Problem Solving


It’s the elephant in your room. It may well be the first thing that people who know you think of when asked about you.  But maybe it’s been a part of your architecture so long, you’ve put a lamp shade on it and called it decorations.

I’m talking about something all of us have.  The things we wish were different, but check back with us five years from now and our “elephant” is still there.  It’s what I call our PWGA.  The Problem that Won’t Go Away.

You may refer to it in different language. You may use words like “weakness,” or “cross to bear.”  By now you may address it as the “same old same old” or as I did once in reference to my New Year’s resolutions:  “Oh, you know, the usual.”

For many people, their PWGA is something that is heart-rending. Something they’ve asked or even begged God to fix, heal, or otherwise change. And yet the PWGA remains.

For other people, a PWGA is a problem requiring a solution they aren’t willing to apply.  I know two words that can fix some people’s PWGA:  “I’m sorry.”  Or their nuclear cousin:  “I was wrong.”  But that’s too high a price for some people to pay. They’d rather live with the problem.

Some people have PWGAs that they are convinced have solutions. But they haven’t yet found those solutions and don’t know how to leverage their relationship with God to address it.

By now you probably have one or more of your own PWGAs floating around in your mind. Hold that thought. I want to introduce you to another guy. [click to continue…]

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Someone once asked General Norman Schwarzkopf the secret of his success. His reply was simple: “I never walk past a problem.”

That’s the difference between a leader and a politician. Between a leader and a poser. Between a leader and a follower. Between a leader and a talker.

Leaders – those who influence people to take massive action to accomplish a goal or mission – expect problems. But rather than moan about them or wring their hands over how complex they are – rather than kicking the can down the road with Band Aid fixes so a future generation can deal with the real issues – leaders approach problems with the expectation and commitment to solving them.

Anybody can point out problems.  Influencers – real leaders – produce solutions.  Better still, they challenge others on the team or in the organization to solve problems.  So how do you recognize a problem-solving leader or potential leader when you see one?  Here are five ways to tell – even if you’re looking in the mirror to find one. [click to continue…]

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Dear God, something needs to change.

Your measurables need to change – those places where you keep score with numbers or portions.

Your immeasurables need to change – those areas where nobody’s chaperoning you and you don’t get tickets or fired for blowing it – you just slowly die or spiritually starve by neglecting them.

Your relationships need to change – the ones you have taken for granted or the ones with open wounds.

Your focus needs to change – the bulls-eye of your pursuits, that somehow are chasing trivia and ignoring your most important dreams or vital values.

Something needs to change. [click to continue…]

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Overwhelmed Problem Solver

Then there was that time Jethro stopped by.

Not Jethro Gibbs or Jethro Bodine.  Jethro the daddy-in-law.

Moses and his father-in-law had a strange and wonderful relationship.  Moses the young fugitive had whupped up on some bullies and given help to Jethro’s seven sheepherding daughters.  Moses wound up with a job and one of Jethro’s daughters as a wife.  Then while Moses was off delivering the Israelites from slavery at the hand of God, Jethro kept the wife and kids safe and sound back in Midian.

Jethro was, in effect, the father Moses never had.

Now, after the exodus and taking three million of his closest friends with him to the Promised land, Moses gets word that Jethro is on the way, with Moses’ household in tow.  It was a sweet reunion, and you can read all about it in Exodus 18.

This was more than a family visit.  Jethro had heard all the reports of what God had done.  Jethro was a man of God himself.  He wanted to see first-hand what a people so delivered and provided for by God looked like.  What he got was a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde experience.  [click to continue…]

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Complex Problem

The world is full of complex, overwhelming problems.

It’s also full of all sizes and shapes of problem solvers. [click to continue…]

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Vision NeedIt was painful and ugly, Lisa told us.  She had left town to attend a school, presumably to train people to be worship leaders.  What she discovered instead was an unhealthy, “I’m always right” form of egotistical authority-wielding.  If anybody in the so-called “school” suggested an idea that didn’t line up perfectly with the ego-polishing done “on the stage,” there was hell to pay.  And the favorite punch(ing) line: “You need to buy into the vision.”

“We’ve been spending some time rethinking our organization’s vision,” John said.

“Why is that?”

“Because we need a better way of communicating to the public and to our people the essence of why we’re here.”

May I offer a polite suggestion? (If not, I’ll be happy to offer a rude one.)

Before you start planning or pontificating on what you, somebody else, or the organization “needs,” don’t you think it would be a good idea to have a clear definition of “need?”

And before you merge onto the leadership freeway, teeming with thousands of commuters headed, they say, in the direction of their “vision,” don’t you think you need to have a grasp on what a vision actually is? [click to continue…]

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So somebody’s in charge, but nobody’s actually leading.  There’s a boss, but no vision caster.  You have an authority figure, but no one is harnessing the best efforts of the people in your organization.

In short, you have a leadership vacuum.  What do you do?


Lead a mutiny?

Facebook your friends and tell them what a loser you have as a leader?

Try to outmaneuver others politically and manipulate your way to power?

Sit and suffer and hope for the best, while your peers keep howling for leadership?

How about asking God to smite somebody while you’re at it?

These are all approaches used to face situations that have become almost cliché they’re so common:  What do I do when my leader isn’t leading?  Organizations everywhere – businesses, churches, nonprofits, and schools are decrying a lack of leadership.  Somebody needs to make the tough decisions, cast the difficult vision, harness the amazing abilities and energy of the people!  And we seem to be convinced that the answer to the search lies somewhere else.

Maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe the search for someone to step into the leadership ends with you.  Maybe you’re the leader the organization needs, even if people in executive suites don’t necessarily see it yet.  Maybe you’re the catalyst for change, even if you don’t have the sanctioned power to make it so. [click to continue…]

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I was going to write something about America or the lost art of Independence or something like that today.  Then I heard that Andy Griffith died.  What – or who – could be more quintessentially American than that?

Andy and his neighbors in Mayberry came into our home weekly when I was a kid – and daily through syndication for years after that.  And there was a reason.  Yes, he served as a reminder of a simpler time.  After all, can you imagine anybody but Opie having a secret password – much less a dozen of them?  But he also reminded us of the values and wisdom we’re capable of, even today.

Nobody ever actually lived in Mayberry.  Yet vicariously millions of us have.  There wisdom wasn’t reserved for ivory tower elitists or political think tanks.  Lifetime lessons were readily available from places like the Sheriff’s office, Floyd’s Barber Shop, or Gomer and Goober’s Service Station.  The cast of characters, always good for a laugh at ourselves, also reminded us of somebody we knew.

Everything I ever needed to know, I could have learned in Mayberry.  So could you.  Here’s just a sampling… [click to continue…]

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Here’s an old story that has been passed around and told in many versions.  But the message is still strong and clear:

A wise, elderly man was busy working on the gate leading to his front door.  His young grandson approached with the inevitable question, “Whatcha’ doin’, Grandpa?”

The fixer answered:  “Laddy, there’s five kinds of broken things in this old world.

  • There’s the kind which, when they are broken, no one can fix.
  • There’s them which, when they are broken, will fix themselves if we leave them alone.
  • Then there’s the kind which, when they are broken, somebody else has got to fix.
  • There’s also the kind which, when they’re broken, only God can fix.
  • And then, little man, there’s the kind which, when they are broken, I got to fix.  That’s what I’m doin’, fixin’ this gate!”

You got anything broken in your life?  Anything lost or damaged?  Any problems that won’t seem to go away?  Any memories you didn’t ask for, or pain you don’t deserve?  Any relationships out of whack, or people out of touch?  Learn the lesson of Grandpa’s Gate.

Some things in our lives get broken beyond repair.  [click to continue…]

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In the previous post, we looked at some of the kinds of problems that go past hangnails and headaches.  Drawing from the experience of Jehoshaphat, Judah’s godly king, we explored some parallels of our own:

  • Unprovoked hostility
  • Overwhelming odds
  • Unresolved fear
  • Unfulfilled promises (of God)
  • Absolute weakness
  • Unclear direction

There are plenty of others, of course.  But that’s a healthy list to remind us that faith doesn’t mean you never have problems. Believing God doesn’t mean you’re never afraid, or that you never face impossible situations.  And in spite of the way some “believers” act, faith doesn’t mean you have all the answers.  In one of my favorite verses in the Bible, this godly man says to God, “We don’t know what to do.  But our eyes are on you.”

So when your back is to the wall and the Ammonites are coming, when you’re way past anxious and have no answers or direction, how does faith respond?  Let me suggest five ways: [click to continue…]

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