Monday, March 30, 2009
Examine ourselves. Give ourselves regular checkups. Make sure that Jesus really is living in us.

The life of one on the journey ... traveling and training. Examining ourselves. Striving to be more Christ-like. Evangelizing by living a life of examination and modeling.

Loving the Lord. Seeking to be more like Him. Seeking the peace and love that come from that.

That is where I want to be.

  posted at 6:04 AM  

Sunday, March 29, 2009
I attended a Bible study led by a friend today. In it, he commented that "You cannot have a divided life nor a distracted life." I love his statement. However, I also think it's pretty easy to misconstrue it. I think it's easy to hear this sentence and assume that he means we must live a life which would be, in Christ's eyes, perfect. The problem is that that is not going to happen. Christians aren't perfect. Far from it. We mess up all the time. If we hold ourselves out as being perfect to the examining world, we're sending the Great Commission backward.

No, we're not perfect and human nature will never allow us to be. My friend's point instead was that we cannot compartmentalize off sections of our life with the intention of not allowing God into that area. Maybe it's our work in the marketplace. Maybe it's Friday night out with the guys. Maybe it's an addiction we feed. We all probably have several area of our lives we'd like to section off as being our "own" where we're not trying to allow God to work nor to reside. But those are exactly the places where God wants to work and reside ... the places where His son was most comfortable.

As Christians, we can never be perfect. But, we must be sold out for God in all areas of our lives ... trying to allow Him to work and even live there. We cannot live a divided nor a distracted life. God intends for us to be whole ... He can make us whole ... but we must first turn all of our life over to Him.

  posted at 12:49 AM  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Are you always seeking to be a better leader -- better at leading high impact groups that create transformation? Click here for a very current article by John Maxwell on how to be an inspirational leader.

  posted at 8:56 PM  

Sunday, March 22, 2009
I met a man today who, during the course of our half hour conversation, showed me his colostomy. Normally, if you have that happen in an initial conversation with a stranger, that is what you will remember ... but it's not what pray that I remember from this conversation.

This man was seeking intimacy ... relationship ... love. In his pursuit for that closeness, he shared something which was probably the most intimate thing he could share ... the scars and equipment from a surgery that left his life forever changed.

Never mind how appropriate or inappropriate the world may think what he did was, he shared what he could ... in search of relationship.

Yes, on one hand, this makes you see how disillusioned some folks can get in their desperate search for intimacy ... how easy it is to fulfill that need in unhealthy ways if you do not find it in healthy ways but, with my new friend, this wasn't the case.

I asked him to tell me about his life ... and out came years of painful and revealing stories. Stories that a part of me wondered whether they could really be true ... until he revealed those scars which in reality showed the wounds of much more than just a life-changing surgery.

He told me of how his father burned down their home ... how his mother was forced to raise their eight children ... how he served in Vietnam and was permanently disabled. He told me of years of isolation living in Chicago and New York, eventually moving to my town because some of his kin were there. "There's a point when you just need love," he said, choking on the words as they came out.

Love is what he is seeking ... and what so many people are seeking. Mid-way through our conversation, my new friend stopped and asked me whether I remembered his name. I thought that was odd but I now realize it was his way of trying to figure out whether I really cared ... whether he was really finding the love he was seeking ... or if I was just "putting up" with him.

Honestly, there have been lots of times when I have gotten in similar conversations and I really was just "putting up" with them ... I pray that I won't be that way in the future ... because I remember the scars ... scars that serve as reminders of the need for ... and the presence of ... love, intimacy, relationship.

I pray for the scars.

  posted at 10:02 PM  

I had an interesting talk about manufacturing the other day with a friend. Very interesting. He also has a company that is a manufacturer. During part of the conversation, he told me that I should look up this video on Youtube. Check it out – “Chinese Press Automation”

The video shows such a manufacturing situation so ridiculous and incredibly dangerous that I really question whether it is authentic. Sadly, I suspect that it is.

I made the comment to my friend that I believe that USA manufacturers have been demonized. I am not sure he agreed with me but I still stand by what I said.

Here’s the situation … as a country develops, things are going to happen which are not good. People will at some point be exploited for cheap and dangerous labor. Our country had its share of that. I am not condoning this … just saying that it happened here and now it is happening elsewhere. Looking back over the years, you can see the progression … Japan, Mexico, China, Indonesia, India … but there’s something really important to notice … the “cycle time” is getting faster and faster. By that, I mean the window of time within which a developing nation offers the cheapest labor, which means unsafe conditions and exploited humans.

The reason for this shorter cycle time is that manufacturing methods are so much more advanced than they used to be. For a period of time when a country is developing, it can exploit cheap labor, ala the above video link. But, after awhile, things start to catch up … the country has money to adopt new technologies and people begin to stop tolerating unsafe and exploitative conditions. (It’s a little more complex than that but that is a decent synopsis.) This cycle time, if you will, is getting shorter and shorter all the time. While it lasted a couple of decades with Japan, it lasted maybe one decade with Mexico. China is quickly progressing through the cycle so Indonesia and India are next. Eventually we will see some South American countries also run through the cycle.

Here’s the bad part … as this continues, more and more of our manufacturing is moved offshore and, more and more, we just buy products made by foreign companies … companies taking advantage of exploited humans and unsafe conditions. And, at the same time, because US manufacturers have been demonized – painted as “the man” who needs to have it “stuck to him” – we make US manufacturing not only less and less competitive but less and less attractive for anyone to pursue as a business.

Do not misread what I am saying and think that I am in favor of exploited humans or unsafe conditions. Quite the opposite because I believe fully within my heart that, with US technology, ingenuity, and hard work, we can have the most competitive manufacturing in the world. We have all the makings of it. The technology advances that eventually run other countries through “the cycle” are for the most part based in US technology which is more common sense than European technology.

But yet we have made US manufacturing into “the man” – we want it to carry a bigger and bigger tax burden – through unionization (read up on EFCA) we want it to cover huge ongoing legacy costs, supporting people who no longer work – we want to “stick it to” US manufacturing however we can because it is “the man” and “the man” is bad and needs to be penalized or corrected … or exploited and milked for all its worth. But the problem is that this is only pushing US consumers to end up exploiting workers in other countries … because we want cheap products. And we get upset when we pay a price like lead in childrens’ toys or drywall in houses that outgases sulphur dioxide and makes people sick.

We drive manufacturing offshore … we make it less and less attractive to be a manufacturer in the US … we talk about the US becoming a “service-based” economy … somehow that seems good and right

But here’s the conundrum … all of these other countries that can be exploited for a period of time for cheap labor and unsafe conditions … they eventually do work their way through “the cycle”. And “the cycle” keeps getting shorter. Eventually where do we end up? Buying expensive products made offshore and with seriously deteriorated and diminished domestic infrastructure to support our own manufacturing, as well as no financial incentive to start up new US manufacturing. And much of this is because of the way that our country and our legislators have, meaning to or not, demonized manufacturing – “stuck it” to “the man”.

This is a serious problem … escalating rapidly. If we as Americans and our legislators do not soon realize that we must bolster and support safe and efficient US manufacturing, we will soon find ourselves in a world of hurt. And I am not talking in my grandchildren’s lifetime … I am talking within my lifetime.

  posted at 8:35 PM  

Saturday, March 14, 2009
The following was written by "that other Stanley" -- Charles Stanley.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Many divine commands seem perfectly reasonable - for example, no adultery, no idols, and no murder. But then, the Lord also gave some instructions that ostensibly make little sense. Let's look at why He calls us to the seemingly impossible task of giving thanks in everything.

The Scriptures clearly teach that giving thanks is meant to be a way of life, not just a seasonal event. (Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 92:1-2) The problem is that we often do not feel appreciative, particularly when facing painful circumstances or faith tests. In fact, expressing gratitude for bad news seems irrational. Our limited claim to rationality, however, cannot compete with God's greater knowledge of what is best for His children. As a result, we live a successful Christian life only by choosing to thank Him for everything He sends or allows across our path.

What the Lord knows is that gratitude powerfully impacts the believer. Trials can leave us feeling isolated, but thanking God for His ongoing care or provision reminds us of His constant presence. Equipped with the knowledge that He is in control, we can submit our will to His. Though our circumstances remain the same, our attitude is divinely changed through trust.

Remember: Romans 8:28 promises that all things work together for the believer's good. That means the Lord has a purpose for every event He orchestrates or permits.

Thankfulness motivates us to seek His purpose. In God's perfect time, the divine plan is revealed, and we can tell Him with sincere hearts, "Lord, thank You!"

Question: Even if you're going through tough times, what do you have to be thankful to the Lord for today?

  posted at 8:07 AM  

This has been an unusual week. Two concerts in one week. Save for going to Evan's school concerts, my past history has been something more like two concerts every 20 years. Seriously. It's been a good week though.

On Tuesday night we saw Elton John and Billy Joel in Cincinnati on their Face 2 Face tour. Up in the back row of the far corner of the US Bank Arena (those of you my age will remember it as the Coliseum), acoustics were not the greatest and it got up to oh, I don't know, maybe six thousand degrees. But, still, starting with dinner at The Montgomery Inn Boathouse, Lisa and I shared the evening with good friends and had a great time.

The concert lasted well over three hours with no intermission. They opened together with a few songs, followed by a long set by Elton John, a somewhat shorter set by Bill Joel, and then they came back together. Unfortunately, with the acoustics what they were, we did not get to hear a lot of their keyboard magic but, when we did, it was obvious that they are both still incredible. Elton had the better voice for the night but Billy Joel, backed by a much larger band with saxes and brass, by far took the "showman" and entertainer awards for the evening.

Then, last night, we saw Casting Crowns at Hobart Arena in Troy, Ohio. Still in the back row of the far corner, it is a much smaller arena so the seats were just fine. Casting Crowns played many of their big contemporary Christian hits and also did a plug for World Vision.

The song that "got me" most was one of their newer songs, "Slow Fade". This song points out just how easy it is for one to slip from a fire-in-the-belly journey-er for Christ to someone eventually just stumbling along following their own ways and the ways of the world instead of Christ. Not that a person always has to be over-the-top and not that it is not expected that we will have hills and valleys in our spiritual lives just as we do our real lives, but for me the lyrics of this song remind me that I need to stay up with my prayer life, my Bible study, ... my walk ... my community with others ... or things do begin a slow fade. And in these days where stress seems to be foisted upon us from all angles, it is so easy to lose our focus on God ... to start living for ourselves ... to give ourselves away ... and crumble.

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

  posted at 7:37 AM  

Here's a bit of a trip (don't take that the wrong way) down memory lane ... lyrics that seem so strangely appropriate for our economy, our culture, and our society. "Undone" by The Guess Who.

She's come undone
She didn't know what she was headed for
And when I found what she was headed for
It was too late

She's come undone
She found a mountain that was far too high
And when she found out she couldn't fly
It was too late

It's too late
She's gone too far
She's lost the sun
She's come undone
She wanted truth but all she got was lies
Came the time to realize
And it was too late

She's come undone
She didn't know what she was headed for
And when I found what she was headed for
Mama, it was too late

It's too late
She's gone too far
She's lost the sun
She's come undone

Too many mountains, and not enough stairs to climb
Too many churches and not enough truth
Too many people and not enough eyes to see
Too many lives to lead and not enough time

It's too late
She's gone too far
She's lost the sun
She's come undone
(Doe-doe-doe-doe-doe doe un doe-doe-doe un doe-doe-doe)
(Doe doe-doe-doe-doe un doe-doe-doe doe-doe-doe)
(Doe doe-doe-doe doe doe-doe-doe doe doe)


It's too late
She's gone too far
She's lost the sun
She's come undone
She didn't know what she was headed for
And when I found what she was headed for
It was too late

She's come undone
She found a mountain that was far too high
And when she found out she couldn't fly
Mama, it was too late

It's too late
She's gone too far
She's lost the sun
She's come undone
(No no-no-no-no-no no)
(Doe doe doe-doe)

  posted at 7:34 AM  

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Here is a link to U2 performing Magnificent on Letterman last week. Lyrics included. Click here.

  posted at 7:26 AM  

The following, which seems so timely, was written by Os Hillman. To me, it is a reminder that Hope really need be nothing more than God's promise of restoration.

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - My great army that I sent among you." - Joel 2:25

There are seasons in our lives that involve times of famine and times of restoration. Solomon tells us that He has made everything beautiful in its time and that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1,11.)

God brings about both the good and the bad. The seasons of famine have a divine purpose in our lives. They accomplish things that only these hard places can accomplish. But there is a time when those hard places have accomplished their purpose and He begins to restore. God did this with the nation of Israel after a season of famine and devastation.

Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - My great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will My people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will My people be shamed" (Joel 2:23-27).

God wants each of us to know that there is a time when He will restore in order to demonstrate His gracious hand in our lives. He is a loving Father who tenderly guides His children through the difficult places. If God has taken you through a time of leanness, know that He is the restorer of that which the locusts have eaten. Wait patiently for Him to bring this about in your life. He will do it.

  posted at 5:12 AM  

Sunday, March 08, 2009
I haven’t felt much like writing lately. It seems like my mind is always so full of thoughts and spinning to fast that the idea of trying to concentrate and actually write something seems very difficult. I’ve been getting into Twittering a bit … it’s sort of fun … and requires far less thought than blogging. I have found that can be used to post simultaneous updates to Twitter and Facebook with a simple email or text.

We’ve been keeping pretty busy at work. That is certainly nice. But a big part of my focus is constantly on trying to figure out how to make sure the company finds its way over, through, around, or under this tough economy. I am determined to actually add team members in 2009.

Speaking of which … our local unemployment numbers for January just came out … 11.8%. This is up substantially from something like 8.3% in December. It would not surprise me to see us pushing 14% when the February numbers come out. By the way, during the Great Depression, the maximum unemployment was around 25% in 1933. One thing the current numbers do not capture though is how many people are working reduced hours from their norm. That percentage around here at least seems very high.

Have you noticed that it’s not cool to talk about how bad the economy is, though? That bothers me. Whenever you do, folks look at you like you’re a horrible pessimist … or you’re being critical of the Obama administration. Fact is, I am neither. I am an incredible optimist overall. But I believe that we cannot stick our heads in the sand … we must be aware of what is going on … we must learn from it … and we must seek solutions. As far as being critical of Obama … the current economic situation has its roots long before he was in office. Now, do I think that the right things are being done to correct the situation? No, not really. But I realize it’s early in the game yet.

However, in all of this, though, one cannot miss one of the big problems with politics … especially today …

In a fluid situation which is new to all of us … one in which we should maintain maximum flexibility and willingness to change … it is very hard for politicians to stray from the course that got them elected. Every word they have ever said has been recorded and will be used against them if they do not try to fulfill it.

This is the position that the current administration is in … trying to live into campaign promises that, even though they were made a year or less ago, were made in a very different world and very different environment. But, rather than risk political suicide by saying “Hey, things have changed, we need to take a different tact on this,” they barrel forward … putting all kinds of things at great risk.

Does anyone really think that anyone in Washington believes that spending and taxing is the right way to go right now? Maybe I’m naïve … maybe it is my optimism … but I think they are too smart for that. They know better but they have painted themselves into a corner and cannot get out without stepping through the red paint and tracking it wherever they go.

Here’s what’s happening … and everyone knows this … our tax base is shrinking at an incredible rate. Any municipality or organization that depends upon tax dollars knows this so painfully well right now. With so many folks out of work, so many folks working reduced hours, temp agencies (which must pay sales tax) basically shut down, and people buying less and less, tax receipts are declining at a very rapid rate. And from all appearances, I’d say that situation will get far worse before it gets better.

The effect of this is even farther reaching than just taxes though. State unemployment and workers’ comp funds are way down. They are seeking loans and bailout money … Social Security is going to be hurt big-time as well.

So, why does, the government think that spending more on pet projects that will have very limited effect … and trying to tax and fee right and left those who potentially could get the economy going again … makes sense? They don’t. They have to know better than that. But they have made promises and not fulfilling them is political suicide compared to simply failing and being able to blame everything on those who went before them. (Are you hearing that happen already? Listen closely.)

To some degree, at the bottom of this is the information age … much as I do not want to shut down the media, the thirst we all have for information and being able to hold others accountable (forgetting about ourselves usually) is one of the key drivers in all of this.

This economic situation is going to get much worse. Again, I risk people getting upset with me for sounding negative … but I am just being real here. All the markers are there. Nothing is happening to pull us out of this.

Interesting to note that now GM feels that even with the bailout money, they won’t make it through this. Months ago, I said that would be the case. The only way to pull them out would have been big incentives to get people buying cars again. GM didn’t need buckets of bailout cash. They needed people buying cars again. They needed to move inventory and get workers back to work.

That is where things are for the entire country right now. Small tax breaks for low and moderate income folks is not going to do it … those will not be used in ways which get people back to work. That cash will be swallowed up by paying off debt and socking away to recoup retirement savings. But, with extra requirements the fed now has on banks, that money will not go back out in credit … and most Americans are scared of credit now anyway. Any extra money that a business gets ahold of right now is also having to be used to pay back banks or to increase profits to show banks the ratios that the feds are now demanding.

The stimulus spending will eventually have some limited benefit in certain areas and certain industry segments. But for the first many months or perhaps even years after those dollars start flowing, they will be sucked back by the banks and corporate bank accounts. It would be far better for the government to simply incentivize consumers to buy certain things through rebates, making that money flow a bit, and restoring consumer confidence. But that goes against the political promises they made. Some folks will argue that this is all about Obama pushing for an extreme left agenda. And maybe there was some truth to that at one time … but I don’t think there is today … today it’s all about avoiding political suicide … these guys and gals know better than what they’re doing.

  posted at 7:32 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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