Thursday, May 12, 2016

WHY PRAY?

Prayer is not being nice before God. It isn’t about dishonesty or quoting endless mantras. Prayer is not about getting the great genie in the sky to perform some magic trick for you.  It is not bending the will of God, but bending your will to His. 

Prayer is the incredible privilege of connecting with our Creator and Savior! It is about having an intimate relationship with the God that is bigger than we can ever fathom or imagine!

Prayer is the abandonment of self in a daring pursuit of God.  It is brutal honesty and transparency. Praying is about stripping everything away and standing completely naked before the one that someday every knee will bow to. It is celebration, worship and adoration!

Praying is about admitting our fears, weaknesses and brokenness before the one who says, "I have thrown your sins as far as the east is from the west".  It is about making audacious requests to the one who said, "nothing is impossible for God". It is a conversation with the one who stretched his arms out on that cross and said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." 

Prayer is venting. It is raw and untamed at times.  It is also simply sitting in silence and listening to the lover of your soul speak words of life to you.

Prayer is a mystery.

Prayer is essential.

Prayer is a gift!


"Pray without ceasing." - Paul

Monday, March 28, 2016

WHAT IF?

Powerful questions are possibly the most influential form of communication we possess.  Jesus clearly understood and modeled this truth.  Eyewitness accounts record Jesus asking some 307 questions.  In fact, he most often answered a question with another question.  I would venture to say we learn far more by asking questions than giving answers.

LIFE, being the greatest gift each of us have been given, has a hidden question buried in the midst of it.  Have you ever noticed the two letters falling in the middle of "LIFE"?  IF - What is LIFE without powerful “IF” questions? 

As children we dreamed “what if’s”.  Every explorer’s epic journey was launched from a “what if”.  Inventors and innovators are driven by “what if’s”.

What if?  That simple question has tremendous power in moving us from simply existing to a LIFE of adventure, influence and significance.

I dare you to wrestle with a few of the following “what if” questions.  My encouragement is that you don’t simply gloss over them, but take time and contemplate your answers. 

In the midst of LIFE rests the simple word IF.  What if...
  • What if I really believed God was FOR me and not against me? 
  • What if I truly believed I would never have this particular day to live again?
  • What if I treated my most important relationships like they were my most important relationships? 
  • What if I said no to what doesn't matter?
  • What if I realized there is enough time to do what really matters?
  • What if I pursued my dreams with reckless abandon?
  • What if I lived loved?
  • What if...?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

ARE YOU 'BOTTOMS-UP' OR 'TOP-DOWN'?

“Less is more” is a mantra many of us are familiar with.  It is a necessary idea to properly function; yet, a philosophy few of us manage well.

During my teaching days I would convey to my speech classes, “If you can’t say it in 3 minutes you shouldn’t be saying it in 30.”  It is much the same for movies, books, or many other forms of art.  Editing is about correcting, revising, and adapting, but it is also about “taking out”.  Part of art is deciding what to eliminate. 

Movie directors will eventually exclude scenes they had once poured passion and energy towards.  Authors will leave behind unnecessary words and portions they desperately wanted to include.  Speechwriters will take hours of material and whittle it down to a 30 minute clear, concise message. Great art is sometimes what you leave out as much as what you include.

Whereas “less is more” is true of any great art it remains true in our everyday lives.  You and I probably don’t need more but less of most things.  We need to be asking what we can leave out, what must be eliminated, what we need to stop doing.

Months ago I scribed two words on a notecard that have become daily reminders for myself; one of those words being FOCUS.  Human history has always contained plenty of distractions, but there is little argument that today’s society has more noise and fewer margins than ever. 

We, as individuals and organizations, make daily choices to approach life from a ‘bottoms-up’ or ‘top-down’ focus.  The ‘bottoms-up’ attitude is stimulus driven in which we become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent and say, “yes” to nearly anything and everything. We pat ourselves on the back for being hardworking and busy while making the mistake of confusing busyness with productivity.

Alternatively, the ‘top-down’ mentality is FOCUSED and goal-driven.  You control which stimuli receive attention.  You become an executive of your individual or organization’s mind driving it to what really matters.  You become an artist deciding what to eliminate.

As you artistically write these next chapters of your life remember that often less is more, shorter is better, and “to don’t” lists can be more important than “to do” lists.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

THE FEAR OF FEAR

Imagine you are walking down an enormous hallway called LIFE.  The passage contains a plethora of doors on either side.  Some of these entries carry beautifully scribed titles as “Curiosity”, “Awe”, or “Surprise”.  You are filled with exhilaration and anticipation as you stand before these accesses dreaming of what lies on the other side.  However, as you continue down the hall you observe numerous doors holding the name “FEAR”.  Unlike the other doors the word, “FEAR”, is scribed with bold, ominous print.  It is not one or two doors that carry this menacing word, but what seems to be every third or fourth door.  As you stand on the threshold of these doors you no longer feel the exhilaration and anticipation the other titles exuded.  Now you feel the very things the word FEAR embodies – anxiety, distress, panic, and trepidation.

It should be no surprise that the hallway of life would have so many doors titled “FEAR”.  As human beings some of our earliest memories are wrestling with this emotion.  When we were young we feared monsters under the bed, creepy things in the closet, or unknown beasts in the dark of night.  Objects conjured up by our wild imaginations…objects that most often DID NOT EXIST.

Sadly, as adults, little has changed.

Studies show that nearly 85% of the things we fear or worry about never happen, and with the 15% that do happen, 79% of individuals discovered either they could handle the difficulty or it taught them an important life lesson.  Consequently, this indicates that 97% of what you and I fear or worry over is a fabrication of our mind.  Meaning, the only thing that changed from our childhood is the shape of the monster.

Mark Twain quipped, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Flying versus driving becomes a great example:  Very few of us have a problem getting into a car and going for a drive, but many experience great trepidation about stepping inside an airplane and flying at 35,000 feet. Flying, obviously, is a wholly unnatural and seemingly hazardous activity. Yet virtually all of us know and acknowledge the fact that the probability of dying in an auto accident is significantly greater than getting killed in a plane crash — but our brains won't release us from this clear logic.  In fact, statistically, we have a 1 in 84 chance of dying in a car accident, as compared to a 1 in 5,000 chance of dying in a plane crash (some sources claim the odds are as high as 1 in 20,000).  It’s that stupid monster under the bed.  It doesn’t exist, but try telling that to your brain.

What can be clearly settled is that everyone has fears.  Not some people, or most people, but every single human on this globe.  Yours may be different than mine, but your LIFE hallway has plenty of doors holding that ominous title, “FEAR”.  

The fact that fears are universal is not a cruel truth because fears are not ALL bad.  Sometimes fear is what saves our life or keeps us from doing something stupid.  Fear is not all bad because you and I don’t develop courage in good times, but in times fraught with distress.  We might say, "at times we NEED fear."

Fear is not all bad; however, the reverse is that it often becomes a roadblock to life change, adventure and growth. 

So, imagine “FEAR” as the door in front of you.  Wisdom is necessary to decide if that door has a worthy, healthy purpose (i.e. survival, caution, etc.).  If so, then by all means keep moving down the hall.  However, wisdom must also decipher whether that door is just another “monster under the bed”.  If so, kick that door down because you don’t want to miss the adventure, growth, and beauty that may be on the other side.


The fear of fear is the discovery that it holds no power.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"SAFETY FIRST" IS STUPID

I cannot describe the joy it has been spending the first year of our granddaughter’s life with her.  These past months have been a beautiful reminder of the many adventures found in watching a little one learn and grow.

One truth I have been reminded of is that children learn through risk. So much of what they do seems to involve danger.  Sliding off furniture headfirst, boldly approaching staircases, walking like they're inebriated, or touching, grabbing, holding and exploring any object regardless of its danger to them.

As mature adults one of our roles is to help children survive these early years. However, I would suggest "safety first" is no way to live. As a child my dreams were never to grow into a "safe" adult. In fact, few, if any, innovators, entrepreneurs, creators, or individuals who inspire live by a "safety first" mantra.

The Wright brothers did not learn flight by "safety first".

Thomas Edison did not invent via "safety first".

Richard Branson did not become a multi-millionaire modeling "safety first".

Jim Elliot did not bring the hope and love of Jesus Christ to the Auca people striving for a "safety first" life.

Consequently, Jesus did NOT call us to a safe life.  Unfortunately, much of our western, cultural Christianity has subtlety morphed into a religion of safety and security. Yet, all one needs to do is study the lives of those 12 men Jesus first aimed his words, "come follow me" to indicate safety isn't part of his call. If those initial 12 are not convincing enough begin turning the pages of history and it becomes clear "safety first" isn't what Jesus meant when he said "I have come that they have life and have it to the full."

I, for one, celebrate this truth. As a child my dreams and imaginations were not built around what is safe, but what could be.  My assumption is you were no different.  As a young man who decided to follow Jesus my aspirations were not to become just a "good guy", but that God would do something in and through me beyond my body just taking up space and oxygen on this planet.

Perhaps youth are willing to risk more because they have little to lose. No doubt, it is a simpler decision to risk everything when it consists of $10 in your sock drawer rather than $3 million in assets.  The danger is as we, meaning individuals, businesses or churches, grow we accumulate more assets and often become risk averse simply because there is so much more to lose.  Certainly, there is wisdom in caution but let’s choose “calculated risk” over “safety first”.

I am both fascinated and perturbed by the number of "faith based" organizations that would struggle to identify the last decision they made that actually required faith. Yet, many times the same can be said of individuals who identify as being persons of faith.

We call this wisdom, but I’m not sure Jesus doesn’t consider it foolish.

“Safety first” is no way to live.

“Safety first” seldom invented, inspired or created.  So why do we insist on modeling it in our lives and organizations?

Monday, December 14, 2015

THE EXCHANGE RATE OF LIFE

I have always loved to travel.  The fresh sites, smells, tastes and sounds of new places and cultures bring out my adventurous spirit.  No doubt the epic voyages of Marco Polo and Captain Cook are long past, but the delight and adventures of experiencing new civilizations remain. 

One staying constant from the days of those great explorers is the “exchange rate” of currency.  Trading and exchange have always been part of exploration and travel.  Mr. Polo and Captain Cook may have used the currency of metals, spices, or blankets while today we convert paper and coins, but trade is trade. 

Pondering the fact that trade and exchange have always been part of human existence led me to question how often we contemplate the exchange rate of our life. 

The definition of “exchange rate” is “a number that is used to calculate the difference in value between money from one country and money from another.”  Someone will nearly always make a profit in the conversion of monies and any savvy international traveller will calculate the exchange rate before making a purchase. 

So why wouldn’t we, as humans, ponder the exchange rate of our life?

Every day we exchange seconds, minutes and hours of our life for something.  How often do we step back and ask ourselves, “Is this a good return on my investment?”  Too often we exchange what is really important for the temporary seat of popularity, power, lust, or control.  We give up what we can never retrieve, our time, for things that are fleeting or of little value. 

Any person exchanging money in this fashion is considered a fool.

Perhaps it is worth our time to pause and ask, “What is the exchange rate for this thought, action, or use of my time?  Is it worth using these moments, which I will never get back, for this? Is the return on my investment temporary or long-term?”

It is interesting how travellers will pay such attention to monetary exchange rates and yet, as we journey through life, we tend to forget that the most valuable and limited resource we have is TIME.

You have 1440 minutes today.  Exchange them wisely.  Remind yourself that what you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it!


Monday, December 7, 2015

CLOSED OR OPEN?

Days after my high school graduation I took a job building homes. Following my first week I recall every bone, muscle, nerve, and what seemed like every cell in my body aching.  On several occasions I would swing the hammer until my hand was “frozen-like” to the handle requiring me to literally pry my fingers open.

Humanity has a way of doing this with our possessions and lives.  Similar to my fingers wrapped around that hammer, we grip our belongings, health and even our lives with such intensity one would think these were eternal assets. 

Here’s a truth worth reminding yourself - Hold things LIGHTLY or they will hold you TIGHTLY.

In recent years I have been asking myself what I need to release.  It has not been an easy journey.  Through a series of unfortunate circumstances that eventually became my personal “crushing” I discovered I had been holding my own story too tightly.

It was my plan, my goals, my dreams, and my way. But God, in his graciousness, reminded me that none of it is mine. It never has been nor will it ever be.  It is all His – as it should be!

It is not my plan it is His!

They are not my goals, but His!

They are not my dreams, but His!

Nor, by the way, are they your plans, goals, or dreams.  They are His!

It appears counterintuitive, but there is tremendous FREEDOM when we release our life into his hands. Jesus said, “When the Son sets you free you are free indeed.”

If it is freedom you seek then let go of what you are grasping so tightly.

If it is adventure you pursue then release your life to the one who said, “I have come that they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

One of my heroes, Corrie Ten Boom, described a profound lesson her sister shared as they endured the horrors of Germany’s concentration camps: “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

Treasure those blessings, revel in those beautiful moments, enjoy your possessions, pursue those dreams, but loosen your grip a bit.


Hold them lightly or they may hold you tightly.