Archive for December, 2010

Routine Christmas

One of my favorite Christian comedians is Tim Hawkins.  I ran across this clip and was reminded of how we often sing words and don’t even think about what we are singing.

This Christmas, don’t let the routine get in the way of the meaning of Christmas.  Stop and think about it.  Remember that Christmas is the celebration of God’s stepping into this world physically in order to illustrate for us how we should live.

Christmas – Immanuel – God with us!

That is what we celebrate.

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As leaders, we hear a lot about success and striving to be the best we can be.  We understand that climbing the ladder of achievement takes dedication, discipline and hard work.

Let me be the first to admit that I am a driven person.  It may take me a while to really focus in on what God is expecting of me but when I do finally get the picture, there is little that will stand in my way.

But I don’t think there is anything wrong with being driven and passionate.  In fact, Jesus made the statement that he would rather we be hot or cold when it comes to following him.  He has no use for luke-warm followers.

So being passionate and driven are God-given traits of leaders.  God expects us to use our talents and passions and skills to impact this world.

There is nothing wrong with climbing the ladder and improving ourselves.

But here is the foundational issue when it comes to climbing that ladder.  We must make sure it is leaning against the right structure.

If we set our sites and climb that ladder all the way to the top and gain the success we have strived for only to find that it is not success in God’s eyes, then what have we accomplished?

Make sure your foundation is in God’s word and part of God’s plan before you start climbing – it will make all the difference!

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Did You Hear That?

Did you know that the average speed of an American person’s speech is 120 to 140 words per minute?  Now if you live up north, it is probably a little faster but if you live in west Texas, the rate is 9.  OK, just kidding – we do speak a little faster than that in west Texas.  Having grown up here and lived here most of my life, I can say from experience that most west Texas folks talk a little slower than the average.

But, did you know that the average number of words per minute that a person can hear and comprehend is 300?  Now I went to school for many, many  years (just ask my wife), but I can tell you that math is not my strong suite.  But even with that being the case, it would appear that we can hear and comprehend at about twice the speed of normal conversation.

You may be thinking, “So what?”

Here is my point – when we are carrying on a conversation, our minds often wander while the other person is talking.  Since we can comprehend faster than the other person can speak, we have a tendency to begin to formulate what we will say next while the other person is still speaking.  We have a tendency to jump ahead and try and determine what the person is about to say or is trying to communicate.

What this normally leads to is miscommunication due to our lack of really listening to the other person.  James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  The importance is placed on the listening.

Think of all the problems that would be solved (probably before they even become problems) if we would focus more of our attention on truly listening and hearing the other person.  Instead, we often jump to conclusions and build our own assumptions without ever really hearing the other person.

Following Jesus is about relationships – having a relationship with Jesus and also having relationships with others.  The writer of James reminds us that if we are to have meaningful relationships with others, we must learn to listen.

Concentrate on listening today!

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Hey, You Awake?

Growing up, my brother and I shared a room.  There are lots of stories I could tell about pestering and the like, but one memory that comes to mind is long after going to bed hearing the words, “Hey, you awake?”  And then a conversation would begin.

Now days, I often wake up for no reason in the middle of the night.  Typically this happens somewhere between 4:30 am and 5:30 am.  I have come to believe that it is God’s way of saying, “Hey, you up?  Wanna talk?”  I normally lay there and pray and find that many times I doze back off.  But if I will get out of bed, I stand a better chance of staying awake and actually having a time of meditation and prayer.

Today, I was lazy and just stayed in bed.  But I lay there for an hour (before actually getting up) and talked to God.  I realized in that time, that I don’t pray for my family nearly enough.  So I prayed for Kristi for a while, then I prayed for each of the boys, one by one.  It was a blessed time.

So just a reminder today – don’t pass up an opportunity to talk to God.  And while you are at it,  pray for your family – they are your biggest blessing from God!

Have a great weekend!

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The Love Badge

Yesterday, I received a card in the mail from one of our area hospitals reminding me that my “visiting clergy I.D. badge expires soon.”  So the request was for me to visit the hospital and update my information in their system so that I can get a shiny, new badge.  The badge serves a security purpose so that hospital personnel can identify me as someone who can be in certain places in the hospital.  It is a sad commentary on our society that a badge is even needed, but I do understand the need for such identification.

As I thought about making arrangements in my schedule to get by the hospital, I thought about how the badge will help people identify me and my role.  Then my mind wandered – like a stray animal on the open range, walking through fields . . . oops, sorry, did it again.  Where was I?  Oh, yes, my mind wandered and I began to think about how people identify me in other settings.  How do people know me?

My hope and prayer is that I am known as a Christ follower.  I desire that my actions, attitudes and words leave little room for ambiguity when it comes to what my life stands for and who I serve.

Jesus said we should wear a “Love” badge.  Well, not exactly.  What he said was this: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  Everyone will know who we follow by how we love.

So here is my challenge for us today:  Do people have difficulty determining what you stand for and who you follow based on your actions?  Or does the way you show love to people daily identify you as a follower of Jesus?

Make sure your Love badge is completely visible  today and let people know who you really are.

Now I’m off to the hospital to get a new badge – that’s OK because I hate my picture on my current badge – the only problem is, I still look like I did when I took the last picture!

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Yesterday, I had the joy of retracing the steps of our construction mission efforts over the past 3 years in the El Paso area.  We visited with the three families we have worked with the last 3 summers.  All are doing well and are just as appreciative today as they were the day we walked away from their homes.

We then went on to look at potential projects and as we did, something began to happen to me that has happened many, many times before.  The overwhelming need fell like a thick blanket over my soul.  Thoughts of inadequacy began to flow.  Questions like:  “Where is the end?”  “What can we possibly do to help?” and “What is a long term fix for this situation?”

While it is a real dilemma in seeking to find answers for these questions, there is also great motivation to try and make an impact when given the opportunity to visit with those few we have impacted over the past 3 years.  As I walked away from one of the first homes we built in this area, the thought crossed my mind, “We made a difference here.”

Now don’t hear me say that we should ever get smug in our accomplishments.  God has brought the impact, we have just been available.  But it should be impossible for anyone to see the glaring need in this area and in the face of that need feel like they have “arrived.”

God is impacting lives in this area through men and women of faith from all over the state and even the country.  How could God use you today to make an impact in someone else’s life?  All you have to do is make yourself available!

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I keep several books going at a time from different genres.  Last week I started a new book entitled The Leadership Challenge.  I haven’t gotten very far into it yet but far enough to be reminded that a large part of leadership is always being aware of the environment.  It is so easy to become comfortable and complacent.  When things are going well we tend to catch our breath and relax a bit.

When we have an idea and we put our efforts behind it – developing it, casting a vision for it and then implementing it – we have a lot invested in it.  Then when it works wonderfully, we have a tendency to repeat it.  Before long, what was once a ground-breaking revolution, is now simply part of the landscape – we keep doing it over and over.  We get comfortable in our success and a rut is formed.

In understanding the environment, a leader must be willing to challenge the norm.  In the book mentioned above, Jim Kouzes calls this, “challenging the process.”  A good leader must be able to look at the process with an eye for evaluation and then be able to envision something better.  That is why leaders are not always popular, but if an organization is to grow and stay relevant, someone must be willing to challenge the process.

What are you doing today that needs to be challenged?  As a leader, what are you going to do today to challenge the process?

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