From the category archives:

Protecting Your Investment

Wreck

This is about the time I tried to climb a tree.

In a car.

I did not succeed.

I walked away (literally).  Neither the car nor the tree were very appreciative.

Fayette, Alabama, early 90s. I was minding my own business when…

What?

Oh.  OK. Starting over…

Fayette, Alabama, early 90s.  I wasn’t paying attention.

(How was that?)

I was making the little run from my house to the office – something I did every day at least twice a day.  In between one neighborhood and another was a stretch of about half a mile that was sort of woodsy and country.

And there was this little ditch.

I’d never noticed it before.  But you can be sure I never ignored it again after this day.  The ditch was just wide enough for my right tires to slip right in.  And slip they did.

What I’m describing to you happened at about 30 miles per hour in a matter of seconds.  The car slipped off the road and the wheels slipped into a ditch as if I were in an oversized slot car game.

I should probably point out here that while my car, like most cars, had two foot pedals, I always figured the big one was mostly for decoration.  So like most oops-the-road situations, I didn’t hit the brakes – I just tried to wheel my way back out of the ditch.

That wasn’t happening.

What was happening was the sudden appearance of this massive oak tree. Y’all, it just jumped out of nowhere.  It saw me coming and the acorns went to work. Next thing I knew the ditch forced me to introduce myself to the tree.  I swear I had nothing to do with it.

That what I explained to the insurance company anyway.  They sorta looked at me like I left my brain back at the oak tree.

Anyway, rewinding… still moving along about 25 mph, I kept trying to wheel my way out of my slot-shaped ditch.  The thought didn’t occur to me – not once – to hit the brakes.  So yes, I wound up ramming my car into the tree and actually fender-climbing it a bit.

Nothing hurt but my pride.  Well, and the car, which I never drove again.                                            

This real-life experience has become a metaphor for me for what can often happen in life.  I’ve seen it happen to people’s careers.  Their influence.  Their personal lives at whatever level. Their relationships.  Somewhere, somehow, without wanting to, they hit the ditch.  And they’re stuck, and powerless, and a bit wrecked or hurt, and they’re halfway up a tree and without help, they ain’t going nowhere.

Yes, I’ve seen it happen to me.

Nobody sets out to wreck their lives or loves by hitting the ditch.  But in a state of mass humanization, it can happen – easily – to the best of us.  With a bit of a rewind and post-car-mortem, maybe there are a few things we can learn about that experience. [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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PrisonIt’s one thing to feel a little distressed or stuck.  Jordan was way past that.  Jordan’s soul was imprisoned, and he saw no way out.  His winsome smile and kind eyes belied the addictive behavior that Jordan was powerless to control.

Haley had a soul prison of her own. Her chains bore the marks of a woman who felt completely alone and desperate for connection – any connection.  Her life zigged and zagged from trying too hard to living as a virtual recluse.

For Joni, the imprisoned soul took the form of simply assuming that her life would always be this way.  Her dreams long dead, Joni spends her days going through the motions of a life stuck in mindless ruts from which there is no escape.

How about you?  How free are you to dream, to feel, to choose? Do you have the power to choose joy, love, or paths to fulfillment? Do you still believe, with conviction, that it’s possible to live the live you have imagined, not just the hand you’ve been dealt?  If the answers to those questions are, well, questionable, maybe you, too, have an imprisoned soul. [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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worship surrender 2Raise your hand if you’ve ever stood in church and sung, “I surrender all.”

Raise your other hand if you were invited to “come to the altar and surrender all to Jesus.”

Both my hands are up. I’m typing with my toes.

Just two problems with that idea.  First, surrender isn’t something you do in church.  Second, surrender isn’t something you do at the end or the close of anything.

A few years ago I learned a new language – the language of surrender and freedom.  Inspired by someone’s idea of absolute commitment to Jesus expressed as, “I don’t have to survive,” I began a mental and spiritual journey of surrender.  What else can I let go of? How else can I be free?  And I began to make the list…

I don’t have to be successful…

I don’t have to get angry…

I don’t have to feel rejected…

I don’t have to be right…

You get the point.

Lately I’ve been revisiting that idea, for an important reason.  [click to continue…]

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(A Conversation)

200291528-001The Kids

I’m impressed with your kids. Well, most of the time.

They’re not my kids.

What?

Not mine.

(Gasp!) You mean…

Noooo, not like that!  I’m their father.

Oh, so they are your kids.

Nope. I gave them away a long time ago.  In fact, on the day they were born.

To who?

To God.  He’s the one who gave them to me in the first place.  “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands” (Psalm 127:3-4, NLT).

Okay, whatever, but they’re your responsibility.

Oh, of course.  God gave them to me for a season to help turn them into strategic weapons for His kingdom. So I feed them, clothe them, and train them.

Train them to do what? [click to continue…]

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Footsteps in SnowThis is a true story.  The names are changed.

Will was an insecure, painfully shy 11-year-old boy who came from a very poor family.  But his sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Goodwin, saw something special in him – not just in the student he was at the time, but as the adult he could become. And through that year, she began to give Will a gift that no one to that point had ever dared offer – the gift of confidence.

She told him he was the smartest student she ever had. She said it to him personally and to the class.

She told him how much potential he had.

She took him to her home.

She even took him to the junior high school he would attend the next year to introduce Will to his teachers and tell them what a great student he was.

She told him that the only other student who showed his potential became the vice president of a well-known university.

True to Mrs. Goodwin’s prediction, Will became the first person in his family to go to college. Buoyed by her care and concern he went on to a successful academic career… as a… (you guessed it) vice president of a major university.

Mrs. Goodwin was more than a teacher. She was a leader. She saw in an awkward kid a destiny that nobody else saw. Put in leadership terms, she had a vision. Then she set about investing the time and service necessary to put Will on a path toward that vision.

And the tool she used:  Influence. [click to continue…]

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bettyCrockerOkay, time for a little famous brands trivia.

Without Googling for answers, see if you can guess how many of the following brand names were/are actual people:

Aunt Jemima

Ben and Jerry

Betty Crocker

Chef Boy-Ar-Dee

Duncan Hines

Marie Callender

Martha White

Orville Redenbacher

Sister Shubert

Uncle Ben

Answers are below: [click to continue…]

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wpt043Way back in the day, Chuck Bolte and the Jeremiah People did a hilarious skit called “The Service” about five people sitting on a church pew waiting for the service to start.  There was an older couple, a younger couple who had it all together and knew it, and a young wife who in tears admits that her husband has left her and moved into a hotel.

Out come the clichés.  In one place, Chuck who played the younger man, said something like, “You see, Julie, as Christians we’re on God’s winning team.  We make our baskets, we sink our putts, we cross the goal line!”  Then he asks that penetrating question:  “Julie, have you made Christ the center of your marriage.”

“Look,” she says.  “I don’t know how to make Christ the center of our marriage.  I come here for help and all I get are words… words I’ve said to myself a thousand times.”

Ouch.  But hey, at least she got some words.  Sometimes church people don’t even do that.

In 35 years of some sort of ministry, I’ve been blessed to receive a lot of gritty grace.  Sure, some people got it wrong.  But I’ve seen enough people get it right to dismiss my own “inner Pharisee” and pay it forward.  They taught me how to run to the spiritually wounded, not away from them.  Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. [click to continue…]

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Logo of Groupon

You may or may not know the name Andrew Mason.  But I’ll bet you’ve heard of Groupon, the famous deal-of-the-day website where Mason was CEO.

These have been hard times for the company – nobody is denying that, and if you’re interested in the business and numbers side of it you can find it here.

What interests me is the leadership Mason showed in leaving.  In an email he sent to all his employees then posted publicly (“it will leak out anyway”), Mason showed some class, humor, honesty, and most of all accountability.  Take a look: [click to continue…]

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