1 Thing You Can Do This Week That Will Always Make You Seem More Successful

 

Stop Announcing

Put down your trumpet.

Cease clapping your hands to your own beat.

Let the braggart be silent.

Don’t share your plans

Why?

Your plans are susceptible to chaos, the natural order or the fact that you may sleep through your alarm clock.

Hush. Please don’t tout your prowess.

There’s always someone better than you.

There’s always someone more talented.

Endurance and Humility

What makes quality rise to the top is its endurance and the blessing of humility, which allows other people to lift it up instead of needing to put it down because it’s pompous and arrogant.

And please, for the love of God:

 Stop proclaiming your purpose

Your purpose should be obvious as the fruit of your work. Telling people what you intended to do does not qualify for actually doing it.

If you simply stop announcing your great battleplan for your life, then you will be able to acknowledge the small victories instead of having to win every single conflict to prove your point.


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Good News and Better News … April 18th, 2016

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Good News Antioch

Yesterday it was my joy to share my heart with dear souls in Antioch, Tennessee.

In the Book of Acts, it informs us that Antioch was the first city where the new believers in Jesus were referred to as “Christians.” It was meant to be a derogatory term, thrown at this new movement by the arrogant Greeks, who were trying to connote that the people who believed in the Nazarene were just a bunch of “little Jesuses.”

In other words, they had no mind of their own.

I didn’t talk about this to the people yesterday because I figured that over the years they have probably grown weary of the reference. But it did help me realize that the term “Christian” has become synonymous with going to church, or being religious, instead of being like Jesus.

Jesus frustrated religious people. After a while they got tired of being frustrated, so they decided to murder him.

Even though your average church-going people will admit that attendance is dwindling and that people seem to be “leaving the steeple,” they still insist that there’s basically nothing errant with what’s going on behind the stained glass windows.

Here is something I have learned:

If it’s not working, it’s probably not going to get better just because you keep doing it. And if it’s not working, the first step is to admit it’s broken, and then commit to getting it fixed.

The problem in the church is simple–it is a body of believers working under a false premise. The false premise is that we please God by gathering to worship Him.

Jesus made it clear that we please God by being the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

Can you see the difference?

So as I leave Antioch, having had a tremendous morning of fellowship with these dear friends, I can offer them a simple suggestion:

Do one thing.

Yes–just start pursuing one thing that’s different from what you’re doing now. And make sure it doesn’t resemble anything like the present menu offered in church.

Maybe you could adopt one family in the community every week, take $150 and buy them groceries and shoes for the kids. Put a committee in charge of this endeavor.

Then on Sunday morning you can share, having something for prayer time other than weddings, funerals, births and sicknesses.

How about challenging twenty people from your congregation to volunteer just one hour a week in area nursing homes, food banks or homeless shelters–and then have them testify of their encounters.

Maybe the pastor could do the same thing–or take a small part-time job to increase his or her humanity in the community. Play guitar? Start a cover band and play at the local bar on Saturday nights prior to the Sunday services.

Take something that is non-church but filled with Jesus and act it out in your community every week, and see if something doesn’t bloom.

It’s not complicated. I could probably sit here for another twenty minutes and pop off more ideas.

But the notions have to come from the congregation and be a source of excitement to them to make it work.

If we don’t develop a sense of mission about bringing the heart of Jesus to our community, we will gradually implode from over-reverence or bickering from the choir about which anthem should be used for the Introit.

Jesus was simple:

Find a way to be loving, and then go act it out.

So as I leave Antioch, filled with a spirit of joy from encountering these delightful “little Jesuses,” I tell you that your good news is that all you need is one thing to do that is not religious, and that will bring real people into your presence.

The better news is that you’re not responsible for the fruit.

Just the seed.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 7) Considering … January 17th, 2016

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Jesonian hands

He didn’t suggest the fig tree, even though they were plentiful in his environment.

For you see, Jesus was quite aware that even though the fig tree grew in the arid, sandy soil of Mesopotamia, it often would sprout leaves to protect itself from the sun, but “cursedly” refuse to offer any fruit to anyone else.

In discussing our lifestyle, Jesus said, “Consider the lily.”

The lily has three aspects to its persona that are much more suited for Planet Earth:

  1. The lily knows it is supposed to grow
  2. It doesn’t work hard (toil).
  3. It isn’t convinced it might need to cheat to get its way (spin).

We are supposed to be lilies.

In being this beautiful flower, we expect growth, we stop struggling and we refuse to lie. This opens the door to just enough optimism that we can work with the available realism.

And the enemy to “lily life?” Those who proclaim that “people don’t change.”

It fascinates me that those who call themselves liberal–who deeply embrace evolution–think that such a transition ceases to apply when it comes to their own lives.

And those who do not believe in evolution, but prefer creation, still contend that God created them to be at least partially miserable.

We are lilies.

This means we need to learn how to consider. And considering is a decision to pursue a better solution instead of suffering in our tradition.

So how can you be reasonable?

A. Find your soil.

You won’t grow lilies in the desert. Even though Jesus was surrounded by desert, he suggested that his disciples find a place where lilies can grow.

B. Sink roots.

Don’t keep changing your mind and following every wind of doctrine. Find principles that have proven to be of lasting quality, creativity, invention, peacefulness and good cheer.

C. Suck in the light.

It is very difficult to grow lilies in a cave of misunderstanding. We are not mushrooms, which sprout in darkness. If you are surrounded by darkness, you will not pursue considering. Therefore you will fall short of considerate.

  • We are not fig trees, trying to just “get by” in the desert.
  • We are not mushrooms, tolerating the darkness.
  • We are a lily.

Therefore we grow as we stop working so hard and refuse to join the cheaters.

 

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“Ifing” Way: Part 1… October 20, 2014

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If bigger

What if a voice of sanity had risen up at various stages in the story of human history, to offer a challenging view when craziness was about to win the day?

If …

It was the third night in a row she had returned home from work brooding. It wasn’t that she was always a sparkling conversationalist, but now a sadness had etched its way onto her features, making her apppear continually unhappy, which left him a little disgruntled, feeling that he was somehow at fault.

Tired of being uncertain of her feelings and attitudes, he broached the issue.

“What’s wrong — and before you tell me nothing, let me tell you that I know there is something, so let’s work with it from that angle.”

She looked surprised.

He laughed. “So now you’re gonna act surprised,” he said. “I know you’re not surprised. You probably just don’t want to talk about it.”

She took a long pause–so lengthy that he almost inserted another opinion, but restrained himself to allow her space.

“I have something to tell you,” she began, tears forming in her eyes.

He squelched an internal flinch, wondering how this could end up with anything good.

She continued. “You know that tree we were supposed to avoid?”

He thought for a second, then remembered and nodded.

She went on with her tale. “Well, I was a little confused about it. Maybe even a little frustrated. So I spent some time down there, just checking it out. I immediately discovered it wasn’t that different from any other tree on our land. Matter of fact, it was rather pleasant looking. Appealing.”

He resisted the instinct to interrupt and just nodded again.

“Well, long story short, I got tempted, maybe even urged, to eat the fruit. And ever since then, I’ve felt guilty and naked.”

“What do you mean by naked?” he inquired.

She squinted. “You know. Without being covered.”

“Covered with what?” he asked, frowning.

“I don’t know. This is why I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you wouldn’t understand. You are so much a man…”

“Now I am confused,” he inserted. “We’ve never talked like this before. It was never ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ Just us. What’s going on?”

“I ate the goddamned fruit,” she screamed. “There! You’ve got it.”

Adam took a deep breath. He knew the next thing he would say was crucial. “So that’s why you feel bad?”

“No!” she said emphatically. “I feel good! Alive! Alert. Just confused. Maybe if you ate the fruit with me and shared in the experience we could work it out together. Aren’t you self-conscious about being naked?”

“Actually,” he replied, “I’m baffled about the concept. I just thought this is the way we came.”

She sighed, frowned, hissed and grumbled all at the same time. At length she spoke.

“So are you gonna eat the fruit with me or not?”

He took her by the shoulders, pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead.

“No. What we’re going to do is take you to our Creator and explain what happened.”

She pulled back in horror. “No damn way! He’s gonna kill me. Isn’t that what He said? If you eat the fruit you’ll die?”

“Yes,” said Adam. “But I didn’t know what it meant, so I just kind of ignored it.”

“I don’t want to die,” said Eve.

“I don’t want to lose you,” said Adam. “But … I don’t want to lose Him either. Don’t make me choose.”

She burst into tears. He embraced her and held her close.

“Listen,” he said. “If He loved us enough to make us, He sure can love us enough to forgive us.”

“Us?” she questioned.

“Yes. We’re in this together. And together, let’s go talk to Him.”

 

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Green Room… March 18, 2013

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fruitInterestingly enough, the room itself is rarely green. It is a simple area set aside for Janet and myself, when we arrive at our gig, where we can have some private moments, consume some fruit and water provided, and ruminate. (Now, if you’re not sure what “ruminate” means, you will understand better by the content of this essay.)

I take the time in that green room, before I am entrusted with the most precious of God’s creatures–human beings–to empty and fill. It’s really that simple. It doesn’t matter what the size or appearance of the enclosure may be. Sometimes they put me in a bridal preparation area that has so many mirrors in it that this fat boy doesn’t dare look up or breathe. Once I ended up in a small closet, where I had to listen to the incessant complaining from the brooms, objecting to my presence.

The significance of the green room is that it’s a place to empty and fill.

I empty myself of all concern. After all, concern is normally just a very expensive bag wherein we tote our worry. Concern does me no good–but emptied of it, I am allowed to fill myself with ideas instead of being overtaken by fears. And what is an idea? A belief that has a plan for doing something to prove its worth.

Next, I empty myself of ego. I don’t do this by thinking about how rotten I am or what a sinner I must appear to be in the presence of a glorious God. “Emptying myself of ego” means that I lessen my requirements for other human beings to satisfy my needs. After all, you are not here to please me. And I will only please you if the good news I bring makes your life better.

Emptied of ego, I am ready to fill myself with the blessing of people. Please understand that I feel humbled by the notion that my words and talents will be displayed in front of the world that God loved so much that He was willing to give His only begotten son to see it saved. I take it seriously, in a humorous way.

And when I hit that stage, I empty myself of energy. I don’t try to reserve some of my oom-pah for later on. If God loves me and I love Him, the best way to prove that love is to give all the human beings I meet the best I’ve got. And as I empty myself of energy, I fill myself with the response and the joy from the audience.

Someone asked me the other day: how do you know if something’s from God? That’s easy. It makes people better. If it doesn’t make people better, it can’t be God.

Once I’m filled with that response and the show’s over, as I climb up in my van to leave, I empty myself of any further responsibility. I’m a sower–not a farmer. Farmers have to sow the seed and then hang around to clear all the weeds. I think there are too many people worrying about the farm and not enough people planting. Farmers worry about weeds, thunderstorms and droughts. Sowers plant the seed.

Emptied of the responsibility of my last stop-off, I am then filled again with a vision of the task before me. It’s a wonderful way to live–emptied, to be filled again.

I don’t know whether you have a green room to go to, but I would recommend that you find such a place. Yes, find a secluded area where you can experience the miracle of empty and fill.

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Not Too Swift… October 27, 2012

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Human beings like to be right.

I am a human being.

Therefore I like to be right.

That is called a syllogism. In other words, if A=B and B=C, then therefore A=C.

I don’t share this with you to discuss principles of geometry. I put this thought into discussion because it is probably our greatest weakness. The fear of being wrong has caused people to continue errant ways long past reasonableness.

I saw this in myself last night. Having a night off from sharing my program, I turned on the television and watched a special about Taylor Swift. She is a twenty-two-year-old girl in country music who has set the world on fire with her songs, personality and diversity.

Now, I actually heard Taylor sing when she was a young girl of twelve–at a local middle school in Hendersonville, Tennessee. She was just another young lady in the school, involved in a talent show–but there was something special there.

Now for a bit of candor. When she released her first album and started her career on television, I was highly critical of her. She had some pitch problems and seemed awkward in her new position. Matter of fact, I made fun of her to my sons and family members. I pronounced a bit of doom and gloom for her career. I found her music to be trivial and her approach to be tentative and weak.

I do have a reputation for being right every once in a while, but it doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of being wrong. So as I watched the special last night about this dear young woman, I realized that she had not only superseded everyone’s expectations, but had also proven me to be a false prophet. Now she sings in tune, her songs are poignant and ripe with personal experience, and even though she’s been criticized strongly by people in the industry, she has kept a sweet spirit, hung in there and continued to excel. She is the personification of everything that old, grumpy people say young humans are incapable of achieving.

I was humbled by my stupidity. I was ashamed of the judgmental attitude which nearly eliminated a valuable voice from being considered–at least by the members of my own family. And even though I have an excellent reputation for being insightful, I missed it on this one.

So you see, I thought all of this to myself and even repented within my own heart of being so flat and without mercy. I was convinced that this was sufficient–that I had no need to inform anyone else of my past nasty behavior. But–that’s just not true.

Some things need to be repented of in public. Otherwise, our private moment of contrition is lost and unknown to those who need to hear it the most.

This is why the Republicans and Democrats need to admit their part of the responsibility in today’s problems. It is why the South needs to continually make it clear that slavery, prejudice and the old Confederacy are a part of their dark past. It is why the President of the United States needs to explain that he bit off more than he could chew, but since he’s in the middle of chewing on it, it might be ridiculous to switch mouths.

It is why the Republicans should be honest–that the Iraqi war and many of their policies brought our country to the brink of bankruptcy. (For after all, it was not Osama bin Laden‘s goal to merely kill 3000 people on 9/11. No, from his private collection of videos, it is crystal clear that what he wanted to do was paralyze the US in a series of vengeful wars.)

Contrary to public opinion, repentance is not a private matter. It is why the Bible demands that we bring forth fruit–so that it’s obvious to all comers and goers that our past actions were filled with error.

So let me say it loud and clear–I was not too swift. I failed to give a young girl a chance to be herself, discover her talent, and establish the beauty of her gift in our presence. Here are three things I need to keep in mind, and maybe you’d like to add them to your collection of procedures also:

1. Don’t be conventional. Remember, life is not a convention of fellow believers, but rather, more like a cafe, where you arrive famished and discover that the waiter doesn’t speak English.

2. Being wrong is smart if it’s your idea. Don’t wait around for the final exam, when the teacher and other students will discover how ignorant you are when your grade is posted on the bulletin board.

3. People get better. Give them space and give them time–and of course, both of these thing minus your interference and gossip.

So my apologies to Taylor Swift for judging her when she was still on the vine. My apologies to my family and friends for being a premature grumper. And my apologies to myself for being prejudiced and missing the opportunity of being on the cutting edge of a great idea instead of casting the first stone.

There are times that I’m just not too “Swift.” This one was “Taylor” made … for me.

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If I was going to make a cherry pie … June 7, 2012

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I’m not, by the way … going to make a cherry pie.

I don’t like to bake. It’s not some chauvinistic sensation that the kitchen belongs to the woman, for pot and pan rattling. I like to cook. I just never got into baking confections and such. Lots of people like to do that kind of thing. I have a granddaughter who thinks that baking a cake is the easiest way to get close to God (or at least to get people to worship you like you are one…)

I am more a baker of good intentions, similar to the individual who came up with the phrase, “If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake. But since you didn’t give me much notice, you’re stuck sharing a Little Debbie…”

Oh, how handsome this one turned out. Tasty, too.

Oh, how handsome this one turned out. Tasty, too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But due to the magic of story-telling, and just my particular whim for the day, let us imagine that I WAS going to bake a cherry pie. Now, let me tell you, I picked cherry pie because it is NOT one of my favorites, but if you run across a particularly good one, it is well worth the exertion of picking up a fork. So what makes a good cherry pie? There are four elements.

1. The crust. Putting together a good crust for a pie is underestimated in my opinion. I once purchased a frozen pie crust from my grocer and tried to use it to construct some sort of dessert possibility. The crust was so tough after it was baked that even my dog wouldn’t eat it. (And let me tell you, he has astounded me with some of his choices…) Yes, a crust is more than an outer garment for a good cherry pie. It is more or less the tantalizing part that draws us into the concoction in the first place. It should be flakey, tender and really, almost be able to stand alone as a pastry unto itself. Lots of people spend a lot of time on a good crust.

2. The next thing is determining the sweetness. Cherry pie should be sweet, but not too sweet, very similar to the personality of the cherry itself. It is almost the definition of sweet and sour. It shouldn’t make you pucker but you also shouldn’t require a shot of insulin after indulging. Picking the right amount of sweetness for your cherry pie is probably better suited for the angels. How much sweetness IS good to put into such a project before the grains of sugar grit in your teeth or each bite from your particular piece reminds you more of lemons than cherries?

3. The filling. Now, you might think that the filling is the same thing as the sweetness, but not so. The filling has to have a particular thickness, depth and texture to it–and be present enough in the mixture to hold the lid of the pie up so it doesn’t sink down–with top crust nearly lying on bottom crust. How you fill your pie determines whether one slice actually looks like a serving, or if it just lies there on the plate, flat and lacking promise.

4. And finally, the cherries. You might think they are the most important ingredient in the cherry pie, but I don’t believe so. Certainly it would be wonderful to have top-notch A-1 cherries in your pie, but if the sweetness, crust and filling have been given enough tender loving care, you can put in a few second- and even third-string cherries for the line-up. As long as they attempt to hold their shape, maintain their color and could pass for a cherry during a blind taste test, they should be just fine.

Yes, most people are more concerned about the fruit in their pie than the outer crust that introduces itself to the public. But it’s rather doubtful that you will ever get people inside to inspect the fruit if the outer casing is unappealing or drives them away with its nasty taste.

So if I was going to make a cherry pie, I would put my main emphasis on the crust, which we might refer to as “the greeter.” Then following that would be the sweetness, which we could call “the host.” And then, I would carefully concoct a filling that was suitable for my endeavors, which we might name “the guest speaker.” And finally, I would select good cherries, but not be too bigoted in my perspective, creating the all-important “janitorial staff,” which is there for the clean up.

Now, of course, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy to this whole essay–because I don’t know what I’m talking about and there will never be a practical application produced by my hands. Still, sometimes it is fun to project forth images of what you think you might be able to accomplish–and then to intelligently NOT proceed to demonstrate your ineptness.

But in conclusion, this has been what I think about what makes a good cherry pie. Otherwise, you ought to just go down to the grocery store and pick up one of those Hostess ones in the wrapper, which have been tested and proven to be able to survive a nuclear winter.

Cherry pie:

  • good crust
  • stay sweet
  • lots of filling.
  • and a family of different-sized and quality cherries.

There you go. (For what it’s worth.)

Maybe this is why the myth was begun that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree. Maybe it was his way of getting back at his mother, who was a really, really terrible baker.

   

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