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November 2005

Sleep? Who Needs Sleep?

I arrived in England yesterday morning at 7 am and, after a quick shower, went right into a meeting where I was the speaker.  In fact, I spoke all day and got back to the hotel at midnight.  Now I'm up and getting ready to speak in the Sunday services this morning and evening.  I will be speaking on Samson and the power of purpose in his life. 

I promised to give you an update on flying Virgin Atlantic for the first time.  I would give them average marks at best.  Here are a few highlights (or maybe I should call them lowlights).

1.  I requested an exit row seat, where I have more leg room.  I was informed that those seats are for purchase only on Virgin!  So I had to pay an additional $75 for that seat, after I had already spent $900 on a roundtrip ticket.

2.  The exit row seat I was assigned and purchased would not recline, so I spent a few hours sleeping in the upright (and uptight) position.

3.  The lavatory closest to my seat malfunctioned and had to be shut down.

4.  The flight crew was young, inexperienced and, well, British--courteous but cool.  The attendant who had her landing seat right across from mine talked faster than the plane flew.  I found out that she is turning 30 next month, lives in Eastbourne and has met Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin brands, twice.  I don't think I really needed or wanted all that information.

The food, however, was better than most airline economy class food.  We had barbecue beef (there were three main entree choices, one more than usual) with key lime pie served for dessert.  I watched The War of the The Worlds while I ate my barbecue beef.  Their inflight shopping catalog had some neat stuff in it; I think I'll buy some noise-reducing head phones from it on the way home.

I get up at 3 am tomorrow morning for my flight to Nairobi.  For that flight, I will be on KLM, the Dutch airline, where I am a gold level frequent flyer.  I'll let you know how that flight goes.

But more importantly, I got the chance to talk about purpose yesterday to a lot of interested leaders.  We had a super question and answer session and I enjoyed the chance to challenge their thinking where purpose and leadership were concerned.  And what's more, I get to do it today two more times.  It doesn't get any better than this, in spite of Virgin's poor performance.

Off To England

Tonight I get on a plane for London. It is the first time I will fly Virgin Atlantic, which I hear is a good airline. I will let you know what I think after I fly my maiden voyage. Because of my father-in-law's funeral, I will now arrive in London on Saturday at 7:00 am and will be wisked off to speak at a leadership conference at 10:00 am. I have sessions Saturday morning, afternoon, and evening, and then will speak in church services on Sunday morning and evening. On Monday morning I fly to Nairobi, Kenya (a 10-hour flight) and begin work in Kenya on Tuesday morning. On Friday night, I will head back to London, where I will minister and speak over the weekend, returning home on Tuesday, November 8.

I am not writing to complain or evoke sympathy. I am writing to say what a privilege it is to do what I love. I will speak on leadership and purpose everywhere I go and will do some radio interviews. I know of one college campus at which I will speak and I have a number of purpose profile appointments already set up.

I have some extra books packed for reading on the plane and I still have to finish my PowerPoint presentations for London. But with God's help, I will be ready to go on Saturday morning and I won't stop until 10 days later when I am on the plane heading home.

While I'm enjoying myself over the next 10 days, what will you be doing? I hope it is something that you love and that you won't allow me to have all the fun. But that's the power and joy of purpose, and I hope you will tap into that power as often as possible while I'm in England and Africa. I'll keep you posted.

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The Wizard of Oz

If you are familiar with The Wizard of Oz, you know that the central figure is Dorothy, who is joined by three unusual partners in a search for the mighty Wizard. Each character believes that the Wizard can provide what they need. When they find the Wizard, they realize that he is just an ordinary person who can't really help them with any magical powers. They also come to see that what they sought was already within their grasp, and that a wizard or expert wasn't the remedy they had imagined.

Brian McLaren, a noted author and pastor, wrote an essay entitled Dorothy on Leadership. McLaren argues that Dorothy, though a child, was the real leader in the group. I urge you to read the essay for yourself and see what made Dorothy an effective servant leader. Then see how you can apply those same principles to your life and work.

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Kiss Someone You Love

I am in Maryland for my father-in-law's funeral and it's been a long day. Things have gone pretty well, and everyone has been sharing their favorite stories about dad. As I sat in the funeral home this afternoon and watched flowers being delivered, I couldn't help but remember what someone told me years ago: "Dead noses don't smell roses."

Of course, they meant that the time to do something nice for someone is before they die and not after. And I noticed many of my family members saying kind things to one another and I thought that was the way it should be. My son, who is here from San Francisco, and I had a good talk today and we told one another how much we loved and appreciated each other. I also talked about some of the things I would like at my own funeral.

So what are you waiting for? Go tell someone that you love and appreciate them. Buy someone you love flowers or something else that will bless them otday while they can still enjoy them. Write a letter to someone while they can still read it; if they can't read, call them and tell them what you mean to them.

Don't wait until it's too late. Right after you read this, go kiss someone you love.

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We Need To Change The Way We Do Church

I have spent my entire adult life in church work. When I wasn't on a church staff, I was working for a ministry related to church work, like Integrity Music. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in both ministry and churches, whether they were denominational or independent.

For the last five years, I have traveled extensively to churches all over the world to speak and consult. I have seen the inside of many churches and did my graduate work in pastoral ministries. I say all this to frame what I am about to say: I have come to conclusion that the Church is ill and we need to change the way we do church if she is ever to recover.  Most of the changes have to do with leadership.

I don't say this as an outsider. I am a church man, through and through. But we have a serious problem in the body of Christ and it isn't just in the United States. Our lack of leadership has reached crisis proportions. I could go on and on listing the problems, but I thought I would present my plan for the remedy so it could be discussed, critiqued and improved. So here are my seven suggestions as a way forward:

1. Raise up an army of purpose-led men and women who have faith to do the impossible, freed from trying to be who they are not and released to be the fullest, best expression of who God created them to be.

2. Equip people to perform missions (both domestic and foreign), to launch business ventures and to carry out any other activity their purpose distates and faith allows.

3. Help leaders be productive in their purpose as they oversee Holy Spirit chaos created by people pursuing and fulfilling their purpose.

4. Help leaders and governing bodies move from attitudes of ownership to attitudes of servant leadership and stewardship.

5. Develop services, Sunday Schools, kids church, youth meetings and even committee meetings that people want to attend because there is a spirit of excellence and the unexpected.

6. Move from fads, copycat programs, and trite and phony rituals, traditions and doctrines to innovative initiatives in the Spirit of (but exceeding the results of) the early church.

7. Address the needs of the poor, ethnic minorities and women around the world.

I think these seven steps would be a great starting point for any leader or leadership group to begin the change process. Do you agree? 

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A Death In The Family

Yesterday we got news that my wife's father, Tom Scimone, passed away. He was 82 and had health problems since he had a stroke in 2000. My wife is in Maryland with her family and I will join her tomorrow. My father-in-law was a good man. He worked hard all his life, enjoyed 20 years of retirement, had a winter home in Florida and got to see his children and grandchildren regularly.

He was a good father-in-law. He never interfered with our family matters, was always upbeat and positive and was a great conversationalist. I will miss him but am glad I got to know him for 32 years. Thank you, Dad Scimone, for living a good life, for giving me your daughter as a wife and for setting a great example of hard work and commitment to family.

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Two More Books I Read

I had a chance to finish up two more books over the weekend, making a total of 60 that I've read for the year (my goal is six per month). These two were The Last Voyage of Columbus by Martin Dugard and Letters To A Young Artist by Julia Cameron. (By the way, I have a list of recommended books by topic on my website. If you are looking for some good reading in the areas of purpose, productivity, leadership or time management, you may want to check out that list.)

1. Although his first voyage is the most famous, Columbus made three other voyages to the New World. The author touches on voyages two and three, but focuses on the fourth, a lively tale of shipwreck, mutiny, disappointment and discovery. Over the last few years, I have read books about other explorers like Magellan, David Livingstone and Captain Cook. From those readings, I've learned that every explorer suffered tremendously in pursuit of forture, glory and new lands. Their teeth fell out, they encountered disease and malnutrition, were subject to discouragement and often faced criticism or misunderstanding back home. It definitely makes me less uptight when a flight I'm on is delayed for two hours! And it has caused me to ask myself what price I am willing to pay to make my own discoveries, even if they are in the realm of purpose and productivity. I've also learned that the explorers were difficult men who pressed through unbelievable opposition to achieve what they believed. Today we honor them as great men, for the most part, in spite of their weaknesses.

2. I have read four books by Julia Cameron, whose first book, The Artist's Way, is a classic primer on expressing creativity. In her latest book, Cameron writes a series of letters to some unknown young artist named X. In those letters, she reiterates her predominate themes stated in her previous books, which are: 1) art and creativity are hard work, which requires working at them every day, whether one feels like it or not; 2) to be creative, one must start by writing every morning (even if you are a sculptor or painter), take regular walks and schedule artists outings weekly to a place that can stimulate creativity; 3) to be creative, one must manage his or her inner critic, which will always tell you what you are creating is junk.

Based on Cameron's advice, I write every morning and take creative outings, especially to sporting events. But my travel schedule doesn't always permit walks, unless walking through airports counts. She has also helped eliminate the sense that I must feel art to product art. My daily writing, no matter what my mood, has allowed me to produce a body of work about which I feel very good.

What have you been reading lately? Care to share a brief review with my readers?

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Susan's Saga

We went out to dinner last night with our friend Susan. Susan is a cheerful, bubbly woman with two grown children. Susan also runs a construction company. You might think it strange for a woman to run a construction firm, but Susan really had no choice. Two years ago, her husband Chris, who founded the company, suddenly died at the age of 51.

Chris was probably my best friend. He was funny, passionate, and loyal. We would talk on the phone regularly, and I stayed in his home many times. He had some health problems, but none of them were life threatening. Then he went into the hospital for some tests and never came out.

I had the chance to preach one of the eulogies at Chris' funeral. Susan asked me to do something funny and that presented a great challenge, for it was more natural to cry that day than to laugh. But Chris loved to laugh and we had laughed a lot together, so it was right that I paid tribute to Chris' joyous side in that way. People are still talking about that eulogy and Susan was telling the others at dinner last night what I said--she still remembers two years later.

I admire Susan for pulling Chris' company together and continuing his work. She is lonely and has had to parent her children from their teen years to young adulthood by herself. Susan also had to learn the construction business quickly, for she inherited a staff and construction projects that had to be completed.

Chris' death taught me that life is fragile and that our times are in God's hands. I'm not guaranteed tomorrow so I must make the most of today. I also learned to say things that I want to say to the people I love now, before it's too late. If you knew you were going to die next year, what changes would you make? What would you do? I urge you to take those questions seriously and make the changes as if this was your last year. I hope you live for another 50 years or more, but I hope you act like you won't make it until this time next year.

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Baseballs, Footballs, Hockey Pucks

Last Sunday I went to see the local professional football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers (they lost). Then a few nights ago I went to see our local professional hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins (they lost). A few weeks before that, I went to see our local professional baseball team, the Pittsburgh PIrates (they lost).

If I want to take a mini-vacation, I can just go see a live sporting event and I come out fresh and revived. I try to take in a game in whatever city I may be visiting. Last year I saw Shaquille O'Neal play in Miami (twice) and went to see the Baltimore Ravens play football in Baltimore. I have gone to a hockey and basketball games in Toronto and at last count have seen a baseball game in ten different cities, hockey in seven cities and basketball in eight cities.

I think my favorite sport to see live is hockey. I enjoy baseball in nice weather and still remember my first game that my father took me to when I was seven years old. Football is great except for the fans who are usually drunk and abusive. Basketball is good, but I generally have to sit in the cheaper seats that are higher up in the arena where the view isn't as good.

My favorite baseball stadium is Camden Yards in Baltimore (they have super food including crab cakes and awesome barbecue). The Staples Center in Los Angeles is the coolest arena I've been in and the AA Arena in Dallas is a great place to buy tickets from scalpers, who regularly sell extra tickets, bringing them right to your car as you approach the arena. The hockey fans in Toronto are the most sophisticated when it comes to understanding the game and the weather in San Francisco for baseball is obscenely cold, even in July.

There are no stadium vendors in Turner Field in Atlanta (I hate the Atlanta Braves) and they sell sushi in Dodger Baseball Stadium in LA. When you buy a bottle of water in the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey, they won't give you the bottle cap--too many people were throwing them onto the floor or ice. Chicago facilities have the best overall food--the pastrami and corned beef sandwiches are the best I've had anywhere.

But when all is said and done, there's no place like home. We don't have the best food (although we do sell pierogies in the baseball stadium) or the best teams. Our hockey arena is the oldest in the league. Our baseball team hasn't had a winning record since 1992! But all that said, I have always been and will always be a fan of Pittsburgh sports teams, win or lose. So go Steelers, Pens and Pirates, and I promise to not come see you for a while. Maybe that will help you win.

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Where In The World Is John Stanko?

There is a game that's been out for years called Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? The object of the game is to figure out where Carmen is given the clues that the players receive. My wife oftens plays a variation of this game entitled Where in The World is My Husband, John Stanko? To help her and you know where I am, I am including my itinerary for the rest of 2005. You can write me to schedule a purpose assessment or contact me to schedule a visit to your organization in 2006 (If you invite me, I will come!)

November 10-14 -- Dallas, Texas

November 18-21 -- Temecula, California

November 21 -- San Francisco, California

November 25-26 -- New York City

November 28-29 -- Johannesburg, South Africa

November 29-December 16 -- Harare, Zimbabwe

December 9-11 -- Johannesburg, South Africa

December 16-19 -- London, England

December 22-27 -- Orlando, Florida

January 1 -- Baltimore, Maryland

January 6-8 -- Tentative PurposeQuest retreat

January 18-25 -- West Palm Beach, Florida

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