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  

Friday, September 25, 2009
Below is something written by Charles Stanley which I received by email this morning. It made me think about serving and spiritual gifts with new eyes. And made me wonder, when are the times when I am really "in the zone" so to speak, feeling natural and at ease and serving truly out of my spiritual gifts ... and when are the times that I am "forcing it" as I serve?

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (II Corinthians 11:22-28)

Paul’s message to the Corinthians regarding his suffering is remarkable in two ways. First of all, he had obviously faced considerable torment for his faith. Second, he refused to whine or seek pity – if this was the price for passionately serving Christ, Paul was willing to pay. In our own faith walk, we can learn from the apostle’s commitment.

We serve according to God’s will, not our own. In Acts 9:6, God told Paul on the road to Damascus, “It will be told you what you must do.” We are to seek the Lord’s direction and timing instead of choosing the ministry that seems best to us. Committing to do whatever He asks requires courage, but anything less is putting limitations on our obedience.

We serve according to our gifts, not our talents. A spiritual gift is the special endowment God gives us to serve where He calls. Talents may be useful in His work, but His gifts equip us for success. Natural skill wasn’t what made Paul a powerful preacher. In fact, he spoke of the uselessness of his abilities and pedigree in comparison to knowing and serving Christ. (Philippians 3:4–9)

We serve focused on God, not on the work. Paul excelled at remaining Christ – centered, but this is where many people fall apart. We get caught up in scheduling, responsibility, and accolades, which can make us lose sight of the true purpose – reaching the needy and the lost.

Doing “church work” can stroke the ego but drain the body. If we keep focused and serve out of our gifts, service will be satisfying, even when it is hard or painful.

  posted at 7:37 AM  

Sunday, September 13, 2009
“We always hurt the ones we love.” Have you ever experienced either side of that? Have you been the one to hurt someone you really care about … or have you been hurt by the words of someone who you love?

It’s kind of an interesting concept, don’t you think? Why would we hurt the ones we love the most? How could that be? Those we probably least want to hurt … are the ones we hurt.

I think there are a lot of reasons why this old adage rings so true for all of us but, for me, the primary reason has been because I tend to be the most honest with those to whom I am closest. If I have that feeling of intimacy … and vulnerability … with someone, I tend to be more open with my thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts have a solid basis and are accurate … and other times in retrospect I later discover they were a bit off base – perhaps too “heat of the moment” – but they came out anyway in the presence of someone I loved.

And, you know what … hopefully we have all experienced this on both sides as well … the one who has been hurt, because of the love they hold … understands and comes back … sometimes even reaching out to us all the more.

I think this is the relationship that God wants to have with us. His love for us will never end … He wants us to be honest and raw with Him … and He will always be there for us.

Many folks who are trying to walk with God may make the statement “God is my best friend.” Have you ever heard anyone say that before? Or perhaps you’ve said it? In light of that statement, though, let’s ask ourselves something – “Really?” Is He really our best friend or is that just a nice “Christianese” statement to make?

Because, if He’s really our best friend, we’re going to be taking things to Him that we’d take to our best friends. We’re going to have that kind of vulnerability and that kind of raw truthfulness and honest. We’re going to talk about our fears, our anxieties, our hurts and pains, our joys and our sufferings. We’re going to talk about those things with the creator of the universe. Because He loves us and He truly wants us to be our best friend.

God create Adam and then Even in the garden to have this kind of intimacy with Him. Face it, they didn’t know a whole lot of others at the time. God had at least a 50-50 chance of being their best friend. He sought this intimacy.

Then the fall came and God became a bit more far off … only a select few really got to have that close intimacy with Him, usually in a very dramatic turn of events such as things self combusting and the earth shaking.

But it was obvious after a few thousand years that we weren’t going to “get it” in that fashion. So, God sent His son – Jesus Christ – to actually be in community with us. And, for 30 years, despite the prophecies, from all appearances, Jesus was a pretty normal guy. Yeah, he was a gifted student but those come along now and then. He lived with friends and family members just as you and I do. They thought of Him as being their friend … I’m sure that even as a child some folks didn’t care for Him … He was from all appearances … human. People had relationships with Jesus just like we have relationships with each other. I’m sure He hurt some folks along the way and some folks hurt Him . We always hurt the ones we love.

But people also shared with Him … and the Bible gives us glimpses of people sharing their hurts, their pasts, their anxieties, and their joys with Him. Just like we share them with each other. That had to have been amazing.

Think about being one of His disciples or one of the others that traveled with Jesus during His actual ministry. How powerful after He was gone from this earth for them to have been able to think “Wow … that was the son of God … and I told him all my “stuff” … He was my friend, my confidante … He laughed and He cried with me … the son of God laughed and cried with me.”

Just as we laugh and cry … sometimes hurt and are sometimes hurt by … those we love here on earth today.

Jesus was sent here to restore that intimacy … that communion … that closeness between us and God … the creator of all. When He died, the veil was torn … there was no longer to be this big chasm between ourselves and God. We were to pray direct to Him … have the Holy Spirit here to guide us and flow through us. He was sent here to change thousands of years of separation that has occurred after the fall.

But do I take advantage of it? Or do I still try to compartmentalize God? Do I still want to hide things from Him … or do I think He would not want to be bothered by my stuff?

We always hurt the ones we love … that means we are open and honest … we get stuff out in the open … we talk about our pasts … we talk about when we’ve been hurt … or when we’ve triumphed … when we’ve worried … when we’ve hurt others. That makes part of the journey of life … knowing that we have earthly friends with whom we can share those things.

And I suppose it’s easier for us to relate to sharing those things with someone we can look at eye-to-eye … with someone who can physically hold or touch us … with someone who can always speak with words we can hear and understand.

God often speaks to us in other ways … through nudges … sometimes through revelations … and some folks will tell you they have audibly heard Him. He also speaks to us through His word … the Bible … put together for us to provide us, I believe, with every answer we could ever need. And, if we get honest with Him about our stuff, He will bring us to points of experience and eventual healing … because He loves us … and He wants to know what is holding us back from fully experiencing His love.

We always hurt the ones we love … we know what that means here on earth … we’re open with and vulnerable to those with whom we share our closest intimacy. God wants that intimacy with us … He wants to be the one we love the most … that was Jesus’ greatest commandment to us. Jesus also declared in John 15 that we’re no longer slaves to God … but we are His friend … He has revealed and will continue to reveal to us everything about Himself and everything we need to know. He got very real with us … when will we be real with Him? When will we show the vulnerability to get honest with the creator of the universe to the point of where we may feel like we’re hurting One who we love? His love for us, endless, will cause our relationship to only grow through that.

  posted at 9:11 AM  

Sunday, September 06, 2009
The following was written by Brigette Straub ... ever wonder where life is leading and what it means to be "happy" ... what it takes to be "happy"? This is a great reminder.

"Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).

Jesus knows that we hunger and thirst for more than this world can offer. He created us this way so that we would be in constant fellowship with Him.

When Jesus saw a great multitude of 4,000 who had followed Him for three days, He did not want them to leave hungry and was moved with compassion for them. There were only "seven loaves and a few little fish." BUT, it says that they "all ate and were filled" AND afterwards, "they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left" (Matthew 15:32-38). There was more than enough! There was even some left over. This is what He wants to do for us. He moves with compassion for us. Daily, and moment by moment, we can call upon Him for more.

Jesus always had more than enough. Jesus was overflowing because He was in constant fellowship with His Heavenly Father. He said He did nothing on His own initiative, but only did what He saw His Father doing (John 14:10). We can walk through life in this same way.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that we should be famished, full of disorder, filled with negative thoughts, and live a dreary life. Jesus says in Luke 11:13 that our Heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. It's true! Let us seek our God who lavishes His love upon us by giving us access to the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had.

Let us be imitators of Christ Jesus. How? By the power of the Holy Spirit. Are you thirsty? Do you long for more? James 4:2 says, "You do not have because you do not ask." Call upon Him.

He hears your cry. Ask God for more of Himself today.

  posted at 9:27 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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