Category Archives: Clarity

See the vision; wade through the fog; lift off the blinders–get clarity.

What’s Better than Improvising?

improvise

Sometimes you get in a bind and you have to figure something out. You’ve been there—maybe you are there right now! There’s some problem or uncomfortable situation that must be addressed.

If you’re behaving cowardly, you hide and make excuses.
If  you’re procrastinating, you find a way to push it off for later.
If you’re easily distracted, you find something else—anything else—to deal with to make the real issue fade into the distance.

If you’re thoughtful, you make a plan.
If you’re resourceful, you find a book or person to help you.
If you’re creative, you improvise. You take what you have and make up a solution.

Usually improvising is a good thing. It leads to all sorts of inventions and is generally a good and useful way to approach problems. However, there is something better than improvising.

After all improvising tends to be short-sighted. You scratch together a fix that works for now but can create problems for later. You patch together a solution that really may not address the underlying causes which can make the underlying cause grow stronger whilst you pretend that the cool, new “fix” you concocted has laid that problem issue to rest.

What if there was a way to resolve in a more permanent way an issue? What if there was a way to truly address the symptoms and the cause? Before I give you my two cents of a solution. I want to point you to a story in Scripture that got me thinking in this vein.

Check out 1 Samuel 26 and 27. The main character is David. He is on the run from Saul, emotionally stretched thin (his first wife has been given to another man, he now has two wives in her place), surrounded by people that he loves who don’t understand his heart (they keep telling him to kill Saul; he keeps telling them that Saul is God’s anointed). In this perfect storm of emotions, David sighs in exhaustion and frustration the words of 1 Samuel 27:1: “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.”

The Philistines are sworn enemies of Israel. In fact, just a few chapters ago (1 Sam. 21:10-15), David had the bright idea to go to the Philistine king Achish with the sword of the fallen Philistine hero Goliath in tow. He was lucky to escape that bad decision with his life! Once the servants of Achish saw who it was, they said, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” Realizing the folly of his decision, David went into an improv as a deranged man who was ultimately thrown out of Achish’s presence.

So, this time around, David thinks things will be different. He is repugnant to the Israelite king, Saul. He is on the run with a band of 600 thugs. His fighting force is feared and formidable. On this backdrop Achish decides that it wouldn’t be so bad to have David as a servant rather than an enemy so he allows David and his men to stay in the capital city with him as an elite mercenary force that will help the Philistines get revenge against Israel. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. David’s loyalties to the God and people of Israel are as strong as ever. Each day away from the tangible reminders of God’s presence—the temple, the altar, the sacrifices, the Hebrew people—is a day filled with sorrow for David.

But Achish’s opportunism gets the better hand over his judgment and he gives David a town to live in, Ziklag. While in Ziklag, David and his men perform numerous raids on clans that were not an immediate threat to Israel. At the end of each raid, he lies to Achish about the adventures of the day and has to kill every man, woman and child in the preyed upon city to make sure the survivors don’t rat him out. It’s a bloody, fearful, secretive life for 16 months until one day everything comes to a head.

The Philistines see their chance to go up to war against Israel and Achish wants David and the boys to fight on their side. David, obliged to the Philistine king, agrees. Imagine the scene on the battlefield—Israel’s greatest champion shedding the blood of the men he once led and defended. What a travesty! Thankfully, God’s sovereignty stops this train wreck of a plan. The Philistine kings, distrustful of David, forbid him to go out to war with them even though David and his men have marched to the edge of the battlefield. David’s 600 return home to find that their city has been raided by the Amalekites.

Could this have been avoided? Maybe! Imagine if David, instead of throwing his hands up in desperation had sought the Lord on whether or not to go to Achish for shelter. I think that David improvised when he was in a tight spot and I can relate. How many times, in trouble or trial, have I made a snap decision rather than trusting God?

Here’s the whole point—what’s better than improvising? Getting direction from God! It may take longer than you’d like and the answer will probably be different than you’d choose, but ultimately, it is what’s best.

How to Get Organizational Clarity

While reading another person’s blog on the benefit of having a simple marketing and sales process, the following question was asked:

What are some helpful strategies to help get ridiculously clear and even expedite that part of the process?

His question got me thinking and before I knew it, I had penned this lengthy reply that seemed more like a blog post than a comment so I’ve copied it here:

1. Go back to WHY. WHY do we do “this” anyway? Is it something we still have to do? Is it something we still want to do? Why should we keep doing “this”? The WHY question is best answered by this WHO question—WHO am I? WHO are we? Look at motivations, aptitudes and past, present and future opportunities to get a better idea if you’re not sure. Our identity should inform our activities.

2. Look at the foundational purpose of the organization. What do you HAVE to be/do/have to exist?

Answer this question: “If we stripped everything away, what things could we absolutely NOT do and still be who we are?”

For example, could Starbucks NOT sell coffee and still be Starbucks? Could Kroger NOT sell groceries and still be Kroger? Could a Christian church NOT talk about Jesus and still be a Christian church?

I think the answers to these questions help us gain clarity about WHAT we have to do?

3. The other WHO question to answer is: Who are we as a team/organization/family supposed to serve/make life better for? The answer to this WHO question helps us achieve clarity as well.

Just do it and Ditch the List!

Great thoughts on productivity from Kristy Hairston.

KristyHairston.com

I just read an article that reminded me of something I wanted to do last week. Why haven’t I completed the task? It was on my “to-do list,” and I had not got around to it.

This made me frustrated with the term “to-do,” because the unanswered subconscious dilemma is “when?”

When will all the items on the “to-do” list finally be completed? Perhaps that’s why a list of items to do is not actually goal setting. There are no definitive dates or times that are set to ensure when the items will actually be done. And there lies the problem with the list.

It’s just a list, not an action plan. Maybe we should change the name of the “to-do” list to the “action plan” or “today’s list.”

These are just suggestions to cause a mental shift from what we need “to-do” to what “we’re doing.”

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Distilled Wisdom on Time & Money, Equipment & Know-How and the Reasons Why People Don’t Do Things

One of the best benefits of blogging is that it allows you to think through your own thoughts out loud! This is that kind of post for me. Please share your own distilled wisdoms in the comments.

Time or Money
My dad used to say, “Sometimes you have time and sometimes you have money.” There is a trade that seems to work on a grand see-saw. Few people are able to cheat it—having both as much time and money as they prefer.

Equipment or Know-How
I’ve learned that sometimes fantastic equipment can make up for a lack of know-how (e.g. a digital camera makes all of us have great lighting). Other times, you can have the equipment you need but not know how and be just a futile (e.g. we all have a computer but few of us know how to build a website).

“A lawyer’s stock and trade is counsel and advice.” This truism told to me by an attorney-mentor of mine seems odd, especially given that the laws and the cases are available to all of us. But as the principle suggests, sometimes, having the equipment (the cases and statutes) isn’t enough—you really are paying for the “know-how” of the attorney. Wisdom then is never about knowing the MOST, it is always about knowing what to do in a given situation or time.

Reasons Why People Don’t Do Things (and how to overcome them)

1. They don’t want to.
Fix: Find a want to. Add accountability.

2. They don’t know how to.
Fix: Find a teacher. You do. I watch. You do, I help. I do, you help. I do, you watch.

3. They don’t know that they are supposed to.
Fix: Find a training regimen that takes into account every facet of the job. Establish a method of accountability that is predictably on a schedule.

What Grandmaster Ip taught me about discipleship

It takes my wife to really talk about it, but I recently discovered a series of movies that I really enjoyed—Ip Man & Ip Man, 2. The movies star Donnie Yen as Ip Man, a kung fu grandmaster whose most famous pupil, Bruce Lee, went on to popularize the Wing Chun fighting style.

ip-man-donnie-yen

The movie depicts the historical narrative of Ip Man, who was born in the late 1800’s in Foshan, China and taught kung fu to a limited number of devoted pupils. In Ip Man 1, we learn that Ip is a devoted student of Wing Chun who spends hours each day practicing but seldom takes students—he is frustrated that they will not devote themselves to the art. Around town, it is commonly known that he is the best fighter in Foshan so when a band of bullies shows up to embarrass all of the local “sifus” (masters), Master Ip redeems the town’s honor. Later, the Foshan people are being bullied by Japanese solders until Master Ip revives their pride by defeating the occupying Japanese general which sparks civil revolution.

In Ip Man 2, Master Ip moves to the big city, Hong Kong to open a Wing Chun kung fu school. His presence as an instructor is opposed but his pupils are determined to learn Wing Chun and persist through ridicule, bullying and being kicked out of the place where they practice. Eventually, the Wing Chun discipline grows to become internationally acclaimed.

Interestingly, these two movies refreshed a couple of simple truths about discipleship for me. Discipleship is one of the principle tenets of the Christian faith—it is an idea that we must firmly grasp in concept and adhere to in practice if we are to be faithful Christians. However, “discipleship” as a term, a definition and as a practice is widely disagreed upon among Christians. Here are a few things Ip Man reminded me about as it relates to discipleship…

1. Everyone has a Master.
Master Ip chose Wing Chun kung fu as the thing to which he would devote all of himself. He ate, rested and exercised to excel at Wing Chun. He drew his identity and sense of self from his relationship to Wing Chun. Later, others would follow his example, pursuing mastery of this martial art form above all else.

We are all giving our lives to something. We are all deriving our identity from something or someone. We are all leaning in a direction. Sometimes it is a conscious effort as in Master Ip’s case. Other times, it is an unconscious reflex set off by our selfish hearts. James 4 says it this way: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

“Passions” are pulling and pushing you through this life. If you don’t think so, try sustaining a new behavior that is at odds with your current behavior and you’ll feel the tension before long between what you should do and what you actually do.

2. Discipleship starts with me.
Master Ip’s wife often resented Ip’s dedication to perfecting his artform. His devotion to the practice of Wing Chun drove him to push his body and his mind. To put it lightly, Master Ip, gave careful attention to the source of his affection, Wing Chun. His careful attention led to proficiency. His proficiency qualified him to share with others. But don’t miss this—before he was teaching hundreds of students, he had to put in thousands of hours of practice.

What are you disciplining yourself to master? To what or whom are you giving careful attention so that you can become proficient—so proficient that you can lead another down the path you’ve taken. Even if no one else is going, will you go? Will you follow the sometimes lonely path of discipleship?

3. Discipleship costs.
Master Ip’s students would pay money each week to be disciples of Master Ip. But the money alone didn’t make them disciples. Master Ip’s students spent hundreds of hours with Master Ip. But spending time alone didn’t make them disciples.

You see, over the course of a year, it’s so easy to go to church and spend hundreds of hours in God’s house and even give thousands of dollars while there but the price of discipleship is nothing less than everything. Everything. EVERYTHING.

“If you want to follow me, take up your cross,” Jesus’ ancient challenge hasn’t changed. If we are to follow Christ as true disciples, we must give everything.

4. Discipleship is the pathway to multiplication.

Ip-Man-with-Bruce-Lee-002

Ip Man with Bruce Lee

How did Wing Chun grow from one humble man in Foshan to millions of admiring students around the world? Through discipleship. One sifu taught Ip Man. That one man taught other men. Those men taught other men and so it continued down to a young kid named Lee Jun-fan, who grew to be the man the world loved as Bruce Lee.

In similar fashion, Jesus had the most daunting task ever—redeem the world! Yet, during his 33 years on earth and roughly 3-1/2 years to accomplish his mission, he devoted most of his time to walking with just 12 men with whom the fate of his work rested. Sounds crazy but it worked. That’s why you and I are having this discussion. It’s because, if you were to trace our “spiritual family tree” back, back, back—you’d find one of these guys: Simon Peter. Andrew his brother. James. John. Philip. Bartholomew. Matthew. Thomas. James of Alphaeus. Simon the zealot. Jude of James. Judas Iscariot

Notably, for most of us, I suspect that you’d also find the Apostle Paul in our spiritual family tree and interestingly, even he was taught by other Christians. Yes, he met Jesus on the road to Emmaus but their interaction was brief. The Holy Spirit, through the lives of people like Ananias taught Paul the way of the Lord. Who are you teaching? Who are you learning from?

Discipleship is not something we Christians should ever get away from—it is in fact the way to multiplying the influence of the Kingdom on earth.

Cemented there in The Great Commission is the Master’s command: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey all the things I have commanded you. (See Matt. 28:19-20).

You may never be a kung fu master—but you can be a disciple of Jesus Christ who makes disciples.

Communicate Less for More

Confused Solutions And StrategyRecently, I had the opportunity to share with leaders at the Gospel Heritage Praise & Worship Conference. As always, the conference was great! I shared in the Pastors and Leaders track. The session was titled, “Excellence in Presentation”.

As soon as I got the invitation, I knew what I would talk about…I knew that I would talk about how important it is that an organization’s organizational strategy and communications system not be thought of as two separate ideas, but complimentary parts of a healthy church or business.

In the process of preparing, I did lots of reading and research. Much of it was getting at the same core issue but each author had a nuanced way of saying it. In the end, I wanted to give them ALL of the great info that I had learned but, I’m learning that when it comes to communication, sometimes—most times—less is more.

Instead of deluging people with tools and tips, scripts and handouts, I decided to go with a focused presentation that hit on a few points.

Is your organization “over-communicating” to people? Are you telling them 10 things at a time instead of one thing at a time? It is an easy thing to do but, as we discussed in the class, one way to manage this issue is to create one place where people in your organization can go to find everything. It may be a website or an informational bulletin board or a help desk. Whatever it is, it should be a reflection of how your congregation gets information—which may not necessarily be what’s most convenient for you.

A Few Questions Worth Answering…

Who Am I? – This is a question of IDENTITY.
Who I am is not what I do or what I have. Who I am is a gift from my Maker. Until this issue is properly settled, your actions, experiences and reception from others will rule you. Once this issue is settled, you finally find the freedom to live.

What do I have? – This is a question of INVENTORY
What Spiritual and Natural Gifts, Skills, Knowledge, Experiences, Expertise, Interests, Training do you have. Invest the time to take inventory of what God has put in you and allowed you to experience. Good and bad—ALL of these things are part of your story and your story can end good if you love God and have been called according to His purpose. Take inventory because what you have is all you need to take the next step.

Who can I be helpful to? – This is a question of ASSIGNMENT

Look at your unique design to discover what you can do to serve others. Then consider the people who need you. Trust God that they are out there because He would not have made you as He did if He didn’t have purpose in mind.

What do I want to see? – This is a question of VISION
When you dream with God, what does He show you? What possibilities does He uncover in your private time with Him? Intimacy with God births vision.

What or Who will I sacrifice for? This is a question of PASSION
There is an idea or person or vision that you will prefer above your own comfort and convenience. You will stay up late for it and get up early for it. You’ll read when you don’t have to and listen when others won’t. That thing is your passion and your passion unlocks your compassion. Compassion is passion for an idea, person or vision combined with action calculated to support that  idea, person or vision. Your passion in action is satisfaction.

Who do I know and who knows me? – This is a question of NETWORKING
Relationships are a two-way street in which “ship” — cargo is shared as people “relate” to one another. Be measured in showing people who you are but don’t be afraid. Some will not understand. Others will mock. None of that matters. What matters is the few people God will allow to surround you who believe in you and whom you believe in. The purpose of these relationships is to partner with one another on the path to destiny. Like an adventurer on a long journey home, you will meet lots of interesting characters in your story. Some will stay too long and with some, it won’t seem long enough but the key is that you are on a journey. You have a destination to arrive at and the journey is fitting you for the destination. You are becoming.

Where am I? – This is a question of ASSESSMENT
C.S. Lewis has skillfully articulated the idea that one of the many facets of humans that the animal kingdom does not share is the ability to step outside of ourselves to evaluate ourselves. There is a consciousness that we can get to through which we look over our own lives and ask, “No, really, where AM I?” I’d like to tell you that the key is to be objective but objectivity is a myth. Everything is subjected to one’s own viewpoint of the world. No, the real answer to the “Where am I?” question can only be found by asking someone who knows. Consider this brief illustration: An unexperienced skipper is on a small boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He has no map but he does have a cell phone. Using a satellite, the watch tower has pinpointed his direction and tells him exactly where he is and where he should go next. If the skipper is wise, he will heed the words of the watch tower as to where he is and what steps he should take next.

Remove the allegory and place you and God in the story and it becomes clear that the “where” question is not best answered by the unexperienced skipper with no map.

Thoughts on Strength

Power exists in different ways…

For ONE, power is a matter of Ownership.
One who is master over something has the prerogative to do with it as he wills. One who is owner of something has the right to utilize is for his own purposes. Ultimately, power belongs to God and originates from Him.

For YOU & ME, power is a matter of Stewardship.
One who is a steward over something has a master to whom he must account. A steward has a duty to manage something. And, he is to do it in the way the master has expressed and in the spirit of the master. Should he act outside the master’s will, he has usurped authority over the item and is guilty before his master.

Some times power is on  Demonstration.
On occasion, a strong wind or magnificent earthquake gets our attention. We cower at the sheer power of “mother nature.” In truth, the power is of God and the display of power in nature ought to cause us to reflect on the power source. In the same way, a talented singer’s gifted voice should cause us to orbit our praise and adoration on the one who has given the talent in the first place.

Numbers 16: Why Rebellion Against God’s Leader’s is Rebellion Against GOD

The rebellion was against God not Moses and Aaron and the seeds of the rebellion were planted long before Numbers 16. It’s likely that there was not unity and uniformity in the contentions held by the 250 leaders; no doubt some took issue with one thing whilst others took issue with another and certainly there were varying degrees of disdain for Moses, Aaron and the choices that had been made. However, all of these “leaders” were sucked in to this damnable plot to overthrow what, in their minds, was the rule of Moses and Aaron, even though it was really the LORD God they were revolting against.

How careful we must be in choosing what and with whom we align ourselves! You and I may not be completely with the way things are but we must be particular in the stances we take.

Lord, please help me to make wise choices and to deal effectively with my disgruntlement and to perceive Your will in each situation. Thank you Father.

Hello world!

This is my first post! I’ve been looking forward to blogging for some time now as a way to connect with others around ideas that matter. Its also a tool for me to clarify and sharpen my own thoughts through the discipline of writing. As Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” (http://grammar.about.com/od/60essays/a/studiesessay.htm) Looking forward to connecting with you soon!