaning for me.

One day, after making a hospital visit in Duluth, Minnesota, I was drawn by the spire of the old First Presbyterian Church. A kind secretary opened up the sanctuary for me to sit and pray for a while.

Gazing around, my eyes fell upon a beautiful stained glass window. It was the picture of a gravestone with dark purple and black hues overshadowing it. But at the top of the window, squarely in the center of a black night, shone a bright golden star -- which seemed to exude hope and light. The star was the focal point of the window.

At the bottom, the following words were inscribed: In memory of Sarah Agnes Graff 1853-1889 Build a little fence of trust around today. Fill the space with loving work and therein stay. Look not through the sheltering bars upon tomorrow. God will help thee bear whatever comes, if joy or sorrow.
I wonder…

Not All Turkey and Touchdowns

My friend, Baylor history prof, Thomas S. Kidd, wrote a great Thanksgiving piece about the Pilgrims:  Not All Turkeys and Touchdowns.

Thanksgiving is an Attitude

Thanksgiving is not a holiday -- it's an attitude! If it's just a holiday for us -- then we let ourselves off the hook too easily. "I'll celebrate Thanksgiving one day a year, and be grumpy the other 364!" Actually, Thanksgiving Day is simply a reminder of how we ought to live every moment-- a special day to celebrate what we are called to be all year long!
Thanksgiving is "Thanks-living!"
Did you know that thankfulness and mental health go together? Counting your blessings can bring healing and strength into your life. Everything goes downhill when you are swamped with negativism and self pity.
How does a person cultivate a thankful heart?
1. Go hunting for small blessings. Your life is packed with millions of small treasures! Sometimes, we are so hung up on petty annoyances, that we forget the abundance of joy.
2. Focus on what you have rather than what you wish you had. Perhaps you don't have everything you'd like -- Is this really the end of …

Signs of Conflict Brewing

Rural church pastor, Johnny Moore, shares the following signs indicating potential conflict:

*  Dark Clouds -- negative comments are surfacing more than positive comments.  The "tattle-tale" syndrome is on the rise.

*  Heavy Winds -- personal agendas are being emphasized more than the mission of the organization.  Attendance begins to drop.  Momentum is feeling the resistance.

*  Sudden Temperature Change -- Key leaders appear withdrawn and distant.  Signs of discouragement, confusion and negative influence begin to appear.

For some great suggestions on how to handle church conflict when it arises, read the rest of the post, Navigating Through Conflict, here.

Be Thankful!

Be thankful for the pile of dishes in the sink, because it means you had plenty to eat.
Be thankful for the dog hair on the carpet, because it means you have a loyal friend who shows unconditional love.
Be thankful for the messes, because it means some living is happening in your home.
Be thankful for the difficult conversations you have with your spouse, because they mean you have a partner who cares.
Be thankful for the annoyances at work, because they mean you have a job.
Be thankful for paperwork, because it means you have been trusted with responsibility.
Be thankful for the light bulb that needs replacing, because it means you have electricity.
Be thankful for the leaves that need raking, because it means you have beautiful trees.
Be thankful for clutter in the living room, because it means you have a family.
Be thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, because it means you have yard.
Be thankful for your lumpy mattress, because it means you have a bed to sleep in.
Be thankful for the annoyin…

Lovin' Jesus from the Deer Stand

Through 21 years of living in the north country, I’ve come to recognize that, by default, deer hunting season is Wisconsin’s other “holy week.”
It took me a while to figure this out. Year after year, I stood behind the pulpit on the third Sunday of November, and looked with dismay upon an empty sanctuary.  In Hayward, most of the men, and half the ladies vanish into the woods on deer opener, and they normally don’t re-appear for church on Sunday morning.
Of course, there are always a few devoted members of the flock who endure the annual Thanksgiving sermon, anxiously awaiting the concluding “amen” so then can hurry up and get out there. I’m happy to report that my Thanksgiving sermon usually has the intended effect. When it’s over, there’s a collective “Whew, Thank God!” then a mad scramble for the doors.
I regretfully admit that in years past, I’ve attempted to heap guilt and shame on the poor hunters of the congregation in the weeks leading up to “the great departure.” They hung t…

Such Sweet Sorrow

Goodbye, Twinkies.
Goodbye, Suzie Q's
Goodbye, Ding Dongs
Goodbye, Ho Ho's
Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Are You Healthy, Pastor?

Overfunctioning and Underfunctioning Pastors

Jim Meyer writes Overfunctioning Pastors Should Knock It Off!  And I'd like to add --  Underfunctioning Pastors Should Knock it Off Too.

Why Spiritual Things Seem Less Important

"If we spend sixteen hours a day dealing with tangible things of our world, and only five minutes a day trying to find God, it is not wonder that the tangible things are two hundred times as real to us as God is."
--  Dean Inge (as quoted in Achieving Christian Perfection by Bishop Marshall R. Reed, p. 55)

Thoughts on Sowing and Reaping

Here are a few basic principles concerning sowing and reaping:

1. We reap what we sow.

You can’t sow hatred and reap love.
You can’t sow unbelief and reap faith.
You can’t sow bitterness and reap forgiveness.
You can’t sow selfishness and reap friendship.

2. Sometimes, we reap what others have sown.
Somebody paid the price for the things we enjoy and often take for granted.

We have electric lights because Thomas Edison worked through the night.Our family values and traditions were passed along from our parents and grandparents.
Every building was constructed at a price. Somebody was willing to pay it.

3. Occasionally, we reap the painful consequences from what others have sown.

A choice to drive drunk can shatter a stranger’s family.
A dishonest employee can bring great dishonor to the business owner.
An abusive parent can damage and harm the child for life.
A thief can leave the victim penniless.

4. We reap more than we sow.
The mighty oak is just a little nut that held his ground.
Small, daily inves…

Four False Identities

1.  I am what I have. 2.  I am what I do. 3.  I am what others think. 4.  I am what I've gone through.

So, Which is It?

"High expectations are the key to everything." -- Sam Walton

"The secret to happiness is low expectations ." -- Barry Schwartz

The Paradox of Prayer

"So, the paradox of prayer is that it asks for a serious effort while it can only be received as a gift.  We cannot plan, organize or manipulate God:  but without a careful discipline, we cannot receive him either."

I Will Rejoice and Be Glad in It.

Each morning, before crawling out of bed, I repeat Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

This simple little practice, which I began a couple of years ago, has  proven helpful, bringing a daily “faith lift.”

THIS IS THE DAY -- It reminds me that today really counts. In fact, it’s the only day I have! I don’t have yesterday. It’s already gone. There’s no guarantee about tomorrow. But I do have this golden opportunity called today! It’s important to treasure and make the most of it!

John Wesley encourages us to “redeem the time, for that’s the stuff life is made of!” Moments are precious. Every breath we take is a special gift.

This is the day to live! Some folks live in the memories of the past. Others live in the anticipation and fear of the future. But, we are called to live today!

Make it count! Make it count!

THE LORD HAS MADE -- I realize that I’m not in charge.

A guaranteed way to be miserable is to try to control outcomes. We have no contro…

The Best Jesus Biography You'll Ever Read

In my recent early morning devotional time, I've been blessed by reading from Jesus: A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.

This 424 page volume is a spiritual treasure trove, blending poetry, Scripture, theology, history and biography into a sweeping and inspiring overview of Jesus, our Savior.

They explore the majesty of Jesus, with a grand "before time" introduction (unlike most Jesus biographies which begin with the nativity) and conclude with an inspiring presentation of Christ our coming King (unlike some others that leave him in the grave.)

Through the rest of the book, they unpack his entire earthly life -- drawing deep meaning from his experiences, teachings, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection.  The authors approach the subject with reverence, and as I've journeyed with them through the chapters, they've said, "Let me show you something beautiful!"

Viola and Sweet capture and reflect the essence of our worship -- a deep, abiding l…

A Beautiful Rendition of the Lord's Prayer