Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolutions And Biting My Nails

Well it's that time of year again: a new year is here and with it comes new beginnings, new ideas and the standard New Year Resolutions. According to one poll, 45% of Americans make them. The same poll indicated that after one month only 64% are still at it. After six months the number drops to 46%.

There are websites dedicated to New Year's Resolutions. Top Ten Resolutions, How To achieve Your Resolution, Funny New Year's Resolutions, Business New Year's Resolutions and even Brittany Spears' New Years Resolution (not to bite her nails).

We've been told to choose a goal that's achievable. Next we're to plan a strategy for attaining that goal. Next, work the plan consistently. Finally, have some accountability.

I'd like to propose that we choose this one, single, "wide-reaching" New Year's Resolution: to be a better spouse/parent/child/grand-parent/friend (whatever relationship we have to others). By focusing on that one "bigger picture", we can accomplish many "smaller" resolutions.

If I want to be a better parent, one way of expressing that is the desire to be around for a long time for my kids and their children. So I will make sure I am eating healthy and exercising regularly.

If I want to be a better son, one way of expressing that will be to make sure I call my Mom more often.

If I want to be a better friend, I can express it by spending time encouraging my friends.

If I want to be a better husband, I can communicate honestly with my wife.

By seeking to become better in my relationships, I am ultimately doing many smaller things (many of which made to the "Top-Ten New Year's Resolutions" list).

(By the way I quit biting my nails during my freshman year of college.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas Traditions

There is a radio commercial playing on secular stations in our local market talking about the Christmas Traditions many people observe such as driving around the parking lot of the mall looking for a space the same way that the wise men traveled around looking for the star.

The ad ends by encouraging families to begin a new Christmas tradition: that of seeking Christ, the real meaning of Christmas. Cute, catchy and convincing.

So in my desire to be brief (I must run out to the mall and look for a parking space) yet profound, I encourage you to seek after Christ, who is the true meaning of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Cookies, And Other Creativity

I listened to a news report this morning on the radio indicating that Americans are spending much less on Christmas gifts this year (no real news there). The reporter went on to indicate that after time, children forget what gifts they received, but remembered time spent.

I began to think about my Christmas memories and the things I received, as opposed to the time spent. I realized that yes, I do remember events and relationships over things. Even as an adult this holds true for me. (Christmas 1999 stands out in my mind, but don't ask...)

What about your memories?

Well, back to my title Christmas Cookies, And Other Creativity. What are you doing to create memories with your families? Some ideas: Baking Christmas cookies, decorating the house & tree, driving the neighborhoods looking at the "lights" - one of my childhood memories, reading aloud Christmas stories - an event that our family began ten years ago.

Even as we get older and our children move away and begin to develop their own events and relationships, new things may emerge as creative memory makers. My goal in this Blog: Don't simply buy things. Bake some cookies... and be creative!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Multitasking Day

Today is a day of multitasking: We are having new IT equipment installed and we are implementing a new Helpdesk protocol (both of which I am overseeing), I am reviewing budgets for 10 departments, we had a luncheon honoring our volunteers (for whom I wrote and performed song), plus the regular meetings and work of a typical Wednesday (if you want to call this typical because we are also in the middle of rehearsals for our huge Christmas production).


I wrote all that to remind me to check in with my wife, touch base with my kids and make sure I don't get so busy doing tasks that I forget people.

OK, got it. Thanks for allowing me to use you to talk to me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mundane To Magnificent!

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As we immerse ourselves in the Christmas season I thought I'd call our attention to a common practice at this time of year: Taking simple things and through a little ingenuity and creativity producing something that is much more than its humble beginnings.

Allow me to illustrate: Some people take the cuttings of Christmas trees and create wreaths. Others begin with a roll of yarn and make a sweater to give as a gift. Still others show their brilliance in the kitchen and using simple ingredients and creating tasty feasts and treats (my wife being one of those).

You too possess the ability and creativity to turn the mundane into the magnificent. I believe that we are all made in the image of our Creator, and if we are in His image, then we are creators also.

Don't allow the slow economy stifle your holiday spirit. You can still give, produce, fashion and form. All it takes is some time, thought and creativity.

Mundane to the magnificent. It reminds me of a story where a baby born into the humble beginnings of a cattle stall became the Savior of all and ultimately the King of kings and Lord of lords. Now that's pretty magnificent!

Question: What are some of things you've done or seen where the Mundane became the Magnificent? Share your thoughts below in 'comments'.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Be Good For Goodness Sake!

Here's what's happening now in our part of the country:

(From FOX News.com)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — You better watch out. There is a new combatant in the Christmas wars.
Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on Washington, D.C., buses starting next week and running through December. The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative $40,000 holiday ad campaig
n Tuesday.
In lifting lyrics from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the Washington-based group is wading into what has become a perennial debate over commercialism, religion in the public square and the meaning of Christmas.
"We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you," said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group. (Click Here for the full story.)
Well, there's an interesting twist on Christmas, St. Nick, and all of the other Christian influences that are prevalent at this time of year.
Did you notice the statistic towards the end of the published article? Yet few Americans describe themselves as atheist or agnostic; a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll from earlier this year found 92 percent of Americans believe in God.
Hmmmm. To the non-believers out there I have one thing to say: You better watch out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Creative Entrepreneurs

I had a conversation recently with a friend concerning our current economic climate, and how it is affecting the staff of his organization. His observations were that the staff have become a bit paralyzed, simply going through the rote motions of doing business because there is "no money" to do anything else.

I came away from that conversation with a few ideas, and after considering them for a couple of days, here are some of my thoughts:

First, money drives the motivation and innovation in most people's lives. Many employees think that if there is no money, there can't be growth.

Second, in a recessed and downsizing climate employees ought to not simply get by, but rather step up and make themselves invaluable (even if for selfish reasons: keeping their job).

Third, all people can be entrepreneurial in their thinking (even as I have trumpeted the concept that all people are creative).

Fourth, if they will unpack the hidden entrepreneurial spirit they carry, people can go much further in all of their endeavors, personally and professionally. Instead of depending on your company and your paycheck for your livelihood, seek other streams of revenue for your area of work in your company and for your personal income.

In conclusion, let me encourage readers to think beyond the confines of always doing things a certain way and explore other possibilities. (Here I go): Everyone is creative! capitalize on your creativity and become entrepreneurial!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

India: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

After having been back in the states from India for a few days now, I have had a chance to "decompress" and look back at not only this recent trip, but also at the two previous trips that I have had the privilege of taking this year, and one trip last year.

I must say that each time I travel to India I receive a different experience. I have now ministered in four different India states and have seen God's hand in many different ways. From my very first preaching opportunity during my first visit to India in February of 2007, where I spoke in a thatched-roofed pole structure, to eating at the finest restaurant in Delhi as the guest of my new brother-in-Christ Manoj Dwivedi, I have the chance to experience much of India.

No matter what I have experienced (as you can read in my previous Blog posts), it always turns out as an adventure where I see the hand and providence of God. The one thing that I always come away with each time I leave that great country is this: the people are hungry for the truth... and we have the Truth that will set them free!

I look forward to my next visit to India. Plans are already being made for 2009. I only hope that as I visit and seek to minister and pour myself out to the people, that they will forget me, but remember the presence and power of the Lord Jesus. That is what I want my legacy to be.

Monday, November 03, 2008

India: The Big Weekend!

This past weekend was filled with ministry opportunities and God's power! We began an evangelistic crusade in Narsampet, a city where there are only a few churches and the work is in its infancy.

Narsampet is a hotbed of Communism (go figure) and when word got out that an outdoor Christian meeting was to take place, the city quickly cancelled the plans to use an arena inside the city limits. No worries: the "grain market" just outside the city limits was free and a makeshift stage and arena were established. The metting went forward!

The Saturday meeting got started with praise and worship Indian style, and then I was able to preach the Word of God to the close to 1,200 participants. An invitation to receive Christ was given and well over 100 came forward to receive Christ! After Pastor Daniel prayed and led them to trust in Jesus, we began to pray for the sick and needy, and saw God do many great miracles: the crippled walked, the deaf had their hearing restored, pains were removed, fevers gone!

Sunday morning found us at Pastor Daniel's church, where I was prepared to preach and encourage the congregation. When I arrived though, Pastor Daniel told me that there were four "high classed" Hindu men here who wanted prayer for their brother/cousin who was in the hospital, dying with cancer. He told me to meet with them and pray with them. I knew the timing was right, and with the help of an interpreter, I shared the Gospel with them and all four committed their lives to Christ! They came requesting prayer and left with new life!

Pastor Daniel and I did go to the hospital on Monday (today) and laid hands on the dying man and prayed for his healing and salvation. We are believing that he will rise up and be restored.

I did enter the Sunday morning worship service (a little late - but very encouraged about my recent encounter with the Hindu men) and proceeded to share a message that God had given me on the flight over here that was especially for Pastor Daniel's church. We spoke the Word, prayed for needs and concluded a very long, but rewarding morning (at 2:30 that afternoon!).

Sunday night we traveled again by car to the crusade in Narsampet. Many of the people who attended the first night came back and brought friends with them to hear about Jesus. There were over 1,500 in attendance, and I preached a very simple but clear message about faith in Jesus. Pastor Daniel brought the service to a climax and at the altar call, more than 300 responded to receive Christ. Remember: these are Hindu people with a heavy Communist influence. The Lord is great! Again we prayed for the hundreds who came for healing and to have their needs met, seeing before our eyes many miracles!

The rest of today will be spent with Pastor Daniel, encouraging him and dealing with some of the "business" and logistical side of ministry. I hope I can be an encouragement in this area also. Tuesday I spend a few hours with one of the musicians on Daniel's team, encouraging him (while he takes me to do a little shopping). Then Tuesday evening we travel to Hyderabad to catch a very early morning flight back home. I plan to arrive at BWI about 9:00 pm on Wednesday night.

The Lord has been good to me on this trip. I have had the privilege to meet with and minister the sick and dying, and the rich and powerful. I have spoken to crowds of pastors and believers, and to Hindu groups and crowds. My message and purpose have remained the same for everyone: to testify of the Gospel of the grace of God!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

India: October, 2008 Report

I'm back! I was unable to find any internet access for the last several days and wasn't able to update my Blog, but now we're back in the Blog world. The last few days have been amazing!

I have been attending a pastor's conference for Indian Pastors in Lucknow, Utra Pradesh and have been blessed by the over 3,000 pastors and leaders who passionately love God with all their hearts and desire to see the Gospel spread all over India and even around the world. I had the privilege of speaking to them on Thursday, challenging them to leave a legacy, pouring themselves into the lives of those they know who will in turn pour themselves into others, and pouring themselves out into the lives of people they don't know: the helpless, hurting and needy. What an honor to be able to stand before so many who are driven by the transformation in their lives and to simply pour more fuel on their fires.

I was able to tour a brand-new Bible College and pray a blessing over it and its staff, as well as visit a school for physically and mentally challenged children. There I was able to be with some of the children and minister to them and the staff.

My greatest ministry during this first part of my trip to India was for me to have the privilege of meeting with one of the richest and most powerful men here. He is a devout Hindu who has a place in his heart for the poor. An Indian friend of mine in the U.S. had an appointment with him this past summer, and upon hearing of my trips to India and my heart for the poor, he invited me to meet with him when I arrived.

After spending one day with him and his senior staff (complete with SUV motorcades, bodyguards with guns, entourages, expensive restaurants, gifts and flowers), he cleared his calendar and invited me back for a second day to meet with him. I had been praying and preparing for this time for several weeks and knew that everything was in place for something HUGE. During our second day together I shared the Gospel with him and his senior staff and they all committed their lives to Christ! I am overwhelmed by this divine appointment that I got to be a part of!

I flew out of Lucknow early on Friday and spent the day traveling. I am currently in Kazipet, Anhdra Pradesh with Pastor Daniel Kalyanapu. This evening (Saturday) we begin a two-day evangelistic crusade in Narsampet, about 1 1/2 hours from here. Pastor Daniel says that this is the first time any evangelistic work is attempted in this city, so we are expecting great results, preaching the Gospel and praying for miracles.

I know it will be a great second half of my trip!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Happy Birthday In Five Cities

I made it to India! I actually got to celebrate my birthday in five different cities: Dubai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow (no parties, just airports). Apples and pretzels rather than cake and ice cream.

Today is Sunday, and I spoke at a church here in Lucknow. Afterwards during the altar call time I was able to lead two people to Christ and see God do some healing. One was an older lady who had just received Christ! Thank you Lord!

After the service I hopped on to the back of a motorcycle and was driven through the streets of Lucknow to catch the tail end of another worship service. (The "biker pastor" is back!)

Later today we leave for the Pastor's Conference which begins tomorrow. It will be a busy week, ministering at the Conference and also meeting with the special "appointments" that are scheduled for me.

More to come!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Return To India... Round Three!

I will be traveling on a mission trip to India, leaving on Thursday, October 23rd and returning on Wednesday, November 5th. (I celebrate my 52nd birthday in India this year!)

I will again be preaching in evangelistic crusades and ministering among the poor and sick, especially at a home for crippled children. Plus, I have the privilege of speaking at a Pastor's Conference, with over 3,000 Indian pastors in attendance.

An opportunity has also opened up for me to have an audience with one of the richest and most powerful businessmen in India. He is the largest landowner in India, and upon hearing of my previous trips and the work that I have been involved in, has asked me to meet with him.

Although he is a Hindu, he has a heart for the poor and needy. I am praying that during our conversation, I will be able to share the Gospel with him. I am believing that he will be the first of many in his circle of influence to follow after Christ.

Please check my Blog regluarly. The first half of my trip may provide me with limited internet access, but I will post as often as I can. And let me hear your comments (click below)!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Job Survival Or Job Satisfaction

Perhaps I chose the wrong economic conditions to raise this question in, but I feel compelled. Are you working in your job or profession because you truly feel you are making a difference, or you simply trying to stay afloat financially?

Do you truly feel that what you do, what is defining your work/career function is purposeful and meaningful, in terms of the good of others and the heart of God?

In their book "Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life" authors Kevin & Marie Brennfleck state: We need to ask ourselves a question such as: At this time in my life, how can I best use my gifts, abilities and other resources to further God’s purposes in this world?

As I stated at the beginning of this post, perhaps now is not the time to be evaluating job satisfaction and looking to change careers. But what if our economic conditions never improve in your lifetime (or before you reach retirement - a very Western concept)? If this is as good as it gets and your job is one merely of survival, what are you doing to make a difference for good in your workplace or around the world (related to what you do professionally)?

Will you be satisfied by simply making a paycheck so you can keep your bills paid and just get older? Can you further God's purposes in this world... by doing what you are doing now?

Just something to think about.

Question: Are you satisfied, or just surviving in your job? Please respond below.

(If you like this post, please re-post it or Twittter it to your followers.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A No-Win Retirement Plan

The New York times reports that of the 42 states with lotteries, at least 29 reported increased sales in their most recent fiscal year. Of those 29, at least 22 set sales records. (NYTIMES.COM 9.12.08)

I thought this was an interesting fact. The economy is having problems, the stock market is going lower, and people are spending more money on lotto tickets. I guess the dream of get rich quick is still alive and well.

What does that tell you about people? What does it tell you about what they trust in? Even people of faith pray over choosing the right numbers on their power-ball ticket. Hmmm...

Sure, I'd love to win the lottery. But I'm told that to win I have to play first. I guess I'll have to invest in a different retirement plan

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Influences You?

I have been leading our management team in a conversation about Who influences you? We have pretty much determined that all of us are influenced by others, in one way or another. To ignore that fact is like ignoring gravity. It is still there, whether we believe it or not.

Some people influence us negatively. Those are the people who either purposefully draw us away from our passions and pursuits, or who unintentionally suck away our energy because they haven't got control of their own lives and personalities. You know the ones in your life: when we see them coming we want to duck and hide.

We walk a fine line when relating to these people. We want to have an influence in their lives and to encourage them to excellence, but the price we pay in time, emotional energy and resources to do that is sometimes more than we are willing to pay at a particular time. It is a precarious place that we find ourselves in.

Then there are those who are positive influences in our lives. Those who inspire us to greatness, who push us to be better. They come alongside of us and combining with our lives, together we become a sum greater than its parts.

These are the people I want to be with. These are the ones whom I purposely interact with and seek to be in relationship with. These are the ones who make my life what it is.

They don't take, they give. They don't allow mediocrity, they challenge to excellence. They don't steal our joy, they inspire.

So who influences you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Text Message Connection

A conversation took place yesterday among the leaders of the organization that I work for. The discussion centered around how technology has caused our society to become less relational and more task-oriented (even more multitask-oriented).

Many problems and challenges were discussed, and while we weren't seeking to find answers to the challenges we put before ourselves, we did begin to look at possible solutions.

Probably the most salient observation that came from our team was that the key to reaching our culture, and especially the generation under age 30 was through relationships. We found ourselves seeking to answer the question, "How can we demonstrate the importance of relationships in the digital world?"

Here are some of our conclusions: we can model good relationships; we can take the time to invest in other people; we can even use technology as a tool to begin conversations and build on relationships.

I purposely did not put out an exhaustive list of possible solutions because I'd like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this issue of relationships in our digital world?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Micro-Management and Creativity

I recently heard a person being interviewed saying that micro-management by their boss stifled their creativity. An interesting thought, that I would like to pursue here.

Just about all of us in the work force have had encounters with micro-managing bosses, supervisors and managers. I know that some jobs require close supervision. Safety, deadlines and certain seasons dictate the need for closer than usual oversight.

But micro-management is not reserved only for the workplace. I have led music teams and at times found myself a bit too controlling, justifying my actions by saying that I wanted a song to sound certain way. OK, give me a pass there as long as I don't abuse it. But what about our children?

Do we as parents micro-manage our children's lives because we have these big plans for them and we feel that the best path to achieve those plans is through our control?

I am NOT for simply allowing our children to do as they please, without any guidance or instruction. But I am for having Godly, parental insight and wisdom to discern talents and creative leanings and to gently steer our children in those directions. To simply push them into our pre-planned direction will likely stifle their creativity and perhaps warrant rebellion.

A friend and colleague who has spent many years as a brilliant high school orchestra teacher shared with me that many of his most talented students stopped playing their instruments after they graduated because they were forced by their parents to practice and play from a very early age, and in reality they really never enjoyed it. (Of course there is the argument that some exceptional musicians have thanked their parents for making them stay devoted to their craft as children.)

But what about allowing a child to lean towards a certain tendency they may exhibit? Many times we as parents feel that we have our children's lives figured out, regardless of their creative leanings.

I would like to suggest that we apply the insight that our Creator has given us to help discern and identify the creative tendencies in our children, and encourage them in those directions. Yes, practicality and common sense need not be discarded, but encouragement towards a God-given creative impartation may be the ticket towards our children's success. Just be careful that don't micro-manage that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't Throw That Away!

I recently read this interesting information about Americans:

The average U.S. household throws out nearly a quarter of the fruits and vegetables they buy. For a family of four, that adds up to about $500 each year, according to a study by the University of Arizona. (MSNBC.com 7.23.08)

Having seen first-hand some of the poverty we conveniently forget about here in the United States, and also having traveled several times to India, a country with its own share of poor people, I find myself wondering if our prosperity-driven, abundance mentality needs a good dose of "other-side-of-the-world" (or even "other-side-of-town") reality.

We have to face it: we Americans tend to be a bit wasteful. If you don't agree, read this:

Americans' total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to wrap around the Earth six times and reach halfway to the moon. It is estimated that this year 222 million tons of waste will be generated by Americans.

I hope I am not offending you, but rather inspiring you to think beyond our neighborhoods, workplaces or churches. There are many people in the world, most of which live in developing countries, who just don't have very much. How could we cut down on what we throw away in order provide for the poor? Would the $500 that the average family throws out a year in fresh fruits and vegetables be given to those who could use it to buy their own fresh fruits and vegetables?

I remember my mother telling me as a child, "Don't waste your food. There are starving kids around the world!" Maybe it wasn't such bad advice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Are You Working On?

As I come into contact with those whomI have relationships with and seek to influence them to be creative, I like to ask the question, "What are you working on?"

I meet with a friend every two weeks for coffee (a gifted writer and aspiring author) and at some point in our conversation I ask, "What have you written?" Although we do not have an accountability agreement where he knows I will ask him this question, he knows that sometime before we drain our Venti cups (Ooops, gave away where we meet!) he will be challenged by me. Sometimes he verbalizes a thought he is working on. Other times he brings his notebook and reads me a few passages from the novel he is pursuing.

Just as I challenge him, he in turn (along with others whom I keep the creative carrot before) challenges me to make sure I am living in creative mode myself. (In case you are wondering, I am in the middle of recording my next CD project, which will be available later this year.)

My goal is to stimulate creativity, and to encourage people to express themselves using the Creator-inspired gifts they possess. It is common for "artists" to create, and then to simply look at, read or listen to their creation, resting on what they've done instead of moving on to new expressions of their gifts. To them I say, keep creating!

When worship leader/songwriter Dennis Jernigan was asked how someone could know they are a songwriter, he responded, "You can't keep it inside. You have to write songs." So my question to you is, "What are you working on?"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Release The Artist Within You

I read this interesting information today:

In June 2008, the public radio show Studio 360 teamed up with the Opinion Research Corporation to conduct a survey that asked: If you could trade your job to become an artist with no reduction in pay, would you do it? Surprisingly, 51% said that they would. (Studio 360 6.20.08)

Hmmmm... with the accessibility of the internet to publish our thoughts, and the availability of home recording software to capture our musical creations (I have a Blog and a recording studio), it seems that more and more the "creator/artist" is emerging from the depths of our task-oriented, driven lifestyles.

I like this kind of news. My heartbeat is to encourage everyone I influence to be creative, to tap into the "artist" inside, and to use their God-given creativity to Glorify the Creator and inspire others. Remember: we are made in the image of our Creator, the greatest "artist/creator".

So write, paint, draw, play music, build with your hands, or simply rearrange the furniture, but release the artist within you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rewarding Failure

I recently shared a few comments concerning rewarding failure in a meeting with some colleagues. I felt that the title was catchy and would attract interest, but the real message was about encouraging us to try new ideas and expressions as we accomplish tasks and lead people.

We live in an ever-changing culture where the media is constantly prompting people to reinvent themselves, where methods of marketing become outdated as soon as they are rolled out to the public, and where in some industries if you are not ahead of the curve, then you must already be behind it.

In order to stay effective in our influence of those around us and in the culture in which we live, we need to attempt new methods of communication and fresh expressions of the values to which we hold. In other words, we must try new ways to be effective.
But we must understand that any new endeavor can potentially fail. Stepping out of the comfort and security of our current condition or status quo could cause us to fall flat on our faces. And many of us are afraid to take that step.

Hence rewarding failure. By encouraging new ideas, innovative methods and fresh thinking, we have the chance to become more effective and therefore more influential. Oh we may fail, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Just about all great discoveries were the result of attempting something new because the old way of thinking or doing just wasn't satisfying or effective anymore. "What if...?" and "Why not...?" are great questions to ask yourself and your team. Why not ask now?

Question:  What have you tried and perhaps failed at, but has made you more effective?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Heroes

Have you been following the Olympics? They are hard to miss because NBC is offering 2,900 hours of live TV coverage. Those live hours, spread across NBC and its cable TV outlets, top the total U.S. TV hours — 2,562 — for all previous Summer Games combined.

I think my fascination with the Olympics began in 1972 when as a high school student I watched the United States freestyle wrestling team win three gold, two silver and one bronze medal. Being a wrestler myself, these athletes became my heroes, and as I watched their exploits in the television each evening, I found myself inspired to work harder, train longer and dream bigger.

This year's crop of athletes in all of the sports are maybe even more impressive, inspirational and heroic. Swimmer Michael Phelps has already won five gold medals and is looking for three more. The US team has already won 29 medals to China's 27, and it's only day five of the competition.

But what about the hero factor that I mentioned earlier. Are these athletes really our heroes? Do we find some kind of inspiration in their feats? Are you inspired to greatness like I was as a 15 year old?

As I ask myself these questions, I think about some other heroes that I know, heroes who will never compete in the Olympic games. I think about a couple who have dedicated their lives to orphaned children in Guatemala. I remember a man in India who was beaten to the point of death because he renounced Hinduism for Christianity. I consider the sacrifice of relatives of a friend of mine who sold and gave away everything and are now ministering in remote Tanzania, where the closest "civilization" is 12 hours away.

They may not be on TV, but to me these are the real heroes.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Long Road

I read a book in the early 1980's called "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" authored by Eugene Petersen, who also authored "The Message" translation of the Bible. Since my first reading of the book (I have since read it multiple times), I have become a fan of Petersen's work.

In A Long Obedience, Petersen looks at the Songs of the Ascents, Psalms 120 - 134. His basic premise (as identified by the title) is that life is about small, daily practices that order our steps and define our lives.

Lately I have been meditating on these Psalms and the concept of daily disciplines, and how they affect me. I realize that it's not the big events that cause my growth as a person, but the regular disciplines that I incorporate into my lifestyle that shape my character and transform my nature.

Too often we look for the route that's quick and easy, when the slow and tedious is the path that will take us to our desired destination. As my wife reminds me in her subtle way when we are traveling in the car: It's not the destination, but rather the journey to get there that makes the trip interesting.

Are you ready to stay on the path of a long obedience in the same direction?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Efficient, Effective, Excellent!

I have been thinking lately about how my organization can function better, and even how other organizations can function better. As I was considering this last night (early this morning), these three words kept surfacing in the ocean of my thoughts: efficient, effective, excellent.

Taken separately, each one has its place and purpose in an organization. As each person becomes more efficient in their tasks and responsibilities, the organization functions with streamlined effort and maximum productivity.

But limiting functionality to simply doing things right does not leave room for influence, whether it be in personal relationships, within the community in which an organization is placed, or within the culture that we live.

Instead of doing things right (being efficient), we can consider doing the right thing (being effective). This elevates what we do to a much more purposeful endeavor, moving us beyond simply doing what's expected to doing what's important.

If we want to add another dimension to both being efficient and effective, we can consider excellence: using the tools, energies, creativity and wisdom that we've been given to make what we do the very best. I am not advocating perfectionism, but rather doing things that exceed expectations, including our own.

So whether we are seeking to be efficient: to make things run smooth and get the job done, or we are seeking to be effective: doing the things that will influence those around us, we can always move to the next level by seeking to be excellent!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Batman: The $158 Million Superhero

I guess you have heard by now that the new Batman movie "The Dark Night" took in a record $158.4 million in its opening weekend, making it the highest grossing movie opening in history. This "historical event" has raised some questions in my mind.

Allow me to share a few of these questions without comment (although the questions themselves are motivated by my comments). I invite you to respond or comment yourself at the end of this post.

What would motivate the American public to spend $158 million on a comic-book character's movie?

With gas sitting at about $4 a gallon and the public outcry about it getting louder, why was so much spent on this celluloid creation? (Maybe there were an extraordinary number of car-poolers at the multiplex.)

Were people exercising their voyeuristic tendencies by watching the now deceased Heath Ledger act in his final role?

Are the members of our society looking for a hero, a villain, or a police commissioner to identify with?

Is our collective culture seeking to find some kind of heroic rescue from their own personal Gotham Cities?


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fight For Affection!

This morning as I was running I heard quite a commotion coming from overhead. I noticed a couple of male Goldfinches chasing each other in the air. I also noticed a female Goldfinch flying in the general area of the "fight". (My wife, an avid "birder", has taught me how to tell the males from the females - without turning them over...)

What I figured out was this: the two males were fighting for the affection of the female. It was quite a spectacle. I realized that this was a characteristic in the animal kingdom that used to exist among humans (maybe it's still active in some cultures).

How much do we "fight" for the affection of our spouses, children and significant people in our lives? Once we have "tied the knot", do we live by the "I've got her, now I can relax" mindset?

We need to continue to show that we would fight for our spouses affection, our children's attention and our friend's consideration. We can't take for granted that they will follow us, support us and be led by us.

We need to create a commotion and fight!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Living In A Fishbowl

This post may not be what the title implies to you. It's not about living in a place where everyone sees your every move. But rather it is an entirely different thought.

My wife and I recently had the privilege of traveling to South Florida and to Mexico. While we were there, we decided to try our hand at snorkeling. I must say, it was an entirely exhilarating experience!

When I was a teenager I snorkeled some in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's east coast. But that was when I was young, in a hurry, and wasn't into appreciating the natural beauty created by the Creator.

This time it was very different. While in Cozumel, Mexico, we donned our snorkeling gear and jumped in! We immediately realized that we were in way over our heads (literally, and in the sensory-overloaded world under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico).

The beauty of the tropical fish, coral, plant life and other types of "life" were almost overwhelming. Like two kids experiencing an amusement park with the lights, sounds and "dazzle", we constantly tapped each other and pointed at the different sights.

A few days later we spent two days around rock formations in the ocean off South Florida. Again, the experience was almost breathtaking (one must be careful when under the water breathing through a tube)! Here we found ourselves literally swimming with the fishes, as schools of fish surrounded us, almost oblivious to our presence. (I need to do some research to identify them.) We even swam with a school of jack, some of them almost two feet long, and ended our final day with an encounter with a small shark (is there any such thing as a small shark?).

It was fantastic, and we are hooked! But what about living in a fishbowl. The world we saw through our masks was a world that is not seen unless one takes the time to wear the proper equipment to make seeing that world possible. In other words, the fishbowl that we peered into (even swam in) required something to make it possible to experience it (in this case, snorkeling equipment).

Sometimes, to experience an unusual, extraordinary or remarkable thing, it requires either a different perspective, a different experience or an different view. Do what it takes to see life from a new perspective. Climb into the fishbowl and have a look. You may love it!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Maybe I Can Help

I recently saw a commercial for Traveler’s Insurance. The commercial showed a man walking with a huge red umbrella over him. He comes across various groups of people with different problems, and at each group he helps them solve their problem.

From a need to cross a river (the umbrella became a boat), to a need to be out of the rain (a children’s baseball team walked home under the covering of the umbrella), the man with the umbrella helped by offering creative ways to solve the presented problems.

At one point, when presented with the appeal from two children whose bicycle had broken, he says, “Maybe I can help.”

I believe that this is the second essential purpose of creativity (the first being to glorify our Creator). We are given creativity so we can help people. We are to take our creative energies and translate them into purposeful expressions of ourselves that benefit others.

So the next time you come across someone who is experiencing a problem, perhaps you should state, “Maybe I can help.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mom: 80 Years!

We celebrated my Mom's 80th birthday with a surprise party this past weekend. My sisters and I, along with our families and my Uncle (my Mom's only living relative of her generation) traveled from various places across the US and gathered at her home in Elizabethtown, KY (just like the movie).

It was a HUGE moment as she answered her door and saw all of us there. The surprise caught her totally off-guard, and we delighted as she savored the moment. Even hours later, after our unexpected appearance, she still kept repeating, "I can't believe you are all here!"

We ate and laughed, told funny stories and remembered ways that Mom had impacted our lives. Of course we watched the "video slide show" of old pictures of her life and growing up, and her family as it began to grow with the addition of her children, then grandchildren. (By the way, my Mom was a stunning model in the New York fashion scene in the late 1940's.) Finally, we honored her with gifts and cards, a fitting tribute to one who had invested so much into us.

I love surprises, especially when they bring joy and delight to those whom I love. And my Mom, whom I love dearly, deserves the biggest surprise I have ever been involved in. You see, without her, I would not be here writing this. Now that may sound pretty trite, but beyond the fact that 51+ years ago she gave birth to me, she invested pretty much her whole life into me and my three sisters.

So honor is only fitting for a godly woman who has distinguished herself as a mother, grandmother, counselor and friend. Who in your life is deserving of honor, praise and perhaps a surprise party? Make some plans to give honor where honor is due!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What if...?

Have you ever had a "What if...?" moment? Maybe you were working on a problem, or driving in your car, or were awakened in the middle of the night and thought "What if I did this?". I believe that vision begins with "What if...?" moments.

My wife and I were invited to the home of an Indian family we know last evening. After a wonderful Indian meal (I was able to identify most of the dishes by their Indian names), the conversation turned to our host's story.

He shared about his life and background in India, how his desired career path was thwarted, how he was invited to America and sponsored by the president of Pepsi-Cola, and how he ended up here in the DC area. With gratitude in his eyes he expressed how grateful he was for his family, his life, and the events of it. He knew that the Lord had shown favor on him.

He shared that he'd recently thought about the poor and needy back in his home city of Lucknow, and what he could do to provide for them. It was a "What if...?" moment for him, and he turned that moment of contemplation into the beginnings of a vision.

As our conversation progressed, he and his wife, along with my wife and myself began to share ideas and suggestions that complemented his vision and "gave legs" to it. My friend's smile widened and his countenance brightened as I summarized the many ideas offered and we formed them into a plan.

What we shared that evening was a "What if...?" moment that grew into a vision, and then into a strategy. It was an encouraging evening. It was an evening of purpose and fruitfulness. It was an evening that mattered.

What about you? Have you had any "What if...?" moments lately? Are you sitting on some "Hmmmmms." that are ready to become visions?

Let me hear from you! Comment on this post (click on 'comments' below) and share one of your "What if...?" moments. Keep the conversation going!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Images Of India

The Gospel was shared with these Hindu mothers and their children!

A Muslim family receives medical care.

Pastor Daniel preaches to the mostly Hindu crowd.

Dr. Srinivas examines a Muslim man.

The local children eventually warmed up to a pic with me.

Pastor Emmanuel and the local Jammu-Kashmir worship team.

The constant police and military presence, my protectors!

The team takes a break to sight-see. See if you can pick me out...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

India - May '08: Day 15

Another day of ministry among the Muslims. This is our last medical camp and our last day of ministry. We traveled for almost 1 ½ hours to a farming village where the people were waiting for us at a school. The team had much experience setting up so things were in place quickly and the medical staff was hard at work in no time.

The local people, all very poor, continued to come from all over the area and we lost count at 177 the number of patients we ministered to. Even as we were loading up, one doctor was seeing patients from the back of the van and another doctor was re-opening the boxes of medicine and filling prescriptions.

Again out of respect for the local pastor, Pastor Paul, Pastor Daniel and I stayed among the people and “quietly” blessed them and prayed for their salvation and healing.

One of the organizers of this particular medical camp is a former Muslim who is now an evangelist, spreading the Gospel among his people. He was disgraced by his father (who burned his Bible), and severely beaten by his brother, but he persevered and his brother has since come to the Lord and many others are finding Christ through his witness.

Kashmir is a very tough area to penetrate with the Gospel because of its strong Muslim influence, but there are small pockets of light that are growing stronger. No church could be built because any construction would be immediately burned to the ground. The hard work of the local pastors and the support of Pastor Daniel and Ecclesia Ministries (which Immanuel’s Church in turn supports through our support of the Immanuel’s School of the Bible in India) is making a difference.

Again, amid all of the hard work and seemingly slow progress these last two days, I was blessed to be a part of it!

Tomorrow after a worship service with Pastor Paul’s church, I will be dropped off at the airport to begin my 40 hour journey from Srinagar to Delhi, to Hyderabad, to Dubai, to JFK in New York and finally to BWI. Pastor Daniel and the team have a day’s drive to Jammu where they will catch the train on Monday night and then travel almost 48 hours to Kazipet.

It has been a privilege to serve alongside of Pastor Daniel, and to see his vision and heartbeat for all of the people of India. His compassion, sensitivity and humility have been a great inspiration to me. What an incredible 18 days of ministry!

India - May '08: Day 14

Today (Friday) the team traveled for about an hour away from the city, then went on a mile-long mud road (we only got stuck twice), entering a farming village. Our local pastor contact had been building relationships with the local social work agencies and they were open to a medical camp being held in their completely Muslim village.

Over 300 patients were seen by the team, and of course Pastor Daniel and I “assisted” as best we could, while at the same time laying hands on the people and praying for them to be healed and to come to the knowledge of Jesus (without them knowing what we were doing!). All of this punctuated by periodic fly-over patrols by the Indian Air Force.

We did not want to ruin the months-long work that “Pastor Paul” had done in building relationships and opening doors with the people. These medical camps are a way that the people will see the love of Christ in us and ultimately be open to the Gospel.

The owner of the home who allowed us to use his courtyard to set up the camp also invited us into his house and served the team an authentic Kashmir lunch of rice, chenna, mutton, chicken, radishes and some other kind of vegetable. I, being a vegetarian, skipped the mutton and chicken, but did try the “other kind of vegetable”. We performed a tash from a nur (rinsed our hands with water poured from a kettle for us) and used our hands to eat (well, a spoon was offered to me – I haven’t eaten with my hands since I was a kid). It was quite an experience!

A great day of ministry, a great day with the team, a great day with the Lord!

India - May '08: Day 13

Today we took a break from ministry and refreshed ourselves with a bit of local sightseeing. None of the team had been in this region of India before, so I wasn’t the only one looking around with wide-eyed wonder.

The mountains are beautiful! The local people are definitely different from their countrymen in southern India. The cultural influences of Pakistan and the Middle East are very prevalent in the market places and villages. In the city of Srinagar, the mountains, an average winter snowfall of over six feet, combined with the multi-storied houses with sharply pitched roofs, gave the area a bit of a “Scandinavian” flavor.

Of course the constant military and security presence color the culture with a darker hue, but I think I have gotten used to it. Every 100 meters or so in the city, and every 500 meters in the rural areas is a heavily armed solider or machine-gun bunker. Ah, life in a terrorist-ridden area!

Tomorrow we conduct a medical camp in a Muslim community. That ought to be interesting!

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