Photo Friday: Service and Sacrifice

In memory of those who gave the greatest sacrifice for all of us and those who serve on our behalf all over the world. Happy Memorial Day!

Leading by Serving

Deer Point

This picture was taken on the rear patio of the old Officer’s Club at Deer Point (Now called the Bayview Restaurant) at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  As I looked over the bay at the sunset and snapped this photo, I realized that thousands of servicemen and women have stood at this same exact spot looking over the bay and thinking about there loved ones who were far, far away.  There are few places that you could be that are more isolating than Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

My visit to the base was a real eye opener for me.  I was overcome with the realities of what it must be like to be a military family.  These great Americans sacrifice a portion of themselves and share their families interests, to serve our country.  I think we tend to focus on the danger of loosing their lives and miss that fact that…

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Photo Friday: Color

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Have you ever noticed when your driving really fast down the road how everything seems to turn to gray? The colors seem to wash together and the view changes to black and white film. And the faster we go- the more we see the gray.

I’m a noticer. I see things most folks miss. You’ve probably seen some of my posts with really great pictures. Yet, I just realized this week that you REALLY can’t see when the brick is on the pedal! You have to slow down to see things. You need to tune out the noise and distractions to really allow yourself to RELAX and SEE and ABSORB what is really going on around you.

This is a picture of Kathy in Utah. Kathy gets it. She helps me to slow down. I struggle with this sometimes. I like to go fast. I’m a doer.  I like to multi-task. I like keep moving. Kathy helps me slow down. She helps me to put on the brakes. She reorients me.  She help me to keep things in perspective.

Work is work. Life is life. God is God (reverse order?). Sometimes I can’t see things as well as I think I can. I go too fast. I miss the color.

How about you? Do you run hard? Are things a bit gray for you? Maybe it’s time to slow down so you can really SEE things as they are. Maybe your getting fooled. Maybe your driving too fast. Maybe YOU are missing the color!

Do you have someone who helps you put on the brakes?  Someone who helps you to refocus and see things as they really are?  Press “leave a comment” and tell me your story!

Six Ways The Church is Missing the Boat

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I hate when I miss an opportunity to do something great. Something that will result in real change. Many times these opportunities will just present themselves and then be gone in an instant. I feel like the Christian church is at a time when She can be a real force for good. The Church has a huge amount of resources and some of the greatest people that the world has ever known. Yet the impact is watered down. I think we are missing the boat. There are many reasons but here are a few:

Division Between Denominations: The continued lack of a cohesive force between all denominations has neutered the impact of the Church worldwide. Do you really think that when you reach heaven that the Father will tell you “well done faithful servant” because your theology/doctrine/way of doing church was correct? We spend way too much time and effort trying to be “right” and miss the boat on what the focus should be. Serving others. Feeding the poor. Helping others. Sharing your faith. Mentoring the next generation. Being a united force for good. Right? Do churches cross over? Rarely. It’s like the Tower of Babel. Churches want to talk- but have a very difficult time listening.

Super Christians: Every church has them. The super spiritual. The ones that have memorized the Bible or can sling the bible darts on command. They do two hours of quiet time each day. Searching out the next great awakening or the latest prophet. This dedication sounds good, but the result is that these distinctions lead to cliques and division in the local church. Are they really better?  The rest of the congregation just doesn’t “get it”. They are lesser Christians. They are just not dedicated enough. They can’t be a leader or have real influence. They are not as close to the Father as the rest of the extra spiritual group. Doesn’t this sound like a Pharisee? Does to me.

Inwardly Focused Churches: Many churches are great at the Sunday morning experience. They have great worship teams, children’s ministry, coffee bar, etc. I get it. The Sunday morning thing takes a lot of resources and the average Christian family expects a pretty high level of service. But aren’t we called to reach others? Aren’t we called to get out of the church? Why do we spend so much of our resources on the Sunday morning experience? We are missing a great opportunity for good instead we are spending huge resources on facilities, staff, utilities, etc. just to do Sunday morning.

Inwardly Focused Christians: Many Christians are very dedicated to intimacy with the Father but they do not get out and serve. If Jesus on earth is the perfect model, Jesus did spend time in prayer and time with the Father, but he spent much more time ministering to the poor and needy. Experiencing God is part of the journey, but the highs can be like a drug. You want more and more and this want is completely focussed on yourself and not on others. We are called to disciple and serve others. You are here, not heaven. You need to get out and serve!

Fractured Community: The most powerful force in joining people together is serving together. When you minister together to help others, you form a strong and powerful bond. The act of serving provides a great opportunity to share your experiences, gifts and passions. This is a very natural way of sharing your story with others. Serving as a church can bring bonding across age groups, genders, cultures and economic differences. Without a way of providing a cohesive bond that crosses these barriers, the church will look like a bunch of distinct groups. New folks will struggle meeting others. The young will not learn from the old. Discipleship will not occur. A sick church.

The 80/20 Rule: Last but not least, the Church is not mobilizing the congregation. The old adage says 20% of the people do 80% of the work in the church. Can you imagine the power of 100% participation? It’s time to mobilize everyone is the church. This means finding the passions and gifts of every member and getting them marching forward in the work of the Kingdom. Everyone is equipped for a special purpose to advance the Kingdom. This might not be your vision.  We need to encourage others to walk into that purpose. Instead we are trying to coax them into whatever the vision is of the church as outlined by the leadership. What about their special calling? Aren’t they uniquely designed for a special purpose from the Father? If you don’t recognize this then where are they? Following your vision????

We have a long way to go. We have been entrusted with the most powerful force on the planet. When will we step into the role we were made for? When can we stop the power games? If we truly believe that He will take care of us, then the rest is our pride our insecurity? Right?  Can we own up to that? What will you do? You tell me! Please! Please!  Please! I want to know what you think!

Photo Friday: Overwelmed

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Here is a picture of a gentleman who is convinced that one trip is much better than four! Do you feel a little like this guy? Carrying the weight of the world on your back?

Trying to be supermom, superdad, superfriend, superemployee…

The fact is: This never really works! There are consequences. You will suffer from problems like health issues. You will sacrifice other things like time with your loved ones. And many other things that are very important.

So why do we do it? Why do we take on so much stuff ourselves? Why can’t we give it up?

Generally its plain and simple pride and control. We can’t let someone else take care of things. Can’t give it up. Your convinced that you are the only one that can do it right. Can’t take our hands off the wheel and let go. You feel like disaster will happen if you don’t steer things in the right direction.

The fact is: It’s your problem.  Don’t blame it on everyone else. You are the only one that can fix this.

Say no sometime.  Off-load some stuff.  Learn to delegate.  Let others take over.  Let things run by themselves. It will be ok. The world will keep spinning. Your life will be better. You’ll see!

Photo Friday: Invisible

UntouchablesThis is a picture of Gerardo and Margarite, a couple that we met while ministering in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica.  Gerardo’s father abandoned him on the streets when he was nine tears old and he has lived on the streets of San Jose his entire life.  This picture was taken at their “home” in front of a store with a large overhanging roof that keeps them dry at night.  There were about twenty others sleeping in this same location.  Around the city of San Jose there are hundreds of others sleeping on the streets at night.  I wouldn’t necessarily say “homeless” as the streets are their home.  But the streets are not like your home.  They are a very tough place.  They fight every single day to survive.

Homeless people are found throughout the world.  Rich countries and poor countries.  The last attempt at an estimate was 100 million people worldwide.  Getting accurate numbers is impossible.  We passed over a bridge in San Jose and the pastor told us that more than 100 people lived under that bridge!  These are the invisible people.  They live in the shadows.  And most just look away.

When we returned to the street of San Jose we looked for Gerardo and Margarite.  They were not invisible to us.  They were our friends.  They were enjoyable to talk to.  They appreciated that we stopped to talk to them and hear their story.  The food we provided was really secondary.  They wanted companionship and company at their home.

We understand the truth- we are all one bad decision from being where they are.  Abandoned and forgotten.  Living day to day.  Afraid and lonely.

Look around, you will see them.  Stop and talk to them.  Hear their stories.  They are there.  They are not invisible.

Teach, Love, and Peace Will Follow!

This is a guest post from my friend Cristie Powers.  She has been serving the homeless, needy, and many others in her neighborhood and her circle of friends for as long as I have known her.  Cristie gets it.  She knows how important it is to serve others.  She is selfless.  She is a beautiful person.  I wish you all could spend some time with her.  I know you would agree!   

This blog is in reference to our current word of the year…. “Community”.

A word that seems to be tossed around and thrown from one ball field to the next. Which isn’t a bad thing of course because it’s a sign that people actually care about each other and about the relationships we share. However, we’ve come to a point we’re not sure if we are playing baseball or soccer. Seriously. We talk a lot of game but who is really winning here?

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The first important thing to understand is that today’s communities have become what we call cliques. Ok, now that is awesome for those who are in the cliques, but what about the rest of the world?

The word “community” derives from the Latin word “communitas” or “communis” which means all things in common.

Rather than looking at this as a small, communal, geographical area, I believe that if we are truly community driven individuals, then we need to learn how to be teachers instead of leaders. The world needs more teachers and less leaders. Instead of forming a community “clique” and stopping there, we should be encouraging everyone in those community “cliques” to spread the love and start new “community gatherings” all over the place. That is what we seek, right? We want to see a change in our world, not just our neighborhoods.

This means that instead of simply leading a community group in our own area, we should be encouraging everyone within that group to lead some other type of community group throughout the week in their own area of the world. This way the love and communal relationships are able to be spread and built stronger than ever before.

It’s extremely important to everyone around us that we lead by example. We must not get caught up in the glory of all the credit that we receive for being a community leader, but rather rejoice in knowing that we have made a greater difference around us by spreading more relationships than we can count. Even if no one else close to us knows what we have done.

Community is a great word but we need to change our way of thinking and realize that it is not defined by a small demographic area, like we once thought. If we define it this way, then our goal is not truly to change the world, but only the areas in which we live.

Now naturally things must start small, however our goal as community lovers should never stop at small. Again, this is not our ticket to fame and it doesn’t mean that we need to be this well-liked leader who people look up to (although that is important too). The first problem with this is that when there is only one man or woman carrying the weight of leadership without distributing the load the leader will become completely exhausted, which does not help anyone. The second issue is that dedicating all of this effort will begin to take time away from your own unit, which inevitably is quite contrary to the whole “community idea” that you’re trying to accomplish. It becomes vital then, to remember to teach instead of solely lead.

What would happen if every Saturday when we led that community event that we hold so dear, we reminded the whole group of the reason behind the gathering, the joy that it brings, and that each person has it in them to start something of their own wherever they go? At that point community may begin to spread its wings and begin to cover the whole world verses only hovering over our itty bitty neighborhoods. Which is what they are in the grand scheme of life.

If we can better understand the word, then I believe that we can better understand the world. It’s this “world” that is our real community and it’s the world that needs this change.

In my world there is a little homeless Asian lady who walks the neighborhood (who should never be hungry again, or be without adequate clothing, shoes or blankets because everyone in our area knows that she’s there), there’s the black man who walks up and down McDuff St. speaking gibberish, so everyone thinks that he’s lost his marbles (and who knows, maybe he has), there’s the white man who lives in a tent in Lackawanna (who turns to drugs every chance he gets because relationships have failed him), there’s the old man who rides his bike all over the city yelling as if he is pissed off at the world because he suffers from PTSD, then there’s the young man standing outside of CVS in Boulder Colorado for hours in the snowy weather probably just needing a real friend (not just a temporary conversation but a life long connection), there are the men and women sleeping in the streets of Asheville, NC in front of almost every shop downtown (every time you go for a visit to the mountains they are there), then there is the neighbor “Bobby” that walks up and hands me these flowers as I sit on the side of the road writing this blog.

What does this mean? How is this our problem? Can we fix people? Is it our fault why they are the way they are? The answer is no, probably not. But the point is we have the power in us to bring change. We have been given the authority as humans to help and to heal.

Once you make change, move on and make change somewhere new. We cannot allow ourselves to get stagnant.

Personal example: Feeding homeless in Jacksonville verses where ever we are during that time of year.

I have been serving Jacksonville’s homeless community on Christmas morning for over 12 years. Until last year that is. For some reason I no longer felt that burning passion inside to get downtown and to serve. I later realized that it was because the need had been met. I served because I knew there was a need and once I saw that other groups were beginning to serve, I realized that I was no longer needed in that area. And that is ok.

Now it’s time for me to move on to a new place where there is another need to be met. Whether I move to a different park down the road or to a different city makes no difference. The move is what’s necessary. People learned how to do what I did by watching and by wanting to make a difference. Many different people came with me throughout the years and it stirred up passion. I taught by example, but we can also teach by reminding people of what community really is (ideally these two are the same thing).

Don’t stop where you are. Keep going, keep giving, wherever you are, and see community as something that can be created by everyone and not limited to a few outgoing leaders. Keep serving and teaching others and the rest will happen…naturally!

Cristie Powers

So what do you think?  Have we have lost our desire to teach things that are important and needed?  Is our sense of community dying?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Make Them Great!

I was having dinner with a site supervisor a while back and he shared his frustration with motivating one of his team members on site. He was convinced that this person was just lazy and could not visualize what was needed on the construction site. He voiced his frustration with this persons inability to think about the next step. This supervisor ia a self-motivated and driven individual. He works very hard and has always been that way. He would work weekends and well past regular work hours.

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I shared an experience that I had with a person that I managed years ago. This person actually shared with me that I need to hold him more accountable. He added that I need to actually call him out sometimes. He shared that I need to ride him a bit in order to get the best out of him. I was really shocked by this. My report was actually asking me to be harder on him!

This was so foreign to me. See, I am more like the site supervisor. I work really hard and I am self motivated. I don’t need anyone else to turn up the heat. I keep the heat on high always. When someone leans on me, I find it offensive not motivating.

So what’s the moral of the story here? Everyone is different. What works on you won’t always work on others.

You can’t manage others the same why you like to be managed!

You may struggle being hard or you may struggle leaving someone alone. But you MUST learn to pattern your management style to the individual. This WILL be uncomfortable. This WILL be tough to do. But trust me- you have no choice if you want to get the very best out of your people. This is not for you- it’s for them. They need your help to grow and prosper.

This is your real job and your true calling. Life is not just about you. Take the time and learn what motivates them. Step up and make them great!

So what do you think?  Have you been mismanaged in the past?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me your story!

Trust is the Glue

The power base of any cohesive and unified team is trust.  If you believe in your people and you have confidence in their abilities and decision making, it has a way of multiplying the impact of the team.  You are, in effect, advancing your leadership to all of your team members.

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Leaders often have a tough time passing this responsibility on to others.  They are often used to making the decisions and developing the strategy for the group.  Leaders have confidence in their abilities to provide direction with effectiveness- that is how they became a leader.  The problem is that one person cannot think for the entire organization.

Once you let go of the reins and allow others to think and make decisions, you are tapping into more brain power.  Much more brain power.  The front line team members often know the situation better than the leaders.  They are involved in the struggle every day.  They see things first hand.  They know the intricate details that are involved in the process.

Most employees have no problem following direction.  They will proceed as directed.  If the plan is flawed from the start, they will generally avoid blame for the outcome.  The tension develops when you allow your team to think for themselves.  When they are allowed to put together their own plan and strategy, they are now open for scrutiny.  They feel vulnerable to judgement.

How do you remove this apprehension to leading?  Trust is the key.

Once the employee knows that his manager and the company are squarely behind them, they will feel the freedom to step into a leadership role and make decisions.  Without trust, there is a breakdown in authority.  And trust must go in both directions to bind the team together.

Trust is the glue that holds together a successful organization.

Mistakes will be made.  There is no way to completely avoid them.  You must always be ready to help clean up a mess resulting from a poor decision made by someone other than yourself.  This is natural- but not fun.  You can’t avoid it.  This is part of the learning process.

To unleash the power of your entire team- you must trust them and they must trust you.

There is no other way.

So what do you think?  Have you experienced a lack of trust that kept you from acting?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

The Real Reason We Haven’t Cured Cancer

I am sure that you have been touched by the tragic effects of cancer.  My mother passed away at the age of 49 from lung cancer.  This was certainly one of the low times of my life.  I couldn’t understand how it could happen.  She wasn’t able to see her grandchildren grow up or be part of their lives.  Her life was cut off early.  I miss her every single day.

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I have a theory on why we haven’t cured cancer and other similarly tragic diseases.  And this is not your typical theory- healthy, scientific, you need to eat more of this or that, exercise more, take the right vitamins, etc.  This goes to the heart of the problem.  The real reason we haven’t been able to attack this disease properly.  So what’s the reason-

We are too cheap.

We expect someone else to handle the money that it takes to find a cure.  We want the government, rich people, philanthropists, charitable organizations, pharmaceutical companies, etc. to pay for finding a cure.

We want someone else to solve the problem.

We want to keep ALL of our money.

The real tragedy is that we have forgotten how to give.

You can always find an excuse why someone else, other than yourself, needs to provide the money.  I need to save for retirement.  I need to fund my kid’s college.  I need a new car.  I have credit card bills.  All of these are great reasons, but we cannot solve the world’s BIG problems without BIG numbers.  And it takes all of us to make it happen.

Kathy and I have been involved in many fundraisers through the years.  Kathy also leads a non-profit ministry (www.here2there.org ) that travels on mission trips to minister to others in need all over the world.  I am always amazed at how folks can get agitated when you simply ask them to give.  So they are agitated at us for trying the raise money to help out someone in need or a special cause?  That just doesn’t make any sense- right?  I am past it.  I will continue to ask and let it be their struggle- not mine.  The statistics we experience for giving are generally pretty low.  I bet less than one out of fifty give on the average.

There are plenty of ways you can rationalize not giving.  You heard the execs at the organization make big money.  You heard that the percentages that goes to research is lower than average.  You heard that someone was caught taking money at the organization.  On and on it goes…

The fact is- you can’t control those things.  And for the most part, these organizations do a pretty good job with the donations.  There is only one thing you can control- and that is to give.  If we all decided to cure cancer once and for all- we could do it.  If everyone who has a story like mine gave $1,000, we would amass such a huge amount of research money that a cure would be inevitable.  The problem is we are too cheap.  Most folks generally ignore requests to give.  They give a big fat zero!  They will leave it up to everyone else to do the giving.  And the giving is just not happening the way it should.

One way that I learned how to give was through tithing at church.  When you actually write a large check each week and find out that you will still make it financially, you are truly exercising your giving muscle.  The Lord tells us to test Him on this.  I have done it and He has always provided!

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a day that is targeted for giving to non-profits and organizations that are trying to make a difference in the world.  Instead of buying a gift for someone who doesn’t really need anything, how about giving to an organization that really needs your money?  Yes- it may go towards someone’s salary and feeding their family but that’s not all bad- right?  If you are stuck on the efficiency of the organization, there are watchdog websites out there like www.charitynavigator.org  that provide ratings for non-profits that can assist you in making a giving decision.  It’s a good idea to do your homework, but don’t get too hung up on the percentages or ratings.

Give to a charity where your heart is or an organization where you have a personal connection.  Give to someone you know.  Give to an area where you want to make a difference.  Give until it hurts!  We will not solve the problems in the world until we realize that we are all individually responsible.  It’s not someone else’s responsibility- it’s yours too!  Start exercising your giving muscle.  You will find out that you can do it.  And you, yes you, will actually help to make the world a better place.

So what do you think?  Have we become too cheap to give?  Do we look to others to take care of the problems or needs?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

My Thankgiving List

Oh Thanksgiving!   A time to be thankful for all of the blessings of life.  Family, friends, stuff.   Thanksgiving has always been a favorite of mine.  We have so much to be thankful for, but here is different kind of list of personal things that have made me happy this year!

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Coffee:  Had to start with coffee.  Not sure what life would look like without it.  Oh you warm me up and you clear the cobwebs in the morning.  Thank you coffee for being there for me!  I hate to admit it…but I need you so much.  Everyday.  Really.

Brakes:   Thank you brake pedal for being there for me this year.  Traffic has been just awful but you are always there when I need you.  Without you I am sure that my nose would be in a different spot on my face.  Thank you and sorry for the stomping!

Glovebox Napkins:  Well…coffee and brakes.  You get it right?  You have saved me many times when traffic stops and I decide to add to my wardrobe.  Thanks for being there for me!

Staple Puller:  Such a great little tool that I am constantly looking for.  My pursuit of you just tells you how much I love you!  Pull staple, scan, restaple.  Over and over and over again.  You are simply amazing!

GPS:  How in the world did we function without it?  That kind and reassuring voice- “in 500 feet turn left”.  I love, love, love GPS.  Not that I ever got lost before…yet, you are always there in a new town when I am traveling. Always dependable.  Thank you for taking care of me Ms. Garmin!

Lopping Shears:  When the yard goes all jungle I grab you and we get it on!  In a short time I have the place under control and a giant pile of yard waste at the curb.  Let’s face it…You are just great at what you do!

The Scrunge:  There is something that always draws me to you.  Non-stick pan…Right!  Crap stuck to the pan and out with the scrunge.  Scrubby, scrub, scrub and no scratch?  It’s just magic.  I love you scrunge!

My Visa Card:  I generally have about zero cash in my pocket so…I love you Visa!  Not the bill but the little plastic card that gets me what I need.  Swipe and go!  You are so good to me!

Sunglasses:  I love you prescription sunglasses!  You are a prized possession.  You make the world not fuzzy.  You are the absolute best!

A Full Roll:  No description needed here.  Nothing worse than grabbing for it and finding nothing but cardboard.  Glad to live in a country where we have full rolls.  God bless America!

Mark:  Who is Mark- right?  Well, Mark cuts my grass.  I never thought I would have someone cut my lawn but it is really cool coming home on Friday night and it’s done.  Cut, edged, done.  Mark, you are awesome!

Pink Pearl:  What is a Pink Pearl?  It’s not what you think.  It’s an eraser.  You are amazing and you are at least 15 years old.  When I need to make something go away- BOOM.  You do it everytime.  Bye-bye pencil.

The Delete Key:  Thank you so much for being there for me.  If I sent the e-mails that I write when I am angry I would either be in court or in the hospital!  Thank you for erasing forever the garbage that somehow ends up on my computer screen.  I love you delete key!

My Phone:  Queue the Kathy eye roll!  Yes, I love my phone.  She is always there for me.  Any spare moment I can check e-mail, weather, stock prices, articles, blog traffic, etc.  She is my constant companion.  Yes, my phone is a she.  If you have seen my phone case you’ll get it!

Sunshine:  Yes, it is always sunny in Florida and it always has a way of putting a smile on your face.  I love you sunshine!  Heat and humidity- not so much.

My Truck:  Ten years and 220,000 miles later and we are still rolling together.  You are dependable.  You never let me down.  You are part of the family.  I shutter thinking about the day you will be gone.  I love you Tundra!

I could go on but these are a few of the things in my life that make me happy.  Sometimes it’s the little things that put a smile on my face.  But I know it’s the big things that really matter.  If you took all these “treasures” away I would be fine.  I might grieve a bit but that would pass.  This holiday, remember the things that really matter.  Family, friends and people who make a difference in your life.  This is what really matters.  These are the real treasures in your life.

So what do you think?  Do you have some items to add to my list?  Are there little things in life that make you happy?  Click “Like” if you agree or click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!