Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You can hit the wall walking out your faith, just like in the Indy 500

I’m not a sports fan, except when it comes to the Indy 500. Growing up in east-central Indiana, the entire month of May was all about the big race. This year marked the 100th Indy 500, and what a race it was.

It was thrilling as always, with a real twist at the end.

In their next sermons, I predict many Hoosier (and other) pastors will use rookie J.R. Hildebrand’s misadventure as an example of what happens when you fail as a Christian.

Of course, they’ll tie it into Paul’s words in Galatians 5:7 where he states, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” Or one of the other passages where Paul and others compare the Christian walk to a race.

They’ll use terms like backsliding, falling away, missing out on God’s grace, and so on. Their messages will be very condemning, rather than aimed at building up the body of Christ.

And they will be wrong.

Mistakes can be costly without being deadly

In the race, Hildebrand led only in the final lap. He was cleared to be the winner until, on the very last turn before the final stretch he made the choice to pass another car high on the outside.

If you know anything about the 500, you know about the “marbles” that mar every turn.

These marbles are actually pieces of tire-rubber that tend to collect on the higher, outside area of the turns. Hitting them is like hitting gravel. At speeds of 200+ MPH, if you get caught up in the marbles, you’re going to hit the wall. It’s pretty much a given.

That’s what happened to Hildebrand.

Instead of holding steady, he took a risk, lost control, and totaled the car just a few hundred yards from the finish line; a costly miscalculation.

It was a dramatic end to the race, a happy day for Dan Wheldon who won, and a sad day for Hildebrand and his team.

Sin does not define who you are

The next day, one reporter seemed surprised that Hildebrand wasn’t crushed. He described Hildebrand talking about what happened, stating, “There were no tears. No sullen, mumbled answers. No angry fists slamming the table in frustration…His tone tinged with disappointment but not devastation.”

Then toward the end of the article, the reporter gets it, stating, “The last lap humbled him. He’s not going to let it define him.”

And there’s the point, and why so many pastors will be wrong.

Growing up in a pretty legalistic church, I heard a lot of very condemning sermons. Sermons that told me if I screwed up once after becoming a Christian, I was doomed.

Essentially what we were being told is that you have to be born again, again and again and again. Jesus said, just like being born once of a mother, you only need to be born again once spiritually.

But so many pastors like to hammer people with harsh sermons attacking those they perceive to be chronic backsliders. They’ll point to Hildebrand’s crash as example of someone who almost made it, but failed.

How sad.

It takes a team to run in a race

Over the years, the Indy 500 has made dozens and dozens of safety improvements to the tracks, the cars, and the suits the drivers wear. Helmets are stronger. Walls have been softened. Suit fabrics are more fireproof. And inside the car, the driver sits in a sort of cocoon that will remain intact in virtually the worst of accidents.

These contributed to Hildebrand walking away, unscathed, after his crash.

Coupled with this are the teams that surround every driver: Pit crews, mechanics, owners, sponsors, fans, and more all work together to support the driver’s success.

No single man or woman could compete in the Indy 500 or any other race solely on their own. It isn’t possible.

It takes the body to succeed as a Christian

The same is true in living out our faith. No single man or woman can succeed in the Christian life solely on their own. It doesn’t work that way.

This is one point pastors should be delivering based on Hildebrand’s loss.

As Christians, knowing that we will face temptations, troubles, heartaches, loss, pain, and grief, we need to put in place all the “safety improvements” the Bible offers to ensure we come through the stuff of life as unscathed as possible.

In Ephesians, Paul likens these faith walk safety improvements to putting on armor and being armed for battle. Christ emphasized the importance of prayer and vigilance. Throughout the Bible there are examples of and admonitions to encourage one another in the faith, and not to go it alone.

Hebrews 10:25 states it clearly: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

As individual Christians, we embody Christ; with other Christians, we make up the body of Christ.

There will be crashes

When it comes to screwing up as a Christian, it’s not a matter of if, but of when.

Making a mistake, choosing to indulge in sin, may result in a sort of “crash and burn” scenario. Fallout from sin is very real and painful.

But it’s not the end of the story.

When it comes to the end of the race, many of us will probably be stumbling across the finish line. But we’ll finish.

J.R. Hildebrand finished second in this year’s Indy 500, and did it by crashing into a wall. Next year, he’ll be back, humbled, wiser, and better prepared to handle everything the race will throw at him.

If you’ve “failed” as a Christian, whether you call it backsliding, falling away, or whatever, you can come back, too. You’re still part of the body of Christ, and we need you.

John put it very clearly, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9, NIV).

Our faith race isn’t over until Jesus says it’s over, and that won’t happen until He returns.

Are you ready to get back in the race? Confess your sins and find other believers to hang out with.

We’re rooting for you!

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Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So, you think you've got a book in you, but you need help getting it out

I'm frequently approached by people wanting to know if I can help them write their book; of course they’ve got a great idea for a bestseller!

To help people understand what’s involved in ghostwriting/co-authoring, I’ve put together a 10 page booklet explaining what’s involved in blunt detail.I’ve edited that booklet down to the bare bone basics for this blog post.

So, if you think you may have a book in you and want some help getting it out, read this first. I’ll probably change your mind.

You can download the full booklet as a PDF by clicking here.

There’s nothing spooky about it

For many, the idea of ghostwriting is a mysterious endeavor, but it needn’t be. Writing is writing, and all writing involves plain hard work.

Usually, one person (the author/writer) comes up with an idea and then puts that idea or story into words and creates their book.

With ghostwriting/co-authoring, the work is shared between the “author” and the “writer”: You, the author/client generate the idea and general content, and the ghostwriter (or co-author), crafts your message into the final product.

You, the author, are the subject matter expert (SME). You know your subject inside and out and can probably talk at great length about your core ideas. But writing may not be as easy for you.

Reasons for using a ghostwriter / co-author

A ghostwriter/co-author is needed because, while you know your subject well and most likely can give an effective presentation or short speech on your topic, you may feel you are not as skilled when it comes to writing for print.

There are many “authors” who are not “writers.” The bottom line is that there is no shame in using the services of a ghostwriter/co-author.

Before contacting a writer, there are some key questions you should consider and answer honestly.

Why do you want to write a book?

You need to clearly decide (a) what your book is going to be about and (b) why anyone would want to read it.

What do you want to say? Why do you feel a need to share this message? Who is the message for? What do you want people to do after they read your book? What are your motives and purposes for writing this book?

Here are a couple of wrong reasons for writing a book!
  • If you’re looking to write a smash bestseller that will earn you a ton of money fast, then most likely you’re off track right from the start. If your passion for money or notoriety is greater than your passion for your message, odds are your book will not succeed.
  • If you approach a writer and say, “God told me to write this book,” they’ll most likely be skeptical. Especially if you’ve done no research, don’t have a clear idea what the outline of the book will be, and have no expertise on the topic. If God truly told you to write a book, He also will give you a strong idea, it will most likely have some relevance to your experience or expertise, and He also will provide the funds for hiring a writer.
What are some better reasons for writing a book?
  • If you are an SME on a topic and you are giving speeches or presentations, or conducting seminars on that topic, then a book that you can sell to your audience is probably a good idea.
  • If you are a minister, pastor, or evangelist, and you have done a series of sermons around a specific topic, then putting those sermons into a book could be a great idea. However, merely taking transcripts of speeches or sermons, doing minor editing, and publishing them as books is a bad idea. There is an art to taking a spoken presentation and crafting it for the printed page.
  • If you have had a very unique, challenging, or inspirational experience that others have asked you more than once to put into a book, then you may have a good reason to write a book (or an article).
  •  If you are involved in a ministry or not-for-profit organization that provides a special or unique community service, then a book about what you do and the people you serve could be an effective fund-raising tool.
If you don’t have a good, strong reason for writing the book, and no real passion for your topic, then a book is not the thing to do. Consider doing an article instead.

Also, if you’re not a SME on your topic (for example, you're a business person writing about theology), you will need to work very hard to establish why anyone should pay attention to what you have to say. Credentials are critical to credibility.

How much effort are you willing to put into your book?

Just because you hire a writer doesn’t mean there’s no work for you to do!

Remember, you’re the SME and your job is to help the writer know and understand what you already know and understand about your topic.

Since writers can’t read minds this is going to take some effort on your part.

Do you have the financial resources for such a major project?

Every project is unique and every book is a substantial undertaking. Writing a book, and writing it well, is hard, time-consuming work. When planning your budget for a book-length project, think in terms of thousands of dollars.

Still interested in doing a book? Then go ahead and download and read the full booklet by clicking here. And then send me an email.

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Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is it the end this time? Or is it in October? Or maybe next year?

After a global marketing campaign that cost many people their life savings, Harold Camping managed to get everyone’s attention about the rapture, also known as the end of the world as we know it.

He was right and he was wrong.


What he got wrong


Christians who know the Bible even a little understand this very basic fact: The end of the world as we know it will happen, but no one knows when the rapture and the return of Christ will occur.

No one. Period.

Jesus stated very clearly as quoted in the Bible in Mark 13:32-33, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Jesus does not tell his disciples to spend time speculating as to when the end will come. But He does give them some general guidelines as to what to watch for. And he tells them to “Be on guard! Be alert!”

Why be alert?

Jesus explained, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – If that were possible” (Mark 13:22).

Jesus also gave one final instruction to his followers: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

What he got right

Harold Camping motivated people all over the world to get the word out. That’s what he got right.

Phil Cooke wrote in his blog:
“Over the last few months, a remarkably tiny group of people have done a brilliant job sharing their message with the world.  Inaccurate, wrong, or wacky – they have told their story far better than major Christian denominations, mega-churches, and supposed ‘media’ ministries have done.  I travel more than most people, and I’ve seen their billboard campaign in cities like Los Angeles, the full page ads in major newspapers like USA Today, people handing out handbills outside subway stations in New York, mobile advertising, personal word of mouth, and more.  It may not be the most creative or brilliantly designed, but at least it’s unified and strategic.”
I have to admire Camping’s followers for the level of their commitment and willingness to invest their time, lives, and money in promoting what they believed in.

Unfortunately, the core of Camping’s message is wrong. It isn’t centered on the biblical Gospel.

What he missed

The focus of the Gospel message – the teachings of Jesus Christ – is not about fretting over end-times issues.  Jesus said very clearly, “"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1).

The focus of the Gospel is about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus explained, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17)

A very simple, straightforward explanation of this Gospel and how to become a Christian can be found in Campus Crusade for Christ’s classic “Four Spiritual Laws.”

In the book of Matthew, in chapters 5-7, Jesus lays out guidelines for living the Christian life. In none of his teachings in these or other chapters does he direct believers to exert any energy on calculating the date of the rapture or to go around frightening people with apocalyptic end-of-the-world fear mongering.

Again, Jesus cautions:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:15-23).
This should be sobering to people such as Harold Camping.

You don’t have to sell your house, put up billboards, and stand on a street-corner handing out end-of-the-world tracts to be a Christian.

God may call you to do something like this, but you still have a choice, and if you don’t do it, you’ll still be a Christian.

Being a Christian isn’t about what you do, but rather in Whom you put your faith, which then influences how you think and behave.

What he should be doing

If you are not a Christian, think about those you know who are; those you know are genuine in their faith in Christ.

How did they behave and talk as May 21, 2011 approached and the end-of-the-world hubbub grew louder?

Were they fearful? Did they sell off their possessions? Were they making plans to hunker down in a bunker? Did they max out their credit cards on foolish purchases? Did they hold crazy end-of-the-world bashes? Did they talk about how they were glad the end was coming so they could escape from debts and other problems of their own making?

Or, rather, were they happy, normal, and going about their days as usual?

Perhaps, they were a little more thoughtful and sober. And when the topic of Camping’s claims came up, perhaps you heard them say things such as, “Well, I don’t know when Christ will return, but I do know He will. Are you ready when he does?”

As Christians, we are looking forward to the return of Christ. Not to escape from our problems, but to meet our Savior. Yes, we’re looking forward to an end of pain and suffering, but we’re more interested in continuing our relationship with Christ and other believers. We’re looking forward to a new world.

We won’t be playing harps, either.

As Christians, you’ll hear us say things like, “Maranatha; Lord come quickly.” Or sing songs that proclaim, “He’s coming soon!” And we believe this joyfully and wholeheartedly.

And you’ll also hear us talk about how life can be hard and full of injustice and suffering. Hopefully you’ll see us extending mercy to the unmerciful, offering help to the downtrodden, seeking justice for the poor, giving what we have to give to those who are in need.

While our hearts long for the coming of Christ, our feet are firmly planted in the reality of the here and now.

Won’t you join us? If you do, you’re welcome to keep your house. But you will have to give your heart to Jesus.

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Thoughts?

BTW: Camping still claims that he’s right but it’s just not obvious yet. He claims that the end is coming, but now it will wrap up on October 21, 2011. He explains that he got it wrong because he was merely reading the Bible from a factual perspective, not viewing it as offering spiritual instruction. Seriously? And people are still hanging in his every word? Check out these articles:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A future predicted now confirmed: The dangers of info-picking & narrowcasting

Nine years ago, in 2002, I wrote a short article for an association newsletter titled, "An infinite number of audiences of one?"

In that article, I raised the question, "How can we talk about issues affecting us all if the message is infinitely parsed?"

My point was that as our Internet and other communication experiences become more customizable to only those messages we select to receive (info-picking), the less shared experience will exist. This then makes it far more difficult to reach a mass audience with a legitimate message that truly concerns nearly everyone. For example, issuing a warning when the sky truly is falling.

Writer Doug Gross attributes to Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, the chilling comment that "a squirrel running through your frontyard may be of more interest to you right now than people dying in Africa."

One result of this is increased isolation of individuals and micro-groups of people clustered around an esoteric shared  interest. This severely deters the cross-pollination of ideas and viewpoints. It shrinks culture and filters out differences.

In my 2002 article, I stated it this way, "As end users infinitely customize their experiences to meet their exclusive wants, and markets hone in on single customers, shared cultural experience -- that part of our lives that allows us to connect readily with others -- may be lost or severely diminished."

Doug Gross, writing on CNN.com in a May 19, 2011 article titled, "What the Internet is hiding from you," describes how my predictions are now coming true. Gross writes:
Eli Pariser made his mark on the Internet as the executive director of MoveOn.Org, the liberal group that was perhaps the first to turn the Web into a tool for massive political action.

Now he's worried the Internet is becoming too polarized, politically and otherwise, because of tools used by some of the technology and social-media world's biggest players.

His new book, "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You," details the ways Facebook, Google, Aol and numerous other online hubs quietly are personalizing the Internet for their users.

The stated goal is to make it easier for Web users to find the things online that they like. (And, of course, to make it easier for advertisers to hawk things to you that you're more likely to buy).

But the end result, Pariser says, is a silent, subtle bubble that isolates users from new discoveries and insights that may fall outside of their usual tastes and interests.
This "filtering" is evident in search results on Google and in social media such as Facebook.

He cites one example where, as Gross states, "I had friends Google BP when the oil spill was happening. These are two women who were quite similar in a lot of ways. One got a lot of results about the environmental consequences of what was happening and the spill. The other one just got investment information and nothing about the spill at all."

While Gross focuses on what's being done by the providers, increased selectivity is clearly being exercised by users who create filters that match their many biases keeping out most of the rest of the world.

What's the problem? Simple.

Isolation and cocooning around a few narrow ideas and experiences creates a shell-hardened worldview that preempts diversity, understanding, intellectual maturity, spiritual health, and more. It engenders fear and suspicion of what's "outside" or "other." The inbreeding of ideas and information gives birth to perverse results. It yields uber-hyper-localism that is void of global awareness and indifferent to macro-concerns.

As Gross writes, "Sometimes the unexpected, serendipitous articles or discoveries are some of the very best moments when you learn about some whole new process or way of thinking or topic. It's sad if we lose that just so a few companies can get more ad clicks."

My 2002 article was addressed to professional communicators working in a variety of organizations and businesses. I concluded with a caution that I believe is just as applicable today as then:
"The brave new world of communication ahead of us is fraught with promise and threat. The promise is bright, so bright that it may tend to blind us to the threats. As caring communicators, perhaps we need to look beyond the e-hype and step out from behind our own fears of technology and begin pointing out the potential potholes in the information superhighway."

"We need to embrace technology and gain as deep an understanding as possible about where it's going. We can't know everything, but we at least need an articulate awareness of what's happening! We need to ask some tough questions..."
Do you believe that filtering and hyper-customization of information is a good thing or a bad thing? Should it be left in the hands of those receiving the information? Or should it be done by the providers? Both? Neither?

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Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Character, not strategy, is the way to face a crisis

In the midst of a crisis, many will say that their strategy and planning will be tested, but will save the day.

I say there’s a really good chance they will fail.

Why?

Planning and strategy are tools for calmer and steadier times. In a crisis, ideology and philosophy that has been consistently expressed through corporate character is what will save the day.

"It ain't my money, I seriously do not care"

A recent TV commercial by the USPS shows an employee preparing overnight letters that really don’t need to be expressed overnight. The postal worker explains that there’s a more cost effective way to accomplish the same goal. The employee, not realizing his boss is standing behind him, states he doesn’t care about the cost because it’s not his money. The postal worker tries to help him save face. The boss harrumphs and walks away.

The real tragedy is that the employee’s attitude is very likely reflective of the character of the company. He probably feels like his company doesn’t care about him as a person, so why should he care about how he spends “their” money.

The boss can harrumph all he wants, but he and the rest of the company leadership has failed to engage their employees with a sense of ownership and responsibility. There’s no sense of “we’re in this together.”

Confronted with a crisis, this company will be in for a very bumpy ride.

Crisis planning can’t replicate what isn’t lived out

Many companies and organizations will spend thousands of dollars to assemble carefully crafted crisis plans. Some will go further and provide media training to key individuals. And a few will even stage artificial crises to put their plan through its paces.

All of this is worth naught if the core character of the company is even a little rotten. Just as happens with individuals, tough times will reveal who you truly are, not what your vision and mission statements say you are.

Simply put, if your company has a nicely polished sweet-smelling mission statement, but your leaders or employees behave like boors, a crisis will bring out the “wurst” for all to smell.

Something smells funny but no one is laughing

As the adage goes, character is who you are when no one is watching. In a crisis, everyone is watching. And everyone is Tweeting, posting on Facebook, snapping photos and taking video on their cell phones, texting, blogging, and more.

Crises inflame the disease of egotism. People will jockey to be the voice or face of the situation; the “i-reporter” of note. This threatens to become a conflagration of bad publicity, unless your employees are reflecting a shared positive corporate character.

Bad corporate character will eventually destroy a company from the inside out without ever encountering a crisis. But in a crisis, it can destroy a company in a New York minute, both from the inside and the outside.

A crisis releases the stink of a rotten core and exposes every flaw, whether or not they are related to the crisis situation.

Build character to defend against crisis before it happens

All the spin in the world can’t create good character. Spin will just make a stinky situation stinkier. Mission and vision statements alone won’t do it either.

But an organization that's grounded with a solid, ethical culture and character won't need spin in a crisis.

Corporate character is established through the living out of a robust ethical philosophy that is communicated by word and deed from the top down. It is often expressed in a clearly communicated ideology that permeates the behavior of executives and employees at all levels.

The goal is to have every employee on the side of the company. People are happy to support and defend what they believe in; they will believe in what is good, right, and true. They will defend what they feel they are a part of.

To build an ethical organization takes ethical people. From the CEO to the managers to the janitors, everyone needs to be immersed in ethical thinking and behavior. This requires consistent, repetitive communication about the company’s policies and ideologies. It requires walking the talk, day in and day out. This involves more than spitting out "messaging" and platitudes no one really cares about or believes in.

Who you are as an organization; how you operate day-to-day; the heart, soul, and character of your company – these are the traits that will carry you through a crisis.

A grounded organization will stay grounded throughout the toughest of times.

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Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Worshipping an extroverted God as an introverted believer

I am an introvert. And I grew up in a Pentecostal church (also known as Charismatic). As I often tell people, God has an interesting sense of humor. Why?

During a typical Pentecostal service, things can get rowdy. It is expected that, if you are a Christian and a Pentecostal, you will express your faith loudly and with large gestures.

This meant that at the very least, you were supposed to raise and wave your hands, clap enthusiastically while singing, and pray out loud along with everyone else; all doing the same things at the same time.

Like I said, it could get rowdy. And loud.

Volume is not a measure of holiness

Generally, all of this behavior goes very much against the grain of an introvert. But not participating signaled that something was probably deficient related to your faith and commitment to God.

This created a clear conundrum for me.

When I was 16, I also experienced what is termed the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” which can be kind of an exciting thing. But, of course, I tended to not express that excitement the same way as, say, my grandmother did. She would dance. I just sort of sat quietly and thought happy thoughts – in tongues, of course.

But reasonable rowdiness was expected of just about everyone. It’s what Pentecostals did in church.

So, I raised my hands, reluctantly. Clapped, unenthusiastically. And prayed out loud, in a soft self-conscious mumble.

Being loud is not boldness, and boldness is not a spiritual gift


I felt guilty about the lack of “boldness” in my life believing something must be wrong with me. Still, I tried, and threw myself for a time into “ecstatic” worship, but it just wasn’t how God had imaged me. So I finally stopped.

I don’t remember the specific date, but I do know there was a clear demarcation where I stopped trying to be what seemed to be expected of a Pentecostal Christian, and settled into worshiping the way God had shaped me to worship -- as an introvert in a Pentecostal milieu.

Eventually the guilt faded as I learned that acting like a spiritual extrovert doesn’t make a person more holy. It just makes them loud.

One image with many expressions

The reality is that we are all created in God’s image, an image that is expressed uniquely through each one of us. Even when it comes to exercising the spiritual gifts we have been endowed with, how we do so will be determined in part by the personality style God has chosen for us.

It’s okay for extroverts to worship exuberantly, as did King David. But it’s equally okay for introverts to worship meditatively, as Jesus did many times.

It took me a few years, but I finally learned that it’s okay to be a quiet Pentecostal, even one who has experienced the gift of tongues.

For me, this is no longer a detriment but an advantage. I can experience a seemingly chaotic Pentecostal service and enjoy and understand all that’s going on and be comfortable being still. I can also sit in the quiet solemnity of a Catholic service and connect with God through the tradition and liturgy.

As I’ve learned, it’s not the form, method, style, or volume of worship that is crucial, but rather, the Person being worshiped.

Who are you worshiping?

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What’s your experience as an introvert in your church? At work? Anywhere? Please share your experiences, thoughts, and more in the comments!


Two excellent books for introverts and those who love them...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Going from “hello” to “see ya” in under 60 seconds

I’m sure you’ve heard the truism, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Isn’t that clever?

Another way to say it is, “you only meet someone the first time once!”

Cute, huh.

But, so what?

Positive thinking isn’t equal to Christ-mindedness

This and other trite little truisms are products of the “positive thinking” movement that often are employed to motivate sales people. I pity those sales peeps.

The idea is that the first sales call you make with a client is crucial since the way you are perceived from then on will be based on that first meeting.

In other words, if you’re having an off day, as most normal human beings do from time to time, tough snot.

The implication is that if you don’t come across as perfectly polished in your first meeting, you’ll probably lose that client forever because that bad first impression you make will taint their memory from here to eternity. Make a bad impression, and it’s once and done!

Talk about harsh!

All I am sayin’ is give peeps a chance

I believe most people, who are worth having as clients, will give you another opportunity or two to make your case if you’re at least pleasant and honest.

(The one exception to second chances with first impressions I can think of is in the hiring process. HR departments can be unnecessarily harsh to deal with. Just sayin'.)

However, the impact of this cliché about first impressions has oozed over into non-sales relationships and often serves as a justification for us to write people off after an initial meeting.

Based on a single physical characteristic, tic, misspoken word, unusual hair style, tattoo, or whatever it is that we choose not to like, we are amazingly skilled at instantly crafting a robust personality assessment slanted against pursuing a relationship. Suddenly we all hold Ph.D.s in psychology!

We go from “hello” to “later” in a flash. Instead of extending grace, we “un-grace” them, or, rather, dis-grace them by essentially removing grace from the encounter. Not that I’m like this, or anything.

While there may be a small grain of wisdom in truisms like this (emphasis on small), wielding them as absolutes removes grace, replacing it with fatalism.

Is this how we want to be treated? With fatalistic gracelessness?

I doubt it.

And Jesus said, “If at first you don’t succeed at avoiding sin, tough noogies!”

Another truism I abhor that is often linked the one about first impressions is, “past performance predicts future behavior.”

I’m very happy that when Peter asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone who has wronged us, that Christ didn’t say, “You know Peter, you get only one chance to make a first impression. And we know that if someone has wronged us, that past performance will predict their future behavior. So, Peter, I say unto you, write them off after one offense.” (See Matthew 18:21-22.)

Ack! Talk about your zero-tolerance policy!

If this was the standard everyone applied, none of us would have any friends because we would have written them off and they would have written us off! Double ack!

Thank God for grace. And thank God life isn’t one long sales call or job interview!

The golden rule of God's love

Just as we desire forgiveness and grace from others, seeking their love to cover over our clumsy sins, so we should be willing to extend the same.

This is true no matter what “role” we are filling during theses encounters:

  • At work, if we are in a hiring role, we need to be willing to give people who are having a bad day or have a typo on their resume a second chance.

  • If we’re in a buying role, we need to allow sales people to be human and focus on the product or service they are selling, not their unique God-given quirks.

  • And when it comes to friends, family, and others around us, we need to overlook “bad” first impressions and past mistakes until we have a chance to get to know the real heart of the person; the heart where Christ already resides or wants to reside.

We need to look past the bad teeth, stinky breath, stained clothes, careless remark, defensiveness, quirkiness, or whatever is fogging up seeing them clearly, and try to see them as Christ sees them.

Simply, we need to extend to others what we want to receive from them; grace, not dis-grace. Besides, we don’t always come across as “all that” to others either.

Remember, the grace of God is not performance based. When accepted, it refocuses the heart instantly and transforms the whole person over time.

What do you think?

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Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Make your email & domain work for YOU instead of others

There are two common and huge mistakes small businesses and independent contractors make when it comes to their domain names.
  1. They don’t use their domain name as their email address.
  2. They use their domain for email, but don’t have a website.
The only thing worse than these is to not have a domain name at all.

Stop advertising AOL.com or Comcast.com or AT&T.com or ....

Do you own your own domain but are you using an email address that ends with AOL.com or Yahoo.com or Comcast.com or MSN.com any other of the zillions of services available?

Stop it!

You’re not projecting a professional image and you are missing a huge, free marketing opportunity!

When you own a domain name, you automatically get at least one email account as well as unlimited aliases. Aliases allow you to keep your current email service, such as Comcast, AT&T, etc. while everyone else sees your email + domain, and aliases are easy to set up.

Whether you create an email account with your domain provider or set up an alias, both of these allow you to use your domain name as part of your email address, for example, joe@SuperDuperSales.com, which says a lot more to recipients than an email address such as joedude1457@aol.com.

Using your domain as your email address advertises your business and points people to your website every time they see it!

Stop killing your brand and making money for your registrar

What? You own a domain and it's your email address, but there’s no website associated with it? Are you kidding me?

Why not?

The domain that you are paying good money for is pointing somewhere even if you don’t have a website.

Perhaps you’ve tried to visit a website and found a page something like this:


Who is getting the branding value from your domain name? Your domain registrar! They make money every time someone visits this page and clicks on a link. And you are paying them to make money for them! Why would you do that?

Smarten up and get more business

If you don’t have a domain for your business, get one. No one does business in the 21st century without a domain!

If you have a domain, but it’s not part of your email address, fix it. It’s not that hard to do, your registrar or 12-year-old neighbor can walk you through the steps.

If you have a domain and are using it as your email, but don’t have a website, get one! At least put up a one page “business card” website that includes these elements:
  • Your name and complete contact information
  • The name of your business
  • A clear, concise description of your business
  • Three to six bullets listing the services you offer
  • Your photo (people like to see who they’re working with)
  • You may also want to include a brief bio and add Google Analytics.
          Adding an email account or using an alias won’t cost you anything more than you’re already paying for your domain name. Getting a one page or simple website up and running can be done for very little cost.

          Following these simple, no-brainer guidelines will strengthen your brand, make it easier for people who need your services to find you, and put more money in your pocket.

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          Thoughts?

          Rules for saving face and avoiding Facebook faux pas

          I was initially reluctant to get on Facebook, but now am an avid user. I try to be thoughtful in what I post and how I comment on others’ posts. I wish everyone would be as thoughtful and careful.

          Among my pet peeves – and I have many – are the ways some people, in my opinion, abuse Facebook. So here are a few rules I’d like to suggest.

          1. Keep your comment(s) related to the post to which it is attached. If you want to address an unrelated topic with the poster, send them a message to their inbox. And if you want to communicate with someone who has commented, do it on their page or inbox them.

          2. Make your comment short and to the point. Use your own Notes to share treatises, diatribes, and expound on your soap-box issues. In some cases, it’s best to just keep your quirky ideas to yourself.

          3. Don’t daisy-chain your comments. This is related to #2. If you can’t express yourself within the limitations of one comment box, then just be quiet. No one wants to read a book on Facebook.

          4. Match the tone of your comment to the tone of the Post. If the post is humorous, keep your comment light. If the posting is serious, don’t crack wise in your comment. If you’re not sure if the post is humorous or serious, then don’t comment.

          5. Don’t start a fight in public on their page. If you thoroughly disagree with what someone has posted, be very careful how you respond. Don’t be insulting or abusive. Perhaps the best response is to hide that specific post so it doesn’t show up in your feed, and then inbox the person if you really need to get something off your chest. But be careful with your inbox message, too.

          6. Eliminate foul language! Keep in mind that your posts can be read by a variety of people, young and old, who may be offended by foul, gutter language. Current or potential employers can find your posts. Do not use foul or abusive language on Facebook, in blogs, or anywhere else on the Internet. It will come back to haunt you.

          7. Don’t comment when you’re not sober. Just as it’s dangerous to drive when you’re drunk, it’s just as dangerous to your reputation and character to post stupid rants on Facebook while drunk. It’s even more tragic if you’re angry and drunk. Just turn off the computer and watch TV.

          These are just a few rules. I could come up with more, like, if you’re going to be on Facebook, learn how to use Facebook. And be civil.

          Oh, and when someone posts a link to something else; read that "something else" before commenting!

          I'll stop now.

          What about you? Any tips or rules you’d like to see your fellow Facebookers follow?

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          Thoughts?