SoapboxLast summer I was sitting in a meeting of professors and academics discussing a tricky issue at this Christian university.  The issue:  What do we do about the fact that the back half of the full auditorium crowd spent their entire time in chapel texting on their phones? Beyond discussing rules for courtesy and maturity, I remember blurting out something like, “What they’re telling us is that whoever they’re connecting to is more interesting and relevant than whatever is happening on the stage.”

I was reading a web site not long ago about a product or service or something that somebody wanted me to “invest” in. I kept wishing whoever wrote it would get to the point. What is this? What can it do for me? What do I need to do to get it and how much is it going to cost me? Instead, in true sales letter form, I kept reading stuff like, “But first, let me tell you about so-and-so’s experience.” After a while I found myself screaming on the inside, Stop trying to get me interested! If I wasn’t interested I wouldn’t still be reading! Just give me the message and get to the point!

Years ago I went to a seminar for professional therapists called “Crossing the Line.” It was an ethical seminar about counselors who got romantically or sexually involved with their clients – totally a no-no. Yet statistics say something like 33% of therapists do it.  They presented the facts to a huge room filled with people, and shook their heads and talked about how terrible it was and how to avoid it.  But if the stats were true, a third of that crowd were perpetrators – and nobody offered them anything as a solution other than more guilt and shame. I left angry and frustrated. Is that what four hours of my time was supposed to produce?

I don’t care who you are or how you choose to communicate, please tell me that on the other end of that is somebody you expect to be interested, gain understanding, take action or dare to dream. Whether it’s an email message, a speech, a sales pitch, or even a sermon to a captive audience, please tell me you’re not going to waste somebody else’s time and your credibility with communication that doesn’t communicate!

Before you hit the send button, seal the envelope or walk up to the podium, here are four questions you need to be prepared to answer, and then actually answer them: [click to continue…]

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CriticOnce there lived a hard-to please husband whose wife was determined to try her best to satisfy him, if just for one day.

“Darling,” she asked that morning, “What would you like for breakfast? “

He growled, “Coffee and toast, grits and sausage, and two eggs ‑ one scrambled and one fried.”

She soon had the food on the table and waited for a word of praise.  After a quick glance, he exclaimed, “Well, if you didn’t scramble the wrong egg!”

Now that’s hard to please!

Of course, critics are nothing new. As long as people have aspired to rise above the level of the mediocre masses there have been people who attacked their motives for doing so.

As long as people have exhibited qualities of leadership there have been those in positions of power who used verbal attacks, “coaching,” and “constructive criticism” to “keep them in their place” and maintain control.

As long as somebody has offered to try to make something better by (gasp!) changing some things, there have been gossips and fish heads who questioned their right to be there, or anywhere for that matter.

Other than politics, nowhere will you find more criticism than the kind that’s hurled around in the name of God or religion. And if that describes you, I have a message for you:  God just called and He wants His name back. [click to continue…]

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American 1Of all the nations who have drawn some borders and set up shop, perhaps none has a shorter and more mixed (some would say mixed up) pedigree than the United States.  If the planet was populated by nothing but dogs, we’d be the mixed breeds – the hardy, loveable mutts who may not be able to point to a long pedigree, but will probably live the longest, love the hardest, and fight the fiercest of anybody in the pound.

To be an American is to be a delightful, maddening mix of contributions and contradictions, possibilities and problems.  We’re a living demonstration of what can happen when you let “the help” run the kingdom.

To be an American is to believe in the power of the people.  Your people, that is.  It is to believe that authority resides in the will of the majority, even though at any given time the Commander-in-Chief was elected by less than 21% of the population. Or if that doesn’t work, maybe power can reside in the rulings of some Federal judge who can see things your way until the majority gets with the program. [click to continue…]

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smiley_bubbly_day_04Can’t believe it’s been a whole year, but I got to see Walter again yesterday. We took a little ride and shared a little fellowship. It was good to catch up.

Two years ago Walter was going through a severe depression.  He had been through a series of deep losses, including his job and health benefits. That’s tough enough for anybody, but at Walter’s age new careers don’t just grow on trees.  I really don’t know how old Walter is, but I’m 54 and he’s a good five-to-ten past that. I have to say, though, he makes it look good.

There is none of that suicidal darkness remaining that so gripped this man just a couple of years ago. And make no mistake about it – this was no bootstrap operation. Walter is joyfully explicit about Who gets the credit for raising him out of the pit. His life radiates with gratitude and joy, even when he’s all business.

Walter is especially excited because he and his wife are meeting their children and grandchildren in a few weeks. [click to continue…]

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(A Conversation)

GrouchI don’t know.  I just don’t get it.

Get what?

Why I feel so… I don’t know… alone, I guess.

Alone?  You’re married.

Yeah, she’s stuck with me, I suppose.

You’re a leader in your church.

Well, even there I more on the outside looking in.  It’s like people see me coming and turn away.  One time I smelled my pits to see if I had B.O.

I think I can help you.

Oh yeah?

I think so.

So what?  There’s some big secret that everybody knows but me?

It’s no secret.

Well what is it? [click to continue…]

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Gloriously Never Enough

by Andy Wood on December 31, 2012

in Life Currency, Love, Words

Miles to GoThe more you love someone, even God, the more you’d better get used to the World of Never Enough.  Some days that’s a peaceful and practical place to be.  At other times it’s mind-numbingly frustrating.

As we’ve been repeatedly told over the last decade, everybody has a “love language” by which they both measure and naturally express love.  Doesn’t matter.  Whatever language you speak or listen for, at the end of the day you’re still inadequate to communicate all that’s in your heart or all that those who depend most on you for love need.

Take words, for example – one of my most trusted tools.  There’s a lazy streak in me that wishes I could just find the magic words and loop them over and over, without having to think of any more ways to say it. The problem is that words, despite their power, are gloriously limited.

That’s when you action folks take the stage.  “Love is something you do,” you opine.


So do it.  And when you’ve done all you can do today, guess what?  There’ll still be more to do tomorrow – especially for those you love most.

Now.  You have two choices when it comes to the World of Never Enough.  [click to continue…]

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Davidson High School, Mobile, Alabama.  Circa 1974.  My freshman year.  I’m standing in the cafeteria line, waiting to decide whether I was going with the hamburger or whatever today’s chef’s choice was.  It was there I spotted her, headed toward the faculty dining room.  This was worth losing my spot in line for.

She was our school guidance counselor, and also an experienced English teacher.  She was wise about things I was ignorant of.

She also happened to be my great aunt.

“Aunt Helen!” said I.  “I wanted to ask your advice about something.”

“What’s that,” she replied.

“Well, see, I’m writing a book – a novel – and I wanted to get some advice from you about how to get it published.”

(I should pause here to interpret what “novel” meant.  I probably had about five chapters, about five notebook pages hand-written each, about a tough-guy high school kid who winds up dying for the girl he loves, who happened to have the same name as the girl I was fixated on in the ninth grade.  Anyway…)

Her advice was sage – way wiser than my 14 years.   She didn’t write off my dreams and tell me that 14-year-olds don’t get published as novelists.  She didn’t boggle my mind about query letters, agents or publishing houses either.  She offered me words of encouraging truth. [click to continue…]

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Strike up the band celebrity endorsements, hang those chads, and God bless the United States of America!  It’s that time again!  Voters in many parts of the country are already heading to the polls to vote early for the upcoming election, and the turn-off (um, I mean turnout) is high!

What better way to remind you that these are humans, not just 8 x 10 glossies, than with another round of Hanukkah Hams?

Since it’s been a while, let me give you the talking points on what a Hanukkah Ham is.  Named in honor of somebody who suggested that his Greenwich Village Jewish customers would love a big ham for their next Hanukkah celebration, a Hanukkah Ham is a really bad (translation:  stupid) idea concocted by usually really smart people.

Previous Hanukkah Ham stories have explored the worlds of  electricity, money, college life, Christmas, air travel and hunting, to name a few.

But with so many words flying these days, what could invite more people to ask, “Did he just say that?” than political races across the country?  Ever since I heard Philip Johns promise to get grits au gratin taken off the lunchroom menu in seventh grade, and Richard Tyson promised to build a student center in ninth, I’ve heard people running for office – any office – say some pretty outlandish things.  I guess it just comes with the territory. [click to continue…]

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In my job I encounter a lot of difficult people in situations. I’m having a hard time seeing them in God’s eyes, so how do you love unlovable people?

Well, you’re already a step ahead of most people because you used the word “love” as a verb.  The reason most people have trouble loving difficult people is because to them “love” has something to do with a feeling, and they’re waiting around for the feelings to change.  All the while Stanley Steamroller is still on a roll right over you, or Oliver Obnoxious is still giving you all the reasons you should feel inferior.

Grrrrrr.  God loves you… but He doesn’t have to put up with you every day.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be on the other end of a frustrated phone call all day, every day?  Or to work at a Customer Service counter where, no matter who shows up, there’s a problem and they aren’t happy about it?

Can you imagine being a server in a busy restaurant on Sunday when the after-church crowd comes rolling in?

Oh.  Then there’s the bosses.  The coworkers.  The neglected or needy friends.  The family member.  And those are supposed to be for you!  I remember one place I used to live.  I didn’t have any enemies that I knew of.  My friends made me want to leave town.

How do you feel love for people like that?

Another problem with loving difficult people is that we tend to wait until we’re face-to-face with them before we head to the love dispenser.  By then it’s too late. [click to continue…]

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by Andy Wood on June 4, 2012

in 100 Words, Life Currency, Words

The shortest correspondence in history had no words.

An exiled writer telegraphed his publisher in 1862 about public response to his latest book.

His message:  the single character “?”

The reply:  “!” [click to continue…]

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