Once again, LA fitness came to my rescue for today’s blog.  As I was on the recumbent bike this morning, there were two TVs on in front of me. On one channel was a fashion show and on the other, a well-known food channel.
It quickly occurred to me that both of these are multi-million dollar businesses in the US of A. My first thought was how strange this would seem to a lot of people in the world (who have few clothes and who daily hunt for food to stay alive) to even see shows devoted to very expensive clothes worn by very beautiful people as well as a whole TV channel dedicated to food preparation.

I was reminded of the words of both Jesus and Paul.  In Matthew 6:31-34, Jesus warns us not to be anxious, or put too much emphasis, on food and clothes. In I Timothy 6:8, Paul says, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

A verse I have been thinking about for quite a while also came to mind as I watched a parade of different kinds of clothes and different kinds of food; 2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God and, supremely so, toward you.”

Ah, yes, the word simplicity.  Now, I admittedly don’t have anything against food or clothes. It is more a question in my mind of how much and how expensive. When we hear about the amount of money that some spend on both of these items, it’s mind-boggling.  Last night on “60 Minutes”, the lady who runs Vogue Magazine mentioned that her yearly clothing allowance was $200.000. I have read of some much higher than that.

So here is where my thoughts are taking me. What should simplicity look like for me in the day and age in which I live? How much is too much and how can I, how should I move from complex to simple in my life-style?  At this stage I have more questions than answers, but am intrigued by the words of Jesus and Paul. I am on a search for biblical simplicity. Do you have any thoughts on this?  I would love to hear them.



Encouragment...pass it on

Monday is my day to write the weekly blog. As I was on the stationary bike at LA Fitness earlier today, wrestling with what this blog should be about, an infomercial came on the TV in front of me that answered the question.

The scene was a packed concert hall people waiting with high expectations for the curtain to open and the world-renowned pianist to take his seat, flip his coattails back and mesmerize the audience with incredible music.  A couple in the audience is talking, and  one says, “I thought you were watching him” referring to their 5-7  year old son. As the curtain slowly draws back they, to their horror, see their son seated at the grand piano playing chopsticks.  In that instant, the celebrity of the evening steps out and slowly walks up behind the boy and, rather than scold him, begins to play along with him turning it into a chopsticks masterpiece.  The expression on the parents’ faces switch  from horror to pride as they rise with the rest of the surprised but delighted, audience to give both the celeb and the boy a standing ovation. The boy and the maestro humbly bow and exit the stage.

Then the caption appears at the bottom of the screen: Encouragement...pass it on!

I have never met anybody who felt they were encouraged too much.  Some people exercise the gift of discouragement, even though it is not one of the gifts listed in the Bible.  I have worked in several organizations and been a part of many small groups and task forces; there is never enough encouragement to go around.  My experience has taught me that people are starved for encouragement, affirmation and love.

I am the first to confess that I tend to be judgmental and a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to how others do things.  I am asking Jesus to empower me to be an encourager, not a discourager.

I Peter 3: 9 speaks to my sinful heart in this regard, “Do not repay evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but, on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing.” In Eugene Peterson’s “ The Message,” it reads, “Instead, bless— that’s your job, to bless.  You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” One way I can bless people is to look for the positive things and encourage them.

How are you doing in encouraging those, blessing those,  Jesus has placed in your life and world?



A five year old leader in the making



My oldest grand daughter, Mimi, (age 5) lives life outloud and with an exuberance,  determination and energy supply that make the energizer bunny look like he's standing still. My wife Susan and I have various words to describe her, but my favioite one is the "Human Hurricane."  Trying to control her or slow her down is an exercise in futility.  Several weeks ago we were at the park and I was I  was studying her as she bounced from one piece of equipment to the other and inteacted with the children around her. She is athletic as well as energetic.

She colors outside the lines, thinks outside the bun, bends or breaks most every rule established, marchers to a different drum beat and pushes the envelop at every opportunity. That's for starters!

She has all the qualities of a leader and like most leaders, she charts a different path than those around her. I have to tap into all the patience available to me in Jesus to be positive and not critical or judgemental when I am with her.

My role is that of developing the next generation of leaders.  I think I should start with Mimi. I have my work cut out for me!

I drew a few observations from observing and thinking about Mimi:

  1. I would rather have the task of channeling an energetic person than motivating a lethargic  person

  2. It is not a matter of breaking a strong will, but channeling that will so it can serve a higher purpose

  3. Some times the same traits that make a person difficult  to live with or work with also make them successful. For example: Refusing to quit or give up, refusing to take no for an answer, refusing to do things the way everyone else does them, getting upset when things block your ability to move forward toward a reasonable objective.

I see myself as a leader with some of the same traits that I see in five year old Mimi, but she isn't mature enough to see them fully utilized and focused.  Her time will come when she will be leading some grand adventure for Jesus. I pray I live long enough to see it happen.




How Smart Are You?

For as long as I can remember, smart was equated with intellect and brain power.  Smart had to do with grades in school, SAT scores, and one's GPA. This was the case until author Daniel Daniel Goleman kicked the old paradigm in the head by writing Emotional Intelligence in 1997 which redefined how we understand intelligence. Goleman  makes a case for relational intelligence that knows how to get along with others; being smart at building collaborative relationships. The good  news is that emotional intelligence (EI) is not fixed as IQ is generally thought to be. EI can be nurtured and strengthened in everyone.

" But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, fuill of mercy a nd good fruits, impartial and sincere." James 3:17 ESV.

It seems to me that James is equating real wisdom with healthy relationships.  Is he leaning toward EI rather than IQ  in describing wisdom that comes from the Lord Jesus? I find it helpful that Eugene Peterson's  rendering of James 3:17 in The Message starts the verse off with, "Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others..."

This is the era of the team, not the solo leader. Leadership today is more about enabling and empowering than bossing  direct reports around out of personal intellectual brillance. Leaders who are good at developing and maintaining healthy relationships and tapping the power of those relationships will be the most valuable leaders to an organization or church. Long gone are the days in leadership where the know it all does it all as he sits at the top and dictates while both under valuing and under appreciating what others bring to the table.

So, how smart are you?



Michael Jackson

As if you haven't already heard enough about Michael Jackson over the last several days, let me throw my two cents into the mix.

Most of what I am hearing borders on idolatry and worship.  He is being proclaimed as the greatest entertainer of all time, the "King of Pop" to rival Elvis who was the "King."  A genius who  supposedly transformed music all over planet earth. Hollywood stars and other celebs are parading their accolades for Michael; wonderful, innocent as a child, amazing, unparrelled in the history of music.

There is no argument that he was an incredible singer and dancer, but I think the whole thing has gone a bit too far.  The next thing I know someone will be saying they saw him walk on water, or perform a miracle of some sort; anyone who touched his surgical mask was healed.

Charles Barkley became famous for his comment that "I Ain't no role model."  Michael is being hearalded by friends, family and fans as a wonderful Father, a kind soul, a generous man who gave away millions to  charity and a role model that all children, as well as adults, should emulate and admire.

Maybe I am missing something here. Doesn't he also have three children by at least two different women neither of whom he was married to when he passed?  Hasen't he been a self-admitted abuser of perscription drugs which he was warned about for at least four years by close friends and family? Then we have the issue of the cosmetic surgergies that permanently disfigured his face. Add to these that he was known for outlandish spending sprees  and questionable financial decisions that, at last count, left him in debt to the tune of 400-500 million dollars. Some are saying his estate may make more money by him being dead than alive.

This is another example of talent and gifting being elevated above character and relationship. Some say we need to separate his personal and professional life and just focus on his professional accomplishments.  We are still trying to do this with Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, but it remains a big stretch.

I'll end this divergent take on Michael by saying that I would rather look up to a less talented but character rich person as a role model for me and my family than a genius with questionable character and morals.