(In 100 words, every New Testament reference, in order, from John to 1 John, describing God’s vision for how Christ followers act toward each other. Read this slowly. Thoughtfully. Out loud if possible. Learn some things… watch the flow, note the repetitions… and remember, this means both giving and receiving, so go back and re-read it as a potential receiver. Leave a comment and tell me what you find. )

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Business people

It’s a Martian word, so you probably don’t hear it a lot down here, unless you move in some hipster or techie circles. It’s a darkly guttural word that sounds something like a bullfrog in a fight with a cat, so it lacks a certain sense of poetry.

But it’s an important word to describe a unique and powerful ability that can separate:

  • leaders from posers,
  • successful marketers from annoying advertisers,
  • elected officials from also-rans,
  • spiritual shepherds from obnoxious preachers,
  • faithful, lifelong friends or marriage partners from relational flame-outs,
  • Oprah from, well, anybody (okay, just kidding… a little).

I’m referring, of course, to grokking. [click to continue…]

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Come on, admit it… when you first saw this title you started hearing the old hymn in your head, didn’t you?

I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

If not, I’ll bet you are now.

With apologies to Philip Yancey for borrowing the title of his excellent book,  I had a curious collision with “amazing” the other day and thought I’d share it. It started when I read this simple greeting from the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians in Corinth.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.

Isn’t that sweet?

Any believer anywhere can testify, as John Newton and the Corinthians could, that the grace of God has been given to us by Christ Jesus. And if this verse had no other context or backdrop it would be precious enough. But our thinking about it would soon lose its edge. Sure, everybody who knows Christ can testify of the grace of God.


Sure, we were “wretches” and now we’re saved. But that was a long time ago for a lot of us. In the immortal words of Janet Jackson, what have you done for me lately, Grace?

The answer to that – Grace in the present, not the past – is what’s so amazing about grace. [click to continue…]

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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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Character word cloud

Maybe it’s because I had another birthday yesterday, or maybe it’s because that birthday was also Election Day.  Maybe it’s because I work with a school whose mission reads, in part, to “cherish character.”  But lately I’ve had character on the brain.

Character in leadership.

Character development.

Character habits.

Dr. King envisioned a day when Americans would be judged “solely by the content of their character.”  Our answer to that culturally is to try and not judge anybody at all.  That is, until the tide of public opinion breaks the dam of political correctness.  Or the electorate gets a belly full of whoever the incumbent is.  Or the arrogant, narcissistic preacher or politician or boss-person overestimates their awesomeness one time too many.

In spite of our fascination with techniques, charisma, methods, or technology, people of influence still have to deal with the Character Connection.

You have to deal with it when you look in the mirror, when nobody else is looking.

You have to deal with it when you’re on the pedestal, when everybody’s cheering.

You have to do it in the outhouse, when everybody’s jeering, or they have forgotten you.

In spite of our efforts to prove otherwise (and we’ve had some pretty spectacular efforts), character earns the politician the right to legislate and pontificate.  Character earns the right for the preacher to articulate truth. Character earns the business leader the right to profit in the marketplace of both money and ideas.

And a loss of character can undermine them all.

There are lots of ideas – good ideas – about what forms and sustains character when it comes to leadership. [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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As long as people have searched for direction, worshipped their Creator, and looked for language to express their passion and warmth, we have returned again and again to stand by the fire.

The fire was an agent of God’s guidance and an ongoing expression of worship in the days of the tabernacle.  And we kept returning to stand by the fire.

A refiner and cleansing agent of the hearts of men, the fire was a symbol of God’s hatred for sin and an affirmation for the prophets who spoke His truth.  And again and again, we kept returning to stand by the fire.

The fire was a weapon of God’s voice, a light in the darkness, and an expression of hospitality and welcome. And from the dark places and lonely spaces, still we kept coming to stand by the fire.

The fire revealed a passion for God’s word in our bones, the baptism of the believer, the instrument of God’s testing, and the piercing gaze of the risen Christ.  And out of desperation or terror, love or longing, still we kept coming to stand by the fire.

And even today the Spirit and Bride invite you to come.  To be warmed and convicted and cleansed and restored and pure as you stand by the fire. [click to continue…]

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Leading Individuals and Teams Through Conflict

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were great friends.  Throughout their near-lifelong friendship, as far as we know they never had a problem.

Never had a solution, either.

Friends?  Yes.  And boring.

Jefferson and John Adams?  Boy, was that a different story.  One looooong, near-lifelong debate.  Fiery exchanges.  Icy periods of silence.  And one of the warmest, most profound collections of letters in history between these two icons, who died on the same day, 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Friends?  Oh my, yes.  They each had busts of the other in their homes.  And Adams, not knowing his friend had already died, departed this life with these words:  “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”

That said, let’s be honest.  Few of us get up in the morning hoping to cross swords with friends.  Or spouses.  Or parents or kids or team members or employees or constituents or customers. (Dear Mark:  Please call again soon – I promise I’ll be nicer on the recorded line for quality assurance purposes.)  And yet the quality of your relationship is measured – not by the lack of conflict, but by how those conflicts are managed and solutions are forged.

(Dear Congress… Oh.  Well.  Never mind.)

Here’s how Thomas Gordon puts it: [click to continue…]

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Not if the focus is more on the office of the leader than on the needs of the led.  Leaders tend to have places in authority that give them the power to move people around, get people to do (or not do) things, hire and fire people, and in other ways mess with people’s lives.  Often those people (and the leaders) reverence the office more than the mission.  In Church World, I’ve been in places where “pastor” was synonymous with “Your Majesty.”  Where whims of the leader today become orders in stone tomorrow.  Where elders become rubber stamp specialists and people in general act like they just drank the Kool Aid – at least when the Anointed One is around.   And I don’t care who you are – that’s not healthy.

Not if there is a distinction between the interests of the leader and the good of the group.  [click to continue…]

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A Fable about leadership, teamwork, unity, and of course, honey…

It was a lovely morning in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin’s friends lived and played.  The bees were abuzz making their honey (and You-Know-Who knew just who it was for).

Kanga had already gotten an early start on motherly things, while Roo was playing close by.

Piglet was pacing about his tidy home saying “Oh Dear, Dear, Dear” because he knew something Important was about to happen, but he couldn’t quite remember what it was.

Rabbit was tending his garden, nervously glancing around for signs that he soon may be bounced by Tigger.

Eeyore was a bit confused as he chomped on a thistle because he couldn’t think of anything to be gloomy about.

Owl was remembering the time to no one in particular that his great uncle Waldo on his mother’s side did something famous because it happened on a lovely day such as today.

And Winnie the Pooh?  Being a Bear of Very Little Brain, he was sitting at the Thotful Spot, thinking.  And wishing for just a bit of honey, because as everyone knows, bears think better when their tumblies aren’t so rumbly.  And there’s nothing like honey to take the rumbly out of the tumbly.

This was no ordinary day after all.  This was the day of the Grand Celebration.  They weren’t quite sure what they were celebrating, but everyone had agreed that today would be a fine day to celebrate it. [click to continue…]

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