Focus

Highway

Imagine your life as various points on the highway.  Fast Lane, Slow Lane, Shoulder, Ditch.

And at any given time, in any given area, you can be in one of those four.

Living in the Fast Lane means you’re getting where you’re going. You’re fulfilling your purpose.

In the Slow Lane you have a lot of movement, but you never quite seem to get there, wherever “there” is.

On the Shoulder, your “engine” is running, but you’re not moving ahead at all.

In the Ditch means you’ve crashed or are stuck, and without help you aren’t going anywhere.

Having punched my card in all four locations, I can tell you we’re all a mixed bag. You can be idling on the shoulder in one area, cruising in another, and crashed out in a third. So let’s break it down a little more. [click to continue…]

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Camel 3

Know what day this is?

Isday.

Sorry if you’re stuck on Wasday, hollering “Mayday!” muttering about Humpday, or dreaming of Someday.

Today is Isday.

It may be a good idea to redirect your focus. [click to continue…]

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Wrestling

Imagine going to the mailbox and getting a letter – a personal letter – from a famous person.  Not a politician or media darling, but someone who is supremely respected in spiritual circles.  Let’s say for the sake of illustration that it’s a hand-written letter from Billy Graham.

And since I’m making all this up, let’s say you’ve never met Dr. Graham, and are a little surprised he knows you exist, much less knows your address.  But there you are and there in the mailbox is his letter.

After some preliminaries, some kind greetings, Dr. Graham gets around to his reason for writing.  “I want you to know, [insert your name here], that I’ve been struggling lately.”  (Oh… step back… Let’s assume this isn’t a fund raising trick.  Now on with the story…)

Instantly your concern and attention gravitates to these words.  Egads, he’s getting personal! Why is he struggling?  Why is he telling me he’s struggling?  What does his struggle have to do with me?

“This has been going on for some time…”

Wow, this is serious.

“And I’ve been battling this with everything I have.”

He’s not kidding around.

“And the struggle is over you.” [click to continue…]

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Lattice

In his book, Rekindled Flame, Steve Fry tells of moving to Nashville and talking to some Christian recording executives about a potential project.  When asked what he was working on, he told them about wanting to write a worship musical that focused on the character of God.  To his surprise, they were very cool to the idea.

Frankly, they said, most believers wouldn’t buy an album about God.

Seriously?

Yep.

According to their demographic studies, that kind of project wouldn’t appeal to most Christians.

Later he met with a book editor that he knew had his finger on the pulse of the Christian marketplace.

“I want to write about God!” he said. “I want to take snapshots of the many wonders of His character and just focus on Him.”

“I’d like to help you write that kind of a book,” he replied. “In fact, the Christian market desperately needs that kind of book. But honestly, the average Christian is not going to buy a book about God.” The editor added:  “The only way you can get the average believer to read a book about God is to somehow show them how God benefits them.”

I want to say I’m surprised, but I’m not.

I want to say I’m offended, but I’m not.

I want to say I’m the exception… [click to continue…]

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Mountain Steps

When you think you know all the steps ahead, you’re tempted to borrow emotional energy from today’s challenges to deal with tomorrow’s.

Don’t.

The next thing you need to do is the next thing you need to do. [click to continue…]

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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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Lane OneI think I’m going to do it again.

I think I’m skipping New Year’s Resolutions for something that for me and many others, has seemed to work much better. I’m referring to building my year around one simple, clear theme that reflects where my spiritual, mental and overall life wheels have been turning.

You can read more about the idea behind the idea here.

What’s interesting is that in establishing that one-word theme, you have no idea at the start where it may take you.  My one word for this past year was Lean. You can read more about it here.   This year I have learned much about leaning in, leaning on the Lord, and getting lean than I bargained for.  Some of that was a case of seeing the light; some was a case of feeling the heat.

To be clear, I didn’t always lean well this year. But I learned more, experienced more, accomplished more, and was challenged more by that level of focus on that one word than if I had made a list of New Year’s resolutions.

So.  What about now? What’s this year all about?

To get a clear idea, I knew I’d have to go to the Sanctuary – to that place where I seem to hear the Lord more clearly than anywhere else.

Time to head to the shower.

I happened to be in Athens, Georgia for my nephew’s wedding, and my hotel room just happened to have a shower readily available.  So there in the steady spray of life and spirit made possible by the Holiday Inn Express, I began to wait on the Lord and search for my Descants of the Soul.  What has been the “back beat” – the song behind the song – of my life over the most recent seasons?

If I had turned it into a dialogue between me and the Lord, it would have gone something like this: [click to continue…]

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EA3623-002I have a pretty high tolerance for clutter.

Until I don’t.

Can you relate?

If you can, you’re probably what the Myers-Briggs people call Perceiving.  If you can’t, and the very idea of leaving stuff out in case you need it a month from now is deeply disturbing, you’re Judging (not judgmental – that’s a different animal).

The problem with being a clutterbug “P” like me is that the items on my schedule or the stuff on my desk start to accumulate until productivity-wise, it feels as though I’m in quicksand.  And then I just want it all gone.

Not organized.  Not streamlined. Not prioritized. O.U.T.

What’s true in life is true also in leadership. If you could imagine the whole sphere of your leadership activity – relationships, meetings, communication, conflict resolution, vision, more meetings, planning, etc. – as items on a desktop, what would your “desk” look like? And if you could compare your “desk” with the “desks” of others in your team or organization, how full is theirs?  And not to stretch the metaphor too much, let me add that wishing for a bigger “desk” is probably not going to solve the problem.

In leadership as in life, things have a way of accumulating. But you don’t have to surrender to clutter creep.  Here are seven ways to redirect your leadership T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and in the process free up more time to focus on those areas where you are indispensable: [click to continue…]

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Sleepy 2Psssssst.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Helloooooo.

Sorry to interrupt you in the World of Slumbering Hearts, but we should talk.  You’re probably reading this in the middle of the day, but I’m writing it in the middle of the night.

Sometimes I get to thinking when I probably should be sleeping.  It works out OK, I suppose. Sometimes I get to sleeping when I should be thinking.

Anyway…

It seems as though more and more we live in a world of sleeping hearts. Cold. Unresponsive. Lifeless.

Our eyes are open.  Apparently our thumbs still work. We still go through our routines. But we seem oblivious to a quieter, more powerful, more eternal world.

Our generation is by no means the first.  The Apostle John was asked to deliver a wake-up call to some churches in what we call the Book of Revelation. Three, in fact.

One of them, in Ephesus, was deliriously busy doing religious things. Campaigning for spiritual orthodoxy. Working tirelessly for The Cause. God had obviously blessed them with hard workers and boundless energy.

Wake up call: You’ve left your first love.

The second, in Sardis, was living on their reputation. God had obviously blessed them with amazing experiences.

Wake up call: You have a name for being alive, but you’re dead.

The third, in Laodicea, was living in the lap of luxury. They had the best of everything… the latest technology, the coolest gadgets, the nicest stuff. God had obviously blessed them with material prosperity.

Wake up call: Lukewarm Christians nauseate God.

So… how awake is your heart? I know you’re probably really busy. I know you can probably point to past experiences where your heart is alive. I know you can find many blessings in your life for which you are grateful.  But it’s possible to have all that and still have a sleepy, lethargic heart to what God is doing here, now.

Here are some signs of life to look for in hearts that are alive and awake: [click to continue…]

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jackson swingIn a slumbering, snoring world, always far away in some other place…
Dreaming of another time like tomorrow or yesterday…
Can you be the one who stays awake
To the rhythms and breathing of the here and now?
Could you stay here in this moment?
Could you rest here in His love?

In a tenacious, tight-fisted tribe of self will run riot…
Demanding life on its own terms as if it were theirs to demand…
Can you be the one who joyfully lets go
And surrenders to the sweetness of His way and truth?
Could you stay here in this moment?
Could you rest here in His love? [click to continue…]

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