Clarity – the communicators trump card

One of my favorite card games to play is Euchre.  Okay, moment of honesty: I’m not very good at it, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I love playing it.  One of my favorite parts of the game is when it is my turn to call out what is going to be trump for that hand.  In that moment I get to decide which cards have the most power.  One time, while I was playing, I was dealt all spades, and both black Jacks.  I was about to POWN everyone.  I said that I was going alone… why??? because I had trump in EVERYTHING!  Trump cards are good to have because they are superior to every other card.  

When thinking about communicating to people, whether it be from a stage in church, to a small group, to a business client, to a football team, every communicator needs to understand this principle: Clarity is Trump.

Clarity trumps catchy.

Clarity trumps creativity.

Clarity trumps cliche.

If you are not clear in what you are communicating, it doesn’t matter how creative or catchy you are… people WILL NOT UNDERSTAND.  I’m reminded of a scene in the movie “Wedding Crashers”.  They are playing a game of 2-on-2 “touch” football and Jeremy is Qb-ing.  He looks over to John and yells “Hot Route, Hot Route… red 7, red 7.”  John gives him this weird look, as if to say, “What in the world are you yelling?”  Again, “red 7…Hot Route.”  John looks at him and says, “I don’t know what red 7 means.”  Jeremy gives him a hopeless glance and says, “Just go stand over there.”

Clarity is trump.  

The Apostle Paul said it like this:

“I’d rather say five words that everyone can understand and learn from than say ten thousand that sound to others like gibberish.”

So the next time you are given the opportunity to communicate to someone… before you speak, ask yourself: “Is this going to be clear to those I’m speaking to?”

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For You or With You?

When I was a senior in Bible college, a deep passion started brewing in my life to be used by God and serve Jesus in the local church.  I couldn’t wait to get out of college and get out there into the “real world” to begin to “do ministry.”  College became a back burner, means-to-an-end thing for me.  I’ll tell you, it’s been 8 years since that time and that desire, that passion has not changed.  The one thing I really wish though, is that someone would have taken me aside back then and shared with me the reality.  I wish they would have told me that there is this propensity in ministry toward getting so busy serving Jesus that you just might forget to connect with Him.  That you might get so busy doing things FOR Jesus that you forget to be WITH Jesus.  That we can get so focused SERVING Christ that we neglect SITTING with Him.  That our WORK for Christ can become a distraction from our RELATIONSHIP with Christ.  

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  – Luke 10:38-42

Now, before you bash Martha, before you totally write her off, consider this:  the creator of the universe is coming to your house.  I’m sure that you would get out the vacuum, straighten up the kids’ toys, wash all the dishes that have been piling up, dust the furniture, fluff the pillows, and make the most delicious 3 course meal that you can imagine.  You don’t serve God leftovers in tupperware.  Therein lies the tension of this story.  It’s not that serving Jesus was wrong… but when it gets to be the focus; when it distracts you from being with Christ, it’s the wrong thing.  The problem wasn’t that Martha was serving Jesus.  The problem was that her serving was getting in the way of her relationship with Jesus.  The text actually calls it a “DISTRACTION.”  I can’t even tell you how many times ministry has been a “distraction” in my relationship with Jesus.  Some people even get SERVING Christ mixed up AS their RELATIONSHIP with Him. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…'”

So here is the bigger question…  Are you more about what you can do FOR Jesus than being WITH Jesus?

Criticism is a stamp of approval

I’ve heard this one said in many different ways over the years… but this one came to me after reading some comments from people about my church (other church people said it… mind you)  They were criticizing our church on #1) something that is a non issue {look and feel of our building… not “churchy” enough} & #2) something that they knew nothing about.  By the way, don’t you just love how everyone is an expert on things they know nothing about?  

This is something I’ve learned over the years of leading: When you lead well, you will always have those who will criticize you.  Just get used to it, it’s a part of leadership.  John Maxwell said it like this once: “When you’re out in front, expect to get some kicks in the behind.”  

A little criticism never hurt anyone.  Jesus was criticized all the time.  In fact, as a leader, if no one is criticizing you, you just might not be leading like you should.  

NOTE THIS THOUGH:  if EVERYONE is criticizing you… you might have a problem.

2 things to consider:

#1) who is doing the criticizing?

#2) what can I learn from this criticism?

Don’t alter your course because of a few criticisms… use them as a stamp of approval on your leadership!

keep the impossible in front of you

There is a certain thing that happens in the life of every follower of Christ at some point: They start to rely more on what they know and what they see than what they do not know and cannot see.  Sure, we claim to have faith, but if we are honest our faith is merely  intellectual and knowledge based.  Very rarely does our faith dabble in the unknown.  If it is foreign to us, we begin to perceive it as impossible and therefore bad, and we try to put it behind us as quickly as possible.  We have reduced our faith to a category of life rather than a daily lifestyle.  But this is not the way of God.  This is not the way the first followers of Christ responded.  I wonder if our western/American need for security and prosperity have crippled us from the awe and wonder and majesty that the early followers of Christ were filled with?  I wonder if by reducing the impossible in our life, we have negated the need for true faith?  Maybe what we need is a healthy dose of impossibility right in front of us at all times to remind us of how much true faith matters; how near God truly is.  Keep the impossible in front of you!

nothing is impossible with God”  – Luke 1:37

Pace affects Productivity

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A few years ago I started to feel as if I was the busiest I had ever been in my life, but also the least productive.  I literally felt like I was the proverbial headless running chicken.  All my gears were spinning and yet I seemed to be going nowhere.  I had many bouts with myself over whether or not I was called into ministry.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been there or not.  It was at that moment in my life when I literally THREW DOWN everything I was doing in my office, went to my white board, and started listing off everything I was doing.  I kid you not, my white board filled up faster than a skinny kid at a buffet.  I stepped back and couldn’t believe the pace that I was running at.  And that was just in ministry!  I also had a wife and one son at that time.  I concluded that if I kept this up… I was on a road to certain disaster.  On the way home, I saw something that made me think even more about this.  It was in the winter and there was about an inch of snow on the ground.  I had a 4 wheel drive vehicle, so I was golden, but this one lady was not so fortunate: she was driving a rear wheel drive vehicle.  She seemed to be stuck in the snow.  (actually she wasn’t that stuck… as we will find out.)  she gunned the gas in her car, and her wheels spun violently, but she went NOWHERE!  so she floored the gas again… nowhere.  In fact, the more gas she gave it, the worse it got.  The faster the pace of tires, the more she went nowhere.  She finally got out of that mess, but it took a change in strategy.  She let up on the gas pedal, got some forward movement, and then slowly gave it gas.  VOILA!!!  unstuck and moving.  It was at that moment that I said to myself: “PACE AFFECTS PRODUCTIVITY!”  My pace has a direct affect on how productive I am.  Frantic pace often leads to focal paralysis.  or, to put it more plainly, the faster you go, the easier it is to lose control.  In order to regain focus, you need to slow down, eliminate unnecessary distractions that cause you to speed up, and focus on forward movement.  Pace affects productivity!

Excuses or Opportunities?

I wonder how many times in my past that God has placed something in my life… a risk, challenge, adventure… only for me to make excuses as to why I can’t do it?  I’m sure that the excuse made sense in my mind at the time, but it was an excuse none the less.  But what was driving that excuse?  I’m becoming more and more convinced that excuses we make to God really spring from an attitude of “God I know what you need, and I’m not quite there, soooo I feel like I can tell you no.”  It maybe one of the most arrogant thoughts ever.  It’s as if we subconsciously think that God somehow NEEDS us.  The older I get, the more I realize though: God doesn’t need me, but He wants me.  And if God wants me, then who am I to tell Him no?  And if God wants me, wouldn’t He equip me with all that I will need? (YES… yes is the answer) Every excuse I have is really an opportunity for God to show off who He is.

wild boys and camping

part of the masculine journey is learning to connect with the outdoors.  Although I did not grow up in the country, I definitely loved anytime I spent with my dad fishing, camping, etc…  I want my boys to feel the same way about it.  Nicholas (almost 3) has started pre-school with my wife (who taught 2 & 3 grade… so she is awesome) and this week’s theme was “camping.”  so it fit in perfectly to do a Friday night campout.  So we borrowed the tent, set up camp, and had an awesome night of camping right in our backyard.  everything was going awesome, until 11:30pm when Nic got cold… and then camping was over.  It was a great time.  Here are some shots from the night:

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