Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Out of Balance

If you've read leadership books or articles or even some of the popular magazines in the past few decades, you have most-likely read about keeping balance in your life. Conferences and corporate training repeat the balance mantra as well. So how are you doing with your balanced life?

Fortunately, some people are finally brave enough to question the balance goal. As Keith Hammonds said in Fast Company, "balance is bunk".

As I listened to the Deadly Viper Character Assassins book a while back, it was good to hear others sharing the opinion I had had for years. The topic is addressed under The Assassin of the Headless Sprinting Chicken chapter at about 1:09 into the free audio book.

The idea of balance often ends up being a picture of spinning plates. We try to keep everything in life going strong all at the same time, all in the same week, even all in the same day. Trying to have balance this way is exhausting....and frustrating.

Instead, look at your entire life's portfolio. There are seasons for emphasizing different things. Be content in that.

Rather than focusing on balance, the focus should be on priorities. If we have some of our priorities clear, then decisions about time and resources become easier.

Can you think of anyone who had a big impact on the world who was also balanced in all areas of their life? It is doubtful. Being perfectly balanced can mean being mediocre and boring. At best, we are good in several different areas. But it is doubtful any balanced person is ever great in anything.

Those who have truly changed the world were passionate and focused. Those who are passionate usually have to let other areas of their lives become less than good or approved as acceptable. They have let some areas of their lives "go" so they could focus on their passion and what they do best. And with that focus and passion, they impacted lives.

Some balance is good. But I hope I always have enough passion to courageously make a difference. Live with passion. And see God do wonderful things through you.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Hastings and Mississippi Restoration

Last week we took in some free events down at Hastings Rivertown Days. We saw Dock Dogs competition with dogs jumping for distance after some toy or decoy. It was kind of cool. I'm not a dog lover. So I couldn't imagine watching the same thing for two full days. But obviously some people love it and travel great distances to participate.

We also saw some powerboat races on the Mississippi. That was kind of neat. The biggest race with the most boats ended up being cancelled. They had run out of time with their allotted river closing permit. I should probably blog that separately. But basically, they lost the opportunity because of too much hesitation. Occasionally we may miss out on opportunities as well due to hesitation. Sometimes we get a second chance later. Sometimes we don't.

The National Park Service also provided some river cruises. As we took the short cruise to Prescott, Wisconsin, the park rangers talked briefly of how the Mississippi River from Saint Paul down to Hastings was pretty much dead 50 years ago. Sewage, chemicals, farm field runoff, and other factors had taken their toll. Hardly any fish survived. The report is that a census or count or however they do it found just three fish over many miles of the river. That is pretty bad.

Now the river is returning to life. There are several fish species surviving and thriving. The water is cleaner and safer. The river is slowly returning to some of its former glory.

As I recently read a report on the American church, and particularly mainline denominations, the parallels became clear. The decline of the Mississippi River happened over many years. In the case of the river, much of it came out of self-centeredness, short-term thinking, and a prideful refusal to admit wrong and change.

I will be more merciful with the church. But much of the reason for declining and dying congregations and denominations is due to a refusal to change. Sometimes it also includes some self-centeredness as they structure a church around their own needs and styles rather than selflessly designing a church that will serve and reach today's world.

The revival of the Mississippi came through changed perspectives, values, and behavior. The revival of churches can happen the same way. We need to put aside pride and be open to change. And we must actually make changes that will bring life to our communities. Our communities can start to be well-watered and healthy once the power and love of God begins to flow once again.

And there are some parallels for our personal lives as well. As long as we are alive, there are reasons for hope. And that is especially true if we are willing to change.

Looking at that section of the Mississippi can bring us hope that even decades of decline can be reversed if we are open to change. Repentance, changing our ways, can be the doorway to new life and new possibilities.

If this speaks to you, or your congregation, ask God for revelation of what is going on, the knowledge to know what should change, and the power to make it happen. New life awaits.

Back to College - University of Minnesota

Today was the first official visit to a college my son David is considering. The Institute of Technology at University of Minnesota - Twin Cities hosted this event. There were hundreds of students and parents there considering the college with primarily engineering degrees.

David does great in math and sciences and had an excellent ACT score. I am proud of him for many reasons. But I hesitate to brag about him because he seeks to remain humble. And I respect that. Know that he is one of my heroes.

The gathering today included a lot of smart people. As the program went on I thought from time to time of how I could have chosen certain majors. For some reason or other I did not consider engineering much, even though a friend went down to Milwaukee School of Engineering. Engineering includes math, physics, and technology.

But more than that, much of engineering is designing things that change the world. Some possibilities include dams, bridges, medical devices, heating and cooling systems, more efficient engines, water treatment systems, and new devices and systems that benefit people in some way. In ways we seldom consider, our lives have benefited from the work of engineers. Engineers designed the keyboard and mouse I am using right now.

So? Why should I care? Part of what I saw today was people celebrating who they are. Some may call them nerds or geeks. But they are also people with potential for significant things.

And so are you. Celebrate who you are. The recent teaching series at The House has included talk about seeds and fruitfulness. If you are a peach tree, produce that kind of fruit. If you are a coconut tree, produce that kind of fruit. Don't be jealous of others skills and giftings and personalities. Embrace who you are and be fruitful. Produce fruit from the seed you were designed to be. That is when you are most fruitful and effective.

Some of the engineers and potential engineers have embraced their unique skill set. Have you embraced and celebrated who you are?

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Bet on Carrie Blame

The recent dream was probably triggered by a public athlete talking about bluffing his team.

My thoughts quickly shifted from football to "You're not playing football. You're playing poker!" From there the image was one of gambling. From betting on cards the image quickly shifted to a local horse track that has both horse racing and a card room.

It has been several years since I have been to any horse races. But one of my first thoughts is of all of the unique names of the horses. And in my dream, as soon as the setting switched to a horse track, the word was clear: "Bet on Carrie Blame".

Whoa. I'd never heard that name before. But the words were repeated, "Bet on Carrie Blame".

People bet and place their trust in many different things. They bet on money, possessions, relationships and connections, health, retirement plan, odds, and more. And most people bet on something to influence their eternity after physical death. They bet on good deeds, church attendance, community service, biblical knowledge, and other things.

But the message is clear. Bet on the only one who can consistently help you in both this life and the next. Jesus is the one who willingly carried our blame, the punishment for our own sins. And he is the one that will win in the end. Bet on Carrie Blame.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. ~ Revelation 19:11

Toilet Paper Ministry

As I was listening to a radio show in the car, the speaker talked about our memories. Out of the blue, an old memory came. I hadn’t thought about it for probably decades. So it surprised me.

Many of us have been on the receiving end of hurtful words. Sometimes the words are sincerely hurtful. But other times things are blurted out in moments of anger and frustration. And quite often the speaker did not truly mean the words they spoke.

At the time, the words can be quite painful. But occasionally they are kind of humorous too if they seem out of character for the speaker.

As part of my childhood, someone fairly close called me “ass wipe” on some occasions. I had forgotten about it until it strangely popped backed into memory that recent morning. I am not exactly sure what they meant by the term. But I am pretty sure it wasn’t intended as a compliment. It was kind of out of character for the speaker. So I am guessing they had heard someone else refer to a person with that name.

I am in a different place now with some different perspectives. So now I wonder if it was unintentionally prophetic. Some are pastors, some are apostles, some are teachers, and some are toilet paper. (New Charmin Translation)

What a calling! Toilet paper? Being single, I don’t see butts of others. But, as a father, I had diaper duty a few times in my day, making the baby look "good as new" once again. Generally, people don’t regard rears has the most noble part of the body. Although I do know people who spent huge sums of money to enjoy seeing Brett Favre’s butt (clothed) week after week during games at Green Bay.

Okay, you’re probably thinking my twisted, whirled view is off the deep end this time. Stay with me….please.

Even though it is difficult to understand in the short-term, sometimes our past pains have been preparation for future ministry. God can bring good out of our experiences, both pleasant and painful. And that includes hurtful words.

One of the themes of the popular John Eldredge books is that we be restored to our former glory, that we rejoin the Grand Story. Due to the fall with original sin, we have lost much of our former glory. We were created in God’s image. But sin corrupts and distorts things. As we turn over more of our lives to let God work through us. We become more like him. Some of our glory is restored, even while here on earth.

We were created uniquely. You are so awesome in God’s eyes. Your abilities, gifts, and your life experiences add up to great potential. God sees that potential. He sees the mission and role that only you can fill. Nobody can do your unique ministry better than you.

God has created you for a great mission. And when you are moving in that mission, your glory will be revealed, and his glory will be revealed through you. It is a glorious thing to see someone changing the world, making things on earth as it is in heaven, in ways that fit well with their design and experiences.

Humbly, toilet paper restores part of the body to its original glory. Then that part of the body can play a supporting role for many key parts of the body. Toilet paper brings cleansing.

Perhaps we have a role/roll in helping Christians discover and maintain a life path that is the destiny for which they were created. And when things get a little messy, let us help them clean up the crap and feel loved and respected again. Let us gently restore beauty and dignity to those who are trying, but occasionally fall. Let us be People of the Second Chance.

Uppy! Uppy!

photoUppy, uppy! Carry me, carry me!

Carry me Lord when I am feeling tired.
Carry me when I doubt I can keep up,
Not just with the world,
But also keeping up with all you are doing in the world.
Carry me when I am feeling weak.
Carry me when I feel like giving up.
Carry me when I feel I might run out of hope.

Uppy, uppy!
Hold me close so we can look face to face.
I just want to be in your presence.
Let me see your smile.
Let me physically feel your touch, your presence.
Wrap your arms around me and just hold me.
Help me feel safe and secure in your loving arms.
Let me feel your compassionate love.

Uppy, uppy! Hold me high to see your perspective.
Give me your vision. Give me your long-term view.
Help me see what you see, in today’s reality and
What you see in the possibilities for the future.
Help me see the possibilities for my future.
Give me dreams and visions of your plans for me.
Open my eyes to what is really happening out there.
Open my eyes to what is really happening in me and through me.

Carry me, carry me! Carry me forward to where you are moving.
Carry me to where I can see your power and love at work.
Carry me to places where I will see you as the commander
Of thousands of mighty warrior angels.
Carry me to places that will reveal your glory.
Carry me to where your kingdom has come and is being displayed –
Here on earth as it is in heaven.

Carry me gently. Calm my fears.
Be patient with me. Dry me tears.

Uppy, uppy!
Gently lift me up.
Lovingly hold me.
Boldly carry me where I dare not go alone.
Let me feel your love today.

Uppy, uppy!

Reign Down USA

Talk about a marketing challenge! The theme of the event was basically “come and repent”. That is pretty hard to sell here in America.

There were two places in the northeast Twin Cities showing the simulcast for Reign Down USA. We went to North Heights. I was somewhat surprised nearly 500 people showed up. We broke away from the national show for a while to do our own local thing. I wasn’t sure I agreed with that at the time. But after seeing the full event later on God.TV, it was a good choice.

The main event had star power and was more of a concert than we expected. Locally we went deeper with more prayer time regarding a variety of topics. It was good.

Repentance is basically turning around and going in the opposite direction. It is a change of course.

People don’t like the word “repent” very much. It is difficult for our pride. Some claim that repentance was mostly an Old Testament thing. But Jesus clearly stated that repentance is associated with the “good news” of the gospel. See Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15, 6:12, Luke 13, Acts 11:18, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20, 2 Peter 3:9, and other places.

Even though it is hard, repentance is often the key to moving to something better. We have to be willing to leave something behind to grab hold of the new thing. Most often that letting go includes attitudes and actions. But it can also include letting go of relationships, possessions, hobbies, jobs, and even ministries that do not match God’s plans for us.

Quite often we have actions that are simply wrong. They are not good for us. They do not bring honor to God, others, or even ourselves. We need to stop those and start doing what is right.

Other times we are called to let go of mediocre or even good things to pursue something better. That can be a difficult challenge as well.

Repentance is a gift. It is the start of something good.

Most of us would like to see some changes. Are we willing to change behavior so that the changes become reality? If it is what God wants, he will gladly help us do that.

Carterography Lesson


Over the years I haven’t had enough time one-on-one with my nephews and nieces. A while back it was fun to have some time with my nephew Carter. It was part of his annual trip “up north” with family.

It had been a busy week with some late nights. Even though tired, he was a good trooper and kept his smile. I intentionally included some down time where he could rest in the car and in the late afternoon at home.

We took him hiking on what he called a “professional” hiking trail. It had a few challenges beyond the flat paved trails many people use. He did great and stayed safe. On that particular trail, we also got to learn more about sandstone quarries. So it was educational too.


photoWe had our picnic lunch at a different part of the park with a small waterfall and rock formations. Carter showed his servant heart by clearing the dirt out of a seating area in a rock near the river. The one photo is him standing in that spot.

Later we went to church where I know he saw some new things. When we left home at 5:30, there were some groans from the boys when I said church went until 9:00. But time went by pretty quickly. I had let him bring his GameBoy in if he got really bored. Because of some trips and other events, it was my son David’s first time there too. And he said it was “cool”. They both helped with putting chairs away afterwards.

On the way home from church, we swung over to Hudson for fireworks. We got to have some time with Renell, Caryn, cousin Anthony, and other friends. It was another long day for Carter. The next day we got to play a little football too in Wakanda Park, a place where I have some fond memories from years ago. In the car, David and Carter had a few hours of bonding with David helping him get further in his GameBoy game. And we played a little Pink Floyd music as well. They are one of Carter's favorite bands.

One thing I learned in the day and a half is that we have a wide variety of perspectives on the world and events. If we were to draw maps of our worlds, each of us would have very unique maps. Carter is smart and has an adult perspective on many things. But he is still a kid, or at least a much younger man than I.

One of the highlights of his trip he talked about the most was seeing a silver/gray fox at Grandpa and Grandma’s. And we walked by several potential dens and hiding places among the rocks. When we picnicked by a waterfall, my focus was mostly on the scenery and the sound of the water. For a kid, it was much more interesting to see two dragonflies stuck together. I’m not sure if the photo is G-rated or not. I don’t know much about dragonflies.


And I am sure his perspective on church was different from mine. But he did remember the message was about seeds. God has given us “seeds” of dreams and potential ministries and ways to impact the world for good. But seeds are useless until they are planted. We need to act on what we hear and actually plant the seeds. Back to our story…

Spending time with a younger child opened my eyes to some new perspectives. As I have recently had more time around couples with babies and toddlers, that has been a switch too. And I have occasion to be around people with very different world views.

Most people around the world tend to be attracted to and spend time with people similar to themselves. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to be with people different from ourselves. That may mean people of another ethnic group, gender, income level, race, background, value system, marital status, geographical area, education level, age, worship style, or other factors. We don’t have to agree on everything. But sometimes we can learn a lot by just trying to gain some understanding and appreciation of the perspectives of others.

Perhaps it is time to spend a few hours with some people quite different from you. You will not only learn more about them. You may learn a few things about yourself as well. Have fun!