From the category archives:

Protecting Your Investment

A cathedral in Europe was famous for the large, magnificent, stained‑glass window that was located behind the altar and high above the sanctuary.  One day a violent windstorm shattered that beautiful window into a thousand pieces.  The church custodian was hesitant to discard the fragments, so he put them in a box and stored them in the basement of the cathedral.

Shortly after the storm, a man who had heard about the damage asked for and received the broken pieces of glass.  About 2 years later, he invited the caretaker to visit him in a nearby village.  When the custodian arrived, the man explained that he was an artisan and that he had something to show him.  When the craftsman unveiled his work, the visitor was astonished to see a lovely window fashioned from the broken fragments.  It was even more beautiful than the original.

You can be, too.

Like the shattered window, sometimes we live in the wake of a painful experience that threatens to leave us broken and scarred – an unrecognizable leftover of what we once imagined ourselves to be.

Abundance?  Hardly.

Joyful?  Are you kidding?

I heard a beautiful reflection on that a couple of years ago from a TV show, of all things: [click to continue…]

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John Smoltz was famous for getting himself in trouble.

He’ll be in the Baseball Hall of Fame for the ways he could get himself out.

Smoltz didn’t always start well, but he knew what to do when he got himself into trouble.  He describes the mental process he would go through in his book, Starting and Closing.  At some point he would take his game to an entirely different level.  And the mental signal he would give himself:  Rally time.

That’s a theme that I’m seeing all over the world these days.  In one situation after another, we’ve gotten ourselves into trouble.  In baseball language, there’s one run in, the bases are loaded, and nobody out.

Rally time.

It’s rally time in places like Colorado and Pennsylvania, as people are looking to make sense out of the senseless and somehow create a world where kids can be safe.  But the rally comes from recognizing that our hope isn’t built on metal detectors and psychobabble, but on the peace of God that passes all understanding.

It’s rally time in places like Washington and state capitals everywhere, as incumbents try to keep their jobs and others try to take them away – all based on promises and politics.  But the rally comes from recognizing that our hope isn’t built on Republicans or Democrats, but on the government of the Lord God. [click to continue…]

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I spend a lot of time trying to think up new things, or new ways to say the familiar things.  I’m a big believer in singing a new song to the Lord and the exquisite beauty that comes from being completely random every once in a while.

That said, our brains were build to learn by repetition, and our hearts were made to be renewed by reminders.  That’s why the Bible has four gospels, Kings and Chronicles, and the books of Deuteronomy and 1 John. All built on some form of repetition.  That’s why the early church met daily from house to house or had a regular assembly on the first day of the week.  To be reminded.  To be renewed.

I know I accidentally repeat myself plenty of times, but today I thought it may be time for a little deliberate renewal – some purpose-driven (sorry, Rick) reminders of the big stuff – a harvested collection of some of the good stuff.  Not my stuff, but those themes that keep us going and keep going themselves long after we’re gone.  So here goes… [click to continue…]

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Q – Can you please define righteous anger as opposed to sinful anger? How do I handle it?

What?  There’s a such thing as righteous anger?

Nooooo.

In my head and my Bible, I knew better.  But for years emotionally I dismissed all anger as inherently sinful.  After all, when it’s described with words like “bitterness,” “wrath,” “malice,” “evil speaking” and the like, where’s the “righteous” in that?

I also spent many years feeling guilty for feeling or acting angry.  Know why?  Because I was guilty.

I learned a long time ago that when somebody spews, “I have a right to be angry,” they don’t know much about rights – which Christ-followers surrender completely at the point of salvation.  And there’s little chance that they’re describing righteous anger, either. [click to continue…]

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Yes, this is me mocking my grandson. Or maybe Cason's mocking me. Hmmm.

Tucked away in the third stanza of a familiar hymn, Fannie Crosby penned these lines that were years ahead of her time:

Down in the human heart, Crushed by the tempter,

Feelings lie buried that grace can restore.

Except for the grace of God, every single one of us will go to our graves feeling guilty about our feelings.  Can you relate to any of these?

  • “I didn’t love my mother enough.”
  • “I hate my father.”
  • “I don’t like being a mother.”
  • “I will never forgive her as long as I live.”
  • “I love one of my children more than the other.”
  • “Why can’t he just die?”

One person has said, “Emotions are what we have the most of, and know the least about.”  One of the longest, and most frustrating searches that many people have is why do I feel the way I feel, and what can I do about it?

On the other hand, some people (stupidly) dismiss all that and passively allow themselves to be led around by their feelings as if they are helpless to do anything about them.  Ever hear something like this? [click to continue…]

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It’s a common subject of conversation I’ve had with countless people.

If you’re ever more than toe-deep in Church World, eventually the conversation will make its way to the pastor of whatever church.

Your pastor.

My pastor.

You-the-pastor.

He the pastor-wannabe.

And so it goes…

  • I don’t like my pastor.
  • I love my pastor.
  • My pastor’s a jerk.
  • I’m not getting fed by my pastor.
  • My pastor just resigned.
  • I wish my pastor would resign.
  • We’re looking for a new pastor.
  • We have a new pastor coming.
  • My pastor can’t preach.
  • My pastor isn’t very organized.
  • My pastor left under a cloud of suspicion.

Hey, I get it.  I’ve been on both ends of those conversations and have had all of that and more said about me, and often for good reason.  People a lot smarter than I am have done quite a bit of research about members of the clergy, and they have made some startling discoveries.  Care to guess what the most shocking of them all is? [click to continue…]

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It was a new day at Grace Church.  A new pastor was coming, and this would be his first weekend.  People were excited, and they needed to be.  Grace had gone through an ugly split that had left a lot of angry, hurt, and confused people in its wake.  A pretty solid plug of people had started Faith Church down the road and had contacted the outgoing pastor from Grace to help them get started.  Some people had left for other churches.  Some people had quit attending anywhere.

One of the walking wounded was a former associate pastor – Chris Naylor.  Chris had received “the right foot of fellowship” from the previous administration.  Though he had found other opportunities for Kingdom service, Chris was still a member – at least on paper – at Grace.

That’s why I was a little surprised when I asked Chris and his wife Rachael if they were going to hear the new guy that weekend, and both immediately, categorically said, “No.”

Ooh.  Sorry I asked.

“My friends think I’m bitter,” Chris added.

“Are you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied honesty.  “How do you balance the fact that on the one hand I love the church and wish nothing but the best for them, but on the other hand, have absolutely no respect for their system of leadership or the choices they have made?”

“I don’t know.”

Chris was just getting warmed up as Rachael was tearing up. [click to continue…]

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Have you ever woken up first thing in the morning and realized you were in a museum?

And you were what was on display?

You may not have recognized the location at first because everything seemed so real.  You were traveling through one mental display after another of your past life.

Names.

Faces.

Feelings.

Friends.

Sometimes the scenes are wistful and happy reminders of people and days gone by.  Sometimes you’re reliving the glory days.  But sometimes it plays out more like a horror movie or a disaster cleanup.  It’s ugly – and you’re the reason.

It may be a new day on the outside, but in here you’re trapped in the old ones. [click to continue…]

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In your Christian practice, do you find yourself drawn more toward law-based living or more to grace-based living?

Students in a class I teach deal with that discussion question.  I always look forward to their answers.  Nearly all of these students are pretty seasoned in their faith, so the overwhelmingly most popular answer is grace-based living.  After all, that’s the “correct” one, right?

Nobody ever gets misty-eyed in church singing, “Amazing Law, how sweet the sound…

There are, of course, some brave souls who cop to law-based living.  Some do it as an aw-shucks-pray-for-me kind of confession.  Some try to reframe the question.  “I prefer to think of it as obedience,” one student said recently.  I like that.

Others crawfish a little more and ask questions like, “Now what do you mean by that?”

See, nobody wants to admit they’re a legalist.  [click to continue…]

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The call or opportunity to lead is a call or opportunity for conflict.  I doubt if I’m the first to tell you that, but if so, well, sorry.  That’s certainly true on an interpersonal or team level.   It’s also true organization-wide.  Whether you’re leading a church or a business, a nonprofit or an institution, a state or a nation, the bigger they are, the harder they brawl.  Or squall.

If your goal is to avoid conflict at all costs, let somebody else take the leadership roles, because what you’re saying is that you don’t want to influence anybody.

Assuming you’re still reading, let’s assume that the idea of conflict hasn’t scared you off – at least not yet.  I have good news.  Some of the greatest demonstrations of leadership in history took place when someone rose to face the challenge of seemingly impossible conflicts.  So if your organization is facing competing values and visions, wise leadership can help make it stronger and more successful than ever.  If it’s true that conflict is the moment of truth in any relationship (and I think it is), then the way you lead your organization to face those conflicts sets the course of the organization, sometimes for years.

It’s important to remember that the people in your organization have brains, hearts, and feelings, just as you do.  Resistance to your or the organization’s direction is a way of saying you haven’t communicated the vision clearly.  Or maybe you haven’t anticipated their objections or their priorities.  Maybe you have yet to earn the trust of the people.  Or maybe they are insecure in the roles in which you are asking them to perform.

Here are five ways to work with – not against – the members of your organization to turn conflicts into jumping off points. [click to continue…]

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