Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lilia, Year Two (Oklahoma to Charlotte)

Two years ago Thursday, I was in a hotel in Norman, Oklahoma with a couple of hours to go before I had to hit I-35 to Ada.

I went out for a run, got back and saw my cell phone blinking.

Message, Miranda.

"Baby, call me please, they can't find a heartbeat. Just please call me."

From 17 minutes before.

We had a little girl, 17 weeks in utero - not an eternity in, but something in.

She died.

Not a new story, not a unique story, but our story.

We do boys really well. As I write this, five of them, ranging in age from college sophomore to eleven months old.

Relentless boys.

But Lilia died.

I knew it from the first second I heard Miranda's call.

But I was helped.

My friends at TAG covered for me and got me home, early the next day, before the procedure the following day. They were kind, and awesome.

I had to stay in Norman that night and Terry and Shane - colleagues- went to dinner with me.

I remember. Steak, rare - no starch please - just an extra helping of the broccoli and carrots and cauliflower.

I was drinking substantially then, so I may have gotten a little drunk.

God, I was sad.

Terry drove to the restaurant, Shane came in after and squeezed my shoulder when he got in. I am not a squeezer or a hugger yet Shane's shoulder squeeze I remember today.

We ate, Shane drove me back to the Embassy Suites, I got out, haltingly,  and Terry hugged me.

I am not sure he is much more of a hugger than I am.

Maybe what he did was reciprocate my hug.

At any rate, I got hugged. And I felt loved.

TAG  bent over backwards to get me home, substituting someone for my engagement; the Chickasaw Nation (my goodness, what great people) were kind. It may have been Shane, maybe Rich, who filled in for me.

I got home and we went to the clinic, the clinicians were awesome and Miranda spoke at the end of the procedure, the end of the day, these words when she woke up:

"Is my baby gone?"

So, you and I know we got off easy.

There are awful stories - even in my family - of stillbirths and unexpected dying. Just here in Charlotte, these last two days, a story of a seeming random car crash that is too awful to contemplate with a mama and babies dying.

But this was Lilia.

I kind of suck at remembering things, even watering trees. I have this sort of cauterizing ability hard-wired in my soul. I come across as distant to others, removed and unfeeling, and hard. I honest to God care, but I am not good at demonstrating so.

I know this.

A colleague at the time gave us - beautifully - a dogwood tree to remember Lilia by.

We have a pretty awesome backyard, where Lilia's tree is planted and occasionally I take #4 boy - Beckett - out there to water it.

But not always.

I sort of suck at the things that matter most.

I can express myself well with a MacBook Pro keyboard or a smooth legal pad surface and a Lamy pen. Aside from that, I fumble and fuss and almost always say the wrong thing unless I am in professional mode.

I am redeemed by the fact that I know this is true and that Jesus makes up for my lack and he has been doing that forever. Jesus fills in my every gap.

He has always been doing this for you and me, on I-35 and on our back roads and on the screaming highways and strangled nightmares and silent mornings of our lives.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Mugs - Your Real Name

A few weeks ago, I declared that I was ready to start a new blog series, inspired by our mug shelf at home:

Which, by the way, has welcomed some new friends since then.

The idea is that if you are a mug hoarder (ahem, collector) like we are than mugs represent something to you. They tell some sort of story.

In telling those stories I'll lead off with this one:

It's a mug with my initial on it that Miranda got me once for a gift.

It often sits near her "M" mug in our counter, because I have an occasional blessed rage for order.

My name could have been more than one name.

I was adopted, very soon after birth. My guess is that, unborn, I had some name in my birth mother's mind's eye.

My adoptive parents tried on several names before they settled on Todd (because they liked it) Armon (because it ran in the family, and was in turn given to my oldest son as well).

I had nicknames as a kid I won't tell you about, and a college nickname that I sure won't tell you about.

My wife calls me a pet name (odd phrase, 'pet name') that is not extraordinary, but is personal and intimate.

I get called "Mr", "Pastor", "Son", "Daddy".

I suspect there are a few who call me names unprintable in a family blog.

It's extraordinary, the amount of names we acquire through the years, most of us.

But there is one name that matters most.

It's a name that is a secret to everyone but you.

It's the name that in your heart of hearts you most hope God calls you when he is thinking about you.

As you read that, you know the name for you, right?




"One of us"?




"You're OK now"?


The Bible starts with naming - the first man and woman, and their sacred call to name the animals.

It continues with naming, where whole nations are summed up in the names of men who were pretty sure they didn't have what it took and in re-named men who had failed beyond comprehension yet were given names upon which the whole Story of the world would hinge.

And the Bible ends with naming, in this terribly mysterious and achingly beautiful passage where we all of us are handed a white stone upon which is inscribed a new name that only we, and He, know.

That Name is what you have been longing for your whole life, whether you know it or not, whether you have ever heard of it or not.

And it is the Name that is hinted at in that name that you most hope God is thinking about when he thinks about you.

That's what a simple "T" on a mug evokes for me - my name...and my Name.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams, Depression, and Me

I don't remember the world ever being so brutal, brittle, bitter, and breaking than it is now.

The words are starting to run together, aren't they?


And, in the middle of all of this, the suicide of an American actor/comic elicits incredible reaction.

Does this show we are hopelessly superficial?


It's the most natural thing in the world.

The horrors in Gaza and Iraq are unfathomable. Few of us have the capacity to stare them down without flinching. They are not 'scalable' for most of us.

But Robin Williams we can feel.

Many of us grew up watching and laughing with him. And all of us can relate to the tragedy of one person. We may not be able to absorb the tragedy of an entire racial or ethnic group, of kids dying of dehydration in their parents' arms. But we can get one sad, funny, tortured guy.

And we all know someone who is depressed. Or we are depressed ourselves.

One of the only happy things to come out of Robin Williams' sad death is a sparked discussion of depression and mental illness. I suspect it will fade soon, but better lightning-quick than never.

I suffer from depression, and I have not been honest about it.

In sermons and in writings I have safely, glancingly referred to my struggle.

"Hey, I know many of you today are struggling with depression or love someone who is. I want you to know that I have as well. I've been there. As a matter of fact, at one point Welbutrin saved my life. So, you don't have to run or be ashamed. Lots of us are there".

Well-meaning words. Wholly inadequate words.

I have preached some crap sermons through the years.

I was first diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 32. I am 45 now.

The therapist that had put me through my paces was a crusty sort, not given to compassion, at least overtly.

But he looked at me with something approaching kindness and said "You have no idea what it is like to feel OK, do you?"

I was born with it, man. Deep in the DNA, hard-wired in the genetic code.

Sometimes it has been manageable. Circumstances collide with a predisposition and I felt blue, listless, craving sleep or self-medication, sad. In those times, exercise, prayer, friends, bucking up, playing through, all of those things helped.

Other times the black dog was more tenacious and only meds helped.

Twice or maybe thrice in my life I have been in the grips of what the pros call 'anhedonic' depression.

This is another black dog entirely.

Those of you who have been there will know instinctively what I mean.

The deal with this strain of depression is that nothing makes it better. Every strategy that has ever worked before is worse than useless - as a matter of fact, your proven strategies line up in demonic array and mock you. Nothing makes it lift. Nothing makes it even slightly better. Nothing, not even for a second.

It's not as if you are sad, splayed out on your bed, sobbing.

It is just that there is no hope that anything will ever get ok and, when it spikes you flinch at anything, are scared of everything, are so anxious that you can see your heart beat in your chest and you want to claw at the cellophane-wrap-like thing enclosing you.

This is where well-intentioned advice is like freshly squeezed lemon juice on a knife puncture.

Tell someone with a migrane to get on a treadmill for thirty minutes.

Tell someone with a terminal diagnosis to buck up.

Tell someone with lupus they just need to pray and trust God more.

Tell someone in the grips of anhedonic depression anything.

"At least depression doesn't kill people like cancer does", said a well-meaning friend a few years ago.

I said nothing.

I suspect this was where Robin Williams was a couple of days ago - anhedonia. The scary thing is this - he had tried everything. He had sought professional help - it doesn't get any more professional than the Hazelden clinic.

Sometimes everything doesn't work and you get stuck in a moment you can't get out of.

At times past in my life I have picked out the overpass abutment to drive into, researched the medicinal cocktail to take, looked up state laws on suicide and life insurance

So, what to do with this?

If you are depressed or think you might be:

-You probably are, or you wouldn't be asking the question.
-You are anything but alone.
-Tell someone you trust.
-Don't self-medicate with drugs or alcohol or sex or food. Don't get me wrong - those things will give fleeting moments of relief. Then you will crash, harder than before.
-God is actually there. He really is. Here is where the Christian faith really has an answer. On the Cross, Jesus absorbed all of our pain, all of our wrong, all of our suffering. In one cataclysmic moment he took it all into Himself. Even after all these years, that knowledge doesn't stop stunning me. If you believe this, cling to it with all you have. If you don't believe it or aren't sure, consider if it may be true.

If you know someone who is depressed:

-You are their friend or loved one for a reason. Be brave.
-Nothing you can do is enough, especially if they are in anhedonic depression, so don't take the responsibility.
-Don't try to solve them or fix them.
-Do offer the good advice at first - pray, exercise, eat well, focus on the positive, see a counselor or a psychiatrist who can provide meds.
-If that advice does not work, do not press it. Be with them. Don't leave them.
-Pray, if you know how.
-Pray, even if you don't know how.

Check out the photo of Robin Williams higher in this post.

Now check out the last known photo of Robin ever taken, according to Radar Online, at a Dairy Queen near the Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota where the teen waitress said he appeared to be 'struggling':

It's a brutal, brittle, bitter, breaking thing.

But there is the Cross.

Those last two sentences.

I don't write either theoretically.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Mugs

It's been a long time away from this blog. I've been deeply immersed in creating content for teams I work with and for others and have set aside my own work. A big project just ended though and I am ready to re-engage!

So, I'll start with a new feature - Monday Mugs.

Both Miranda and I are fans of coffee mugs. Want proof?

Yep, those are our coffee mug shelves. As in plural. And this does not count the mugs in the dishwasher, which was loaded at the time.

I am not a hoarder. But I find a hard time letting go of coffee mugs. So does Miranda.

I can get rid of any other kind of glass, plate, serving dish, or piece of cutlery with no conscience.

Yep, I am a psychopath when it comes to getting rid of plates.

But mugs are different. I think that's because the best mugs tell a story. A story of a place, a time, an experience, a person.

If you attract coffee mugs, chances are you are a person who likes a good story and sees their life as a narrative.

So starting next Monday, I'll be introducing you each week to a different mug in our shelves and telling you its story.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Keychain, Two Keys, and The Truth

Life in many ways is more simple today than it has been in a long time.

Take, for example, my keychain:

For years, I had more keys than I knew what to do with. Keys to multiple properties, work spaces, cars, lockers, you name it. And I had a section of a drawer full of keys I had forgotten about.

Lots of keys.

Lots of keys represent a complicated life - lots of doors to open, places to be, obligations to meet, headaches to deal with.

Now, my keychain consists of our house key and the key to my beloved, ten-year old Jeep.

(I do have a swipecard to one of my workplaces, but I am not sure where that is now, because I don't carry a wallet anymore - I have an iPhone holder that holds my phone, driver's license and a debit card and I reckon that's about all I need on any given day).

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul wrote: "Make it your goal to live a quiet life".

For me, a quiet life involves fewer keys.

I don't have a monastic temperament, or the leanings of an self-denier. I have a mortgage, two cars (one of these days I will get around to getting a key to Miranda's car) and several professional organizations I serve to earn my living and a lot of deadlines that are particularly pressing this month. I also have five kids, ranging in age from 18 to 8 months. Life is not easy, necessarily.

But life is increasingly quiet. Less about striving, or making an impression, or issuing grand pronouncements.

This does not come easily to me. I thrive - historically - on unpredictability, chaos, the next challenge, the next impassable mountain. And striving.

I also have high blood pressure and occasional, serious depression. I can't sustain life the way I am 'wired' to (or, better, have 'wired' myself).

I need to find more quiet.

For me, that is represented by one keychain, two keys, and the truth.

What is a quiet life for you?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What's Next?

As many of you know, there are five boys in our family, ranging in age from 18 years to 6 months.

It has been quite a ride and, especially in the case of the first two, has involved a lot of sports.

My two oldest played everything except for baseball along the way, with #1 being a state champion in football and #2 playing high level competitive soccer today as a high school sophomore.

Suffice it to say I have been to a lot of practices and games, ranging from the earliest soccer games (an amoeba-like formation of toddlers clustered around a ball) to watching my oldest win a state championship his junior year.

For a year there, I would watch #2 play a varsity soccer game and then during halftime walk across a parking lot and watch #1 practice football (from a distance because when they are tiny they love for you to be at their practices but when they get older, nothing could be worse!).

Until I met Miranda, I thought my days of practices and games, making sure to take water bottles and taking my turn to bring the youth soccer team's halftime snacks were over.

Not so much.

#4 just completed his first year of soccer. They didn't actually play games (he's not even quite three years old) but they kicked the ball around, played silly games, ran around and, yes, drank from water bottles.

Same as it ever was.

Hydration is as important as ever. I suspect that my kids will put "He told us to drink more water" on my tombstone.

This picture is from last night. But it could just as easily have been taken 15 years ago from #1's first season.

#4 has no idea what's in front of him, whether soccer will be his sport or not, whether or not he will even like sports.

He's got a lot of time ahead of him.

Only, he doesn't.

Our days go by in a blur. It's a truism, I know, but the darn kids just grow up so fast.

And so do we.

When asked what was his greatest surprise in his years on earth, the legendary evangelist Billy Graham said "The brevity of life".

So, what's next?

Whatever it is, make sure you are intentional about it, that it reflects your values and passions, that it is rooted in the true you you were made to be.

Take the best of what was and what is and make it your 'What's next".

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: What's Freedom From?

Our church is in a teaching series about the concept of freedom now. With plenty of reason - it is a dominant theme in the Bible, perhaps never more clearly than in Galatians 5:1:

"It is for freedom that Christ has set you free..."

Check out the double emphasis - Christ (through his life, death, and resurrection) has set us free...for the very purpose of freedom.

Which raises the question - what are we intended to be free FROM?

These things, at least.

Freedom from religion.
Yep, I said it. Religion - when it is humanly created - leads to either self-righteousness or self-condemnation. It leads to the nearly universal human impulse to believe that it is up to me to find my way to God, to give him a good track record so he will accept me. Nothing could be further from the truth of the Christian faith, which says that God has found his way to us and that he has given us credit for Christ's track record, since ours could never measure up.

Freedom from fear.
The worst human fear is death. Christ defeated death on the cross. So we don't have to fear death anymore. Follow the logic...if we don't have to fear the worst thing that could happen, why should we fear anything else?

Picture this....a father hides his little son behind him and wards off the array of ninja assassins who invade their house one night. One by one, the killers drop dead, harmless.

Suddenly, the boy spies a spider scampering across the floor. Does it stand to reason to doubt that his dad can take care of that for him?

This doesn't mean that fearful and even terrible things won't happen. But it does mean that death can't do its worst to us.

Freedom from failure
I'm preaching on this topic in a few weeks and so I am thinking about it a lot. Not going to give away the punch line, but suffice it to say that its truth is rooted in the fact that Jesus failed.

That's right. Jesus failed.

Never had much of a following beyond a ragtag bunch of liars, dreamers, and misfits. Continually got himself in hot water. Left his family baffled and disapproving in some cases. Could have had powerful allies but managed to alienate them all (he was a terrible networker). Got arrested and chose to represent himself in court - everything he said during the proceedings worked against his own interests. Got himself killed at a relatively early age after being publicly mocked and beaten up.



He rose from the dead. And is, by far, the most influential person in the history of the world, worshipped by untold millions, fascinating to even those who hate him.

So, what do you think he can do with YOUR failures?

Turn them into roaring triumphs, that's what.

So, what are you afraid of?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Preachin' on Sunday

This Sunday, I am preaching for the first time in six months - just about the longest stint I have ever gone between sermons in my life.

('People have no idea how good they have had it for six months' - My Desk)

It's a great honor to be with the people of The Way/Camino Church, a church our family has come to love in the last four months, after admiring, respecting, and working with their pastor, Rusty Price, for nearly a decade.

You should like the church's Facebook page here!

I have simply never known a church that serves its community better. There are two campuses and one is wholly devoted to serving people as the Camino Community Center, with a food pantry, free clinic, counseling center, and much more. The campus where worship takes place on Sundays is positioned off of the exit which leads to the largest mall in the area (Concord Mills) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway - you could not find a better, more promising location.

I have never known a church with a brighter future or with more meaningful momentum.

I'm teaching on Ephesians 2:10:

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which  God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them".

If you are a regular reader of this blog you won't be surprised to know that the themes of the teaching will be tied to Intentional Difference.

ID is deeply rooted in faith - more deeply than most people realize. We wrote the book for a secular audience, but its ideas find their home in the Bible.

Here's the Big Idea:

You were made different to make a difference.

I am very excited to have the chance to talk about ID in the context of the Bible and in a phenomenal local church - I believe, deep-down, that its message is life-changing.

If you live in the CLT area, it would be fun to see you at 10 (English) or 12 noon (Spanish).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: A Leader's Reading

The first chunk of Daniel 9 is fascinating in what it implies, rather than what it says.

It features Daniel as a young man coming to grips with his faith, current events, and what the times demanded of him.

Easily lost in a quick reading is repeated references to what Daniel found in 'the books' - words from God that had guided his people for years.

Daniel went on to become one of the most courageous, insightful, and wise leaders in the history of Israel - really, in the history of any nation.

And a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was an avid reader. And every great leader will be too.

Where can we look to learn?

1. God's word - what we have today as the Bible. Learning leaders make it a lifelong quest to study, mark, learn, inwardly digest, and apply the Bible to their lives.

2. People. Attach yourself (in a non-creepy way!) to wise, older men and women who have learned a lot by living well, making mistakes, and bouncing back. People aren't books, but they live stories.

3. Biographies. I'm never without one going on my Kindle or on the coffee table in my library. Can't overestimate the power of reading about a life well or poorly lived.

Read Eric Metaxas on Bonhoeffer, Timothy Dudley-Smith on John Stott, Martin Gilbert on Winston Churchill, Robert Caro on Robert Moses (an utterly brilliant book which is the best illustration of the corruption of power you will ever read), David McCullough on Harry Truman, and Peter Drucker on himself (his Adventures of a Bystander, which is a book I never get tired of, ever).

4. Talk to others about what you are reading. I have friends who enjoy theology as I do, mysteries as I do, history and biography as I do. To find someone who loves the same kinds of books you do and is willing to talk about them is to make a friend!

How about you? What are you reading these days?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: Waiting For God

Isaiah gets right to the point in verse one of chapter 64:

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!"

Ever felt like that?

"God, I need you. There's no mistake. This isn't a hangnail or a sinus headache or a bad day. I need you. I need you so bad and I need you now. I need you to rip the veil that separates you from us and get here now. I need you. Can you please hurry?"

And then Isaiah goes on to paint a picture of this heaven-rending, action-oriented, right-now God.

Mountains quake and fire catches and water boils and nations tremble and mountains quake again.

And sometimes God shows up that way.

But lots of times he doesn't.

Maybe you are in a place where you are looking for a heaven-rending God right now. Or three weeks ago.

You are tired of waiting, of things not changing, of pain enduring and circumstances lingering.

You're tempted to get impatient, bitter, to take matters in your own hands.

I'm guessing Isaiah was as well. After all, he's calling on mountains to quake and tremble and God to act like a MMA athlete.

And then he catches himself. Verse four:

"From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him."

There is a causal relationship here between our waiting and God's acting.

If you are like me, you hate to wait.

I am awful at waiting. In line, in traffic, for news, for kids, in pain and uncertainty.

I wish I were better - had more fortitude and patience and trust and faith. But I don't.

But here it is - God acts for those who wait for him.

If you are in a place where you want God to rend the heavens, that is OK. You're in good company. Isaiah and all that.

But remember that he has not forgotten you - that he never could forget you - that to forget you would be foreign to everything he is.

And that, in time, he will act. And because he is good, so will be his actions.

No eye, no ear, no one has ever seen anything like it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Impossible Choices

The world is marking the 20th anniversary of the unthinkable Rwandan genocide these days.

In all of the tales of horror surrounding those dark days, there were tales of hope and heroism.

One was the story of a young man who was one of only twelve people pulled out alive after being buried under a pile of 3,000 corpses in the town of Murambi.

Not too long ago, his terror began anew when those who had committed the massacre were released from prison.

One of the nation's leaders asked him "How do you manage?"

His reply: "I could not do it unless I was convinced that these impossible choices are leading us somewhere".

The impossible choices he had in mind were the efforts in Rwanda to acknowledge the pain of the past, bring reconciliation into the present, and to insure a future free of such horror.

But he had made impossible choices along the way himself, on a personal level.

Choices to survive, to live, to forgive.

My guess is that you may be facing your own impossible choices at this moment.

To forgive.

To trust again.

To step away.

To lean in.

To risk.

To love.

To get back off the mat one more time and keep fighting.

Simply to go on.

A great life is rooted in and flows from such impossible choices. They are only impossible in the moment.

In retrospect, they are the choices that lead you somewhere.

They lead you to greatness.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: Do You Want God's Provision?

We all want what God has.

Better stated, we all want what God can provide for us.

And that's only natural. After all, in the model prayer, Jesus made no bones about saying we should pray "Give us this day our daily bread".

"God, please give me money for my kids' medical bills."

"God, please give me the ability to pay the mortgage, the rent."

"God, please help me pay for food next week."

There is nothing wrong with asking for God to provide for us.

And the good news is, he does provide.

In my experience, his provision often takes this shape in our lives.

Pain + Persistence = Provision

Life has pain in it. We face it for various reasons. Some are cause and effect; others are seemingly random; others seem simply cruel.  But we all have pain.

In the face of our pain, God says "Will you be persistent?"

Persistent in seeking Me?

Persistent in being faithful?

Persistent in standing by your friend?

Persistent in doing the right thing, no matter the loss?

Persistent in continuing to hope, believe, hang on, have faith?

Pain meets persistence and God says "I can trust this person with a measure of my resources".

God will always provide, but he may well provide in abundance for those who meet pain not with anger or manipulation or coldness or despair or bitterness or exclusion or shrewdness or a power-grab...but with persistence in faithfulness, kindness, love.

Then we get to experience his rich and overwhelming provision.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: You're Free To Go

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free..." - Galatians 5:1

I have never met a single person who says "I love the feeling of being trapped".

We don't enjoy being hemmed in, tied up, held captive - whether it's to a job we don't like, an addiction we can't beat, or a situation we can't extricate ourselves from.

We long to be free.

Here's the deal.

Jesus is all about freedom. "I came to set the captives free", he said. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free", Paul said - using a double affirmative to make his point.

This freedom may be external - God getting us out of our situation, bondage, addiction.

Or it may be internal - God giving us peace in the middle of a situation we will have to endure for a while.

But, we're not meant to be, or to feel like, captives.

At a church yesterday, I had the chance to walk with the high-capacity, high-commitment staff as they discerned the One Word they believe describes them and the church they love (part of the Intentional Difference process).

The word was "Liberators".

Or "Libertadores", in Spanish.

There is simply no better word that a church could have.

It's Jesus' heartbeat. For you.

Whatever that thing is that holds you back, ties you down, occupies your energy and's been defeated already.

On the cross, Jesus took on his shoulders all captivity and enslavement. He paid for it with his life, bled for it with everything he had.

You don't have to be a captive anymore, to anything.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reducing Your Personal Fear Factor

Several of the boys recently took a field trip to the Kings Mountain battlefield near us in Charlotte. It was the site of an under-appreciated battle during the Revolutionary War.

It's a nice spot with a pleasant little hike up to the monument which crowns the mountain.

Boy #4 make the hike and decided he was lord of all he surveyed. His mom glanced away for just a second and he made a break for it.

No fear.

(I still think it's funny she took a moment to capture the picture as he careened towards disaster!)

Boy #2 was the same way as a toddler. At the beach, he would be out with the dolphins in under thirty seconds, terrifying all of the adults on shore.

I'm not that way. I tend to see the glass half-full, tend to be anxious, tend to imagine worst-case scenarios.

It's quite a character flaw.

But I'm not content to stay that way. I want to have no fear. 

And there's good reason to desire that.

Jesus said once that "There is no fear in love, because perfect love casts off fear".

When I am afraid, it is because I have a failure of imagination when it comes to seeing and receiving love. Imagine life free of fear - the adventures you'd have, the stories you'd be able to tell.

So, how do you reduce your personal fear factor? Three ideas...

Choose to see life as an adventure, not an ordeal.
That's simply a matter of resolve and conviction. Whatever comes your way will - more than likely - not kill you. Even if it does, there's adventure there. Some of the bravest, hardiest, most adventuresome people I have ever known have been those staring down terminal diagnoses.

Don't be afraid to leave things behind.
There are sacred things we must stick to, no matter the cost. 

There are very few of these. 

If it's a job, a house, a town, a church, a sick relationship - and it's sucking the life out of you - leave it behind. It doesn't need you. You don't need it.

A good and bracing question is "What can I leave behind?" 

A soul-killing question is "What do I have to hold on to?"

Know that you are loved.
Jesus spoke with precision. It's not bravery that casts out fear. Or guts. Or ignorance. There are some things to be fearful of.

But love - perfect love - eliminates fear.

If I can hold on tightly to the fact that I am loved - that nothing can ever eliminate, mitigate, relativize, or minimize that love - I have the resources I need to scamper across mountainous monuments and swim with dolphins.

You don't have to be afraid.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: To Dominate, or to Serve?

Once, Jesus' disciples were squabbling over who held pride of place in their organization. Jesus cut them off with a terse statement:

"Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant" (Mark 10:43b).

Sounds simple, right?

Only, we never seem to get it right.

During the height of the power of the former Soviet Union, there was a phrase which captured the regime's political philosophy - "Kto kovo".

Translated, it means "Who dominates whom?"

The answer, it was implied, tells us who the winner is.

If you dominate, you are hold all the cards. You can impose your will, craft your desires into policy and procedures, protect yourself against your enemies, secure your control, guarantee your influence.

You've won.

Only, you haven't - and the scrapyards of history are littered with those who have subscribed to the philosophy of dominance. Many of them were terribly successful for a time. But, in the end, they fade into the shadows.

Most of us aren't quite so brazen as the former Soviets about our desire to dominate.

We cloak our need to control in lots of ways - "I need to make sure quality standards are met". "I've worked too hard to get here to let it slip away now". "I have the chance to devote my energy to this place; my (customers, congregation members, employees) just can't see everything I see". "Weak leaders get left behind". "Things are tough here - a visionary leader is needed to turn the tide".

But all come from the same place - I gotta win. Who dominates whom?

Jesus turns the power scale upside down.

He gets the desire to dominate. His disciples hung out with him all the time, and they still had it. But he also knows that domination will wreck families, marriages, churches, friendships, organizations of all kind.

You simply can't lose if you position yourself as a servant. A strong servant, to be sure - one with an unassailable sense of who you are and the values you hold.

But a servant, nonetheless. Counting the interest of those you serve as more important than your own. Choosing to believe that your family's or organizations deeply held values are more important than you, your pride, your position.

Leaders serve, and servants lead.

How would those you love and lead describe you?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Words From One of My Heroes Upon Lent

Leighton Ford is one of my great heroes and mentors. I don't have the bandwidth to write how much I love, trust, and honor him. He has been a friend-beyond-a-friend for the last near-thirty years of my life. You should really read some of the stuff he is writing! How about this:


 Years ago the Swiss therapist and spiritual guide Paul Tournier caught my attention with a dramatic image comparing life to a trapeze performance in a circus. The trapeze artist grasps the bar of a swing, launches out, swings back and forth, higher and higher, until at the farthest point he or she lets go, trusting their partner to swing out at just the right time to reach out, clasp arms, and swing them to safety on the other side.

 Just imagining such a moment makes my stomach clutch, and my breath catch! It also makes me realize how apt Tournier’s image is for this Lenten season, a time to let go, and reach out.

 The Bible is filled with stories of this risky movement. Abraham is called to leave the security of his ancestral home, and to go out by faith to a land he did not know. The disciples of Jesus leave the boats and livelihood and families, saying “We have left all to follow you.” Jesus himself said, “I have power to lay my life down, and to take it up again.”

Notice how his letting go is tied to the certainty of resurrection. Paul’s sees himself not as a trapeze performer but a runner. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Can you picture yourself, this Lenten season, as the trapeze artist or the runner, “letting go, and reaching out”?

 The past year was for me in many ways a year of loss: young leaders I have mentored facing life-threatening illnesses; my brother-in-law Billy reaching his 95th birthday but growing weaker; the traumatic death of my dog Wrangler, my close companion for nine years. “I feel that everything is going away,” I told a friend. She surprised me by asking, “What time does God’s store close?”

 I thought back to my parents’ jewelry store, which closed at 6pm every day except weekends. Then I realized that God’s store does not close! His grace is available 24/7 for every letting go, and every reaching out. As I look back over my life I remember painful partings, letting go of “attachments” which had seemed absolutely vital, even wondering whether life would be whole again. But God was calling through loss to gain, letting go of the past to enter into God’s future. Each of us has certain “attachments”, habits or people, or even addictions or possessions which we clutch for security. And each of us is again and again called to “detachment” in order to trust God more. I suggest two questions to ask as you embark on your Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday next week.

 What do I need to let go? What unfinished business is there that is holding you back – of hurt, or dreams, or failure, or the normal patterns of the last year?

Try holding out your hands, visualize placing those concerns in them, then turn them over and open them, releasing them into God’s care. To what do I need to reach out? To what new adventure or challenge may God be calling you?

Turn your hands upward, open them and lift them, and receive at least a token of God’s grace. As the Quaker Thomas Kelly wrote, (God) plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chains of attachment. And (God) hurls the world into our hearts, where we and (God) together carry it in infinitely tender love.

 So this Lent – let go – reach out – trust God.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What's The Most Important Thing About Work?

First, what is NOT the most important thing about work? It's not trying hard, though that is essential. It's not having something to do to pay the bills, though that is important. It's not success, though that is rewarding. It's not power, because in and of itself that is corrupting. It's not just getting by and clocking in, because that is life-sucking. So, what is it? At the end of the day the most important thing about work is to be fully engaged in doing the thing you were made to do in the way only you can do it, in a way congruent with your values, in the company of like minded partners.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Will You Catch Me?

There's a great playground in our neighborhood. It features sturdy swings, a pretend fast food drive thru window (ummm...) and, best of all, this slide: Beckett, our toddler has recently come to love this slide. From an initial fear, he is now hurtling down headfirst. Cool. A very necessary rite of passage for a boy. But, there's a caveat. Before he slides down, he must know - he must have verbal assent - that he will be caught at the end of the slide. More than verbal assent, he must have visual confirmation. Yesterday, he slid with abandon but only after ritually asking "You catch me, Daddy?" and needing to see me look up at him from the bottom of the slide and say "You got it, buddy, I'll catch you!" He's willing to take a man-size risk as a little guy, but only if he knows he's going to be caught. This will - at least it should - never end for him. Jesus, speaking of you and me, said "My father has given them to me and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from my father's hand" (John 10:29) Same cry of the heart as my toddler. I want to know my father is powerful enough to catch me. I want to know that no matter what happens to me and those I love that he will never let me go. It's one thing for me to promise it on a suburban playground. Quite enough for the Creator of the universe, the unquenchable, all-powerful King himself to promise it. No matter how steep your slide feels, no matter the risk you think you are being called to run, no matter how fast you may feel you are falling, no matter... He will always say "Yes!" when you ask "Will you catch me?"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: The One Verse

Here's the one verse I would cling to if I had to cling to one verse as to how to live: " steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor 15:58). Wherever you are, whatever you have lost, wherever you have failed, whatever you are facing... don't give in and don't give up. If your heart is oriented towards Jesus and his Cross and Resurrection - if you still retain the capacity to be amazed and moved by those two historical events - all is well. If your heart still loves - even after you hurt and cuss and moan and groan - all is well. If your heart still melts for the hurting and the left-out and the overlooked - all is well. If your heart still finds itself siding with those who are out, not those who are in - all is well. If your heart still is soft towards those who have hurt you rather than seeking to cast them away - all is well. Every bit of energy you expend in the service of the causes that Jesus loves will result in results which richly repay your investment...they are never in vain. Anything else gets piled up on the landfill of history - silly and small and superficial.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Try Something New - Right Now

All of us have things we have to do all the time.

If you're a parent, you have to take care of kids. If you're a teacher, you have to prepare lesson plans and show up to teach. If you are a salesperson, you have to sell stuff.

You get the point.

No matter what we do, we do a lot of it over and over again. And, before we know it, we keep doing things the same way because that's what we know.

But what if we took some time in the middle of the planning and executing and dreamed up our jobs all over again? What if we did something we have always done in a way we have never thought of doing it?

Marketers still have to market. But how about selling your waterproof Mp3 player in a water bottle?

That's what Sony is doing in New Zealand. It's been out for a while - their waterproof player and headphones. But now, they're selling it across Asia from vending machines - IN a waterbottle!

School officials still have to make decisions and communicate about cancelling school for snow days.

But how about framing your same old-same old announcement as a parody rap video?

That's what these guys did in North Carolina.

Both ideas have gone viral. Both were just normal people doing what they always do, only doing it different.

What are you doing that you always do that you can do differently - because YOU are intentionally different today?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: What A Waste!

"What a waste!"

It's a phrase we use a lot.

Can't believe I spent time watching that reality TV show!

Can't believe we paid $870 for the family to go to that awful movie!

Can't believe I drove all the way out there and they didn't have the thing I wanted.

The phrase can take a serious turn too.

Can't believe I invested in that relationship.

Can't believe I told that lie - look what it cost me.

Can't believe he made those choices - look at all he has lost.

What a waste.

It's a famous story.

Jesus is at a friend's house having dinner and a woman - perhaps of ill repute, no one is really sure - comes in.

She takes a jar of fantastically expensive perfume (I mean, really expensive, not mall expensive but 401K in 2007 expensive) and pours it over his head as an act of love and devotion.

The religious people in the room are shocked. (Religious people are always being shocked, have you ever noticed that? Jesus never seemed to get shocked by anything except the foolishness of religious people).

"What a waste!", these indignant ones said. "The woman could have sold the perfume and sent the proceeds to Compassion International or World Vision or the homeless shelter!"

They did have a point.

Jesus sits there in a puddle of perfume, dripping from his hair, down his beard, onto the floor.

You can't re-bottle that stuff. It's gone, like a 401K in 2008. Gone.

Theoretically, it could have been put to better use, more responsible use, surely more logical use.

Only, Jesus tells the church leaders to hush and says "She's done a great thing. People will be talking about what she did forever".

And so we are.

So, what's the deal?

Two layers at work here.

First, no act of love, no matter how extravagant or illogical, is ever a waste.

Love loud, love boldly, love illogically, love even when the religious leaders shake their heads and say "You should have tithed your time and your money, not spent it on _____________!"

(I'm not saying don't tithe, by the way).

As the title of a great book puts it, Love Does.

Don't let hesitation, shyness, insecurity, or fear of not being good enough keep you from loving.

But there was something else at play in Jesus' words, something significant and serious.

In those days, when someone died they embalmed them with perfume, to arrest - even if only for a short time - the process of decay. They poured it over their body and it ran down into a puddle.

When Jesus died, he was embalmed this way. This woman's act prefigured and foreshadowed this.

He was a thirty-something Rabbi with incredible powers of healing and teaching. People flocked to him.

Then Jesus started saying risky and unnecessary things. And it got him killed.

What a waste, right?

Only, it wasn't a waste at all. It was the greatest investment ever, because it was a hard core, all in, reckless, crazy, illogical investment - a bet, really - in you.

That's the way God operates. And that's why when you look at something immeasurably painful in your life, thinking it's a waste and you'll never get it back and she'll never come home and all hope is lost and you'll never love or find love again Jesus says "If I have my way, nothing is ever wasted".

So, let Me have my way.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How To Work With A New Person Or Group

Whether you're a salesperson seeking to meet the needs of a potential client, a consultant looking to serve a new group, or a pastor desiring to care for a new family it's important to know how to make the right start with new folks.

I'll write as a consultant/educator so I'll use the plural, but the principles are the same whatever your role - and whether or not your role is something entirely different - teacher, coach, first name it!

1. Care far more about understanding them than making a first impression for yourself.

This is not only the right thing to do, but it increases your effectiveness exponentially. They are not a cog in your wheel, an asset for your bottom line, a notch for your ego, or a hope for your dwindling congregation.

They are a group of people with a story and your job is to learn that story well. Nothing you can say to them makes sense unless you get their story and begin to speak with them in the same language as their story.

2. Believe that whatever challenges they may be facing, the answers are in the room.

I am fortunate enough to work with a consulting firm which preaches this relentlessly and has ever since my first day of association with them thirteen years ago: "The answer is in the room".

I've seen the wisdom of this simple statement over and over again.

This means that God (in my estimation) or fate or the human spirit or life experience has given them everything they need to solve their problems. The work of leadership does not involve you telling them the answers but helping them to discover the resources they already have and then mobilizing others to solve those problems.

It also helps me get out of my own way and to avoid the pressure of having to act like I have all the answers.

3. Follow their energy, wherever that leads.

When working with new folks, I walk in - inevitably - with an agenda. That's not inherently bad, but it usually only lasts for the first five minutes of the meeting.

Whoever the group is, they have energy surrounding something. Your job is to find that and go with it. If you're a consultant, it's not 'here's my five point plan for you'; if you're in sales it's not 'please buy my service'; if you're a pastor, it's not 'please join my church, fill a slot, and contribute financially'.

If you try to impose your energy on them - oh, dear Lord - that never ends well. They will be irritated with you for reasons even they don't understand, and you'll get nowhere.

No one will follow someone else whom they believe to have an agenda that does not honor their own. Great leaders often change our agenda but they don't start there - they start by letting us know they value where we are starting.

Following the energy is not only good business practice but is a very spirit-honoring thing. In a world that treats people as commodities all too often this says "You are important and valuable and well worth considering".

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How To Become A Writer

I meant to post this as this past week's Friday FAQ, but I kept messing around with it and realized it was more than one post.

Because I have written and had a few books published without being a full-time writer, I get asked the question a fair amount - 'So, how do I get a book published?' Which, I hope is code for 'How do I become a writer?'

I suppose there are a lot of ways to do it. If I were twenty-two and unmarried with no kids, I would move to the beach for a year and write, write, write.

I'm none of the above so I have had to write (five books written or co-written so far, two ghost-written, and two projects in play at the moment) while holding down multiple other jobs. So, I'm not a good source of advice for the person who wants to chuck it all and write the Great American Novel. Or even the Sort-of-OK American Novel.

But I might be able to help if you want to write while doing something else to pay the rent and chasing kids around and Not. Having. Time. To. Write.

I'll do this in stages, but I'll start with three things today.

1. If you don't have time to write, you don't really want to write.
So, if time is your issue, I'm not going to be of much help. If you're not willing to get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later or watch less TV or miss a ball game or two, you just aren't going to be willing to go through the writing process which is, at times, agonizing. So do something else and prosper!

I think we'd all annoy each other less if we stipulated that we each have the exact same amount of hours in a day, we all have the option of skipping sleep if we have to, and that we make time for precisely those things we want to make time for. I'm no busier than you and you are no busier than me; we just have different priorities.

2. Read.
Read a lot, I mean an awful lot, before you even think about writing a word. You can't write well without reading widely.Read all kinds of stuff, including and especially the kind of stuff you don't want to write. Read fiction, non-fiction, classics, biographies, science fiction, history, theology, current events, book reviews, cookbooks. Read all the time, in whatever medium you can.   Read a little bit of stuff you just don't like, mostly to figure out what you do like. Then when you find the kinds of books that make your heart beat a little faster and your eyes tear up occasionally read them a lot.

3. Write.
Even if it's bad, and it will be bad at first. Just write. Even if it's one single solitary page a day. Probably better at first to write no more then 2-3 pages a day. Then rewrite them. Then burn them. OK, don't burn them. Keep them, because one day you will be so excited and grateful to see how far you've come.

Here's a secret I have figured out from reading other writers write about how to write.

When you first start writing you will be a bad version of your favorite writers.

Once you realize this you will be tempted to start a big bonfire with all of your typed pages and never write again. Don't do either because this is a necessary part of the writing process. It's a good and necessary part.

Pretty much everything I wrote for a long time was a bad version of Frederick Buechner.

Plenty of young writers of a certain type of spiritual commitment are writing bad Donald Miller.

Lots of bad Jonathan Franzen out there.

Fair amount of bad Annie Dillard and entirely too much bad Anne Lamott.

Increasing amounts of bad Shauna Niequist.

Tons of bad David Foster Wallace which is unfortunate, because he could be bad enough on his own.

Probably some bad 'Fifty Shades of Grey' stuff out there...(but I don't want to read that and if you are doing that, you should stop right now).

Here's what happens, though. Over time and through reading and writing bad versions of your favorite writers you start to develop your own voice. Suddenly you don't sound like a bad (fill in the name of your favorite writer), you sound like a mediocre version of you.

And this is very good because now you have a place from which to start. And you could not have short-changed one bit of the process that led you to this point.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Teaching Tuesday: Prepare Or Trust?

Among folks who look to the Bible for daily guidance there is a centuries-long, lively debate that can be boiled down to this:

Is our impact in life shaped by our efforts, or God's?

It's an important question, because of the extremes - on the one side, well-intentioned hard workers who write things like "The world is run by tired men" to maddeningly passive trust-ers who intone "Let go and let God".

So, what's the answer?

"The horse is prepared for the day of battle; but the victory belongs to the Lord" - Proverbs 21:31

There's a lot of rich history around horses going into battle. If you are taking a horse to a fight, you have to decide what kind of horse (typically lighter horses to get you to the battle were exchanged for heavy horses in the thick of the right); how to armor the horse (protect the horse, protect the rider, or both); whether to ride of drive the horse; whether to mount the horse or attach a chariot; how to feed, train, and groom the get the idea.

Volumes have been written on how to train and prepare a horse for battle and the answers given depend on the era, the relevant geography, and the current weaponry technology.

All of that to say, it's not an easy thing to prepare a horse for battle. There's a lot of thinking, working, strategizing, analyzing, trial and error to consider. Lots of hard work.

And then the battle comes.

Hopefully the horse is well prepared and hopefully the warrior has considered all of the contingencies and made all the right decisions.

But, at that point, it's out of the warrior's hands - victory belongs to the Lord.

Any warrior reading this proverb would have been bit uncomfortable - after all, they were highly trained in equine warfare, experienced in battle, dependent on their own knowledge and resources.

None of that is discounted.

The implication - live a considered, strenuous, self-disciplined life - giving it your best energy, preparation, thought, fitness level, strategy. The battle will be tough and you best be prepared.

But realize that in the end the result is God's, not yours.

Be hyper-prepared and hyper-trusting.

Both of them. All the time.

Are you better at being prepared or trusting? Chances are you excel at one or the other.

Thank God for the one in which you excel, and ask him where he wants to strengthen you in the other one. This should be a great conversation between you and him!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting From Grind To Great

Confession - when it comes to work, I am a grinder.

I love to work, feel a measure of significance from work, feel like work is never done.

This is a fascinating stretch of work for me, with seemingly endless variety and challenge and at least three distinct writing projects, at various stages of completion and with various levels of pressure being applied! I'm getting to work almost entirely in my 5% Intentional Difference and that is incredibly invigorating.

But it's always been hard for me to shut it down, even at night. If there's something to be done, I struggle to be fully present with those I love.

This is - quite simply - a very real character flaw. Nothing good can come from it, ultimately.

I am well aware of this, and well aware that this is and probably will continue to be an ongoing battle.

So I have to be thankful for small skirmishes won. Usually won by my wife.

I was working at home today, no appointments, just me and blank pages to fill, content to create, emails to respond to, deadlines to hit. It could have been 3 degrees or 103 degrees outside, I wouldn't have known the difference.

(Again, not good).

In Charlotte today, it was beautiful - cool and sunny. The last day before a cold snap that will probably spare us the snow getting ready to be dumped on points northward on the East Coast, but will still make it cold in these parts.

Miranda texts and calls me from elsewhere in the house.

(Again, not good that I have to be called from within my own house).

"Let's go outside, in the backyard."

This was an affront to me because, after all, the fate of nations depends on my work because I am so dang important, you know?

So we went outside, to the yard and the swing and the slide.

And took this picture with #4 and #5:

Here's the deal. The writing I did today, the correspondence I engaged in, the phone calls I returned, the emails I pounded week this time I'll be hard pressed to remember any of it.

But we'll be looking at this picture for years.

The grind has meaning and purpose.

But it is other things that are great.

Are you missing something great because of your grind, whatever that grind is for you?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: Hold or Held?

I like to hold on tightly to things.

Can you relate?

I like to control my commitments, make sure that the people I care about are safe, insure that I am just as vulnerable as I need to be to make people feel that I am vulnerable while still making sure to protect myself. When I go on a trip I have a navigation system in the rental car, the Waze app fired up on my cell phone, and - if all else fails - a Mapquest print-out on the passenger seat. I don't need a lot of friends but I would sooner lose a finger than a friend I have invested decades in.

I like to know where I am going to be every moment for the next two weeks. Google Calendar is not quite holy writ, but close.

I actually say around our house "a place for everything and everything in its place".

Holding on to things has its benefits.

You generally know where the lemon zester you use once every eighteen months is residing at this moment.

But it can be an exhausting way to live. My fellow holder-on-ers know what I mean.

We're not apt to enjoy spontaneity, surprises, changes in plans, or last minute invitations. And those things can be really wonderful and fun.

Speaking of fun, no one ever calls us the life of the party! We come through in the clutch, but we're not good partiers. We're great in a crisis, but kind of a drag when our friends want to take a last minute road trip.

The real issue is that when it comes to our relationship with God, holding on and being in control can be downright deadly.

Which is probably why God seems very concerned in the Bible with reminding us that he is holding on to us, even in our trying to hold on to everything else.

That's the Big Idea: It's better to be held than to hold on.

"Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go" - Jesus (John 6:37)

There's a wealth of good stuff there, fellow holders-on.

First, Jesus regards you as a gift. Stunning, if you think about it.

You're not a bother, an obligation, a candidate for approval, a project.

No, you are a gift. One he values and treasures.

One he wants to hold on to.

And hold on he does.

He went through betrayal, poverty, deprivation, misunderstanding, arrest, torture, a false trial, and execution - all to hold on to you.

You're worth holding on to.

And once he has you he doesn't let go.

Through your failings and slips and shortcomings, in spite of your indifference and callousness and poor choices..he just keeps holding on.

So why do we try to hold on so hard?

You're walking on a pier at the beach with your dad. Your ice cream cone is melted down to a nub in the hot sun. He tries to pry its sticky remnants from your sticky, clutching fingers. But you won't let go.

That ice cream cone is so valuable. So precious. You can't lose it. So you hold on tight and kick and scream and protest and look for an opening to get away from your father who only wants to take your ice cream and hurt you because he hates you and...

What he wants to do is through the nub of what used to be an ice cream cone away, toss it in the trash, clean your grubby hands, and walk you to the end of the pier. To the ice cream shop at the end of the pier.

And put into your hands a new, frozen waffle cone of not-yet-dripping cookies and cream goodness.

He takes away the stuff you don't need, holds your hand gently in his (even if you're not the hand-holding type, somehow when you get it you don't mind his hand) and leads you to the much better stuff you wanted all along, even if you didn't know it.

What are you holding onto that you really can let go?

Where can you dare to allow yourself to be held, and led, and loved?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Three Great Public Speaking Tips

I've had a post on public speaking sitting in my draft file for a while. But my friend and colleague Trevor Bron - one of the most accomplished public speakers I have ever known - tweeted out three tips on public speaking that were so good I decided to just rip him off. They are below.

Tip #2 is often overlooked but really important. The masters never even glance at or quote from their PowerPoint or KeyNote decks - the hacks read from them verbatim (and if you are a hack, I say that with all due affection because it's something you can change immediately!). A related piece of advice is that slides should have very spare content. Seth Godin advocates no more than one word or image per slide. While that may be extreme, it's better than a slide so dense with words your viewers need their reading glasses.

You should follow Trevor on Twitter at @TrevorBron and you should take his advice to heart no matter how often you have to speak and no matter the size or nature of your audience!

Tip #1: Learn everything you can about your audience in advance. Their average age, ethnicity, education, how they will be dressed.

Tip #2: Only use PowerPoint or KeyNote slides you never have to read, refer, or look at. They should be a visual aid, not a distraction.

Tip #3: Seek to know everything about your environment before you speak, including room size, brightness, microphone type, loudness.

image credit: suzannegaudetbenefit