Sunday, July 10, 2011
Take a moment before reading further … and think about the people who you love.

Most of us probably thought of family members and friends with whom we really “connect”. We may have also thought of some of the folks we work with or attend church with, and maybe some of our neighbors. Maybe thoughts of folks who do nice things for us crossed our minds. And, if we were feeling especially altruistic, we might also have thought of people who are hurting in the world … those who are in poverty or in pain or even enslaved.

Those are all great … folks we should love. And most of us will say that love is a powerful thing … that it changes hearts and minds, and that it can change the world.
But, if love is so powerful, why, when we think about those we love, do we think of the folks we have reason to love and the folks we have contact with on a daily basis? And, at our kindest, we think of people who we chances are will never ever come in contact with. One must ask, too, whether that is really love or simply compassion.

In any event, this all sounds to me like we practice a lot of “safe love” … loving those either who love us back or who we will never meet.

But think about this … if the power of love is undeniable, what happens when we extend it to those who we really have no reason to love? What happens when we extend it to those who look different than us, think different than us … and even to those who might hurt us? Isn’t love a lot more powerful … a lot more exciting … a little more dangerous, when we take it outside those who love us and those whom we will never meet?

I will quickly say that my source of love comes from God. I think of God’s love for us (“For God so love the world that He gave us His only begotten son…”). I also think of Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves. And I think in general of Jesus’ consistently showing love even to those who many thought He could not possibly love.

But what if, for you, your source of love does not come from faith? Chances are that it comes from some sort of inner moral compass that just tells you it’s good to love others … to recognize their worth and value, and extend that feeling toward them in the form of love. And that’s okay. I don’t think that those who put their faith in God have captured the market on love … in fact, sometimes we mess up love pretty badly.

At this point, let me pose one other question: What does love really mean anyway? I kind of break it down into three areas and, interestingly, they mirror the Holy Trinity. Love, to me is:

1) The ability to gently and with utmost care and respect, speak the power of Truth into the lives of others when appropriate. This, to me, is God because He is Truth. And it’s an area that Christians often mess up … speaking Truth, or something we sometimes like to disguise as Truth, is easier done in a judgmental way than from a platform of genuine love and concern. That messes things up quickly.

2) Mercy … or call it compassion. This to me is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives … naturally knowing when we are called to do something nice for another human being, or to respond to them in a time of need. This is a powerfully visible showing of love.

3) Justice … This is the part of love I think of when I think of Jesus. He loved people, and taught us to love others, not because they were related to Him or because they had done something nice for Him. He loved others because, like Himself, they were children of God. He knew that our worth and value come inherently because God loves us … and if we’re to carry God’s love to the world, then we must be able to show that love to all others. That includes those who don’t think or look or act like ourselves … and even those who want to hurt us.

These three components of love … Truth, Mercy, and Justice … create a strange tension sometimes. In particular, creating a good combination and balance of Truth and Justice can be a real challenge for us … and something we don’t always get right the first time. But, when it comes to love, I believe we’re better off to try and fail than to never try. Jesus knew we couldn’t be perfect … he called us though to love one another.

So, what happens if we start to think of Love in terms of everyone … not just those who love us in return or those we will never meet? What if it includes getting rid of bad or unfair thoughts or words about others? What happens when love is simply something we always strive for … because everyone has just as much worth and value as we do … and because God loves them and He calls us to love all others?

This is an easy concept to nod our heads to … but an incredibly difficult one to live out with consistency. But, love does change everything … it makes minds start to understand each other, it softens hearts, it blends skin colors … if we show God’s love – our love -- to everyone and not just to those who we know will reciprocate … we will change the world.

  posted at 9:41 AM  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
It's quite easy in this life to just get overwhelmed. We are constantly bombarded with demands for our time and attention. Those can be demands from our children, jobs, and spouse. Or they can be demands from today's information age which call us to always research and learn and spend time in various ways.

It's not unusual to hear folks say that they are pulled in too many directions, and that there are not enough hours in the day. It's not a good feeling and we've all experienced it. It forces us to try to do more ... to sleep less ... to take less care of ourselves. All of this in an effort to keep up with the demands of living in the 21st century.

I'm not sure there is an easy answer to any of this. Fact is, those demands will continue to be there and will even increase. Fact is, we do have certain responsibilities to family, jobs, community and our selves. Falling back on these responsibilities lessens our wholeness by making us feel guilty and, at its worse, even unfulfilled.

The key, and I am not very good at this, seems to be in prioritizing things -- getting the big rocks in first. If we don't get the big rocks into our buckets first, then the bucket fills up with sand and gravel and the important things must be left out.

But I think that, despite the importance of prioritizing, there's something more important here and that is realizing that our heavenly father loves us and yearns for us. As we seek Him and His direction on our lives, He will show us what our big rocks are -- what those things are that must be highest priority in our lives.

But, even bigger than that, He provides us our self worth. Once we know that our worth comes to us inherently and unquestioningly because the Creator of all things created us, we can begin to make sure that the things we do in this world are about helping others ... about making the world a better place. That's a whole lot different than doing things that are about making others happy.

Of course, there will be overlap between things that help others and things that make others happy but that realization and awareness that we do the things we do not because we want to serve our own egos but because we are called to carry God's love into the world -- the One who loves us calls us to share His love with the world -- things change. Our mindsets and paradigms shift when we operate in this crazy busy world from a position of doing it for ourselves to a position of being a conduit of God's love, mercy and grace.

May today we all find ourselves as that conduit -- that vessel -- that works in the world in which we're blessed to live with the calling that we're here to help and love on others.

God living in and through us changes everything.

  posted at 5:47 AM  

Thursday, September 09, 2010
The following was written by Peter Morici, a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.

Thursday, economists expect the Commerce Department to report the deficit on international trade in goods and services was $47.2 billion in July. That is lower than the $49.9 billion registered in June, because many analysts expect stagnating wages are slowing import demand.

Still too large, the trade deficit subtracted 3.4 percentage points from second quarter GDP growth, and threatens to derail an already weak U.S. recovery, throw the economy into a double dip recession, and dramatically increase unemployment.

Without the second quarter jump in imports-led by consumer goods from China and boosted by an undervalued yuan and export subsidies President Obama neglects-GDP growth would be close to 5 percent, hundreds of thousands of Americans would be finding jobs, and Democrats would be poised to retain their majorities in the House and Senate.

President Obama and Speaker Pelosi chose to ignore the undervalued yuan and other Chinese subsidies that result in an outsized trade deficit and millions of lost jobs across the industrial Midwest and South.

Instead, the President and Speaker of the House obsess about taxing the rich and social issues, and appease China on trade and the environment, as the United States sinks into an economic quagmire similar to Great Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.

Notably, Britain in 1950 was on par with Germany and France. Twenty years later, it enjoyed living standards half its continental rivals.

Each month, more and more Americans lose decent jobs, can’t find comparable employment, and then settle for lower wages, as Americans enjoy the British post-war folly of an overvalued currency and distracted leaders.

Simply, dollars that go abroad to purchase U.S. imports cannot be spent on U.S. goods and services. When those dollars do not return to purchase U.S. exports, jobs are lost and not replaced. A rising trade deficit slows growth and increases unemployment.

Free trade based on a balance between exports and imports helps nations specialize in what they do best, grow and prosper. Rising trade deficits, financed on borrowed money to cover profligate government spending, erode prosperity and compromise sovereignty.

But for the increase in the trade gap, GDP would have grown 5.2 percent, and unemployment would fall to 7.5 by early 2011, and less than 5 percent by 2013.

Oil and consumer goods from China account for nearly the entire trade deficit, and sustained economic recovery is not possible without dramatic changes in energy and trade.

President Obama’s efforts to halt offshore drilling and otherwise curtail conventional energy supplies-premised on false assumptions about the immediate potential of electric cars and alternative energy sources-threaten to make the United States even more dependent on imported oil.

Detroit can build many more attractive and efficient gasoline-powered vehicles now, and a national policy to accelerate the replacement of the existing fleet would reduce imports, spur growth and create jobs.

To keep Chinese products artificially inexpensive on U.S. store shelves and discourage U.S. exports into China, Beijing undervalues the yuan by 40 percent. It accomplishes this by printing yuan and selling those for dollars to augment the private supply of yuan and private demand for dollars. In 2009, those purchases were about $450 billion or 10 percent of China’s GDP, and about 35 percent of its exports of goods and services.

In 2010, the trade deficit with China reduces U.S. GDP by more than $400 billion or nearly three percent. Unemployment would be falling and the U.S. economy recovering more rapidly, but for the trade imbalance with China and Beijing’s protectionist policies.

In June, China indicated it will adopt a more flexible exchange rate policy, but that has not resulted in the needed realignment in exchange rates.

China recognizes President Obama is not likely to counter Chinese mercantilism with strong, effective actions; hence, it offers token gestures and cultivates political support among U.S. businesses like General Motors and Caterpillar who profit from investments in China.

President Obama should impose a tax on dollar-yuan conversions in an amount equal to China’s currency market intervention divided by its exports-in 2009 that was about 35 percent. For imports, at least, that would offset Chinese subsidies that harm U.S. businesses and workers.

Until the President tackles the root causes of the trade deficit, unemployment will remain near 10 percent and could surge much higher, and Americans face economic decline.

  posted at 4:03 AM  

Monday, September 06, 2010
My study time this morning (which, don't get me wrong, happens far too few mornings) made me think a lot about the attitude with which I approach each day ... and each person and situation I encounter. Will I approach the day with worldly thoughts of what I can get out of it for myself? Will I approach each person and situation with expectations of what they or it can do for me? Will I set myself up for ultimate frustration when things don't go my way or people don't behave as I expect?

We talk about how, as Christians, we are called to be Jesus' hands and feet. Yet Jesus came to serve not to be served. He came with a focus on others and an unequalled selflessness. His thought processes and his wishes and dreams were not of this world but of God's Kingdom.

However, when I go about my daily business, which am I really more concerned about -- this world or God's Kingdom?

It is a huge shift to be more concerned abour God's Kingdom than our own kingdom. But yet when we live with the heart and mind of God, we operate on an entirely different level. When we take a God's Kingdom approach to things, frustrations and worries of this world are overshadowed by the glory of the next.

It's hard to imagine much more of a worse end to life on earth than what Jesus went through. Yet at the end of His life, sure He was troubled, but yet I don't believe He was frustrated. He knew that ultimately the pains of this world were not what He was to be saved from -- not what we are to be saved from. But rather He was being saved to and we are being saved to something far more glorious.

When our focus is on God's Kingdom over our own earthly kingdom, our attitude shifts ... our focus goes to serving others rather than having others serve us. And when we do that, disappointments and frustrations diminish.

As the following scripture points out, when we do the right things -- when we focus on building God's Kingdom rather than advancing our own earthly-bound desire, then things change ... not just for ourselves but for all we encounter.

Isaiah 55:8-13 and 56:1 (NIV)

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."

1 This is what the LORD says:
"Maintain justice
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.

  posted at 7:58 AM  

Sunday, September 05, 2010
Good morning! Well, not sure how long this will last but I think I am going to take a renewed stab at this blogging thing. After taking, oh, I don't know ... pretty much about three years off, I figure I should be rested up.

I have been doing some reading through Isaiah recently. I usually try to read the whole book of Isaiah every week but I had missed a few weeks. (yeah ... right)

Anyway, what's pulled me back to it is a process we have been going through at work. We're trying to figure out what it means to be a "Kingdom Business" -- that is a business that realizes and consistently lives into the unique opportunity that God gives it to carry the message of His redemptive healing and restoring love and grace into the world.

Trying to live into that is pretty big stuff. I am sure we will mess up plenty but one way to help us strive and do our best is to keep this goal front and center. And, for me, one way to do that is to change the name of the company. Seriously. So, we have been considering options and one we're giving serious consideration to is Isaiah Industries. Our various division names would remain as they have been but they would be identified as being part of Isaiah Industries.

Why Isaiah? Because I love the message of restoration and hope that comes out particularly in the second half of his prophecy. As I look back on our company, without going into a lot of stories, restoration has been a common theme. Sometimes we miss opportunities but we consistently want to have a positive and healing impact on all whom we encounter. I think that it is part of the ongoing unique calling that God has placed on us as an organization.

In my recent look at Isaiah, I was stopped this morning by Chapter 51 ... a portion of which is below.

For me, Chapter 51 was a great reminder that no matter how small or weak we may feel as part of the body of Christ ... no matter how overwhelming this world may seem ... God is always faithful to us and we have His dynamite power. The God who parted the Red Sea ... the God who restores lives and even entire nations ... is the same God we worship today. His power, His faithfulness, His promise ... they are all unfailing and unchanging.

When we remind ourselves of this, does it not put a different perspective on our calling, our potential, and our responsibility?

1 "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the LORD :
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
2 look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was but one,
and I blessed him and made him many.

3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

4 "Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
The law will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.

5 My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm.

6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.

7 "Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have my law in your hearts:
Do not fear the reproach of men
or be terrified by their insults.

8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations."

9 Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength,
O arm of the LORD;
awake, as in days gone by,
as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
who pierced that monster through?

10 Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?

11 The ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

12 "I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
the sons of men, who are but grass,

13 that you forget the LORD your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction?
For where is the wrath of the oppressor?

14 The cowering prisoners will soon be set free;
they will not die in their dungeon,
nor will they lack bread.

15 For I am the LORD your God,
who churns up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name.

16 I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you with the shadow of my hand—
I who set the heavens in place,
who laid the foundations of the earth,
and who say to Zion, 'You are my people.' "

  posted at 8:46 AM  

Saturday, September 04, 2010

My friend Ed Ball sent me this picture this morning. He took it along with others yesterday at the traveling Vietnam Wall which has been visiting Sidney when my son, Evan, and others from his school were there. The other boys in the picture are Ed's son, EJ, and also Jerrod Peterson.

How humbling it is to see these young men standing at the wall looking at names of men born about 50 years before they were born, many of whom only lived to be 6 - 10 years older than these boys are today.

While some folks may point to the cost of these lives ... and it was an enormous cost ... hopes and dreams and aspirations and abilities that were never fully realized on this earth, I look to the enormous value of these lives. How many people were portected, how was our society and the world shaped by what they did ... how many people were saved who then went on to realize their hopes and drams and aspirations and abilities?

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13, NIV)

While this scripture refers primarily to our Lord Jesus' sacrifice for us, it is also respectful of any times someone lays down their life for another. But let's keep in mind it does not mean just physical death ... laying down our lives comes also through our service to others ... through our selfless giving ... and through our sharing of God's redemptive grace and glory so that others might spend eternity with Him.

Whose life will I lay mine down for today?

  posted at 8:44 AM  

Sunday, June 20, 2010
Does anyone else sort of cringe when those times of year roll around that you have to buy a greeting card for a parent? Whether's it's their birthday or Mother's or Father's Day, you know that you're in for an agonizing time standing in front of the card rack at WalMart. Is anyone else like that?

I put a great deal of power in words. As a result, when I read over cards, I can be reading one which I think is perfect and then I come across one little seemingly insignificant word in it and I think "Well, this person was never that to me" or "That's not them at all" and I end up putting the card back and searching some more.

Parents aren't perfect. Some, from the child's perspective are downright lousy. Some worse than that. We can be too critical of our kids. We can try to force them to be what we wanted to be. We can be too pre-occupied with the other things of our lives -- sometimes jobs, sometimes hobbies, sometimes addictions. Sometimes we simply can't even figure out how to love our children in healthy ways. Sometimes the weight of our own lives is too much for us to bring anyone else in.

But, as a dad, I can assure everyone of one thing. Regardless of the lives we lead, that bond that a parent feels for their child is there and it is incredibly strong. It is after all modeled after the love that our heavenly Father feels for us.

I believe that, because of that bond, given what they have to work with, every parent does the best they can. One could wonder then, if the bond is there, why do parents sometimes let go? And we all sometimes let go ... whether for a lifetime, a few years, a few months or weeks or even an hour. We all sometimes let go.

But in the midst of that, even in the most extreme cases of letting go for a lifetime, even cutting themselves off from the child they love, there is a still a parent who, a couple of times a year, is pulling out the faded and worn photograph of the baby they once knew ... and wondering how things went so awry ... wondering why, in order to hopefully give their child a better future than they could give them, they had to walk away.

That is the bond that I believe all parents feel for their children.

It's a lousy analogy but Jesus felt abandoned by His father on the cross. He cried out ... but ultimately He knew that the future assigned to Him by His father was inevitable.

And so He went into the future. God didn't mess up but we earthly parents do. And as children of parents who also messed up, we have to go into the future ... knowing that our parents did the best they could with the hand life dealt them ... and knowing that we're going to mess up, too. It may be for a lifetime or for an hour ... but we're going to mess up.

But the bond is there ... Just as God holds it for us, we feel it intensely for our kids ... our parents -- regardless of how we can look at them and think "Why didn't they do this?" or "Why did they do that?" -- felt it for us ... and ultimately, even though it may not look like it or feel like it to our kids, we all do the best we can ... because we love them.

I do not mean to shortchange the life-altering pain that parents can inflict on children. I believe we've all been there. But ultimately they felt that love and that bond for us ... they just didn't have the ability to always cope with nor live into it in the best possible ways. We're no different.

  posted at 9:58 AM  

Monday, April 12, 2010
Take a look at 2 Peter 1:5-11 ... here it is from The Message:

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.So, friends, confirm God's invitation to you, his choice of you. Don't put it off; do it now. Do this, and you'll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And here it is from the NIV:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This passage speaks to that change of heart as we give our lives over to God. Our actions and reactions change as we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit flowing through us.

Yet we also know that despite this transformation of our heart, we still possess free will. The Lord may dwell in us but we through free will can stop His love and grace from flowing through us, much like turning off a water faucet.

The end of this scripture, though, is a reminder that we must strive to live into the life God intended for us ... to be that conduit ... to be that never ending flow of refreshing water complete with knowledge,self control, kindness and love.

The way I look at it, this is a spiritual discipline that requires attention ... and that we take one day at a time.

  posted at 5:54 AM  

Tuesday, March 09, 2010
The following was written by Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade:

“I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”(Galatians 2:20)

After many years of working with thousands of Christians, I am convinced that a person cannot enjoy the supernatural life – which is a believer’s heritage in Christ – apart from the proper balance between Bible study, prayer and sharing Christ with others out of the overflow of an obedient, Spirit-filled life.
We need to be able not only to experience this great adventure with Christ ourselves, but also to share this good news with others.

A word of caution and reminder is in order at this point. We become spiritual and experience power from God and become fruitful in our witness as a result of faith and faith alone.

The Bible clearly teaches that “the just shall live by faith” Romans 1:17. However, it is equally important to know that good works are the result of faith – “trusting in the Son of God” – and unless there are “good works” there is not faith, for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).

Many Christians are confused on this point. They think of works (Bible study, prayer and other spiritual disciplines) as the means to, rather than the results of, the life of faith. They spend much time in these activities, seeking God’s favor and blessing.

They may even attempt to witness for Christ and to obey the various commands of God, thinking that by these means they will achieve supernatural living. But they remain defeated, frustrated, powerless and fruitless.

As you are filled with the Holy Spirit – “Christ living in me” – and walk in His power by faith, the Bible becomes alive, prayer becomes vital, your witness becomes effective and obedience becomes a joy.

  posted at 7:38 AM  

Thursday, January 28, 2010
I watched about two thirds of the president’s speech last night and then ended up switching to DVR’d American Idol with my family. I have since read the speech. It seemed really long. I also was having a tough time watching Pelosi and Biden. They were just so awkward for me to watch. Biden seemed confused and as if he was reading the teleprompter and skipped ahead and started clapping at the wrong spots. Pelosi seemed … well, yeah … unnaturally exuberant. Not sure what else to say there. It was just uncomfortable and awkward for me to watch them and because of that I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I don’t know why exactly but I was just embarrassed for them.

The president made a lot of promises last night. It’s probably no surprise but I am bothered by that. I like less government, not more. I believe that Jesus taught us to deal with and respect those put in charge because their authority is because God allows them to have it. But yet I don’t see where Jesus ever told us to expect anything from government. He taught us to love and care for and minister to each other. So, I get suspicious when government seems to want to do for us the job that Jesus taught us to do for ourselves. I think that turns God’s Kingdom into government kingdom. That bothers me greatly so, yeah, anytime I hear what government is going to do for the people, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Last night was no exception to that.

But regardless of whether it is a reversing of what I believe God intends, government can only do so much, and they have a history of not doing it well, in my opinion. So – those little hairs on the back of my neck? They really really stand up after a speech like last night’s.

I liked the fact that the president tried to be personable in his speech. It seemed pretty forced at times but I still liked it. I didn’t understand why it seemed like he was talking only to congress and not to the people. One can argue that it is an address to congress and that is true but the fact that it is carried by the national media does make it an address to the people. I think he missed an opportunity to make the people feel better about themselves and their future. The people have made it pretty clear lately that many, like me, just don’t believe the government can do anything to help them. It would have been great if, after last night, viewers could have woke up this morning feeling inspired and refreshed and restored … and felt led to go out and change the world. I personally got none of that last night. If some folks did, though, that’s great! Let’s spread it around!

Like I said, lots of promises were made last night. That is treading into dangerous territory for the president. I felt like some of the things he said just didn’t quite ring true last night but I’ll let the media fact checkers figure that out. They are already hard at work on it. President Obama did of course explain how much of our current problems he was saddled with when he came into office. No question about that but I hope this is the last time we hear it from him. However, when all of the promises made last night cannot be fulfilled, we will hear more about legacy and more about congress.

I hope that last night can be a start to transparency and bipartisanship from this administration. We really have yet to see much of that.

I love that the president is talking about small business but, and this isn’t just him but includes all of DC, they just don’t get what is needed. They talk about freeing up operational capital for businesses. As I have said before, for an already struggling business, that just digs the hole deeper. We need to face the reality that our nation’s businesses need to be smarter and better managed. We need to face that the world and the US economy have changed. Some businesses are prepared for that but many are not. I go back to my desire to, if anything, have the government hire our country’s independent sector management and marketing consultants to go out and help our nation’s businesses become better and stronger and help them adapt to the new reality. That is what is really needed.

These will be some of the strongest words I will use but his talk of tax credits for small businesses, while it sounded very nice, is a joke. I have heard estimates as low as something like 1% as to how many small and mid-sized businesses made money last year. And most of those that did make money didn’t make very much. Tax credits don’t do much for you if you didn’t make money. They may help your tax loss carry forward depending upon how they are structured but they don’t increase your cash position today.

I was glad to hear talk of safe nuclear energy. I personally think that is a must.
However, there was also talk of other clean renewable energy which would largely be solar and wind. Trying to base our nation’s future on that is a huge mistake. First of all, you never want all your eggs in one basket but furthermore, from a cost standpoint, these technologies don’t make sense domestically let alone to try to sell them overseas. Anything we create will be copied overseas (if others don’t flat out beat us to it) and made cheaper there. The only reason solar and wind are making some sense in the US now are the huge federal and state tax incentives and the local utility credits that are available for them. Take those away and, in a struggling economy, few of even the greenest of the green would be putting these systems in place.

Again, a big mistake to base our nation’s future on clean energy. Not saying we don’t need those technologies … just saying they will not … cannot … be the economic and manufacturing savior the government paints them to be. It will not happen. I guarantee it.

The president spoke of increasing our country’s exports. That has been a key goal for as long as I have been alive. It is a difficult if not impossible thing to do. One key to making it happen though is keeping down costs for our nation’s businesses. Despite the rhetoric, things like healthcare reform and clean air and all that … will only increase burden on our businesses, making it even harder to compete globally. However, as the president’s plan to increase exporting emerges, I will be all ears. I am anxious to hear.

So, anyway, those are my thoughts on the president’s speech. For many reasons I don’t like bigger government. For reasons I don’t fully understand, watching Biden and Pelosi just makes me squirm. I feel so embarrassed for them. The president spoke well but I personally did not find him inspiring. If anyone did fine him inspiring, I’d be curious to hear what change in your behavior he inspired?

It is the people that will lead us out of our current situation, not government. That is my belief for many reasons. So I feel the people need to be inspired. Nehemiah received permission from the authority and then went and with personal pleas inspired the people to do great work. We need a government that inspires us and resources us to inspire one another. Not a government that simply says what they are going to do for us. A government that wants to do for us indicates to me either more debt or increased taxes (which de-energize rather than energize the people), as well as bigger bureaucracy and inefficiency.

I do think small and mid-sized businesses are key to our country’s future. I think most folks both in DC and Columbus are absolutely clueless as to how to support business. I do not think renewable energy is our savior, though I support it fully. I think increasing exporting is important but nearly impossible. I think that talk of tax credits for businesses in the current economy is nothing more than a sham.

I don’t expect to sway the opinion of anyone with my thoughts … but I think it is important for us to all have thoughts and let them be heard. If you’re still reading my thoughts, I thank you. It is an honor to have your ear. I’d love to hear your reflections on not so much my thoughts (because just as I don’t expect to change your opinion if you don’t agree with me, you really can’t expect to change mine) but on the president’s speech. What did you think?

  posted at 5:32 AM  

Monday, January 18, 2010
I had a team member recently ask me for a list of how to build great customer relationships. Following is what I put together. Wish I did a better job of living these out.

Upfront contracts … at all critical junctures in the relationship, confirm, verify and if appropriate document the expectations and responsibilities of both parties. This makes them feel in CONTROL.

Ask questions … ask more than you tell, listen more than you talk. Learn and know everything you can about the other party. (Mackay 66) This makes them FEEL GOOD.

Make it personal … out of what you know about them, make your relationship as rich and intimate as possible … talk about their kids, their dogs, even their hemorrhoids if that is what they want. This makes them REMEMBER YOU.

Connect the dots … make connections between what you know about them, what their needs are, and what you can provide. This brings VALUE to them.

Confirm … at the end of each contact with them, confirm what was discussed and what the next steps are. This keeps things ON TRACK.

Always deliver … do what you promise and more. This is your INTEGRITY.

Surprise them … contact them when they don’t expect it … be on the look out for things that might be of interest to them … romance them … send them flowers. This makes them SMILE.

Engage them … warmly and with a smile, even if you’re talking on the phone. People can hear a smile. This makes them WANT YOU.

  posted at 5:42 AM  

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I have been thinking a lot about boxes lately. I think it is our nature to put things in boxes. Boxes create order out of our confusion. They make us comfortable. If we’re tired of something, we close it up in its box and put it off to the side for awhile. This time of year, we use boxes to give gifts – all prepared for the recipient. In January (maybe later for some of us), we will use boxes to store away our Christmas decorations for next year. When something is closed up in a box, we don’t have to look at it, we don’t have to worry about it, and we don’t have to deal with it.

Lately I have been thinking about boxes that aren’t physical boxes but are still boxes that we use to create order and not have to worry about things. The boxes I have been thinking about are the boxes that we put people in … no, not the pine boxes that come at the end of our days but instead boxes that categorize people. We box people according to the depth of relationship we want to have with them. We have people in “closest of friends” boxes where the walls easily come down. We have people in “business associate” boxes that we deal with only when it is beneficial for us to do so. We have people in “acquaintance” boxes who we say hello to and maybe a quick “how are you doing?” but we never go deeper than that. And, for all sorts of reasons, we even have “do not touch” and “do not open – ever!” boxes that we put some people in. Those are the folks who, for whatever reason, we decide we just don’t want the discomfort of dealing with so we box them up real good – even putting a lock on the box and throwing away the key.

Yes, we put people in all types of boxes.

But, what if, in 2010, we strive to tear open all of the boxes with wild abandon -- just like an excited six-year-old does on Christmas morning? What would that mean to us? Just as the six-year-old finds exciting new adventures inside of each gift box, could we do the same when we tear open the boxes that we like to put people in?

A couple of thousand years ago, our heavenly father sent His only son because He wanted that sort of close relationship with us. He didn’t want us to be in the “on earth” box and Him to be in the “in heaven” box. He wanted us each to have a close, intimate, passionate relationship with Him. So, He tore open the box and sent us the gift of Jesus. And, while Jesus was here, He also broke open boxes. He could have spent His ministry years boxing people up. He could have created boxes for “Traitors,” “Liars,” “Thieves,” “Harlots,” “The Lame,” “The Blind,” and so many other things that would have kept others neatly arranged and separated from Himself – the Son of God. But He didn’t … because He wanted to love on each and every person He encountered. He continued that up to His dying breath here on earth as the One who sacrificed everything for everyone … out of love. And he does it today by not making boxes for “Me” or for “You”.

What would happen if, in 2010, we copy what was shown us all those years ago? What if we quit boxing people up and instead strive to engage everyone in a close relationship? How much richer will our lives be? How much will we grow? How much will we learn? How much will we spread God’s love?
Boxes cause misunderstandings. They cause fights and wars. They ruin relationships. They shield us from the wholeness and fullness which God intended for us to enjoy. We pray that, during this Christmas season, may we bask in the unboxed glory of His love for us … and may we make 2010 a year of un-boxing those around us – even when it makes us uncomfortable. Jesus didn’t come for His own comfort. Our lives are richer and fuller when we don’t dwell in our own comfort but instead when we love others just as He loves us.

  posted at 11:40 PM  

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The following article was written by Steve Troxel of God's Daily Word Ministries.

When my mom was forty-three years old, she developed skin cancer and died within four months of the first diagnosis. I was in my early twenties at the time and I remember forty-three seeming much older than it does now. As I approached the age of forty-three (hard to believe that's been seven years ago!) I also developed a case of the same skin cancer which took my mom's life. Fortunately, the detection and treatment of skin cancer has greatly improved and I am fine - praise God! But that event has given me reason to ponder many times over the last seven years: "What if this day was my last? Would I have any regrets?"

John the Baptist discovered the uncertainty of each moment of life as he sat in prison.

I guess they call me "John the Baptist" because I preached a message of repentance and baptized with water while pointing the way to Jesus (John 1:31-33). "The Baptist" isn't such a bad name. I could have been called "John the Wearer of Camel Hair" or "John the Eater of Locusts."

King Herod must have been mad at me for exposing his sin of marrying his brother's wife (Matthew 14:3-4). I sure wish I was back in the desert preaching, but God must have a plan for me here in prison. I think Herod actually likes me. He often listens to me talk and seems genuinely interested (Mark 6:20). It's pretty loud in the palace tonight. They must be having quite a party.

Matthew 14:6-10
"On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison."

Wow, that was fast! No time to say good-bye or write letters to my friends - no time to even gather my thoughts - just, "lean over and put your neck on the block." I sure wish I would have.....

No one knows when they will breathe their last. We may have sixty years or sixty minutes; but no matter how long we have, it will seem to pass in an instant - It amazes me how fast life passes by. The time to place our saving faith in Jesus is NOW! The time to restore relationships and encourage others with the gospel is NOW! The time to enjoy our family is NOW! And the time to praise God for His blessings and grace is absolutely NOW!!

Each of us enters this day with things we wish we could change, decisions and words which have not been honoring to God. But each of us also enters this day with the ability to begin, right this very moment, to live a life which glorifies God in all we do. Let's begin today to live fully committed to following Christ. Let's give Him our ALL and live toward an end which will leave no regrets.

  posted at 5:32 AM  

Sunday, November 08, 2009
The following was written by Os Hillman. Really good stuff. What do I need to tgrust God with in order to break a stronghold that the world has on me, or I have on myself?

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:4

The Bible says when Christ comes to live in your heart, old things are passed away, all things become new (see 2 Cor. 5:17). The Lord has put a new Spirit in us. Previously, I could not understand why so many of us who proclaimed Christ had such little impact on the kingdom of darkness. It seemed to me that our culture should be impacted much more if His children walked in the light as Jesus did. Jesus impacted His culture like no other man.

I saw many workplace believers, who proclaimed Christ, living no differently than a person who had not claimed Him as Lord. These men and women had a form of religion, but little power that reflected Christ's rule in their lives. Then one day God took me through a time of testing that led to a discovery of generational influences that impacted the way I viewed people and circumstances on a subconscious basis. I discovered this was a stronghold that had been implanted many generations earlier.

Because the stronghold operated on a subconscious level, it was not easily recognizable. Strongholds keep us from being free to reflect Christ in and through our lives because they require allegiance until they are dealt with. Strongholds can often be so hidden that we would not even identify them as evil. A stronghold of fear, control, rebellion, insecurity, idolatry, pride, or bitterness may be hidden until it is revealed through circumstances.

All strongholds are built in our lives as a result of seeking to meet one or more of seven basic needs God has created in us. Once we believe a lie that God cannot meet a need without our effort, we open our spirit to a stronghold. The more lies we believe, the more we invite these strongholds to take root in our lives. Are you ineffective in your Christian experience? Are there besetting sins that seem to recur in your life? You may find that satan has built a fortress in your heart that has been there many generations. You must ask God's forgiveness for entertaining this stronghold, and you must renounce it. Then as Christ renews your mind and heart, you will see Christ's power released in your life like never before.

  posted at 6:23 AM  

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We are quickly approaching the time when once again our local school levy will be up for vote. I feel inclined to go a little bit further with some of the thoughts I posted back in August.

It’s very important whenever you are trying to market or sell anything that you really know what those to whom you are selling are thinking. If you don’t know what they are really thinking then unfortunately you end up sending them wrong messages which are often more hurtful than helpful.

Having listened to those who have been vocal against the levy, I can assure you that what they are really saying is not any of the following:

“We hate kids.”

“We hate the future.”

“We want the worst for our community.”

Again, that is NOT what they are saying. However, the overriding message they have been hearing from those who support the levy has been geared toward fighting the above statements. So, internally, what they process sounds something like “Folks for the levy think I’m a horrible person who only cares about myself.”

Um, just speaking as a guy who has spent his entire career in sales and marketing … putting this sort of thought into the heads of those you are trying to sell to … is NOT the way to get the sale.

So, that brings me to the big question … if those against the levy are NOT saying they hate kids and the community, what are they saying? And, furthermore, how do we address what they are REALLY saying?

Certainly there are many nuances and variations but generally speaking I am hearing two things from those who have been vocal against the levy. We need to look at those two things individually.

First, I am hearing “I (or my family) is barely surviving as it is. I love kids … I love my community … but I simply cannot afford to give more money in taxes to it at this time.” So, how do we answer that concern? Really, it is very simple … with love, encouragement, support and hope.

These are tough times – could not be worse times for passing a levy. Slowly and gradually, organizations are springing up to bring hope and encouragement to those who are hurting – to those without jobs, to those who have pulled back from community, and also to those who simply cannot make ends meet. The Network for Job Seekers is a good example. That group, at its core, is about strengthening individuals and families which in turn strengthens our community.

My friend, Julie, is also starting up a group to pray for our community and its citizens. There are other organizations coming along or stepping up past efforts as well … I’d like to give space to them all here but I am already running horribly long on this.

Everyone, if you’re supporting the levy, think about what you can do to reach out and bring hope to the hurting in our community. Become a “gasp” community organizer. The more we encourage and strengthen those who are hurting, the more likely it is that the levy will pass.

I have heard a lot of condemnation of some of the rural outlying communities that have put up votes largely against the levy. Reach out to those communities. They don’t hate your kids and they don’t hate the future. Organize groups to go into those communities to do nothing but encourage and empower their residents … and bring them hope. As lives are transformed, levy votes will follow. I guarantee it.

Secondly, what I am hearing from some folks opposing the levy is “The school system is a huge operation. If it were a business, it would be one of the largest around. We need the assurance that it is being run in a fiscally sound way … so that we will not be back in this same situation again in a few years with the schools coming to the “taxpayer well” because they didn’t operate in a manner that allowed them to be prepared for the future.”

The response they want to hear to this is “You know, mistakes have been made in the past. And we’re sorry about that and determined to learn from them. Here’s what we have done to not only make changes to adapt to the present situation but also to provide oversight, processes and systems that will keep us from ever gain being in this situation.”

Instead, what these individuals are hearing is “We’re having to make cuts which are hurting your kids and your community … and we’re going to continue to make those cuts until you give us more money.”

(Now, have any of these exact phrases actually been voiced – of course not! But, it is what people are “hearing” regardless of whether it has been said. Perception is reality.)

Additionally, perhaps all of us need to be more thoughtful in terms of who we encourage and support as school board candidates. If we were running the largest business in town, who would we want in charge? We need to realize that board members are elected by us and they are the ones charged with providing overall approval for school activities.

I am not criticizing those on the board. It is a difficult, time intensive, thankless job that receives far more grief than it should. I think our current board members are committed and hard working – all great, solid citizens and many – perhaps even all -- are very well shaped to be board members.

But what I am saying is that, when we encourage people to run for those board seats and when we cast our votes, we need to think about more than just the names and faces that are familiar to us. We need to ask ourselves “Do they have the proper education, training, and expertise to run an organization the size of the schools? If I owned a large business, would I want them to be running it?”

I say all of these things to be helpful. I love my community, I love kids, and I want the best for our future. I also have been blessed to know a bit about sales and marketing. If any of what I am saying rings true with you, then I challenge you to act on it -- think about organizing a group to just love on those who are hurting ... to restore their hope and confidence. Think about sitting down with board members and administrators and offering help for them to hone their messages to the public. Think about who we vote onto the school board (again, I am NOT criticizing those who are serving so hard and well now … just wanting to make sure what we stay mindful of in the future.)

  posted at 7:59 AM  

Who Am I?

Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

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