Principle of Legacy

written on an old typewriter

Wrote a letter of recommendation the other day.  That in itself is nothing unusual – I do that often and have done it for years.  I often joke with whoever I’m writing it for that after I’m done I need a bath, or a priest or something.

“I’ve already lost the boots… I’m just trying to save the hat!”

But we both know I’m joking, and that I would never be deliberately dishonest – that would eventually catch up with them and me.

But between that and the opportunity I have to preach this weekend (here, if you are in the Mobile, Alabama area),  I’ve been thinking about relationships.

(Preaching moment:  Your life is the sum total of your relationships… with God, with others, and with yourself.  As your relationships go, so goes your life.  Okay, I’m done.)

This morning I was thinking about that reference letter, and about another one I wrote a couple of months ago.  That one didn’t have to do with a job application, and it wasn’t even requested.  I saw a friend and colleague’s LinkedIn profile, and spontaneously wrote a letter of recommendation for his professional practice.  It was honest, heartfelt, and a total surprise, really to him and me both.

It was also a wonderful relationship builder. [click to continue…]

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Quicksand

Ever have a conversation like this?

Whatever happened to ________? I really thought he was going places.

Not sure.  Ever since [insert a distracting or demoralizing event] he never was quite the same.

I’ve witnessed countless scenarios like that one. I even lived out a few of them.

The idea of leadership is that you’re influencing people, formally or informally, to move together toward a certain goal.  If it were easy, anybody could do it.  But because you’re dealing with people, and because leadership often involves matters of the heart, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into leadership quicksand.

At best, it’s a distraction and you lose focus.

At worst, it can paralyze and ultimately destroy your influence.

Here are 10 sloughs to avoid (or get out of today) to allow your leadership to see another day: [click to continue…]

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Lighthouse 3

A lighthouse in a harbor stands on solid ground,
Declaring simple truth to all who would see.
“Here I stand,” it calls to the ocean.
“No wave formed against me will ever prosper
I bow at the mercy of no storm or sea.”
On a firm foundation the Lighthouse in the Harbor
Refuses to surrender, sound the retreat or compromise.
It stands in simple splendor, against the tide.
Though it may show signs of wear and aging,
Though it may look unimpressive to untrained eyes,
The Lighthouse in the Harbor yet still stands upon a rock –
And you… yes, you… are that Lighthouse in the Harbor. [click to continue…]

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Mama and the Twins

Today my mother would have turned 76 years old.  She passed away suddenly four years ago – a reminder to anybody who’s paying attention that there are no guarantees in this life.

Like anybody whose life has touched another for that long, I have lived long enough myself to see Mama’s mental, emotional, and moral DNA flowing throughout my own and my sister’s life, as well as through the lives of her grandchildren and now seven (soon to be 9) great-grandchildren.

We had our points of disagreement, some of them quite loud.  We also had hours of conversation – some of them way past bedtime.  And like Abel in the Bible, I love the fact that long after her life here was over, she still speaks to me today.

Give her a chance, she’ll speak to you, too.  Here, in no certain order, are the life lessons I learned from her. [click to continue…]

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Leaving Texas

“What is the secret of your life?” asked Mrs. Browning of Charles Kingsley; “Tell me, that I may make mine beautiful too?” 

He replied, “I had a friend.”  -William C. Gannet

It was 18 years ago this month that I came to this place… this place of tumbleweeds and dust and amazing sunsets and more amazing people.

It was nothing short of surrender.  I had given up on me – the “me” of my own making or imagination, that is.

My friends in Atlanta asked, “Where are you moving?”

“To hell,” I replied.  “If the world was flat, Lubbock would be on the edge of it.”

But oh what I discovered when I showed up as a shell of the man I once was.  Most importantly, I discovered that God was here all the time, waiting so patiently for me to get here. [click to continue…]

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leadership failure

Nobody who takes on a leadership role sets out to blow it.  I’ve never heard of a CEO who dreamed of halving his market share, a pastor who fantasized about getting the right foot of fellowship, or a government leader who longs to go from hero to zero.

But leadership failure happens.  Often. And while it can happen quickly at times, usually there are warning signs.  Unfortunately, most of the time we wait for hindsight to convince us of what foresight and insight have probably been hollering all along.

If you’re a leader, or have the ear of one, you may want to pay attention to these seven warning signals before it’s too late. [click to continue…]

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kennedy_funeral_0827

(Sort-of-random thoughts on the anniversary of infamy and conspiracy theories and high-powered cold medicine, which doesn’t really go with the previous two subjects but can sure make you see them in a whole new way…)

So many years gone… I was only five at the time.  Still I remember the solemn funeral, the haunting image of the caisson and that black, riderless horse, and Mrs. Kennedy standing behind the veil.  I don’t remember much else of the time, except for the fact that we had a black-and-white TV with three channels available, and when the president was on TV, we could forget watching Captain Kangaroo or Tom and Jerry because he would be on all three channels at the same time.

Wow… how did I ever survive a childhood without Sesame Street, the Cartoon Network, or Nick Jr.?  The “Disney Channel” of course!  Which came on for an hour every Sunday night at 6:00 on NBC.

Okay, so – in case you missed it – I wanted to let you know that there are people who still believe that no single shooter could have ended the days of Camelot.  [click to continue…]

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skd285130sdc

We needed $370.00.  That’s what I figured up after looking at the bills.

That was how much month we had left at the end of the money.

Why was this important on this day?  Because I was leading a “praise revival” at a small church in north Texas.  Because we were newly-married.  Because we were short on cash.  Because this was the last day of the conference, and the love offering check would soon be coming in.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that preachers prayed about such things.

Anyway, on this day, we needed $370.  I could have asked the Lord for more; after all, it’s nothing to God to see to it I got $1,000, or $10,000 for that matter.

I could have asked for nothing, and said, “Lord, whatever your will is – that’s fine with me.”

But I sensed the freedom to ask – not big, but not small either.  To pray specifically for a need.  The need was for $370.00, so that was what I asked the Lord for.  [click to continue…]

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Half Full Half EmptyWhat do you do when you’re the leader and somebody on your team drops the ball? Or worse, in their zeal for your cause, they do more harm than good?  Every leader would relish having people with the strength of a bull on their team.  We just don’t want the bulls charging into china shops.

Leadership is forged during awkward times. During periods of public strain, pain, or frustration, our attention turns to those we presume to be in leadership. On a national scale, for example, people in the United States turn to the president to help make sense of their fearful or angry moments (and we’ve had our share of those lately).

They assume that leaders have something to say.  They watch instead for what the leader actually does.  They’re not looking for place holders. They’re looking for leaders who have a sense for how to please them as they lead them.  And as leaders throughout time have discovered, there is no such thing as private or secret leadership.  Heck, even the Secret Service isn’t that secret.

In between the stories of his giant killing and his adultery dodging, an obscure little verse in the Bible describes how people responded to its beloved King David.  It’s every leader’s dream come true: [click to continue…]

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Love Friends Family

For all the ways you may have been blessed
Or tried to bless others,
And all the ways you have received
Or given value in this life,
After all the ways that people measure contributions
Or celebrate distinction,
The greatest legacy you could ever leave
Is that you were loved first, and loved in return.
That takes a lot of grace. And a little bit of faith. [click to continue…]

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