Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Word to the Engaged & Soon to be Engaged

There's a phrase when it comes to weddings that we've all heard. It sounds benign and fun enough but I thinks it needs reeling in a bit. The phrase? "It's my day." Or, "It's our day."

The problem is that phrase is not the whole truth. It falls short of the bigger truer reality, which is, "It's our day--that we're inviting all our family and friends too--that we're expecting them to give a chunk of their weekend to and we also expect them to bring us gifts we specifically asked for."

Let me now say that in some warmer ways:

"It's our day, but our parents who've unselfishly sacrificed and given to us our whole lives, are also involved."

"It's our day, but it's really more like a public event seeing how we've invited hundreds of people to share it with us."

"It's our day, but we have invited all these wonderful people to an event that we're hosting."

"It's our day, but if we focus too much on just ourselves and just what we want, we will unintentionally be selfish and poor hosts to the people we most care about."

I've never met a wedding couple that was trying to be self-centered at their wedding, yet I've seen weddings that failed to take into account those statements. I think it's time to re-examine the wedding paradigm and bring more honor to it and less accidental selfishness.


Embrace the paradigm that your wedding is a group affair and simply maintain that through the planning and implementation of it.

What this means is you factor in the perspective of your parents, wedding party, and guests. This doesn't mean you give up control or give in to everyone's opinion. You simply consider them along with yourselves in the process. "This is what we want. Now how does that affect our parents/wedding party/family/guests?"

Specific example: As a bride you could pick out the bride's maid dresses you really like because this is the only wedding you're ever going to have.

Or you could consider your bride's maids. You could realize that Beth "and her girls" would be "falling out" of that strapless little number you love so much, or that Gwen's hips would look like two unruly bulldogs in a bag walking down the isle in that dress. And you could consider the price of the dress versus the financial state of your bride's maids. Considering the people wearing the clothes you pick out is honoring to your wedding party.

And even when it comes to picking out food for the reception, perhaps you don't choose your personal favorites, but rather ask yourself if your favorites would be a good fit for the hundreds of people you've invited. When hosting a party we pick the menu with our guests in mind, not us. The meal that's just for us is for the day we don't have guests, right? This is a simple way to honor your guests.

And when it comes to pictures, I can think of nothing more rude than asking your hundreds of guests to wait around an hour or so between the wedding and reception while you have a photo shoot simply because you don't want to see each other before the wedding. That puts a meaningless tradition above your guests. It's more honoring to your guests to do a first look and take the majority of photos before the service, leaving but a few photos right after the wedding.

And here's why it's so important to factor in and honor your parents, family and guests: Years down the road it's not the ruffle in the bride's maid dress that you'll remember. It's not the kiddie menu or sushi menu you chose that you'll remember.

It's the women in the dresses...
The men in the suits...
Your parents in the front row...
Your dear friends...

It's the PEOPLE you'll remember decades into the future. So why not factor them in as you and your fiance plan and implement a day that everyone shares in--and you get to be the center of. I challenge that a wedding that's more honoring will be richer and more memorable.

Click here for more thoughts on weddings including wedding party attire and First Look.

Peace and more honoring weddings ;-)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Confession of a Pastor: Counseling

Looking back on 2013 it has been a year of years. I knew it before I even looked back on it; I knew it in the middle. In May I lost a very close friend, George Roberts, and officiated his funeral. The next month I lost my friend Mike Bolinger and officiated his funeral. In November my mother passed away and I officiated her funeral.

In the midst of these events our church staff shrank by a record number of people. Translation: lots of serious things to navigate, financially, organizationally and emotionally. To boot I didn't get my usual block of vacation in the summer.

In the early fall I went to give my highly prized O- blood. Nurse, "Sir, your blood pressure is really high. If you were my brother I'd tell you to go to the doctor right away." I went, talked to the doc, reflected on stressors to-date, took some tests. The tests were ok. The list of stressors I wrote down appeared daunting.

So I decided to take the advice I'd give so many people: Why don't you go see someone, a counselor? I didn't have to sell myself on this. I could feel the enormity of feelings way closer to the surface than normal. I could feel what I dubbed soul fatigue, a lack of energy and lack of desire to go once again into the breech, of about any kind of challenge. Not like me at all.

So I made an appointment with my friend, Keith, a man whom I respect highly and refer my closest friends too.

I can tell you there is something comforting in talking with a counselor knowing their professional life would be in great peril should they share your comments with anyone. It's not that I had anything to hide, it's just that knowing that was calming, relaxing.

At this place in life, generally speaking, a lot of people lean on or look to me, which is a very honoring thing. (It's the gray hair, my age.) But it felt really good to be in a room where that wasn't going on. I could relax and look to Keith.

I've seen him a handful of times in recent months. It was weird in that there's not some plan or script we worked through; we just talked. But it has been good. He put it on me, as to when I want to see him. I made it a point to see him even if I was feeling good, because I wanted to do the work of being restored; I wanted him to make the assessment of how I was doing, not me.

I met Keith right before our Christmas services at Oakbrook. I can't say that some clear catharsis happened, but something felt like it broke loose. He in a subtle way pronounced me "ok." Maybe a bit wounded or tired, but ok. I felt a sense that that was perhaps my last visit, but time will tell.

Sometimes as much as we need someone to point the way or plot a course of recovery, we need someone we trust to tell us we're ok. Sometimes that's just enough to instill the hope we need to focus on the future instead of being preoccupied with our wounds. Feeling ok and being affirmed that we're ok, firmly instills hope in our soul, at least for me anyhow.

One of my learnings has simply been to embrace what I've told others so often:
When things in life are challenging beyond your normal; when events in life seem beyond your known ways of coping or solving things, it's probably wise to see someone--to see a counselor.

One of my favorite sayings is the Amish proverb: "Praying doesn't plow the field." So I pray that God will restore my soul and I'm plowing the field by going to see Keith. And I've honestly dialogued about how I'm doing with my lovely wife Sandra and trusted friends, Mark, Greg and Sean.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Confession of a Pastor: Quit Telling me What Xmas is Really About

We are all so well-intentioned, really we are. We're trying to help cut through the din of December freneticism by helping everyone know what Christmas is really about. We're tweeting it and Facebooking it like it's our job. I bet I've done it.

Christmas is really about:
a manger
Jesus coming to earth
a King
a new way to save the world
God with us
what else?

Christmas is about (see, here I go--I'm doing it too) everything. Christmas is about everything. I especially want you to know it's about everything if you wouldn't call yourself a Christ follower. Here's what I mean:

I think it's really great when someone who isn't into Jesus intentionally acts nicer in December just because it's Christmastime.

I think it's great that someone who doesn't know anything about Jesus intentionally interacts with her boss or employees in a more honoring way just because it's Christmastime.

I love it when people give up a great parking space on Dec. 23rd just to bless someone they don't know even though they may not believe that the Kid in the food trough would grow up to die for mankind's sin.

I love all these benign little things that a lot of us Christ followers would label as "missing the point." I love these simple to profound acts of kindness and good cheer because it's a heck of a great place to start. Most of us worked our way to Jesus. We didn't jump in with great theology. We clumsily came to know Jesus seemingly one (sometimes unknowing) step at a time. We loved "A Christmas Carol" even though Jesus wasn't in the credits, and we missed the parallelism of grace and redemption.

The truth is, people are nicer at Christmastime even if they don't know the perfect theological "why" behind their actions. People being more gracious at Christmastime is a testament to the Child that this holiday revolves around--even if the 33 year old version of the kid in the manger isn't on people's mind.

I didn't grow up in this faith. I didn't grow up knowing how this Kid in the nativity scene changed the world, or how He would later change mine.

But I tried to be better at Christmastime. Tried to be nice. Tried to be less selfish. I knew something magical was in the air even though I didn't know who the Holy Spirit was. I sang the carols and sometimes teared up knowing none of the biblical references or the "bad theology" of some of them.

And here's the really big thing: Jesus, the Kid, the Savior, the King, God with Us--He's working in and through everything. So even though I was clueless, when I was moving toward Christ-like behavior at Christmastime--the Holy Spirit watched and perhaps maybe even nudged my spirit in an affirming way--because He's in everything.

I do not believe that God only began to notice me once I got more serious about Him. I'm quite confident that I noticed Him because He was first noticing me--even though I was blindly unaware. He probably noticed that I was captivated with the Spirit of Christmas, even though to me, it was because it simply felt good, and warm. I didn't yet know that I was captivated by the Spirit of a God I couldn't see.

Why isn't the Bible a pamphlet? Why is it 66 books from very clear to very hard to understand? Because Jesus is moving in and through everything.

So what's Christmas really about? Everything ;-) Merry Christmas, friends.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why We Should Write the Spouse

When I was the program director at Oakbrook Church, the run for our department was pretty crazy from Thanksgiving through the Christmas services.(It still is.) At that time the two guys who put in the most hours and shouldered a lot of the heavy lifting (yes, sometimes physically) were Monty and Jeremy.

I always took a few minutes in the week or so ramping into our Christmas services to write a letter to each of their spouses. This is the bare bones gist of the letter:

I appreciate how hard your husband is working (all the time. but esp. now)
He's making a huge impact for our mission in the world.
I know this is taking away from family time at home.
Thank you for supporting him--that means so much to him, to me & to God.

Great leadership isn't just considering what your team does on the job; it's leading them holistically, taking into account that sometimes what we're asking them to do here, affects life at home. A letter to a spouse:

  • is a great way to catch people doing things right
  • encourages spouses to continue their support
  • helps the spouse see you and the department/organization as healthy and credible
  • makes the employee feel valued

Who needs you to take 5 minutes today and write a simple yet profound note to their spouse?

Monday, November 25, 2013

True & Better: Abraham & Isaac

Click here for a free PDF manuscript of my talk.
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The complete video of the service shows up here by the Tuesday following.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh, You're the Other Brother...

Clockwise from left: Jameson 2nd to youngest, Morgan middle child, Brady youngest, Marlon 2nd to oldest, Darvan oldest.

A week ago Friday I motored to West Virginia for a meeting with our funeral director to make arrangements to bury my mother, Susanne. Two days later I was in dress clothes next to an open casket greeting people in an old funeral home in Parkersburg.

My siblings have lived in Parkersburg a great deal of their lives. My grandfather Sam Slater was a local TV news man. People in Parkersburg know us. Rarely do my siblings go into a store without seeing someone they know. When I say people there know us, I mean everyone but me. I've lived in Kokomo my whole life and only visited WV a time or two per year.

So people would come into the funeral home and say, make a bee line to my brother Jameson standing next to me and never make eye contact with me until Jameson would redirect, "This is my brother Morgan from Indiana."

"Oh, you're the other brother!" they'd say as they'd now instantly looked at my face knowingly. And so it went, for the most part. After awhile I'd simply say in fun, "I'm the other brother." (To be fair I actually did know some people.)

And as I shook hands and navigated the occasional hug I noticed I didn't feel a lot of emotion. Even when some people wore emotion on their face of my mother's passing, it didn't translate to me. I thought this was because I was so relieved that my mother had passed peacefully in the night, and only followed three months not actively living in her own home. So I thought.

But the next day, the obituary had hit the Kokomo papers and websites. My phone started buzzing. Text after text, "I love you...sorry about your mom...praying for you." And it was then the emotion jumped up behind my face.

The day before I had people with weepy eyes right in front of me with no teary transference. But now, simple cold texts in the palm of my hand from close friends 330 miles away now evoked the emotion I was expecting the day before.

And quickly I realized what it was to miss the hundreds of people Sandra and I know here in Kokomo. And also realized that somehow being known translates into palpable feelings of love and feelings of loss. There is comfort in being known. Even apart from my mother's passing in WV, I've known it. Sandra and I often talk of what it is to know so many people around here.

Between our involvement in a large church, our business connecting over the years and now our new cafe downtown, we know the blessing of knowing people almost everywhere we go. Seeing someone knowingly smile when you happen upon them says, "I'm glad I saw you, now let me validate you as a person." Being known is a warm hug on a November morn.

When you know someone, say in the setting of a viewing or funeral, you ask questions: "How are you doing?...How are you holding up?" When you aren't known in those same settings, people make statements: "Hope you're doing well...I'm sorry for your loss."

And as statements convey kindness and compassion, they don't pull one another closer like questions do. Questions give you the opportunity to share the load a bit, as if to say, "Since you asked, I'll dump on you just a bit." And the load lightens.

I noticed this when talking to my friend Eric in passing at work today. He asked how I was doing. He told me in a compelling way that he and his fiance would be happy to do anything they could to help. I didn't tell him I needed anything. But I talked to him, about this: being known and not being known.

I got to voice a little something with someone who cares about me. Sharing, processing: the simple and undervalued byproduct of friendship. Another relational positive charge of being known.

So here's to life and death.
Here's to being able to be with my family as we said goodbye to our mother.
Here's to extended family and so many friends that supported us in Parkersburg.
And here's to all our friends in this neck o' the woods, blessings indeed.

So as we close in on Thanksgiving and who knows what events between here and there, let's be thankful, counting the blessings of being known--journeying together.

Shalom my friends.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

More Than Coffee

The other day at our downtown bistro, the Main Street Cafe, one of our employees, we'll call him "Evan" since that's his name ;-)

Evan noticed that a woman put a $20 bill in the tip jar by the register. On his own, he took the Andrew Jackson to the table where the guest was dining and asked if she'd intended to put that much money in the jar. She hadn't. She thanked him and put in a more appropriate tip.

The next day the same guest came in and asked for Evan. In his absence she asked for the manager. She told Sandra the story of what had happened the day before. It turns out that upon further review, she was so impressed that she wanted him to have the $20.

She was so marked by that simple act of integrity that she came back.
She tracked him down.
She brought him the $20.

When Sandra told Evan the story and gave him the money, he refused to take it, insisting that it go toward everyone's tips that day. Sandra insisted he take it, because it was our guest's wishes.

If Evan reads this I'm sure he'll be embarrassed of this account, wishing I'd not captured it. That's how integrity works: people doing the right thing don't think in terms of reward or attention.

I don't write this for Evan. I write this for all of us. We hear enough negative local and national news stories. We need to hear the good stories. Good stories are hard to gather, usually because people who do good things aren't doing them for an audience.

So here's to doing the right thing.
Here's to appreciating that this kind of person is part of our great and cherished staff.
Here's to making the planet great, one selfless act at a time.

Main Street Cafe: More Than Coffee.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Digging Ditches, Greater > wk 2

Click the image to watch the 9.29.13 service in its entirety or fast forward to the message.

What ditch do you need to dig?

Click here for a free PDF manuscript of the talk.
Click here for all my manuscripts.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Global Leadership Summit Highlights '13

Session 1, Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels

Joshua 1:9

Vision: a picture of the future that creates passion.

Fear grips us and we secretly abandon the vision--telling no one...No one knows these visions are being aborted...

(when things are a mess in the culture/church) Should we blame God? Or the leaders who have aborted God-given visions?!

You must know where you are:
1. Trending down
2. Status quo
3. Trending up
Agreeing where we are is often the hardest part.

It take courage to build a fantastic flourishing culture.

People join organizations; they leave managers.
(meaning: they take a job based on the company. They leave because of a person who isn't leading them well.)

The senior leader must drive the staff culture. The staff culture will only be as healthy as the sr leader wants it to be.

There comes a time when a vision must become an inviable value! (eg Willow: women in leadership, cultural diversity, poverty)

It takes courage to transfer the vision to a value.

If you lead an organization long enough you'll have to retool it.

Some of the most rewarding moments God reserves for later in the marathon.

Session 2, It Worked for Me, Colin Powell

Leadership is getting more out of people than science says you can.

You get nowhere without followers. Give them a sense of purpose. WHY are we doing this?

My model is about followership.

When Reagan was staring off into the Rose Garden he was saying in essence, ""I love you and I'll sit here as long as you want listening to your problem."

Always empower; give people a zone of operations--a span in which they can and are responsible for making decisions without you.

Trust is the glue and lubricant of the organization.

If you want to be a great leader: take care of your troops and have a destination.

Yes, failure IS an option.

When interacting with wounded soldiers I never say I'm sorry. They don't want my pity; they want respect. So I ask, "Were you a good soldier?...tell me about it." They want dignity. I say, "I know it had to be tough--thank you."

(On racism) We all have a responsibility to reach down, and across, to help someone else.

Personal axioms:

1. "It will look different in the morning."
Go to bed thinking that it'll be better--it's an attitude, a choice. We will be better, make it better. Infect your people with your positive attitude.

2. "Look for force multipliers."
Show them perpetual optimism.

3. "Get mad, then get over it."
Getting mad is human, normal. Give people space to express it then we can all move forward.

Q: When do you know when to fire v give someone a 2nd chance?
A: When I can't get them to buy in to my purpose or vision. If you don't fire the right person you risk your own credibility with the rest of the team.

Q. What's a red flag with an emerging leader?
A. (quickly) Ego. No one taught them humility. They think they turned the sun on this morning.

Everyone needs to know when it's time to get off the train--sometimes you have to throw them ;-)

4. "Tell me early." 
 Don't try to fix it before you bring me a problem. Create an environment where this happens.

Q. What would you say to pastors?
A. Tell us how our faith makes us more relevant to the culture. Challenge people.

Session 3, How to Lose Your Best People, Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni on YouTube

Leaders are CROs: Chief Reminding Officers

3 things cause job misery:

1. anonymity
It's our job to get to know and care about our people. (Dr Tremble story) "Get to know that orderly and get back with me."

(On exit interview)
Q. What could they have done to keep you?  
A. Anything!

When we don't pay attention to our people, we just flush money down the drain.

Try taking an interest in the person above you.

2. irrelevance
If what we're doing doesn't make some one's life better, we can't love our work.
I think Adolf Hitler was born and raised in an airport ;-)

Relevance is a reason to perform. This is hard for administrative people so celebrate it when they help us--thank them.

3. immeasurement (made-up word)

Everyone needs to know their stats. Feedback.
Everyone wants to know if anyone recognized what they did well.

It's not always a metric--could be qualitative not quantitative.
Measure the right thing. The measurement must be something the employee can control.
(Eg. the drive thru window kid counts how many people he got to laugh.)

Money is a satisfier; these 3 points are drivers.

Management is a ministry.

Session 4, The Multiplier Effect, Liz Wiseman

YouTube talks on Multipliers

Multiplier: uses intelligence and skill to amplify, multiply people around you. People get smarter around you.

Difference between pressure and stress?
In the story of William Tell (father shooting apple off son's head with a crossbow from across the town square) the father feels pressure; the son feels stress.

Multipliers believe their team is smart and will figure it out together and seeks to use the collective brainpower.

Multipliers had a vision, listened, communicated, trusted and let people weigh-in.

Diminishers: empire builder, tyrant (stress creator), know-it-all, decision maker, micro-manager.

After being stressed it takes our brain 18 minutes to reset.

Multipliers: talent magnet, liberator, investor, debate-maker, create owners v hirelings.

Multiplier world is exhausting yet exhilarating
Diminishier world is frustrating, exhausting

Secret diminishers:

1. Idea guy: because nothing gets done, we start chasing new ideas all the time.

2. Always-on guy: engaged, lots of energy. But after a while we hear them as Charlie Brown's teacher.

3. Rescuer: people don't learn because he/she is always saving the day.

4. Pace-setter: Loses people in the dust, creates watchers.

5. Rapid-responder: People tune out because you've got it, as usual.

6. Optimist: not realistic, glosses over the very real struggle.

Eg. of getting her kids into bed by simply asking them questions through the whole process ("What do we do first? Now what do we do?..."): is an example that with teams you don't have to keep telling them what to do.

The top of the hierarchy is the genius-maker, not the genius.

Session 5, Right Title...Wrong Kingdom, Chris Brown

Brown on YouTube

First shall be last...it's not about greatness...it's about the "towel" not the title.

Are you asking me to give away my title or position?! No. Jesus is...

Mark 10:42-45

(Sorry, limited notes here--had to tend to some issues during this session.)

And the very funny Michael Jr. was there. Click on the image for a little comedy taste.

Michael Jr. on YouTube

Session 6, Love Takes Action, Bob Goff

(The presentation of this guy was off the hook! His exuberance and energy are unlike anyone I've seen before. Here's some of a story he told on YouTube.)

I'm emotionally incontinent ;-)

I realized I was just stalking Jesus really...

In 1 John 3:16 when it says "lay down our life"...it means to love with action and truth, not words and speech.

I want to move from agreeing with Jesus to DOING things.

I didn't want a son-in-law I wanted a friend, that's why we built a chapel together.

Live a life of the calling YOU received...we tend to think we're just a big mistake.

"It's good to see you." See people for who they are becoming.

Every Thurs I quit something. If you'll make space, God will put amazing things in there.

(Story of a mamer of children named Cabi)
"Cabi comes to Christ...Really? And gives the gospel message to 3,000 men on death row...and says to me, 'I'm going to die in here because of you but I forgive you.' Really?!"

Land the plane.

Be awesome.

Session 7, interview, Mark Burnett

"(the TV show)The Bible is the biggest mistake you'll ever make." (Told to him by so many people in the industry.) "It was a calling."

You eventually have to get your ass off the couch and do something.

You have to get this man (Hybels) into pop culture a little! (Didn't know what The Voice was)

(Hybels inspirational words to Burnett when he was rather demoralized from industry criticism of The Bible) Stop apologizing. You love it. Get off the defensive. Be offensive.

The Bible  series had 100 million viewers, #1 cable show ever. Why?
"The Holy Spirit. We prayed so hard and found time to be still and listen to God...we even beat hockey in Canada...#1 in Spain, Portugal, Columbia."

It's hard to talk about the Bible. It's easy to talk about The Bible series; it's a conversation starter.

Choose your companions before you choose your road.

Don't keep the energy suckers.

Team-up creative people with financial people and force them to work together; they can't win without the other.

Making a Christian show doesn't give you permission to make it crappy.

Be watching for the movie Little Boy coming out soon.

Session 8, Mastering Influence, Joseph Grenny

Grenny on YouTube

2007 61% of people said religion was losing influence in the culture.
80% of people know a Christian; 15% see any difference in Christians v others.
We have an influence problem.

Jane in Nairobi: selling her body for 25 cents. 800,000 "Janes" in Nairobi.

How to influence:

1. personal motivation
Help the good stuff feel good (pic of Batman with an apple; "What would Batman eat?")
Influencers can shape how people feel.
Don't just teach principles, connect to values.
Help people frame daily decisions in godly ways.
People will save more $$ if you call it a "new roof account" v savings account. (the right words matter.)

2. personal ability
Start with people's ability and move to motivation. Joshua worked with Moses 40 yrs before he stepped out.
The practice setting must approximate the real world. Help them practice and give immediate feedback.

Solving the problem of people cheating in the carpool lane?
A sign: "Report HOV Violators call 921-HERO." Offenses dropped 80% in 3 weeks.

Section leaders at church adds social capital.

How to get more people to take the stairs next to escalator?
A sign: "Want to burn 7 calories?"

Structural ability
Why do kids watch TV/video games? Look at how your house is designed--one room is all about watching a screen. Is there cool space for reading?

When all 6 sources of influence are used, results go up 10x!
Takeaway: intentional influence is highly effective.

Session 9, Vijay Gavindarajin

Vijay on YouTube

He used the example of the history of the high jump.
For a long time the kind of jump was called "scissors." Legs kicked over first with a scissor motion. That worked until the innovation of the Fosbury Flop: head first, backwards.

A point was that the team who maintains scissors is probably not the team who comes up with the Fosbury Flop. So in this example our strategy should be: how do we innovate the future while managing the present?

Scissors is an example of dominant logic, or your current way of operating.
Dominant logic determines the kind of people you attract, kind of facility you have etc. i.e. the way you do church today (scissors) determines the kind of people you hire, your facility etc.

Innovation is not just ideas. People mistake innovation as creativity. Innovation is implementing creativity. And it's very much 1% innovation 99% perspiration.

Innovative leaders need to be humble to harness great possibilities.
We need humility to remain a great country.

The 3 boxes (diagram) need different people and different plans. Managing the present and creating the future are two different things; scissors are totally different from Fosbury Flop.

Take away: Leadership is taking people from here to there. You have to manage here while figuring out what there is.

 Session 10, Daring Greatly, Dr. Brene Brown

Brown on YouTube

I thought they were "sea level" people, ordinary people, not "C-level" people (CEO,CFO etc) ;-)

I don't study leaders I study people ;-)

We all have 2 irreducible needs, non-negotiable:
1. love
2. belonging

We all have 3 basic needs:
1. be seen and loved
2. to belong
3. to be brave

Love is messy, hard, troublesome "a cold and broken hallelujah"

Love can exist only when there's self love in both parties.

We can't give what we don't have:
courage, sense of belonging, permission to ask for grace, help etc.

When you judge yourself for asking for help, you also judge others when people ask you for help.
I was blatantly judging but I was deriving self worth by helping.

Professing v practicing
Love is a practice. Professing love has very little value.

The space between what we say and what we practice is where we lose people: the disengagement gap.

What kills love kills organizations:
shame, blame, disrespect, withholding.

In Silicon Valley common employee evaluation question is "How many times did you fail? How quickly did you fix it and what did you learn?"

If you've never given a sermon and wanted to leave town, you aren't trying hard enough.

Blame: the simple dispensing of pain and discomfort.

#1 reason people left orgs? Lack of feedback, which is lack of respect, lack of honest conversations with people.

Can't be good at feedback without vulnerability: "What can we do differently?"

#1 barrier is fitting in. You have to make a space for who they are. To be here is to be loved and respected. Belonging can't have check boxes.

Be Brave
We were born to be in love. In grief. In faith. etc

"...the credit belongs to the man who's actually in the area..." -T. Roosevelt

If you are not also in the arena getting your butt kicked I am not open to your feedback.

My faith calls on me to be courageous every single day.

You can have courage or comfort but you can't have both.

When being brave you need clarity of values and someone who loves you who knows your flaws.

Session 11, Multiplying Your Leadership, Oscar Muriu

(Oscar is a great partner with our good friends at Grace Community Church in Noblesville.)

Here is some free downloadable material he's made available.

Jesus' first strategy was to find leaders.
He didn't throw himself into the world first, get busy, overwhelmed and then realized he needed help. He started with help.

Sign of great leadership: how many leaders have you raised up who will survive you?

How many young leaders surround you?

Live for the next generation. If you live for your generation you will die with it.

Identify budding leaders and build into them: we call this a hit list.

Instill the 5 Loves into your budding leaders from Mark 12:30-33

Never do ministry alone; always have a budding leaders around you.

Someone in the generation under you is 20 years younger than you.

Peter and John had probably been with Jesus 9,360 hours!

The more harvesters = the more harvest

Session 12, Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader, Dr. Henry Cloud

Cloud on YouTube

A leader has to be ridiculously in charge of him/herself.

A study:
The "dumb" group of optimists outsold the "smart" negative group by 53%!
#1 factor in achieving = whether or not you BELIEVE it can get done!

The dummies don't take it personally so they just keep going. The smart group got sidetracked, wondered if they were missing something, rethought things, took it personally. The positive dummies kept going which created success.

the downward spiral
personal: I suck, that's why this isn't working
pervasive: my whole life sucks
permanent: it will always be this way

Solutions to the downward spiral:

1. Log and dispute
Write down negative thoughts and then apply truth, God's word (v our warped perception of reality)

Your life is a MOVIE not a SCENE.

2. Control, get back in
Make 2 columns: what's controllable and what is not. Work on the things you can control. Everyone has control of something. "Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

3. Connect
The opposite of bad is not good; the opposite of bad is LOVE.
Connect with people, talk about the battle. When we connect the brain changes:

Eg. of lone monkey in cage exposed to stressors: freaked out. Didn't change the stressors, just added a monkey and they chilled out. Our brain changes when we connect.

A can-do attitude will always find a way.
(Story of his daughter surfing, wanting to stay and surf--he wanted her to come home with him so she'd have a ride. "Dad, I'll find a way!" That's when he knew she'd be alright.)

Session 13, Andy Stanley

Stanley on YouTube

Message of Acts (eg of 1st century teaching):
YOU killed Him.
God brought Him back to life.
Say you're sorry.

The central message of the church wasn't "We believe something is true." It's "We believe something happened." God has done something--raised Jesus from the dead.

If a guy can predict his death and resurrection and pulled it off--I'm in!

James (Jesus' bro) may be the best case for Christ. Think about it: what would your brother have to do to convince you he's the son of God?! ;-)

A band of ordinary men took Jesus' charge and ran with it--in the midst of the Roman Empire. But look what's transpired:

There's a cross in the Coliseum, over the Emperor's Gate, in a Roman Coliseum.
Could Paul have imagined when he was being led to be beheaded in the Coliseum, that there would eventually be a cross over the Emperor's Gate?

People all over the world come to see where Paul, Peter (others) were buried. And there's nothing to commemorate Nero, Rome's emperor. But people come to visit fishermen.

Could Paul have known there would come to be crosses on all kinds of buildings--a universal message that he had preached?

Could Paul have known that Caesar Augustus, the greatest emperor of the greatest nation would become nothing more than a footnote in the story of Jesus' birth?

Could Paul have known that untold numbers of people would name their children Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark etc. and name their dogs Caesar and Nero? ;-) (credit John Ortberg, actually)

Could Paul have known that there would come to be no Roman Empire, but there would be a Church rooted in Jesus all over the World?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Confession of a Pastor

When I blog, tweet, or Facebook I am most scared about...
How my Tribe will React

My tribe is made up of people commissioned to love their neighbor. To be know in the world as people marked by an unusually loving unity. But before I post anything, I notice that I metaphorically look around the corner for someone who may throw a stone at me.

And I notice I'm not so concerned about the non-Jesus followers. My mind's eye looks for fellow tribesmen.

When thoughts on homosexuality or the simple act of enjoying a beer come to mind, I think,

"Better be careful. Someone will take issue with this. You may lose some of your influence. You may lose some respect from some Christ followers in town."

To non-Christians, thoughts on those subjects are commonplace. Normal. Rarely volatile. Not so among my tribe.

And please, I understand the need for caution and wisdom in social media. Influence must be stewarded. But the tension I sense is this:

If I shrink back from commenting and connecting with issues and items in the culture, for fear of losing influence with my tribe, I feel a greater risk--the risk of losing influence and connection with those outside the Jesus tribe.

People looking in at the Jesus-life I try to live, have real questions. Valid curiosities.

"Can I still drink beer and go to church without feeling guilty?" Yes, as long as it's not Budweiser. (Sorry, I joke.)
"If I think about checking out your Jesus group, what do I do with my gay friends/family members?"

I am sensing that I am caring less about offending the brethren with risky conversation and commentary about issues that are potentially divisive inside our tribe.

I am sensing that our capital T Tribe risks being easily dismissed and further marginalized the longer we fail to engage in a loving way on topics that normal people find benign or curious.

I am sensing that perhaps pastors need to teach people inside the Tribe to chill the heck out on issues that are minuscule compared to the Great Commission.

I am sensing that it's time for us live a more loving than judging lifestyle in and among this world.

If you're outside the Jesus tribe and wonder what it's really supposed to look like to follow Jesus...

If you're part of our Jesus tribe and I've confused you because you thought our job was to hold the line and decry all that's wrong in the world...

Then maybe this short 62 page eBook will help. I wrote it because I care about Jesus, you, me and our world. I wrote it because I want to be part of the solution, not just part of a bitchy blogosphere. (Someone just reached for a stone ;-)

Click the book below and it will take you directly to the PDF. I don't want your email or info. This is just the free offer of some artful, inspired words that may help.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Lesson in How to Rock a Wedding

This is Jeff and Liz Detrick. Slater and I had the honor of photographing their wedding earlier this month. By the time it was over, I couldn't help but notice how many honoring decisions they'd made in the process.

They took communion before the ceremony.

It was just them, Bill the officiant. and myself in the sanctuary for this. It was a holy moment, to be sure. I've often thought it odd when a couple takes it in front of a crowd with many believer but doesn't offer it to the body. This was honoring to God and sensitive to both believers and those outside the faith in attendance of the the ceremony.

They chose a First Look.

First Look is a newer idea where the couple creates a moment to first see each other before the ceremony; it's usually photographed. It's a special moment for the couple; they have a moment to take each other in, savor it, hug, soak in it in a way one cannot during a ceremony. By doing a First Look, the couple and their party are then able to take all the photos they'd like before the ceremony. This also values the guests by not making them wait for an eternity while so many pictures are taken after the ceremony, forcing guests to wait ad nauseam at the reception. In this case, it also allowed Jeff and Liz to take communion as well.

They chose elegant and cost-appropriate clothing.

Did you notice in these photos that the attendants clothes aren't all the same? You probably only noticed that they all look stylish and flattering in what they're wearing.

The women simply all wore black dresses. So if they had one already, great. If they didn't, they bought something that looked good on them, fit well, was within their budget and they could wear again. It's hard to tell, but her attendants were all across the body-type spectrum from very pregnant, to super slim--but because they had the freedom to choose their dress, it served them all well. How many weddings have you attended when all the women looked great in the same dress? Me neither. How honoring to the attendants and how fiscally responsible to allow them to pick out a dress.

The guys' suits don't match, but they look sharp. If they had a dark suit, great. If not, for the price of a tuxedo rental one can buy a quality wool suit and have it tailored to fit. (K&G Fashions Superstore in Indianapolis rocks suits every day for $100-$150.) And what guy, if he had to buy a suit, wouldn't benefit from now owning one that fits? Their own suits fit better than tuxes usually do and again, how fiscally responsible and honoring to the groomsmen.

Great music.

Ok, they totally cheated on this because Liz's brother and father are both professional musicians. And I'll admit, when I heard about trumpet players I was a tad skeptical, but I must say, they made a profound impact on the ceremony. We simply do not hear this caliber of live musician enough these days, especially in weddings. These guys were impressive. So perhaps if you can't afford live musicians, ask around some musicians or music lovers and perhaps get some ideas on some great recorded music--if for no other reason, so we do not have to hear Pachelbel's Canon in D one more time. Oh, you've heard it...

Alright, let's go out there and have more honoring weddings! ;-)

Monday, July 15, 2013

10 Reasons to Attend the Summit

1. We need to be inspired

None of us are overflowing with events or situations that are inspiring us--inspiring us that God can do great things, in and around our lives. The Summit is an inspiration injection.

2. It's in Kokomo

Something amazing and life-altering is happening in our back yard. Take advantage of something God has brought so conveniently close.

3. You haven't been to camp since you were a kid

Every summer we send our kids to camps to get better: science, sports, cheer, church camps etc. It's time we invested in us getting better. These 2 days will help us be better with the other 363.

4. God shows up

He just does. He uses this environment in a unique and faithful way. How many environments can we walk into, knowing that the Spirit will be palpable at some point? This is one of them.

5. It's World Class

In a world where we over-sell everything, the people and content here are truly some of the world's best. Every year the faculty is a best of list from diverse fields around the globe. Check out this year's faculty.

6. People are depending on you

Whether we're a housewife to a leader of a large company, people are depending on us: family, co-workers, neighbors, congregants, fellow citizens. We are all tied together and when you and I attend the Summit, we get a little bit better and that positively impacts the people around us.

7. Life takes it out of us

Every day is challenging. Often we're grinding it out. We're so busy cutting down trees we never stop to sharpen the saw (S. Covey). The Summit puts something special into us. As challenging as life is, we need opportunities like the Summit to re-sharpen us for a world that can dull us down.

8. One thing will change your life

We never know what or how, but without fail, there's something profound that marks us when we take in the Summit. Something happens that instills a profound change, either in paradigm or actual transformation.

9. It's a ridiculous bargain

For the people of Oakbrook to pay this small fee in return for this huge faculty and world class event is, well, ridiculous. Instead of buying dinner at a decent restaurant for the family, register for the Summit. How much money do you spend in a year to make yourself better? Spend a little, reap a lot.

10. Pat Lencioni

No one dispenses exceptional content with unique humor and delivery like Pat Lencioni (Len-CHO-knee). You will love him.

August 8-9, Thurs-Fri 9:30-5:30
(Special Oakbrook pricing ends midnight July 23)

Friday, June 21, 2013

One Thing I Love About Downtown Kokomo

I've been in Kokomo all my life but have only been regularly hanging out in downtown since fall of 2012 when we started kicking up dust at the Main Street Cafe.

And I've noticed a palpable spirit that exists downtown that I've not heretofore noticed in other parts of the city: This is the place where people believe in, root for, hope for and aspire for a better Kokomo.

I'm not saying this doesn't exist in other parts of our city, but here it's concentrated. You can see, smell and taste it. The city does its part by making amazing displays of flowers happen and its pro-Kokomo staffers and officials are foot-traveled ambassadors. And it cannot be overlooked that there are forward-thinking, forward-moving elected people making a difference.

Having begun a new business, it's as if we instantly gained a cheer block of fellow business people, downtown associations, residents and downtown workers, not to mention those people who trek down just to dine with us. People are happy for us, appreciate us and tell their friends about us. We know this because these great people tell us these things often. In a town where people can often seem tight-lipped or modest, communication flows in a uniquely positive way downtown.

I feel as if there are two Kokomo's: and the one downtown is everything I want greater Kokomo to be: alive, excited, optimistic, pursuing growth, art-appreciative, relationally savvy and communal.

I love hanging out downtown whenever I get the chance, because something palpably positive is afoot, and somehow Sandra an I get to be are a part of it. When was the last time you hung out downtown?

Monday, May 27, 2013

No "F" in Gatsby

I'd read the book and although the writing was great, concluded that the story wasn't. It lacked a reason to exist--a tragic story with a depressing ending.

But perhaps for subliminal reasons, Sandra and I took in the movie, looking for some redemption in the story that I'd missed upon reading, or some such thing.

By the end as the credits rolled I thought. "Eh." I was initially unimpressed. But as the following 24 hours ticked by I found myself thinking about it more and more.

The reason I was not a fan of the story when I'd read it, was that it had no hero, no great triumph, little if nothing redeeming about it. And to my mind, if a story has no redemption in it, well then why write it, ol' sport? But in the wake of the movie I was finding some.

Gatsby is movie (book) about lying, excessive partying, adultery and poor moral choices. To be clear, sexual promiscuity, intense conflict and poor character are at the heart of this story. But get this: no nudity and nary a four letter word exist in this film. And yet, the power and intensity of this story are not declawed for lack of bared breast and F-bomb. The plot moves strongly forward without either. Great storytelling requires a great script and great acting more than lady parts and words to be bleeped later. How refreshing. And redeeming.

I was leery of the music going into this. It was clear that contemporary music would be used for this period jazz age film. (Hmmm. Concern.) But the soundtrack was fabulous. It fit so well I barely noticed the contemporary nature of it. It elevated the scenes and helped the story move forward like any great soundtrack should. Jack White's remake of U2's Love is Blindness, was a standout moment. The whole soundtrack, impressive.

Stories pull you in and get you to root for someone; it's what they do. And like the book, I was left with no one to root for. Tom cheats on Daisy. Gatsby wants Daisy. Do I really root for Gatsby to take another man's wife? No. Do I root for the cheating Tom to win Daisy to stay with him? Difficult. I must not ignore my moral compass and sense of right and wrong just because I'm watching a movie. So I'm left in the seats and not pulled into the screen: no one to root for.

I think the most redeeming thing about Gatsby is that on all counts, it's a story of what not to do.

Tom: Don't cheat on your wife. Love her, you idiot.
Nick: Don't go along with bad ideas. A good friend cares enough to say on the outset, "This is a bad idea, Jay."
Gatsby: Ol' sport, one's identity built upon temporal things will always lead to a crash.
All: Honor your commitments--love your spouse. Be honest. Choose integrity. All things in moderation.

On each of those points we can insert our own name and thereby find redemption in this story.

The acting, storytelling and production of this movie are all very strong. It's a creative telling of an old story that stays true enough to the original text. It's definitely worth seeing. Just be careful of who and what you root for.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Funeral for a Friend

 George Roberts Dec. 20, 1950 - May 6, 1013

So hard saying an unexpected goodbye to one of my closest friends. Even harder preparing and delivering his eulogy. Yet, so incredibly honored to do so.

Click here for a PDF transcript of my parting words to George's family and friends.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

'76 Ludwig Vistalite Makeover

Glad to have the opportunity to snag this old beauty and bring her back to life! Click here to see the detailed pics with comments.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Increase the Impact of Your Social Media Images

 The pic on left is focusing on chair, not drink; (tap your smart phone screen to choose the focal point) it's too "cool" (blue) and not framed well (too much empty space in lower right corner). The pic on the right fixes all those problems.

Being a semi-pro photographer I have a thing about posting good pics on social media. But now being a business owner of downtown Kokomo's Main Street Cafe taking good pics for social media is imperative.

The basic tools needed:
  • A good camera phone (eg. big difference between a 3G iPhone and 4G/5G iPhone)
  • Camera+ app (Instagram will work if you take it easy on the filters/effects)
I like Camera+ because like Instagram you take the pic and edit in the same program. Unlike Instagram, the options are fewer and you can see all the sample images at once which equals quicker and more tweakable* edits.(*With any given effect you can reduce the amount of it to your liking.)

Now for some photo skills:
Good light.
Every room with a window has good light, you just have to find it. Good light here means there's light on the front of the cup, beside & behind. That leaves sexy shadows on the left side of the cup. Good light often leaves some shadows, but doesn't have to. Good light will allow you to turn OFF the horrible flash on your camera phone. (Did you get that? Turn off your camera phone flash.)

If there's no light on the front of your subject, your subject will be dark. Side or back lighting enhances. Too much bright light will "blow out" your subject.

Frame it.
With the pic above I could have taken a picture of just the espresso cup. Instead I chose to include a bit of the vibe of our little bistro. Now, not just the espresso is attractive, but the ambiance is too!
The soup on the top sells the soup, but I think the soup that shows more of the table and window sells it better. These two pics are a good example of "cool" vs "warm." The top soup has a cool or blue tint to it (as it was shot). The bottom had a similar tint as it was shot, but a warm filter in Camera+ added a subtle amber color. Notice it's the same table in each pic yet a different color because of the filter/effect.

Crop it.
One way to frame and crop a pic is to use the rule of thirds. Most camera phones have these handy grid lines (or they can be turned on). The idea is to get your subject in the intersection of any of these lines. This is a GUIDELINE and not a hard and fast rule. The red box here is where I tapped the screen to choose the focal point. I added just 1/2 of an amber filter in Camera+ since this was in the shade and had a cool tint to it.
These two ice cream pics show the difference that 60 seconds of editing make in Camera+. When editing pics of food (or whatever your product) be careful not to OVER edit it. If you blast up the color and saturation to the point it doesn't look like food, you've missed the point. The point is to accurately capture what your product looks like in real life.

This close-up shot is ok, in that it sells the heart-shaped sprinkles but it's so close that the picture doesn't tell a very good story. This could benefit from better light and better framing.

Here's why this picture works: Good framing (the product is featured yet the outside seating calls your name). Good focus (the cookie is clearly the star, the espresso a supporting roll, outside furniture, the extras). The color of this picture is warm and inviting. It was taken on an overcast grey (blue color) day. A warm filter in Camera+ enhances the product. A frame in Camera+ that adds to the feel of the pic, completes it.


1. Good lighting. Find where it is in your business at different times a day. And remember shadows are sexy.

2. Frame it. Feature your product but give us a glimpse of your location. Think story, not just product.

3. Focus. Tap your screen on your subject. Our eyes go to what's in focus.

4. Edit. Crop it and enhance your product with filters/effects but don't over-edit. Think about the temperature of the pic. Does cool or warm serve it best? Does it look like your product in real life?

5. Experiment!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Power of Improv in the Workplace

So last night I'm reading what I think is a book just for fun (yes, people still read for fun, not often but it is still a thing) and I randomly ran across the rules of improvisation. (See "Whose Line is it Anyway.") It made sense as I read it and imagined all the (not that much) improv I've seen in my life.

And then I realized that this comedic framework could perhaps set the tone for very positive workplace interplay. Here we go.

The first rule of improv is
AGREE. Always agree and say YES.

So in improv if I say, "This banana could go off at any moment!" You can't say, "Hey that's not even a banana and if it were, bananas don't explode." That would be bad improv. The fact that you agree with my insane fruit idea moves the plot forward and will stimulate more creativity.

The idea of agreeing and saying yes in the real world doesn't mean you ultimately go along with whatever seemingly stupid idea coworker X just threw at you. It does mean your response should be to respect the idea coming at you and at least say yes to it initially.

This can go two ways:

a) The idea initially strikes you as moronic, but since you initiate the first rule of improv and say yes, you initially validate the person and engage in a respectful conversation. Within said conversation to your surprise you learn that your knee-jerk reaction was the stupid part and coworker X has a killer out-of-the-box idea!

b) The idea initially strikes you as moronic, but since you initiate the first rule of improv and say yes, you initially validate the idea and engage in a respectful conversation. To coworker X's surprise he realizes that his "great" idea had many holes in it and is in fact, well, a stupid idea.  They connected the dots with your help; you didn't tell them.

So the bonus is coworker X doesn't walk away thinking you're a douche because you always poop on his ideas. Instead, you're seen a person who welcomes and respects new ideas which will actually foster the proliferation of more new ideas! (And I get bonus points for using the word proliferation apart from war build-up terminology.)

The second rule of improv is
Say YES, AND...

You are to agree with the idea coming at you AND add something of your own to it. So if I say, "This banana could go off at any moment!" You could respond with, "Oh jeepers you're right!"

That doesn't exactly move anything forward. But if you say,"Oh my gosh! Of course it could--I can see the detonator in your pants pocket!"  Now we're getting somewhere. (Somewhere PG13 probably.)

Yes, and in improv and the workplace means don't be afraid to contribute. In fact it's part of the rules--it's your responsibility to contribute to an idea. By design your interactions are worthwhile.

Now we could make cheesy successories quotes here, but let's not. Ok, just one: We is better than me. The essence of yes, and means that we're truly collaborating. It's not your idea or my idea, it's our exchange and intermixing of ideas. Yes, and fosters two people working together versus one person pitching an idea at someone.

The Third rule of improv is

In improv this is avoiding Seinfeldian up-talking like, "So I am the doctor?" "This is fruit salad?" It's about making declarative statements, laying down solid footing for the next piece of action to push off from. "I am the doctor so of course I know fruit salad when I feel it."

In the workplace this means quit disclaiming your ideas. Because we're constantly agreeing with each other and saying yes, and we have trust. So let's not slow down the flow of ideas and possible solutions by mealy up-talking, "We could bring in a consultant?" "I think I have the solution?" This is a time-saver. And it moves us along to our last rule, which is really important.

The fourth rule of improv is
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities

The great thing about improv is we are in charge of our destiny. If we improv ourselves into a jam we just pull an even crazier idea out of our collective arse and all is well. It just requires we keep going and keep thinking up crazier stuff.

You may think, "Hey dude, this ain't fantasy land; there are real mistakes in the workplace." True. But short of mistakes that end in death, there's always a fix, another whacky play to run. Sometimes we just forget we're highly creative creatures. If we are looking for opportunities instead of mistakes to pin on people, well junkies Scoob, I bet we'll find a solution. Crazier-than-fiction books have been written about really cool things raising up out of the ashes just because someone was too creative or too determined to quit.

Ok let's do this!
1. Always agree and say yes
2. Say yes, and...
3. Make statements
4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities

This was inspired by pgs 84,85 of Tiny Fey's book Bossypants where she nets out the rules of improv.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guns...and Roses

NO drives people to YES
The more you tell a child he can't do something, the more he wants to do it. Apparently this plays just as well with their parents. Ironically in the wake of a nationwide discussion on banning, limiting and regulating firearms and ammo--(you guessed it) we're spurring on nationwide sales of guns and ammo at a fever pitch. The discussion of limiting guns is unleashing unprecedented gun and ammo sales.

Just for fun google "record gun and ammo sales" or just click here.

It's not just the loose cannons
What's interesting in my observation, is these gun control conversations aren't just driving the lunatic fringe Ted Nugent-like gun nuts out to buy more supplies. It's driving all gun owners. For instance, I have a good friend who is a great normal guy. He's considering purchasing an AR-15. Guess what? He's never been interested in an AR-15 before; he's considering it for the resale value.

I've bought more ammo last month than I've ever bought in a month. (My example here is that I'm a normal guy--which I'll admit is a HUGE stretch.) Why am I buying more ammo? It's available and still inexpensive. I'm concerned it may go up in price or be harder to get.

(For the record, I shoot handguns at targets. I keep them locked in a safe to which only I know the combination. I don't carry. I don't own for home defense. I don't golf very well and it's bad for my back. Shooting is my golfing. It's recreational.)

We don't understand all we know
In the '50s and '60s kids played with guns. They looked 100% real. No orange tips. 1911s, M-16s, Winchesters, sub-machine guns, Colt pistols etc. Kids spent hours outside divided into teams with the sole purpose of shooting and killing each other. They spoke and shouted in those terms. "I shot you!" "I killed you--fall down!"

You must watch this vintage commercial:
click here

How shocking was that? How frighteningly realistic was that? And this wasn't a tiny segment of kids playing with life-like guns. Virtually all of us boys grew up with these things in our hands, shooting at people often. And even though by today's standards we might not say those old guns were sexy--back in the day--trust me--we thought they were as cool and sexy as you can imagine any modern killing stick is.

And yet the '50s & '60s (by and large) didn't produce people who shot up movie theaters and schools. Since toys have been toys, boys in America have been playing with life-like guns in ways that shock us today.

And yet ironically this current generation that's grown up thinking that playing with toy guns is politically incorrect has opened fire on too many innocent people.

I don't pretend to have an answer here in the least. Only the observation that there are not always logical solutions when hideous things happen. Evil is not always simple. As my dad used to say, "I'm not sure we understand everything we know about this."

Unrealistic expectations
Whether one is pro-gun or anti-gun, I suggest that we can no sooner un-gun America than we could remove the Stars and Stripes as our national flag. In America we love cars, love guns and detest people telling us what to do.

Like it or not, good or bad, that is who we are. So guns will always be part of America. We can (and should) reel them in a little here and there, but we must understand the ability to kill goes far beyond assault rifles and large magazines. Sadly our great President Lincoln was killed with a single shot derringer.

I am not making any pro-NRA point here. (I'm not a member, by the way.) But I am a realist. I am a pragmatist. On occasion I'm even an optimist. It seems to me that un-gunning America is Utopian--an expectation for the other side of heaven. On this earth evil will find a way to be disgustingly sinister. Evil doesn't require assault rifles. It sadly finds a way.

Grieve with those
Perhaps what saddens me most these days is how we've instantly followed up the Sandy Hook slayings with a nationwide diatribe defending our right to own guns. And it's no secret that so many gun owners are self-professing people of Christian faith.

And on the heels of this tragedy it seems our overwhelming voice has not been that of mourning with those who mourn. It seems we were disgusted for a weekend. And then spent the last month frothing to defend our right against an "evil" government that somehow "hates" us.

And the church-not-so-much people are watching as they always do. And they've seen us muster a head of steam for our precious guns more then we've mourned with those who mourn. Our actions speak...

And as I write this...thinking of parents in Connecticut with empty beds...I am moved to tears...and convicted that I have not mourned enough--have not considered these parents enough--these precious parents who've made arrangements for small caskets. And I am sorry.

Holy Father, I pray for these families from Sandy Hook. I lift them up to You--trusting that only You can provide comfort and peace in situations where comfort and peace seem impossible. I pray that you give these family members and friends the power to muddle through the devastating emotions that are still so delicately fresh. Father, reveal yourself to these families in supernatural ways. Be their strength, Lord. Be their portion. Be their all in all. Carry them, Lord. And use us, Lord--your sons and daughters to pray for these dear families. Use those of us in close proximity in any way possible to serve these families. And Lord...help us to realism and savor every good gift and blessing today--the ones that we so easily miss. Thank You for being the one true Thing we can count on in a world that disappoints. Amen.