Stocks, Bonds, Risks, and the Church

I don’t write many strictly business posts these days, even though I spent more than 20 years in that world. This article caught my attention though:

Bonds outperform stocks

(Click on the title to read the article. Basically, bonds are now outpacing stocks on a 30-year average return.)

I can’t help but believe this isn’t great news for a capitalistic economy. In a very simplistic view, stocks are based more on the assumption of risk. Bonds are based more on the assumption of security. When a capitalistic economy stops taking risks, it’s ceasing to live up to what it was designed to do. (I realize many times investors are looking for options other than stocks, but it doesn’t negate my point about a capitalistic society.)

What difference does all this make in terms of my calling now…as a pastor?

Well, I think the same is true for me (and those with similar callings). I see too many people in positions of leadership in the church who become comfortable and resist walking by faith.

When we stop taking the risks involved in fully surrendering to God’s will…when we become complacent or satisfied…we cease to live up to what we’ve been designed to do.

Is God placing something on your heart?

God calls us to things which require personal risk. Following God requires great faith, even more so the longer we follow Him. People don’t always agree when you step into “God-following” territory. It may even appear at times we are going to fail, at least in the short run. God callings often take years to see returns from the investment. Don’t settle for what appears secure at the time. It never really is!

If God says “Go”, do so in spite of your fears!

Be honest pastor,have you been settling for what’s comfortable these days?

Also, do you have an interest in business or politics, in addition to your God-calling? (Please don’t leave me alone here.)

What the Last Supper taught me about leadership (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon who writes about Living Better Stories. You can follow him on twitter or download a free copy of his eBook Grace Is.

What the Last Supper taught me about leadership:

One of the most rewarding experiences of my life was viewing Leonardo DaVinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper in person.

Everyone knows the painting. The image is ingrained on our minds. The scene of Jesus announcing to the twelve that Judas would betray him is a classic work of art.

Perhaps as you read these first words, you could recall having seen it most likely as either a reprint or digital image on the internet. But I have to tell you, seeing a copy does not compare to seeing the real thing.

“So what?” you ask. How is it better to see the actual painting? Why should I go to all of the trouble of a real experience when a digital one works? Wouldn’t the time, effort, and energy be wasted?

You may have seen the painting, but you did not experience it like I did.

There are many advantages to a digital age. We can connect and share information at higher volumes and faster speeds than ever before. At times it seems the world is at our finger tips.

One of the potential problems, though, is that we may become to willing to trade artificial experiences for fake ones.

-Instead of relationships we develop Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

-Instead of living our own stories we are willing to watch them through instant online streaming.

-Instead of communities we build mailing lists.

If we forget to have true experiences, our ability to lead will diminish since our goal is to lead real people to live better stories so they can have a greater influence.

Here are 4 ways that experience of actually seeing the painting was superior to the artificial experience of seeing a copy.

Cost. Cheap experiences are likely to have less impact. It costs next to nothing to view the painting on the internet. To actually see the real art you have to first buy a plane ticket, and then endure the 14 hour trip to Milan. Hotels are rarely cheap. To protect the painting, opportunities to see it are limited which means tickets can be expensive. Did I mention the unfavorable exchange rate? When it costs that much, you will appreciate it more and soak up every possible experience from it.

Clarity. Artificial experiences distort true reality. It is the difference between hearing the true sound of a violin and listening to it in your car. By seeing the painting in person, you can understand its true size. (It is enormous.) You can appreciate its actual color, not just a distorted copy. You can compare it to a very good painting on the opposite wall, making it easier to value DaVinci’s genius. True experiences are more likely to speak to your soul.

Context. The painting is located on the wall of a small, old monastery in Milan. Seeing the building protects this art work helps to imagine DaVinci walking up to it and laboring inside for 3 straight years. Once you get in you realize how fragile the painting is. It was nearly destroyed in World War II. There is still evidence of that conflict. It is now protected by multiple sealed vaults. Seeing the painting in its context helps to understand its true value.

Culture. One of the best parts of seeing the painting in Italy is that you have to travel to Italy. What can be better than seeing the painting? Enjoying a cappuccino and gelato just a few yards from the main plaza and the enormous cathedral that sits in the center of town immediately afterwards. Now when I see a copy of the painting, I remember experiencing the city as well. Seeing it in person helps to appreciate the culture behind it.

If we are to be effective leaders, we need to make an effort to have real experiences. Ones that will open us to new ideas. Ones that will cause us to question our world. Ones that will help us to have a greater influence on others.

Do you think the digital age is affecting our sense of reality? What “real” experience has impacted your leadership?

My 50 Favorite Words of All Time

Recently I was in a store and heard a little boy yell, “Mom…or Dad” across the store. I was reminded how special those words are every time I hear them.

Then I started to reflect. I like words, but some words just have a more special ring to them. I have some favorite words. Whenever I hear them, I feel warmer inside.

Not necessarily in order of importance…

Here are my 50 favorite words:

God
Jesus
Mom
Dad
Thanks
Love
Wife
Golly
Friends
Family
Faithful
Grandchildren
Grace
Husband
Sunshine
Sister
Marriage
Rest
Food
Brother
Chocolate
Caring
Christmas
Easter
Cross
Bible
Health
Life
Heaven
Blessing
Victory
Beloved
Sunny
Smile
Laughter
Eternity
Security
Saved
Grandparent
Sorry
Vacation
Forgiveness
Giggle
Tickle
Home
Heart
Memories
Books
Music
Ocean

I’m sure I’ve missed one or two. :)

Which words come to mind as your favorite words?

10 Easy New Year Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

I’m like many others on this day. I’m not a big new year’s resolution person. I am huge on setting goals, but resolutions seem to be broken more than they are kept. Perhaps it’s a bias we have towards resolutions. I think part of the reason, however, is that when we set goals, we are more realistic, but when we set resolutions, they are often so lofty we’ll never attain them. We give up shortly after we start.

What if we set easy-to-follow resolutions?

This is the time of year when we reflect on the previous year and look forward to the new. In this new year, as every year, I want to do more and live better than I did in the previous year.

Do you want a few resolutions you can actually keep?

Here are 10 easy resolutions you can actually keep:

1. Dear God, we will talk more this year.
2. I will think before I eat.
3. I will do some form of exercise or physical activity every week.
4. I’ll open my Bible every day.
5. I’ll improve at least one relationship.
6. I’ll organize one closet (or even one drawer).
7. I’ll learn one new skill.
8. I’ll attempt to be a better listener.
9. I’ll smile more. (Stretch yourself and insert laugh here.)
10. I’ll remind myself of one thing I’m thankful for everyday.

These may not be “change your life” resolutions. Honestly, how well do you keep those anyway? These are resolutions you can actually keep. But, don’t even try to keep all of them. Pick two or three  as your own. (Or come up with your own.) You have a whole year to accomplish it. Make a fresh start in a few areas, you’ll begin to see progress, and it will inspire you to do even more.

The key to accomplishing any goal or keeping any resolution is starting and then continuing until it becomes a habit. This year, lower your bar just a little in hopes that positive change actually sticks.

Every major accomplishment starts somewhere.

What are some other easy-to-keep resolutions?

What positive changes are you going to make in the new year?

Secret Santa: CBS On The Road Video

Here’s a CBS News story of a secret Santa. I’ve seen reports of this businessman man’s way of spreading Christmas cheer before, but I loved the outcome on this one. (You’ll watch a 30 second advertisement, then the 3 minute video.)

I also love the news segment by Steve Hartman called “On the Road”. You can read or watch more of his Secret Santa stories HERE.

True Confession: Life as an Introvert

Here’s a quick confession. I’ve told readers before that I’m an introvert. That’s not the confession. I’ve learned lots of pastors are introverted.

In fact, I can appear fairly extroverted at times.

When I have a definite purpose and responsibility, I can be the most extroverted person in the room. On Sunday, for example, I work the crowd, shake tons of hands, and talk non-stop. It’s hard for people to believe I’m really an introvert. I go home exhausted on Sunday and need hours to recuperate. When I’m speaking at a conference, I work the room well.

Unfortunately, my introverted personality kicks in when I’m simply attending a gathering, especially with people I may not know.

Here’s the confession:

I’ve missed a few social gatherings due to my introversion.

Not only that…it gets worse…

There have been times, if attendance is optional, and Cheryl isn’t with me, I’ve intended to go to a social gathering, driven to the event, pulled into the parking lot, sat in my car for a few minutes, decided to drive around a little while, never went in…and missed the party completely. I skipped the fun, the opportunity to connect, and only left disappointed in myself.

Don’t misunderstand. I love people. I love meeting new people. I’m always glad when I go. I simply can’t push through the introversion sometimes.

This time of year, it’s easy for me to allow my introversion to keep me from enjoying the season.

Here’s my advice…

This is to me and anyone else who will admit to being this introverted:

Push through the introversion. Put your party hat on and do the social gathering. You’ll be glad once you did. I always am.

Anyone else brave enough to admit being this introverted?

By the way, you may want to read these posts about my introversion:

7 Pitfalls of Being an Introverted Pastor

How an Introvert Handles Awkward Situations

7 Ways Extroverts Can Help Introverts

7 Ways I Work with Introversion to Protect My Ministry

Christmas Flash Mob

According to YouTube, Journey of Faith performed a Christmas “Flash Mob” at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach on December 18, much to the delight of local shoppers.

One of the best I’ve ever seen…don’t miss the ending.

Ever been a part of a flash mob? Would you like to be?

(Thanks to @MaxLucado for pointing me to this one.)

I’m like a girl when it comes to football…

The title of this post may get me in trouble, but there’s a point behind it. In marriage conferences, I used to teach the difference in the way a man and a woman develop respect and love. Basically, for my purposes here, men can usually separate their respect for someone based on their abilities in a certain area.

So a man may be able to respect a businessman for his skills in business, even if that man is a lousy husband and father. For a woman, because she typically develops her respect as much from her heart as from what she knows about someone, if the businessman is a lousy husband, she will have a harder time respecting him professionally. (I realize that’s a generalized statement, but I’ve seen it many times. I may post more about that concept in the future.)

When it comes to football…I’m a girl…

  • If a coach cheats on his wife…
  • If a player is a poor role model…
  • If a team is disrespectful to other teams…

I’m less likely to respect…and ultimately support…that team…

But…

  • If a coach is a great man of character…
  • If a player carries himself with class…
  • If a team is professional even in losing…

That coach/player/team likely has me cheering for them when they play.

I know…it should just be about the game, my favorite team, etc., but I have a hard time separating the two. I see guys choose their “favorite” player who in my book is a poor role model for anyone, regardless of skills. My loyalty to a team usually fades if the coach has lousy character and grows if he is a man of good character, and likewise for a player. I may be able to admire the skills of the player, but I can not get behind them as a player if they can’t be a good role model. That’s why I’m such a Tim Tebow fan (watch THIS VIDEO I posted about him yesterday) and why I was always a Tony Dungy fan.

Go ahead. Make fun of me. Even call me a girl if you want. If your favorite coach or player is a jerk…like them…be loyal in spite of that fact…but I’ll be cheering on the other side.

Anyone else like me?