Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Number 6 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany


THE MAGI, WISEMEN, OR THREE KINGS, traveled to Bethlehem from Persia or Arabia. They were men seeking answers, and seeking the son of God. Or, at least someone special whose coming had been foretold – Jesus was expected.

They traveled 2000 miles or so by camel. It’s unknown how many people made up their entire travel party, but it’s likely there were several in the group. They had their eyes fixed on the star, their hearts filled with expectation.

Before they began their journey, they had been seeking a sign, searching the stars, hunting for the truth, expecting the coming of a king. This was no spur of the moment weekend getaway. This was an adventure with a purpose that had deep roots of anticipation.

Are you prepared to meet Jesus this Christmas season? Are you willing to “traverse afar” over “moor and mountain” to experience the Dayspring?

Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Number 5 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany


“IN THE NEW YEAR, I HEREBY RESOLVE TO…” Every year, nearly everyone decides to “wake up and smell the coffee,” and rejuvenate their life in some way or another. Long lists of resolutions get written, scribed with the very best of intentions. Soon, they tend to fall aside one by one. And then suddenly it’s time to make a new list!

Jeepers! So many resolutions; so little time!

Sören Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” This flies in the face of all those books that trumpet 3 or 7 or 10 or 12 easy steps to the perfect Christian life. And it runs counter to our long lists of New Year’s resolutions.

But what is this “one thing” that we should will?

Mary bent her heart to the will of God to obediently bear Jesus. Joseph set aside his intention to divorce himself of his pregnant bride to conform to God’s will. The shepherds chose to briefly abandon their flocks to do the willing of the angel. And the wisemen left the comfort of their homes drawn by the will of God attached to a star.

Maybe Jesus gave us the best clue when he said, “seek the one thing of God’s kingdom which includes his righteousness, and everything else will come to you in time” (Matt. 6:33). Now that’s one resolution worth pursuing!

Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Number 4 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany


WELCOMING MEANS TO RECEIVE ANOTHER with joy and hospitality into one's presence or home. It's the difference between just saying hello and giving a warm hug. As we travel around on the holidays, when we arrive, we hear, "Welcome! Come on in!"

The parents of Jesus weren’t welcomed in Bethlehem. In fact, they weren’t welcomed in Judea and had to flee to Egypt. Later, the baby Jesus grew up to be despised and rejected and crucified.

But Jesus was, and is, always welcoming. He chooses the unwelcome, despised, and lowly to be his followers. He does not turn any away.

To receive the welcome of Christ is to receive the greatest gift of all. On Christmas Day, embrace the Reason for the season and welcome Jesus into your heart and home. Extend him your soul’s hospitality.

Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gut check!

Scott Bedbury was a key force behind the branding success of Starbucks and Nike and he’s written a nice little book about his experiences titled, A New Brand World.

While Bedbury looked to market research for guidance in the decisions he made, statistics weren’t the arbiter of his choices. There was something else.

A clue can be found in his quoting of Jerome Conlon at Nike: “…we’re very cautious about research around here. It’s not part of our language or culture. We don’t want to ignore or diffuse our own instincts.”

My nose is itching

What’s the “something else” needed for making good decisions? It’s an ineffable quality that goes by many names, such as gut instinct, intuition, a sense of something, a feeling, sixth sense, an epiphany.

I love watching the TV shows “Monk,” “The Mentalist,” and “Psych” and others like them. The main characters always seem to intuit more than others from crime scenes and suspects. How? By observing them carefully and processing their observations through their cumulative experiences.

What these characters do seems almost magical, as if they really can read minds. How do they do it?

(An aside: Note that all the main characters in the TV programs mentioned have witty senses of humor, ranging from very dry to slapstick. This is essential to exercising good intuition. If you're humorless and souless, ignore this blog entry.)

Something tells me

In business, intuition is invaluable when faced with a mass of research data. The data are meaningless if you don’t have a good gut feel for your clientele, audience, constituency, or customers.

Years ago when I was the editor of a trade magazine serving Christian bookstores, I approached the publisher with the idea of doing a survey. I explained that I wanted to get a better idea of what content we needed to cover in the magazine, and I wanted to know how we were viewed.

The publisher was a crusty former newspaper man, no nonsense to the core, and very wise. He told me that I could learn more by just visiting and talking with a handful of area store managers than I could from a survey of the entire readership. We were located in the Chicago area and there were dozens of stores within easy driving distance.

We settled on a compromise and I was allowed to include a short postcard survey in one issue of the magazine, but I also visited local stores. He was right!

Remember the character Data from Star Trek? He was a data-bound data-hound; he knew a lot of facts but couldn’t always apply what he knew correctly since he had no intuitive sensibility.

Having a gut sense can be as good or better than collecting a lot of data.

I’ve got a feeling

There’s nothing wrong with doing research. In fact, it’s essential to good business practice. But the data gathered will be useless if you can’t interpret them, and you can’t interpret them if you don’t already have a good feel for what’s going on around you.

A gut sense is simply your cumulative knowledge, experience, training, and the life you’ve lived applied in an intelligent way to current challenges. Most of us know way more than  we give ourselves credit for.

If you’ve reached a point where you’ve decided it’s time to survey your customers, odds are your gut sense is prodding you to pay attention to something that’s shifted or shifting. Something’s happening and you already have a feeling about it.

When you do a survey, keep in mind that the people responding aren’t as invested in the results as you are. Their responses will be self-centered, passionless, and not entirely accurate. That’s the nature of surveys! You have to be able to interpret the data and not merely accept the numbers at face value.

Trust your instinct! Do the research but listen to your gut. Too often I’ve watched as really smart people opt for research for one of two bad reasons:
  • They didn’t trust their instincts at all, or
  • They wanted to sidestep responsibility for the decision.
In both cases either they become frozen and unable to make a decision or they go entirely the wrong way.

Gutting it out and getting it right

Here are four steps to improving your decisions by combining research with your instincts or gut feel:
  1. Write out what you’re sensing. Doodle with words. Ramble on paper. Talk into a recorder. Get it out of the ether and onto paper so you can see what you’re feeling.
  2. Do some research. Go ahead and take the temperature of your audience, constituency, or customers. Do a small phone canvas, go to lunch with some people, send out a simple survey.
  3. Acknowledge what you really want to do. Odds are you know what needs to be done. Write it down on paper and talk to a trusted colleague or friend about it. Seeing it on paper and hearing yourself talk about it will help you better discern if it’s a good idea or not.
  4. Make a decision and move forward. If the research matches up with your gut, then it’s a no brainer to move ahead. If not, then trust your gut unless the research reveals something you were previously clueless about.
If it so happens that your research and gut are miles apart, you may be badly out of touch with those you’re serving and will need to reset your gut based on the expectations of your audience, constituency, or customers. In this case, a full-blown survey effort coupled with direct contact and conversation may be needed.

But, if as a rule, you’re staying connected to the people you serve and are actively engaged with them at some level, your gut is going to be in line with reality. Trust it.

Don’t abdicate your wisdom, experience, and professional insight to a bean counter’s numbers. You’re better and smarter than that!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Number 3 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany


KIDS LOVE CHRISTMAS. The mind-numbing anticipation mounts daily as dreams of what they long for become ever more vivid in their heads. All they want for Christmas is – everything! Now!

For some, wondering what gifts will appear leads to irrepressible snooping. Like little Sherlocks, they investigate every nook and cranny of the house – basement, attic, garage, crawl space, shed, closets, and cupboards. Sometimes, finding gifts but stymied by the wrapping, they slyly peel off tape, untie ribbons, take a peek, carefully rewrap, and feign surprise on Christmas day. But the joy of having what they’ve desired is real and unrestrained.

While parents aren’t pleased by this sleuthing, God loves it when we can’t wait to receive the greatest Gift of all. In fact, if you open His Gift before Christmas – any day of the year – God doesn’t mind and you don’t have to re-wrap it.

Are you antsy with eagerness to receive the gift of Christ into your life, fresh every morning? Do you irrepressibly long for everything God offers?

Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Number 2 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany


“I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!” We hear this sung-sentiment over and over at this season. It’s a lovely thought, whether home is where we live, where we grew up, or even the home of dear friends. To be “home” is to be some place welcoming with people who are familiar. Being home is cozy and comfortable.

Joseph’s hometown was Bethlehem; it possibly was not Mary’s. Even though there were most likely relatives and others Joseph knew, they didn’t welcome the couple into their homes. Where they ended up for the night, in a cave-stable, wasn’t particularly comfy.

For Mary, it was very foreign. No relatives were there to help her as she gave birth.

It was also very foreign for Jesus (God incarnate). He left the glory of heaven with all the comforts of the home of homes, and landed in a smelly stable to be bedded in the cattle‘s feeding trough. Ta da!

For such a lackluster appearance, His arrival has had a long-lasting impact. Are you prepared to let Him in this Christmas?

Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Number 1 of 7 Musings on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany


ADVENT MEANS THE COMING OR ARRIVAL OF SOMEONE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Isn’t it interesting that the birth of he who is our Shepherd, the Lamb of God, was revealed first to shepherds? And what a revelation it was!

These sheep-herders were dutifully going about their thankless business, working the night shift, keeping sleeping flocks of sheep safe.

Over their heads, an angel – a real, live, floating in mid-air angel – materialized in a brilliant glow and scared the chill out of them. And then a bazillion more angels show up doing a heavenly song and dance number of celestial proportions. Bravo! Encore!

The shepherds listened; were shocked and awed; then with knees still trembling, somehow managed to repack their wits and find their way to see – a baby. Just a baby; yet no ordinary child. But what they saw was only a fraction of who He is.

How much of Jesus do you see? How much more do you really want to see of incarnate Deity? Open your eyes fully this Christmas!

Advent runs for four weeks: 11/27, 12/4, 12/11, 12/18, and culminates on Christmas Eve 12/24.
Christmas Day is celebrated on 12/25, however the 12 days of Christmas extend through 1/6
Epiphany, the 12th day, marks the end of the Christmas season.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupying ambiguity

For two months, groups of people across the country have been participating in what’s being called the OWS for Occupy Wall Street, or simply, the Occupy thingy. This alleged movement has its ardent detractors and its equally ardent supporters. I’m somewhat in the middle with a slight leaning toward detractionism.

Early on, for a few days, this scattered demonstration was even tied by the media to uprisings and protests around the world, attempting to give it the illusion of global reach.

Fortunately, the media and others have backed off this slant, and rightly so. This is the U.S., not Syria. We are not a police state. Many of the events happening overseas are totally unrelated and dissimilar to what’s happening within the borders of the U.S. Thank God.

But what is happening here? It’s not exactly clear.

After two months, no clear message, purpose, or actionable objectives are crystallizing from these encampments. Instead, they seem to be devolving into chaos and worse as anarchists and other opportunists worm into the groups. At the same time, while unions briefly made a big deal about aligning with the occupiers, their involvement seems to have waned or gone covert.

While the media generally tries to present a favorable view of the protesters, what’s coming across is not so pretty. It seems the only thing the protesters want to accomplish is confrontation with police to artificially foment conflict that is intended to manufacture a bloodied photo op.

And this is going to bring positive change how?

I’ve been trying to maintain an open attitude toward all that’s going on. However, I cringe when it’s compared to the protests of the 60s and 70s. While the anit-war and anti-establishment protests of those decades had their failings and troublemakers, there were also clear overarching messages being communicated. The loudest call was to end the draft and end the war in Vietnam.

In addition to much clearer messages and goals, the majority of those who engaged in civil disobedience then understood that they were breaking the law and risking being jailed. The fact that they were willing to accept the consequences of their actions made them all the more compelling.

Too many of the protesters in the Occupy bunch seem to be wimpy whiners who are surprised that trespassing, spitting on the police, and defecating in public can get them jailed. Many appear to be freeloaders taking advantage of handouts while others just want to sit around and bang their drums all day.

The media appear just as naïve. Nearly every reporter makes a point to state, as if it’s somehow out of the ordinary, that when police go out to deal with these mobs, they are wearing “riot gear.” What the police are wearing are their work clothes and what they are doing is their jobs.

So what the heck is this Occupy thing all about anyway? Yes we can, what?

I’ve been following the news and doing some reading and still am not clear. It’s all very ambiguous.

Below are nine quotes from nine people participating in Occupy events around the country. These were posted on CNN.com by iReporters, people who are not "official" journalists and in many ways are empathetic to the “movement.”
  • "It's time to stop taking care of the 1% who are perfectly fine the way they are and start taking care of the 99% -- the rest of us. And we're all in this together: you, me, the bus driver, everybody. It's not just a faceless mob, it's all of us."
  • "I lost my job a couple of months ago. The reason I'm out here is because I just feel there's a lot that needs to be changed in this country. It seems like the power has gone to the corporations and it feels like when I go out to vote that my say doesn't mean anything anymore."
  •  "I'm protesting because I am part of the 99% of the people who have been downsized by the government. People that have been waiting so long that have something to say about what's going on."
  •  "I am hoping that through all this that we can bring our country back to a place where there isn't rich-over-poor, where the economy is better balanced, where people can make a decent wage. We've let the money take over."
  •  "The reason why I'm here is to be part of this movement to get something done about the 1% that has all the money and the power. We are the 99% that is waiting around for this revolution to happen so something can be done."
  • "I don't have a job currently, but I just got laid off because, you know, the big businesses are workin' with the government. They take most of our taxes, and I understand that we have to pay taxes but it's not fair that we have to pay the most taxes and we're poor."
  •  "I'm just down here because I'm sick of big business and larger corporations working with the government to decide the policies that go on in our country. It really doesn't leave room for the 99% of the people that don't make a billion, two billion or 40 billion dollars a year, to speak their piece on what they think should be done." 
  • "The biggest reason I'm here is for the process. … What I'm really interested in about this movement is engaging in experimental democracy. There's something that is happening here that is totally unprecedented, in my opinion, except like maybe in a Grecian kind of world."
  • "I am protesting because this is what is right and things need to change. It just needs to be done. This is going to change things because it's happening all over the world. I'm here because I'm passionate about my future."
  • "I am protesting for numerous reasons. As we all know, the mass injustice done by the 1% and the way that the 99% of America are treated unfairly. We are going to take back democracy by using the ability of numbers because we don't have the ability of money or power."
From these statements, can you clearly discern the three top concerns of the Occupy movement?

Frankly, there’s nothing here but broad-brush generalities. There is nothing that could be formulated into an actionable plan. And most of the statements need to be bolstered with real facts and data, rather than emotionally-charged opinion.

So, how can the leaders, if they exist, bring some clarity to this movement so that it can actually gain traction and truly make a difference?

Here are a few suggestions:
  • Narrow the focus. One person stated, “I am protesting for numerous reasons.” Pick three! List the top three reasons people are protesting and state them clearly. Repeat them everywhere. Support them with facts and figures and stories! Keep lists of objectives and demands manageable.
  • Be specific. One protester stated, “There's something that is happening here that is totally unprecedented.” What is it that’s happening? How is it unprecedented? Why is it important that it is happening? How will it make a difference? Who will be impacted? Stop speaking in vague generalities. 
  • Support with facts and examples. One occupier claims, “I'm protesting because I am part of the 99% of the people who have been downsized by the government.” Who exactly have been downsized by whom and where? Provide concrete examples. Show data and statistics that prove your claims. Create a reasonable, convincing, and compelling argument. Use logic and facts.
  • Set clear attainable objectives. One activist stated, “We are the 99% that is waiting around for this revolution to happen so something can be done.” Seriously? I thought you were involved so that you could do something? But then, if there are no clear goals, of course nothing’s going to get done. Pick 3-5 attainable goals and state them clearly using proper grammar.
I could go on, but my point has been made.

Nothing good will come out of the Occupy movement until the “something” that needs to be accomplished is clearly defined and intelligently articulated. So far that is not happening.

And the whole world is watching, waiting, and listening.


Do you really know what’s on your website?

Are you aware of what your website says? Are you aware of the purchasing options given to customers? Does your website reflect recently updated prices, policies, and processes? Are you sure about that?

Yes, it’s tough keeping all the various information platforms updated when changes happen. But it’s not as tough as it used to be considering how much is now digital.

It’s far easier to update a website, app, or a PDF than a printed catalog or brochure. In fact, there’s really little excuse for not at least keeping your customer-facing website in synch with whatever changes you are implementing.

But yet, too often this isn’t happening.

Making a reservation for two

Just recently I booked a weekend getaway at an Ohio resort spot. The resort offers several packages on its website. With each package you can choose additional options. Then, when you complete your booking, all these are tallied for your final bill.

Resort hiccup number one

One option I chose required calling to confirm selections.

(By the way, I’m being a bit vague here because it’s a surprise for my wife. She knows about the weekend and where we’re going, but I’ve left out a few details.)

So, I was given a phone number with an extension to call to finalize my option order. When I called, the person on the other end knew nothing about this. However, another person, at a different extension, could help me.

Resort hiccup number two

My name and number were taken and I did receive a call from a pleasant woman who did a great job with my selections. But there was one more small issue.

The resort personnel were unaware that these options could be selected and paid for online!

Fortunately, I had my email confirmation and forwarded it to the woman who was helping me. She took care of it and all is well.

Test your own site regularly so you don’t lose business!

The simple solution to these problems is to assign someone to regularly visit your website and view it as a customer would. Or hire a “secret shopper” to do this for you. Don’t just click around, but actually complete the forms and make purchases. Do the things a customer would do, see what they see, and experience what they experience.

Another issue I discovered with the resort website is that they have offers, events, and packages scattered in different locations. Navigation isn’t intuitive and finding all the options is a tad challenging.

Because not every customer is going to take the time to burrow around through your website, you are going to lose business if you don't make it easy to find everything.

Gathering information from an association

But what if your site doesn’t sell anything? Well, you may not lose business but you can annoy your constituents plenty.

A few months ago, I was researching services offered by a professional association I belong to. To learn certain details I needed, I was directed to email a specific person.

Association hiccup number one

About 48 hours later, I received a response indicating that they had no clue as to what I needed, but had forwarded my email to another person who could take care of me.

Association hiccup number two

Another 48 hours or so later, that person emailed me the link on their website that would lead me to the information I needed.

I made sure that I pointed out to both people what their website said about who to contact. And I told them there was no clear navigation to the page I was finally directed to. It hadn’t even come up using their search tool on the site.

Pay attention to your users and fix what they show you is broken!

Today, months later, nothing has changed on the website. The wrong information is still posted and the page I was referred to remains buried and difficult to find.

If a user points out a problem with your website, fix it immediately!

You have no excuse for not. If you’re depending on an outside webmaster and they tell you it will take at least 24 hours to fix the issue, they’re probably lying to you. Get a new webmaster!

Not fixing these kinds of issues means your constituents and customers are wasting time trying to find the information they need. Or they’re just giving up in frustration.

This then costs you and your staff time because you will be responding to the same issue and queries over and over.

And to not fix something when it’s pointed out to you sends two messages to your website visitors: (1) That they are not important, and (2) that you don’t care about them.

All’s not always well even if things end well

In both examples, good customer service eventually resolved my issue. However, nothing has changed on either website. While I’m happy for now, if I need to book another getaway or glean information from the organization, I know I’m going to have extra work to do.

  • For the resort, to ensure I’m getting the best deal, I’ll have to burrow all through their website, take notes, and then probably call them to confirm the information on the site is up to date.
  • For the organization, it’ll be the same thing. Plus, I’m going to be suspicious of any information I find knowing it may not be the latest.

For both situations I’ll be required to invest more time than I should have to.

Are these the kinds of experiences you want visitors to your website to have? Then make sure your website is up to date and truly user-friendly.

Oh, one last thing. Don't wait 48 hours to respond to an inquiry. Just sayin'.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

My life is becoming a basket case

Something’s happening here. What it is involves numerous containers made from woven plant fibers.

These are called baskets, and they have proliferated in nearly every room of the house.

It started innocently enough. A pile of semi-related stuff would form and, voila, suddenly there it was all gathered up tidily together in a basket. Lovely.

While for some the mantra of the day is, “There’s an app for that!” My wife’s is, “I’ve got just the basket for that!”

These woven containers are on shelves, on the floor, and even hang on the wall. Some are heart shaped. Most are rounds, oblongs, or rectangles. And they are of multiple sizes.

They hold cards, food, trash, clothing, and more.

Items I kept on a nightstand near the bed are now neatly tucked away in a small heart-shaped basket. A reedy reminder of my wife’s love.

On one side of the bathroom sink is a manly metal basket with my items in it, and on the other side is a larger, natural and more pretty basket with her stuff.

We have baskets that act as trash cans and one that is a clothes hamper. Although, for some reason, larger woven containers, while they look just like big baskets, are usually referred to as wicker. This is a code I don’t understand. A basket by any other name is wicker? Whatever.

I’m really not too opposed to all these baskets being woven into the fabric of our life.

The organization they offer appeals to my own sense of orderliness; a place for everything and everything in its place.

I think I inherited my own bent toward tidiness and order from my German parents. Oh, wait, my parents weren’t German. Guess it’s just my slight case of OCD. Although my dad did rigorously maintain a very neat pegboard of tools that I was only too happy to rearrange.

God forbid that any of my tools end up in a basket! That would be a basket too far.

Otherwise, I’m okay with the basketizing of our home. I have to admit, though, there are a couple that have no clear purpose as far as I can tell. But I do know better than to try to move them.

As a kid, I remember my mom having a sewing basket – I think – and maybe a couple more.  She did have these plastic boxes with lots of little plastic drawers she kept her sewing stuff in. Dad favored empty coffee cans.

But baskets are good things.

They’ve played important roles in biblical history. Moses was set sailing on the Nile in a basket. The crippled man was lowered through a roof to be placed before Jesus for healing. Twelve baskets were used to collect left over bread after thousands were fed from only a couple of loaves. And Paul’s life was saved through his being lowered out a window in a basket.

So I cannot begrudge baskets in my home. They do fit into the “green” lifestyle trend making us cutting edge in that regard.

There are many baskets-in-waiting in the basement that I know will eventually make their way upstairs. They’re stacked down there like little viney aliens. And I swear they’re reproducing.

My wife reminds me that you can never have too many baskets.

She’s been talking about how we need to make plans for our deaths. I wonder if they have a basket for that? It does rhyme. But I’ll need one bigger than a handbasket because I’m not going there.


G! Bad grammar leads to some bad-ish press.

I’m always surprised when someone insists that being able to write well is not as important as it used to be. This astounds me when I hear it from another communication professional.

The ill-wrought reasoning lies in the fact that we do so much communication now with technology and somehow this lessens the need for writing well. Rather, it’s more important to understand how to use the technology, gather data, etc. to build effective communication.

Talk to me - smartly

Just recently in fact I engaged in a brief cuff up with someone over this issue. I took my soapbox stand proclaiming that being able to write well is essential to being an effective communicator. Their retort was, “What about speaking? As in speeches?” Even then, I rebuked, great speeches are first well-written. Another communicator overhearing this mini-debate chimed in with the popular mantra, “But communication is really a conversation among the participants,” as if this would knock me off my box. It didn’t.

If you are inept with the language as a writer, you won’t be better as a lone speaker giving a speech or as a participant in a conversation.

Writing well entails being able to think and reason well. It exhibits not only clarity in communication, but a concern and interest in the proper use of language and thought.

Distilling the essence of a message into an effective 140 character Tweet takes skill and understanding. Just ask any ad copywriter or poet! Using fewer words to get across a big idea is daunting. It's not just about using fewer words. Not everyone can do it.

But being able to write well can also save politicians from public embarrassment.

Thems be the breaks I a reckons

Just a couple of days ago, a very brief item appear in The Plain Dealer. The new Cuyahoga County Executive, Edward (Ed) FitzGerald, was putting down his foot on his staff regarding the proper spelling and capitalization of his name. It appears the “g” was being lower-cased frequently. Given that his name appears on numerous legal documents, it is essential that it be spelled correctly.

I agree. Any person having their name applied to a document deserves to have it applied correctly.

Trouble arose, however, over the errors in the memo that was sent out addressing the issue. Particularly the line that read: “I have also be informed to please return any documents that does not conform with his instructions to the sender.”

“Be” for “been” could merely have been a typo; but an egregious one, still. But using “documents that does not conform” instead of “documents that do not conform” is a blatant error. It likely echoes the way the writer speaks. And it’s wrong.

The very next day, the editorial cartoon in The Plain Dealer addressed the issue brilliantly, stating, “I Edward FitzGerald does authorize Gramer Reform for all CuyahoGa County departments.”

Bad writing = lost revenue + damaged image

For those outside of Ohio who are not aware, Fitzgerald is the first County Executive. It’s a new form of county government which was enacted to replace and clean up an immense case of corruption that has brought down dozens of private and public citizens. So, everything FitzGerald and the county council do is under a microscope. Everything.

Even without the added scrutiny, taking care that official public documents are crafted intelligently and accurately should be the norm. While not the case with the memo cited, sloppy writing could cost the county thousands of dollars because of an unclear, ambiguous, poorly written document that is challenged in court.

In addition to damaged clarity and broken understanding, bad writing can cost taxpayers money! And it can put a ding in a public official’s reputation.

So, yes, being able to write well is an essential skill for effective communication. If the person who wrote this egregious memo was not taught proper writing in school, they need to go back and smack their teachers. They were cheated!

And Ed, you need to hire a writing coach for your staff.


Disclaimer: Any typos or supposed errors appearing in my blogs are intended as entertainment and are not to be considered as a bad refection on my writing skills.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Six Sigma stupidity: Why “excellence” can be over-rated

Years ago, a watershed book came out called In Search of Excellence. Things have gotten crazy ever since.

The book was full of great insights. It was a wake-up call for a lot of corporations to improve processes, decrease waste, increase profits, and become more employee friendly.

Dozens more books on the same topics came flooding on its heels. The gold standard for manufacturing process – Six Sigma – came into vogue and everyone wanted to be a Black Belt. Whatever that was!

Buzz me up with quality!

Buzz phrases like continuous improvement, championing an organization, ISO 9000, Kaizen, benchmarking, re-engineering, and quality improvement process (QIP) filled business literature.

Books, seminars, and conferences spawned consultants and programs out the wazoo. And then there were the absurd metaphors about cheese, being zapped, and more.

“Huzzah! Excellence!” was the cry heard in office hallways everywhere. That was the holy grail of all our corporate efforts. Everyone wanted to win a Baldrige Award!

Companies went to great extremes to squeeze out every drop of value and achieve an zero percent error rate. Whatever these meant!

The wacky thing is that this feverish scramble for excellence yielded some really stupid behaviors. Probably because a lot of what was being promoted was based on improving manufacturing processes that relied on machines which didn’t always translate well when the “machines” were people.

There were times when the pursuit for excellence backfired and merely wasted time, got expensive, burnt people out, and more.

Excellence tactics gone awry

For example, working on a proposal for an aerospace company, the executive in charge wanted a full color glossy executive summary in the form a of large brochure. There was nothing in the RFP stating that this was a requirement or even desired by the organization we were responding to. But, the executive saw this as an “excellent” tactic.

So we produced the elaborate piece that was subsequently approved and printed. However, the proposal executive in charge changed his mind, deciding the color scheme of the piece was somehow “less than excellent.” No one could dissuade him and so we trashed the copies we had, redesigned and reprinted the piece as directed. Which added an additional few thousand dollars to an already over-strained budget. All in the name of “excellence!”

Our proposal lost.

Sometimes good enough is good enough.

Excellence can be an ambivalent target since everyone has a different idea as to what it is.

In the case of the proposal, a normal, well-written, nicely formatted executive summary would have been good enough, and thus an excellent choice.

Excellence is not synonymous with perfection

What many mean when they say “excellent” is “perfection;” and perfection to a specific personally biased standard that may have no bearing on reality. Especially when it becomes so myopically focused on a single element of a project.

When writing an article, even after it’s “done” it’s possible to tweak it forever; there’s always a different or better way to craft your sentences. But reality of deadlines says you’ve got to end it somewhere!

Excellence as applied to work or any situation needs to take in the entire range of effort.

To get an issue of a magazine out on time requires the completion of quality editorial copy, attractive design, and nicely done advertisements, among other tasks. Insisting that a specific article be re-written or a photo be re-taken until one person with abstract tastes decides they are “perfect” would cause the issue to be sent to the printer late causing it to be late to market – anything but an excellent outcome!

Good enough does not mean something is done without care or quality. Rather, it means everyone involved has done the best they could given the time and resources available.

Going in search of excellence doesn’t require following the path of perfection.

Good enough yields pleasant results without killing the doers, overrunning costs, gratuitously missing deadlines, or stroking one person’s warped ego.

There’s nothing wrong with good enough when that’s the best you can do.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

So, you’re an introvert? Why? Just stop it!

This book steams me.

I started reading this book, The Introverted Leader: Building on your quiet strength, some months ago. I haven’t finished it yet and probably won’t.


Because it’s not really about how to be a leader as an introvert. Instead, it’s just another piece of propaganda, as the author puts it, to help you pass as an extrovert.

What? Are you kidding me?

Resistance is futile

The whole tone and overall implication of the book is that being an introvert is not a good thing. Instead of embracing who you are as an introvert, you need to pretend to be something you’re not – an extrovert.

Refuse to do so? You’ll never succeed in a career position.

This reminds me of the pre-integration years when blacks were told to look and act white to be accepted. That didn’t go over so well.

Yes, introvert discrimination is real. Introvertphobia exists. We are free to be who we are – as long as we behave like extroverts.

Introvert like me

My suspicions about this book were raised in the preface when the author describes herself as “a strong extrovert.” Uh oh.

She then attempts to claim credibility for authoring a book for introverts by describing how she’s been a business consultant for many years, worked with many corporate leaders, and is married to an introvert. So what?

I hope she treats her husband with more respect than she does the introverted readers who are the intended audience for this book.

This book is proof that extroverts don’t get introverts. The author’s approach is to offer tips to “fix” introverts.

Just be more, you know, something else!

There are dozens of books on how to succeed in a corporate setting. They all touch on topics such as how to assert yourself in meetings, how to find favor with your boss and co-workers, how to run projects, and so forth.

This book is no different.

The author has attempted to slant it toward introverts by jamming random quotes and toss-off tips aimed at introverts in between the generic business advice.

The book is really about stifling your true personality as an introvert  and covering who you are with the “acceptable” persona of an extrovert.

It reinforces the negative stereotypes of introverts while quietly affirming the greater perceived value of extroverts.

There is no guidance offered to help introverts navigate an extrovert environment, nor any insight offered to extroverts for accepting introverts as they are.

What’s missing are tips for managers and others on how to overcome any anti-introvert bias.

Introverts deserve respect

Discriminating against someone based on religion, ethnicity, gender, race – and personality style – is wrong.

The same egalitarian attitude we hold regarding age and other discriminatory behaviors should be adopted when it comes to dealing with introverts. Or extroverts.

We don’t need a world full of only rah-rah, in-your-face extroverts. We need a world that makes respectful room for the quiet, contemplative strength of introverts.

Both personality types are to be valued and respected equally.

The author admits that she has “not found specific evidence that says extroverts make better leaders than introverts do.”

Yet the entire book puts the onus on the introvert to conform and bend to extrovert behavior.

This is simply wrong-headed.

Extroverts need to work just as hard to understand and accommodate their introvert colleagues.

While her book doesn’t support her statement, even the author admits that introversion “should not be considered a problem.”

That’s true. It isn’t. A discriminatory attitude toward introversion is.

What do you think about the "extrovert privilege" that exists in society and the discrimination against introverts?

A couple of excellent books about introverts:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fumbling your message

Clever metaphors employed carefully can create heightened interest in your message. But if tossed in carelessly or tacked on tactlessly, they can garner negative reactions.

This is especially true when using sports metaphors, for at least two reasons:
  1. Sports metaphors are already over-used in all manner of communications. This is especially true at the start of a major sport season, such as football. Football imagery proliferates through all media to the point of saturation. Anyone not using football imagery stands a far better chance of being heard by their audience.

  2. Sports metaphors require knowledge of the sport being referenced. You will automatically alienate anyone in your audience who is not a fan of the specific sport. And if you’re making reference to some obscure element of the sport, you risk losing some fans.
Analyzing a play

    But let’s consider using a simple metaphor with terminology most people can probably follow: fumbling a football pass.

    A pass that’s fumbled means the intended recipient of the ball failed to catch it, or the one who threw it didn’t calculate correctly.

    The bottomline is that the term “fumble” usually refers to a mistake being made.

    I recently received an email intended to remind me of an approaching conference and prod me to sign up early.

    The opening sentence read: “Pardon the intrusion.  But I have a question to ask. Can you afford to fumble an opportunity to invest in your career? I certainly hope not.” 

    I read this and immediately took offense.

    Striking out

    I was weighing attending this conference, taking into consideration the cost of registration, travel expenses, and the hotel costs. I was looking at the cost versus my available resources, other expenses, and the potential value of the conference.

    For me, deciding whether or not to attend the conference would not be a “fumble.” It would be the outcome of a carefully assessed decision.

    Going would not mean that I had successfully caught a ball, just as not going didn’t mean dropping a ball.

    I believe the writer, who was male, thought that this was a clever use of sports imagery given that we’re at the start of the NFL season and there’s an NFL game during one night of the conference.

    But I’m not a sports fan.

    Sometimes we need to step out of those things we are caught up in to gain a better perspective of our message and our audience. The one who fumbled in this case was the one who wrote the email.

    Piling on

    In fact, there were multiple failures as the metaphors really mixed it up!
    • Ironically, the theme of the conference employs an automotive metaphor, which was referenced in the second paragraph.

    • The third paragraph began with, “The sounds of summer are fading fast, there’s a chill in the air…” referencing fall.

    • The fourth paragraph started with, “Detroit will be all a-buzz…” which is more of a spring or summer kind of reference.

    • Then came the financial allusions mentioning investment and the economy.

    • But the writer did bring it back around to the sports image with the final sentence reading, “Don’t fumble the pass! Register today.”
    Throwing a curve

    Sadly, the greater offense of the email is that it didn’t get to its central point until the fifth paragraph.

    Why was it urgent that people registered before 9/14? Sure, they would save $100 off the registration fee, but there was something else more significant.

    Because of the NFL game in town the first night of the conference, rooms could not be guaranteed for those registering after 9/14. They could still register, but they might have to sleep in their cars!

    Registering for the conference but not being able to get a room would, indeed, be a fumble!  

    This point should have been made at the beginning of the email. Tying “fumble” to “potentially not getting a room” would not have caused offense, but would have spurred action!

    Getting to the end zone

    So what did this one email teach us?
    • Whether or not you employ any metaphor, make sure the key point of your message is mentioned in the first sentence. Then bring it up again in the middle and conclusion of your message. Make the main point the main point!
    • If you’re going to employ sports metaphors in your message, be sure that they evoke a positive tone and that your audience will understand and appreciate your references.
    • Use a single metaphor/image consistently throughout your message. Avoid jumping from sports to seasons to something else, etc.
    Oh, by the way, this conference is for communications professionals!I’m not going because I finally remembered my wife and I already had plans for that weekend.

    I guess I’m fumbling the ball when it comes to my career! I’m not worried; this conference isn’t the only game in town. There will be other opportunities to get off the sidelines and onto the field, complete the pass, and get a touchdown. Metaphorically speaking.


    It's all Paul's fault!

    I love Paul’s writings. You know, the Apostle Paul. He’s the one that the Holy Spirit tapped to write most of the New Testament.

    But I do have one bone to pick with him.

    In the entire Bible, there’s only one blatant reference to a sport, and Paul’s the guy who did it.

    What was the sport?

    Running, as in a race at a track meet. Go take a look at 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Galatians 5:7, and Hebrews 12:1. There are others.

    Frankly, I don’t know what Paul was thinking. I’m sure he never ran in any organized foot race. Sure, he was on the run, in a manner of speaking, after his conversion, but that wasn’t sport.

    Maybe he was attempting to make the Gospel culturally relevant by using a popular image of the day. The Greeks and the Romans held various games and running was among them. So was death by lions.

    Even if cultural relevance was what he was after, I think he bogeyed here. Because of Paul’s one sports metaphor, too many now see this as a license to “sportify” the whole Gospel message and beyond. One guy even claims that references to horseback riding, javelin throwing, swimming, fishing, fighting, archery, hiking, and other similar activities count as sports references in both Old and New Testaments.

    I say, “Foul!”

    Other than Paul’s running blunder, these and other references were all made in the context of warfare, earning a living, wandering in the desert, and the like. They weren’t about sports! (An exception might be Ecclesiastes 9:11.)

    Why do I complain so? Because I’m not a sports fan and cringe whenever sports metaphors pop up in sermons, pep talks at events for men, or in articles and devotionals.

    It’s bad enough that business books and motivational seminars are awash in sports metaphors, we don’t need them cluttering up Scriptural exposition. Leave them in the sports pages of the newspaper where they belong!

    Just because something is targeted to Christian men doesn’t mean all men relate to sports.

    In my defense, I turn to Christ. The teachings of Jesus are rife with rich metaphors and variegated imagery, none sports prone. Not even a single parable.

    If Jesus didn’t need the crutch of sports to make his message relevant, then neither do we. And Paul only used one sport to make a point, and it wasn’t a sport involving a ball, small or large, round or oblong. Frankly I’m not sure Paul would even be comfortable laying hands on a pigskin, so football analogies are completely out of the question.

    So please, knock off all the biblical sports jabber.

    Telling me it’s the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded, there’ve been two strikes, and now is the time to hit a homerun for Jesus is just a swing and miss.

    I don’t want to hear about making a touchdown in the end zone of heaven or how a decision for Christ is like a hole in one. These and other sports metaphors don’t bowl me over and strike out with others as well.

    Stay out of foul territory by using what’s actually in scripture.

    If you feel compelled to employ a biblical sports illustration, stick with running. Don’t go out of bounds beyond Paul’s own metaphor. If you do, you’ll most likely throw an incomplete pass and are at risk of getting sacked by the Holy Spirit.


    Thursday, September 8, 2011


    Taken in 1999. Click on the image to see it full size.


    Wanted: Jacks and Jills of many skills, but not necessarily masterful in writing

    It's really sad to read job ads that feature "writing" as a key skill required for the position.

    Too often, writing is only one item in a nearly endless list of "skills" that includes multiple software packages, database experience, public relations, event planning and management, HTML and XML experience, and more.

    I understand that employers need to do more with less. This includes hiring fewer people to do much more work.

    But what employers who need writers fail to understand is that writing is a unique skill and talent, very different from everything else included in their wishlist.

    Just Google it

    When it comes to using  Adobe® InDesign® or Dreamweaver®, one can simply take a class or two to get a handle on the basics. From then on, there is plenty of useful help online for using specific features. This is true for any software or technology skill.

    It's relatively true for public relations and many other basic communications activities. There are a ton of books, professional journals, and websites offering relevant and timely helps and tips.

    Just about anyone, with no prior experience, can take on these tasks and achieve pretty good results by taking advantage of the resources available.

    But the same cannot be said for writing.

    It takes more than knowing the alphabet

    While there are similar resources offering a lot of advice on how to write well, these are useless to someone who is not already a pretty good writer.

    Writing is not just an acquired skill, but is also a talent. To write well takes both basic technical awareness (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.) combined with an intuitive sense of what makes writing good.

    You can't get good writing (or good at writing well) "off the shelf" or downloaded as an app.

    The same could be said of graphic design, by the way.

    The illusion is that hiring a Jack or Jill of many skills will increase productivity while keeping costs down. But very seldom is this the case.

    A full tool belt doesn't make you a carpenter

    When you hire a person who is specifically skilled in technology and software, they are going to be able to produce better results in less time when dealing with technology or software issues. Why? Because their knowledge is focused in the areas of their main interests. Their technical knowledge and skill has depth and breadth.

    On the other hand, someone who appears to have technical skills as well as moderate writing experience will take far longer to produce lower quality results. Why? Because they won't be confident in any of their skills. They will spend an inordinate amount of time researching how to use software features or overcome technical challenges. In fact, they'll probably be annoying the techies with endless questions. And since they can only allot a small percentage of their time to writing, it will most likely be mediocre or worse.

    The worst combination is hiring a technical geek to be the editor of a website. While a website editor needs basic understanding of the technology, their focus should be on words, not code.

    The only specialty you want is "writer" 

    The reality is that the more you cram into a job, the less you will get in terms of quality and productivity.

    Oh, and don't get hung up on finding a writer who "specializes" in health care, manufacturing, education, or some other industry or field. Any good writer can easily acquire the specialized knowledge of a particular field just as one can learn software from a book. In fact, the broader the writer's experience, the better the writer he or she will probably be. You want a writer who can see past the confines of your narrow field to connect with a lay audience, essentially translating insider knowledge for those on the outside.

    If you absolutely must hire a specialist, hire a person who specializes in writing well across multiple platforms, fields, industries, and more.

    If you need good writing -- and all companies and organizations do --  then focus on hiring a good, talented writer. If they happen to have some skills in other areas, great! But hire them to focus on writing first, and doing other stuff if they have time.


    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Yes, this is totally random...

    "There Will Be Typos!"

    A movie that will never be made presenting the story of a writer-turned-content creator on a ruthless quest for monetized click-throughs during the Internet's boom of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

    Abandoning all literary standards, he cobbles together keyword-rich gobbledygook attempting to increase his landing pages' search rankings.

    All of his content includes endless variations of typical typos people input into search boxes.

    His goal is to one day create the perfect page that will appear at the top of all search results no matter what the query.

    Sadly, each time he is on the cusp of succeeding, every search engine changes their algorithms making all of his work useless.

    After years of these near misses, he loses his mind, develops crippling carpal tunnel syndrome, and is last seen stumbling through a dirty bowling alley, his claw-like hand permanently clutching a wireless mouse, mumbling, "SEO is the devil and I am the devil's spawn!"

    And then the credits roll.


    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Two ways you can really annoy customers, like me

    It’s amazing what businesses and organizations do to annoy customers even as they try to appear being helpful.

    Here are two that I experienced this week.

    Create an unsubscribe labyrinth

    I frequently sign up to receive emails from businesses and organizations that, initially, seem like they might be interesting.

    Frequently, after getting a few emails, I decide they really aren’t that useful or interesting after all, and choose to unsubscribe.

    While subscribing may have involved simply typing in my email address, getting off some lists can sometimes be a real challenge.

    I encountered a whole page of options when trying to unsubscribe from one sender.

    The page was very graphic, cute, wordy, and completely unclear. It wasn’t straightforward where I needed to click, and none of the options stated simply “unsubscribe.”

    The goal of this, and similar pages, is to not to facilitate unsubscribing, but rather to be so annoying that you just say, “Forget it! I’ll just keep deleting your stupid messages!”

    Being driven to frustration does not endear me, or any customer, to the offending business.

    But if your goal is to really annoy your customers or constituents, create a pretty and obfuscated unsubscribe page.

    Offer pointless coupons

    Some of the emails I receive offer coupons promising great savings. These are nice to get when they’re truly a good deal.

    I’m going to miss my 40% off coupons from Borders that were good on just about any single item in the store. Frankly, I’m going to miss Borders, period!

    But what I’ll never miss are coupons that come with a ridiculous purchasing threshold before I can use them. For example, like the one I got this week that promised $20 off – a $150 purchase. Or $30 off – a $200 purchase.

    If I were going to spend those amounts, the discounts would be nice. But what if I need the specific item that the coupon is for, but not $150 or $200 worth? In this case, I’m just annoyed.

    I loved the Borders coupons because I could use them to get any book or any CD or any one of several other items. I had a choice.

    With the coupon I received this week from another business, it’s for a specific item – something I can use – but I don’t need nor can I afford to spend $150 to get $20 off.

    Another kicker is that it’s only good for a week. If the coupon were good for, say 60 – 90 days, then maybe I could plan on a larger purchase later to take advantage of the discount.

    If this coupon had been targeted to a company rather than individuals, then it might make more sense. But, for me, not so much.

    So if your goal is to really annoy your customers or constituents, create an offer with a short validity span and a high usability threshold.

    Or, instead….

    On the other hand, if you truly want to satisfy your customers or constituents, make unsubscribing to emails easier than it was to subscribe (only one or two clicks), and create offers that you would die for.

    Just sayin’.


    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Who you were is okay – in Christ

    I love the idea of the acronym SHAPE. Rick Warren, as far as I can tell, introduced the acronym in his book, Purpose Driven Life. Here is what it represents:
    • Spiritual Gifts - A set of special abilities that God has give to you to share his love and serve others.
    • Heart (Passion) - The special passions God has given you so that you can glorify him on earth.
    • Abilities (Skills) - The set of talents that God gave you when you were born, which he also wants you to use to make an impact for him.
    • Personality - The special way God wired you to navigate life and fulfill your unique Kingdom Purpose.
    • Experiences - Those parts of your past, both positive and painful, which God intends to use in great ways.
    (Descriptions adapted from http://www.shapediscovery.com/yourshape.php)

    The E, representing Experiences, is particularly important, especially if you have had a “salvation experience” – that moment that you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior – after which, “all things became new.”

    Often, people refer to their life as BC and AC, meaning “before Christ” and “after Christ.” Everything that was BC, they view as wasted time of no value, and they quote Philippians 3, where Paul seems to imply that his past was “rubbish.” The belief is that BC experiences are to be forgotten and left behind, separated from our new life in Christ, “as far as the east is from the west.”

    I don’t agree.

    Paul was referring to those things that he thought made him righteous, which really only served to make him self-righteous, and so were “rubbish” compared to the path to true holiness through Christ. He was not disparaging his past.

    Moving forward with a redeemed past

    In fact, Paul’s past education and experience was supercharged when he came into relation with Christ.

    Paul’s entire life, from beginning to end, was redeemed, and so he could also write, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

    When we accept Christ, our sins are forgiven and we are accepted – wholly – in Christ, in whom we continue to grow and mature. The past, before Christ, is as much a part of who we are as is our present and future in Him.

    Who we are today, in Christ, is the result of a long God-driven process that still has a long way to go; it did not start or end at the point of salvation.

    The severe demarcation that is often made between life "before Christ" and life "after Christ" is artificial. It’s a mistake to attempt to build a barrier between our pre-Christ past and our post-Christ present.

    From before we were born, there has been a continuous involvement of God on our lives over time. This is what leads us to repentance and is part of our working out our own salvation.

    Leaving the behaviors behind

    While it’s good to throw away, or put off, sinful behaviors, grieve over wrong decisions, and turn away from sinful lifestyles, we don’t need to walk away from all of who we were before we became a follower of Jesus.

    If you were a painter or sculptor or accountant or teacher before you accepted Christ, you can continue in these roles now. The content of what you do through your role will be different, but you don’t need to toss out your skills.

    On the other hand, if you were a prostitute, embezzler, drug addict, or something along these lines, you will need to drop these lifestyles and behaviors.

    But, you don’t need to try to erase your experiences from your memory. Instead, you can use your past in your redeemed life to reach out to others who are still trapped in destructive lifestyles. You can use your knowledge to help your new Christ-following brothers and sisters understand how to minister to people doing what you once did.

    If you were abused, you are now able to more effectively help those who are still being abused. If you have gone through divorce, you are the one best equipped to comfort those going through divorce now.

    Even if you’ve committed sin “after Christ,” once you’ve confessed and been restored, you are the best one to minister to other believers who fall and fail in their walk with Jesus as you did.

    Being who He created us to be

    The point is this: Your life, past and present, is not a waste.

    We have no reason to fear our past just as we have no reason to doubt our eternity.

    God loved you then, He loves you now, and He will love you tomorrow. The difference is that now, you have access to the Holy Spirit and are alive in Christ, able to fulfill the calling for which He created you.

    And that’s why I like that acronym, SHAPE. The E comes last because our redeemed experience is the foundation for all the rest.

    Jesus doesn’t throw the baby out with the baptism water. Rather, in Him, who we were, are, and will be, is perfected as we continue the process of growing in grace.