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March 2006
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May 2006

I Am Not A Heretic

There was a lot of noise in the press the last few weeks about a long lost gospel of Judas.  This gospel allegedly portrayed Judas as an accomplice and not betrayer of Jesus. According to this "gospel," Jesus asked Judas to betray Him and then directed Judas not to tell the other apostles.  If you would like to read about it, you can do so here

I was asked this question last week by an earnest man: "Can't someone hold an alternate view of Judas without affecting his view of Jesus?"  Of course my answer was a unequivocal, "No!"

If Jesus participated in such a devious plot and kept it from the other apostles, then we would have to ask ourselves, "What else did Jesus do that may not be what it appears to have been?"  That would throw the reliability of all the gospels into question, including the claims that Jesus made about Himself.  Quite simply, that just isn't possible.

The early church rejected the Judas gospel as heresy.  The modern church needs to do the same.  The fathers of the early church set what is called the canon of Scripture. That is, they identified, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, all the books that were inspired and authorized by the Holy Spirit--the Judas gospel wasn't one then and it never will be.

By the way, I found an online survey to help determine how closely one subscribes to the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD).  This Council repudiated numerous heresies concerning who Jesus was.  I am glad to report that I am not a heretic.  Below are my results.  If you would like to take this survey for yourself, click here

You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant

100%

Pelagianism

33%

Nestorianism

33%

Apollanarian

33%

Monophysitism

33%

Arianism

0%

Monarchianism

0%

Adoptionist

0%

Docetism

0%

Donatism

0%

Albigensianism

0%

Modalism

0%

Gnosticism

0%

Socinianism

0%

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Easter Power

Easter isn't what it used to be.  Today it is mostly about Easter bunnies, eggs, candy and mall sales.  When I was a child, I can remember businesses closing down between noon and 3 pm on Good Friday and no business ever open on Easter Sunday.  There was never any school on Good Friday and Easter Monday.  I was in England a few years ago for Easter and I can remember thinking that, if it wasn't for the hotels advertising Easter Sunday dinner, I would never have known that Easter was even approaching.

This entry is about the good old days, but not about those of 50 years ago when I was young.  The good old days I want to remember are those days 2,000 years ago when Jesus came back to life, having been dead for three days. 

Easter is still one of the best-attended church days, when thousands attend Mass or service to commemorate Jesus' resurrection. Think of it:  All these people come back to commemorate that the Spirit brought a dead man back to life.  They actually believe that it happened! 

If you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and I hope you do, then you can believe anything!  You can trust God to heal cancer because, after all, cancer is tough to overcome, but it's not as tough as death. If you believe that God raises the dead, you can believe He will help you start a business.  Starting a business is hard work, but it's not as hard as raising someone back to life.

It's not enough that you go to church on Easter to bear witness to the fact that Jesus is alive.  You must somehow allow that fact to make a difference in your life, how you live and what you expect from God.  Paul referred to this when he wrote:  "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you" (Romans 8:11).

The Spirit lives in you, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead!  He is not "out there" doing good work with the same power that raises dead people.  He is in you.  What difference should that make when you pray, work and serve?  I think it should make a big difference.  Is it?  Is the power of Easter Sunday present in your life and work all year long? 

If not, then think about Romans 8:11 and ask God to show you how you can allow this life-giving Spirit more room in your life in the coming days and weeks.  And as you're doing that, I hope you will find time to have a blessed Easter.

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Good Friday

As I write this, the Church commemorates what is known as Good Friday.  On this day, we remember that Jesus died from one of the most horrendous forms of torture and pain that man has ever devised against man.  Crucifixion was slow, painful and usually ended with the victim drowning in his own fluids.

Tomorrow I am leading a session for church workers and volunteers that I have named How To Survive Working in the Local Church.  My first point in the presentation is that Jesus is our model and my Bible reference is Luke 23:32-43, where Jesus encountered the two thieves while on the cross.  My point is that Jesus was suffering a tortuous death, hanging naked before family, friends, and enemies, and He took time to minister to the thief who rebuked his comrade.  Jesus told that thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

I go on to tell people who attend my sessions that they can be exempt from ministry if they have had it worse than Jesus.  If not, and who can say they've ever experienced anything like what I've described, then I urge them to "get back in the game" and minister to a dying world.

How about you?  Have you been hurt by the Church?  Are you sitting on the bench or in the bleachers now because you've been hurt?  If so, then it's time to re-engage.  The lesson of Good Friday is that Jesus didn't stay on the cross.  He died ministering salvation and came back three days later to continue doing the same.  Nothing stopped him from pursuing his purpose and nothing should stop you either. 

If you would like to read my workshop in article form, you can find How To Survive on my website

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I'm A Poet and I Didn't Even Know It!

Drum roll, please.  How about a trumpet or two?  Why, you may ask?  I wrote a poem this week in my morning quiet time.  That's right, a poem.  You may read it and say, "Hey, it's not that good.  I can do better."  And I hope you can, but you're going to have to produce it for that to be true.  So go ahead, you can even come back and publish it at this site under the comments section below.  But first, here is my maiden poetic effort:

MY SOURCE

Lord, You are my source

of all life and love.

I cannot expect from others

what I can only receive from You.

Yet I try, only to be left empty

For it's in You that I live and move and have my being.

It's not about what I can receive

but what I can give.

So I give freely, joyfully

of my time, my insight, my writing --

the meager essence of who I am --

for You and to others.

May I be poured out like a drink offering

whose effect is seen for a moment

then dried and gone, known only to You and

remembered only by You.  It is enough.

Lord, You are my source

of all life and love.

I choose to walk in that reality today.

There you go.  Let me know what you think.  Better yet, as I mentioned above, write your own and send it in.


The Big D

I made a surprise visit to Dallas (or the Big D as locals like to refer to it), where I will be until Friday.  Well, it wasn't really a surprise, since I was the one who planned it.  I just didn't know last week that I would be here this week.  I've done a lot of work in Dallas over the years, so I know my way around pretty well.  That makes visiting and working here easier than groping my way around a new city.

I've always had a good sense of direction.  My mother tells me that when I as young as four or five, I could remember directions and how to get back to a place where we had been.  That doesn't mean I don't get lost from time to time, but I try to use even those times as learning experiences, figuring I'll need the info I gain when I'm lost for future travels.

I am sitting in a Starbucks writing this entry before my first appointment.  The weather will be hot today.  I can remember one time I was here and it was 117 degrees at 5 pm!  I was teaching in an upstairs room on that day, and the air conditioning went out.  I thought it was awfully hot, but I kept right on teaching.  I wasn't' drinking enough water and got dehydrated, feeling the effects of that for two days. 

I have been meditating on the characters of Holy Week the last few days, asking God to help me see the aspects of those who were part of that drama in me.  In other words, I'm praying, "Lord, show me the Judas, the Peter, the Caiphas and Pilate in me as I walk with You and others." 

At any rate, sorry for this convoluted entry.  But I didn't want this day to pass without letting you know where I am and what I'm doing.


Still A Drucker-ite

Nothing's changed since yesterday when I wrote you - I am still a devotee of Peter Drucker and his management and leadership writings.  Yesterday I passed along a quote from The Daily Drucker:  366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done.  Today I have another entry to pass along, this time from April 8:

All the effective leaders I have encountered--both those I worked with and those I merely watched--knew four simple things:  a leader is someone who has followers; popularity is not leadership, results are; leaders are highly visitble, they set examples; leadership is not rank, privilege, titles or money, it is responsibility.

When I was in my final high school years, our excellent history teacher--himself a badly wounded war veteran--told each of us to pick several of a whole spate of history books on World War I and write a major essay on our selections.  When we then discussed these essays in class, one of my fellow students said, "Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence.  Why was it?"  Our teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, "Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying."  Effective leaders delegate, but they do not delegate the one thing that will set the standards.  They do it.

I've known some generals who stayed way behind the lines, have you?  I watched them and learned how not to lead.  If I ever got to lead, I promised myself, I would be with the people while I led the people.  How about you?  What kind of a leader are you?  What kind do you want to be?  I hope you will take these Drucker words to heart and apply them in such a way as to be a more effective leader today than you were yesterday.

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I Am A Drucker-ite

I have been reading Peter Drucker's material for three decades.  Drucker is considered the father of modern management studies and passed away just last year at the age of 96.  He wrote 31 books that were translated into more than 20 languages.  I have read his book The Effective Executive at least 15 times. 

A few years ago, a daily "devotional" of Drucker material came out under the title, The Daily Drucker:  366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done.  I don't read it every day, but I keep it on my desk and refer to it from time to time.  There was entry for April 6 that I must share with you today (I'll have another entry for you tomorrow):

The leader who basically focuses on himself or herself is going to mislead.  The three most charismatic leaders in this century inflicted the most suffering on the human race than almost any other trio in history:  Hitler, Stalin and Mao.  What matters is not the leader's charisma.  For leadership is not magnetic personality--that can just as well be demagoguery.  It is not "making friends and influencing people"--that is flattery.

Leadership is the lifting of a man's vision to higher sights, the raising of a man's performance to a higher standard, the building of a man's personality beyond its normal limitations.  Nothing better prepares the ground for such leadership than a spirit of management that confirms in the day-to-day practices of the organization strict principles of conduct and responsibility, high standards of performance, and respect for the individual and his work.

Do you limit your leadership influence because you aren't as flashy as someone else?  Not as good a public speaker?  Do you restrict your own effectiveness by comparing yourself to the leader that you think you should be?  Drucker helped us all understand that a leader isn't some mystical personality that transcends humanity.  A leader is someone who can help others focus on what is most important and help equip those same people to do more together than they could if they stayed isolated individuals.

Based on that, you are a leader and can be an effective and even great one if you stay true to the mission and purpose that is set before you.  I urge you to reevaluate your own leadership ability, and then embrace the fact thay you can lead by being you.  That alone will help make you the best leader that you can possibly be.  Don't wait, the world is waitng for you to lead.

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I'm A Bad Blogger

I took time the other day to visit some other blog sites, mostly of authors I enjoy reading--Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin.  Then I visited the Fast Company blog--Fast Company is the only magazine I read cover-to-cover every month.  Then I found Mark Cuban's blog--Mark is a Pittsburgher bizillionaire who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.  From there, I visited a few other sites and came to the conclusion that I am a bad blogger.  Why, you may ask?

I don't spend nearly enough time reading and looking at other blogs. I don't know how these guys have time to do that.  I suspect they have staff doing some of it, but certainly not all of it.  These other sites are chock full of links to reports, other blogs, and places of interest related to their particular theme or topic matter.  Their references to other sites stretch for at least one mile on either side of their written entries. 

Then the graphics on most of the sites were pretty cool, cooler than mine.  I like my blog, but it is definitely a meat-and-potatoes look, where some of the other blogs are champagne and caviar.  They include graphs, colors, pictures and other neat touches that are absent from my blog. 

I also noticed that some of the blogs get a large response under "remarks."  My friend Bill Kinnon told me about the feedback to an entry he wrote on PowerPoint and Microsoft.  Not only did he receive eight comments, but has also had a huge response to that entry as measured by daily visits to his blog.  I know Bill doesn't have staff working on his site, yet his site oozes neat and interesting stuff.  Way to go, Bill.

I've decided to try and do a better job linking you to other interesting stuff that's related to what I write about.  At the same time, I came to the conclusion that my blog isn't for you.  It's for me.  It's my outlet to the world.  It's my online journal of thoughts.  It gives me a chance to experiment with putting my thoughts on paper--well, not on paper, but into cyberspace.  I want to invite you into my world and, quite frankly, this blog is part of my world.  It is part of who I am and all the things it doesn't have are part of who I am as well. 

Years ago my son said this to me, "Dad, you're one of the funniest guys I know, but your writings aren't.  They aren't you.  They're way too serious.  You should write funny stuff."  Shortly after that, I was in London and a young man came up and said, "I think I'm to tell you that you are supposed to write more humorous stuff, along with satire."   

I was intrigued by these comments, but they also scared me to death.  I knew how to make people laugh in public, but I didn't think I could do that as a writer.  This blog has given me a chance to experiment with that and the feedback has been pretty good.  (Please note:  It took me about three years to start doing what those two young men urged me to do.)  I may be a bad blogger, but I'm a pretty good writer (funny too, don't you think?)

Have you thought about writing, painting, sculpting or even about blogging, but were a bit intimidated by the work of others?  Then I have one word of advice--don't be (I guess that's really two words).  Produce something for you and invite other people to come in and watch you as you do.  All right, you're not a Hemingway or Faulkner. But they weren't you either.  Bring your perspectives to the written world and even be willing to write badly in an effort to write well.  You may be surprised at the following you attract as you overcome your fears and put your thoughts out there for the world to see.


Mother Stanko Goes Shopping

I have written about my 89-year-old mother in past posts to this site.  Mother Stanko is in reasonably good health but doesn't drive.  So my sister (most of the time) and I (some of the time) have to take her around to handle her basic errands like doctors visits, shopping and hair appointments.  This week I gave my sister a break and took my mother shopping.

We almost always go to a grocery chain called Giant Eagle.  No, this isn't a pet store or aviary but the actual name of a grocery store.  Giant Eagle has been around this area for as long as I can remember and has done a good job keeping up with the times. Their new mega stores are so big that if you buy green bananas at one end of the store, they are yellow by the time you check out.  Shopping there is my mother's main means of exercise, so we just walk and walk in search of the things we need.

My mother did all the shopping as a child for her family of thirteen.  Her family was poor and my mother did her best to make their limited resources go as far as possible.  This is why my mother still treats any grocery store as a foreign army to be conquered or at least a place where she can secure enough concessions and victories (while taking no prisoners) to consider her shopping expedition a success.

We started out this week in the produce section.  I thought it odd that no workers were present while we were there, but then I spotted them huddled behind the cabbage, hiding from my mother's presence.  And she was indeed looking to engage someone to inform them that their prices (like they have anything to do with the prices) are too high.  When my mother buys green beans, just to give you an idea, she picks them out one at a time, not by the handful.  She refused to buy broccoli this week because it was "too yellow."  (It looked green to me.)  And she squeezed 35 (I counted) heads of lettuce before she identified the anointed one that was privileged to be the centerpiece for her next salad.

From there, we went to the candy aisle because it's time to stock up on Easter candy.  We waded through the huge selection to find the jelly beans that were on sale.  Before we made our final selection, however, my mother squeezed them to see which bag had the softest beans.  She reluctantly made her choice, feeling somewhat compelled to buy the kind we did because we had a coupon for an additional 50 cents off.

From there, it was off to get bread and eggs (but first, it was time to change the tires on our cart, since we had pushed it many miles by then).  My mother opens each carton of eggs, nudging every egg to see if they stick to the carton.  If they don't move, it means they are cracked and promptly returned for some other unsuspecting shopper to secure.  (This one I don't get; isn't it the fate of every egg purchased to be cracked eventually?  So what if it happens a little prematurely in the store?)

The bread, ah yes, the bread.  The bread we eventually choose must be so soft that, when squeezed, it deforms, never to return to its original shape.  When that happens, my mother cooly returns that loaf and chooses another.  We are still looking for the perfect loaf, sort of like a surfer hunts for the perfect wave.  But no bread will grace our toaster or sandwich that doesn't pass multiple inspections and tests. 

Am I making fun of my mother?  Not at all.  It's fascinating to me that her shopping habits and philosophy were shaped more than 80 years ago and she hasn't changed.  That certainly is a testimony to the power of our childhood experiences to shape our behavior even into our senior years--for good or bad.

I don't know how many years my mother has remaining or how many more times I will be able to take her shopping. So what do I care if she squeezes every tomato in the Giant Eagle chain?  I want to try and make her shopping excursions enjoyable, especially since they are the extent of her social outings these days.  So go ahead, Mom, take all the time you need to secure what it is that you want.  Just don't ask me to switch some of the potatoes in one bag for those nicer ones in the other bag.  I think that's going a little bit too far.

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This Week

It's so good to be home this week, not just to be home, but to get back on schedule.  I don't do very well if I don't get an early start in the morning.  If I have an early meeting, which often happens when I'm on the road, then my early morning productivity suffers.  Then it's tough for me to get back in the swing of things as the day goes on.

Part of that is my problem and the way I have conditioned myself to think.  So this week I have been getting up early, but also being more diligent to have a plan if I have an early start.  For instance, yesterday I had to take Mother Stanko shopping and she likes to go early.  But I was diligent to resume my task list when I got home and to do some computer work while I watched the women's basketball championship last night.  I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but for me it is. 

It is so important that you know how you work best and what situations allow you to be most productive.  It's also important to know so you can adapt when the ideal situation isn't available, which is probably most of the time.  I'm also working on not minimizing the small chunks of time--15 to 45 minutes--that I often dismiss as irrelevant.  So far this week, I have used those chunks to good advantage (This is exactly what I'm doing as I write this entry.  I had 15 minutes between meetings and usually would think that's not enough time to write this.  But I sat down, starting writing and voila--the entry is almost finished.)

I am home this month until I return to Africa on May 1, so it's critical that I maximize my time.  So far, I've done well this week and want to keep my momentum.  What do you need to do to get into your own rhythm so you can produce?  When do you work best?  When do you need to adapt and not give in or give up?  The answers to all these questions are important if you are going to be as productive as you want and need to be in the world where you live.  Sorry, I gotta go.  I have a lunch appointment.

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