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January 2006
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March 2006

When The Truth Doesn't Set You Free

There isn't a day go by that I don't quote John 8:32 to someone, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."  Why is this such an important passage?  So often we are holding onto a truth that we think is the truth but in reality is a half-truth or non-truth and it isn't freeing but restricting us from being or doing all that we could.

In Jesus' day, the Jews held the "truth" that no prophet could come from Galilee or no good from Nazareth.  Thus they missed the truth of Jesus because they held some other "truth."   The first Jewish believers knew the truth that everyone had to follow the law of Moses even after they professed faith in Christ.  Thus they missed the freedom that came from putting their total trust in Jesus.

We could go on and on about the "truths" that bound whole cultures.  At one point, we "knew" that the world was flat, the sun orbited the earth, that people with lighter skin were superior to those with darker, and that bleeding someone who was sick would make them well.  Men and women were ready to, and often did, die for these so-called truths.  Sincerely holding that a belief is true isn't the issue, for I can be sincere and that only makes me sincerely misguided.

What truth are you holding about yourself that isn't setting you free, but limiting your effectiveness?  Are you thinking, "I'm too old," "I'm too young," "I'm not that talented," "I can't get my hands on that kind of money to start my business," or "I can't write"?   If you are, is that the truth or is it a lie that appears to be or sounds like truth?  Are you part of an organization that believes the same kind of limiting "truths"? 

I am in Seattle and it's 3 am. I can't sleep because I'm examining some truths that I've held about myself that aren't true at all.  They have limited me and put me in a box.  I feel like I'm coming out, which means that there is some true truth that is setting me free from what I had previously considered to be truth.  I am an author, I am creative, I am a source of joy and inspiration for many people, but there are times when I haven't walked in those truths and I was bound.

How about you?  Are there any truths about yourself that haven't set you free but tied you up?  If so, then those things aren't the truth at all!  Spend some time meditating on these ideas that have limited your ability to create, to be purposeful.  Who knows, maybe you'll be up tomorrow night like I'm up tonight, allowing the truth to do its job, and that is to set you free.

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On The Road Again

After a 40-hour trip from Africa and a 13-hour stay at home, I am back in the airport heading to Seattle.  Whose idea was this anyway?  Oh, it was mine.  Well, then it was a good idea.  I'm just glad my wife is here to lead me by the hand to the right gate.

Of course, I am only joking for this is the work I do and I love it.  Are you doing what you love?  Are you doing as much of it as possible?  I hope so.  I am so grateful for the chance to write, travel and teach.  I am so happy that I want others to be as happy, doing whatever it is that they were created to do.  I would write more, but I gotta run for the next plane.  I'll write you from the Pacific Northwest!

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The Alps

My flight finally departed Johannesburg at 2 am, and I was asleep before we took off.  I got eight hours of sleep on the plane but then awoke for breakfast.  As we flew, we passed over the Alps in full daylight.  They were snow covered and magnificent!  We were at 33,000 feet, but they are so high and looked so close.  Many of their mountaintops peaked through the cloud cover, which only added to the beauty of the moment.  I couldn't help but think that someplace "down there" the Olympics were taking place.

I managed to get a middle seat in the exit row for the trip here, which meant I could spread out my legs.  I had two men on either side of me and we didn't say one word to one another during the entire trip.  My kind of journey!  (I wonder if they noticed my ear plugs in place, my "do not disturb" sign on a plane.)

I have a three-hour layover here in Amsterdam before taking off for Detroit.  I always buy my wife some Dutch chocolate while I'm here, so I gotta go so I can maintain the tradition.  Maybe I'll have some time to eat some Dutch cheese, too. 

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"You're Never Home"

I am always asked about my travel schedule and how I like being on the road so much.  I usually answer in jest, "A moving target is hard to hit."  I've also been known to say, "I'm not sure that God knows where I am some times.  And if He doesn't know, then the devil doesn't either!"

Seriously, there are a few thoughts that sustain me while I am on the road.  The first is the knowledge that my father served in World War II.  He was away from home for several years for a cause he believed in.  I am involved in even more important work of the Kingdom, so I should be willing, in my mind, to pay a price.

The second is a verse I found in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians:  "I have been constantly on the move, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers" (11:26 emphasis added).  Paul traveled a lot to do what God wanted him to do; it seems that I have to do so as well.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy traveling, but I also love being at home.  I wish the doors would open in the States that have opened in other countries.  I wouldn't mind staying busy at home.  And I miss my wife terribly when I'm gone. (you'll have to ask her if she misses me).   I admit that I get a bit miffed when people glibly say, "You're never home!"  I am home about one third of the year, and my travels pay for the home we do have.

As people get to know me and my at times outlandish humor, they will often ask my wife, "How can you live with him?"  Her pat answer is, "I don't have to; he's seldom here.  God has made a way where they seemed to be no way!"  So until something else opens up closer to home, I am destined to follow in Paul's footsteps and be on the move regularly.  I only wish I could be as effective as Paul was when I go.

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Quick Turnaround

I am in the Johannesburg airport, where I have had an 8-hour layover waiting for my flight to Amsterdam.  We were just informed that the flight is delayed, which means that I will arrive home four hours later than I had anticipated.

This usually isn't significant, except that I now get home Saturday night at 10:30 pm and leave again Sunday at 2:15.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that Kathryn is coming with me as we head to Seattle and then Bentonville, Arkansas.  And it's Kathryn's birthday on Tuesday, so we will celebrate it together.

I am flying this route through Amsterdam because I am trying to obtain my platinum level frequent flier status on Northwest Airlines.  Since they partner with KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, I must go through Amsterdam and then Detroit before I arrive home in Pittsburgh.

I am heading to Seattle to begin my facilitator training for The Pacific Institute (TPI).  TPI, in its own words, is "an international corporation specializing in performance improvement and professional growth, change management and leadership development."  I have attended one TPI session in the past and I am looking forward to digging a little deeper into their material.

By the way, I had a great visit to Zimbabwe, as usual.  My thanks to all my friends in Zimbabwe and at Celebration Church for their hospitality.  The people there are among the hardest working people I have encountered anywhere.  I always leave challenged - and exhausted.  I'm glad I can sleep on a plane.  I just wish I had more than one night at home in my own bed.

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The Price of Leadership

Last night I had the privilege of teaching here in Harare at Celebration College for their Leadership Development Program.  It was quite a challenge to keep us all focused for a three-hour session after everyone came from work.  The electricity went out three times, the room was warm, but all in all, I think it was a good session.  At least I didn't see too many people nodding off to sleep.

When I teach a session like I did last night, I always use fill-in-the-blank notes, employ PowerPoint and try to raise my energy and vocal levels to create more urgency and excitement. When I was with Integrity Music, I always taught my sessions right after lunch by choice.  I wanted to work at keeping people interested and awake.

I usually move when I talk (last night we had 130 students but I still wandered around).  I have never been good at breaking an audience into smaller discussion groups, but I am pretty good at engaging a class in dialogue.  I make lots of room for questions and try to give the students every chance to challenge my ideas.  I also like to end my class a bit early so that everyone feels like they got a break and had a few less minutes of class than was scheduled.

If I have had any challenge when I speak, it's that I almost always prepare too much material.  Then students don't get a chance to fill in all the blanks and they then feel like they missed something.  I am always amazed at how quickly the time goes when you speak, especially if you allow time for questions.  Fortunately, I cut out quite a bit from my original outline for last night and I'm glad I did.

My three main points last night were:

1.  Leaders serve (see Luke 22:24-27).

2.  Leaders influence (see Philemon 8-14).

3.  Leaders develop other leaders (see Acts 11:25-26 and Acts 16:1-5).

Perhaps I will write about each of these points in future posts, but for now you can read the accompanying verses by clicking on each passage listed above.  In the meantime, you may also want to download the outline and PowerPoint of last night's lecture from my website.

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Monday Memo

It's great to be sending The Monday Memo again.  As you are aware, I hit a technical snag in December that kept me from distributing it.  My thanks to David Avilla in California who recommended G Lock Easy Mail as a program that could circumvent the problems.  He then volunteered to merge all my mailing lists into one list and then do a test mailing from California to make sure everything functioned properly.  The next step is to employ a service that will handle the list maintenance and to which I can send The Memo every week for them to distribute. 

I began writing The Memo almost five years ago.  My reasons were two-fold.  First, I wanted to respond to the many who had told me, "We need more help with our purpose.  We need to hear from you more often."  Then I wanted to launch my website but give people a reason to visit it more than when it started.  I wanted to develop new material, post it to the site, and then somehow remind people that I was "out there."  The result was The Monday Memo.

I didn't really think The Memo would last this long, nor did I think it would grow to 11,000 subscribers.  I had hoped to convert The Memo into sales and contributions, something I have done on a limited basis.  Many, however, consider The Memo their "friend" and expressions of "welcome back" have been pouring in all day today.

When I started The Memo, I had left three paid ministry positions just a few months earlier.  I have pointed out that it was this sudden "free time" that gave me time to think and strategize.  From that came The Memo.  Often we are doing all that we can do, but we are so busy that there is no room to think, no time to do a new thing.  Today I touch the world every Monday because a creative idea emerged from a down and dark time in my life.

So what new thing are you missing because your calendar is full?  I urge you to take a hard look at your schedule, pull back for a season if you can, and find your own Monday Memo--some creative expression that will be a source of joy and accomplishment for you.

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Memories-Some Good, Some Not So Good

I just got back from Nairobi and, as usual, had a great time with my Kenyan friends and associates.  While there, I was helping an organization from here in Zimbabwe plan a Kenyan tour for their worship team this coming June.  It sure brought back memories of my days with Integrity Music when I planned worship conferences all over the world.  From that experience, I went on to become a Certified Meeting Professional, a recognition offered to those who sat for an exam after organizing a large number of events.  My doctoral dissertation was entitled "The Philosophy and Organization of Religious Conferences."

As we planned for the upcoming June event, I found myself with mixed feelings and it surprised me.  I used to live to plan an event.  On the one hand, I loved the pressure of organizing the event and then overcoming all the obstacles that inevitably came up.  I got tremendous joy out of seeing people come together for a common purpose and then seeing them go home all excited and enthused.  It was not unusual for me to eat very little during even a two or three-day event, that's how "into it" I would get.

On the other hand, I had some of my most painful failures and experiences planning conferences.  I had weather interfere, the post office lose 50,000 brochures, the venue not deliver on promises made and a host of other glitches.  I came to the following conclusion about event planning:

1.  A bad conference is like flushing a toilet: Once it starts to go down, there is no way to stop it.  When a conference goes bad, it goes bad quickly and completely.

2.  When you plan events, you're only as good as your next event.  You're previous events are forgotten, no matter how many of them there were, if and when your next event doesn't turn out well.

3.  The clock is always ticking.  There is no way you can postpone an event once it is set in motion and people register to come.  You can't say, "Sorry, come back next weekend.  We didn't quite finish what we needed to finish to get this thing organized."

4.  A bad event can cost your organization a lot of money and embarassment.  Don't ask me how I know this, just take my word for it.

5.   If there is anything that can go wrong with the technical portion of your event, it probably will.  I often wondered how Jesus did it without an audio system and PowerPoint.

So as I sat and went through the checklist for the June tour, I found myself processing some memories, not all good ones, of my days as an event coordinator.  I realized that I am no longer as exhilarated by this role as I once was.  While thankful for the experience, I realized this week that it is not something that I would ever want to do again.

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Lost Without It

I left my computer behind in Harare for some desperately-needed repairs and cleanup.  This is the first trip I can remember in the last 10 years that I haven't had my laptop with me.  Well, my computer crashed while I was in Singapore in 2004, but at least I still had the actual computer to hold and touch. I'm already going through withdrawal! 

When I woke up this morning, I found that my morning routine was seriously altered.  I couldn't check my email first thing.  So I got out my journal entries for the last four years and read them.  I still do most of my journaling by hand.  Why?  I just like the feel of the pen on the paper and it feel likes my entries are more a part of me than if I do them on the computer.

I was so moved by what I read this morning and it stimulated some interesting questions that I want to ponder while I am here in Kenya.  I am also working through what changes I need to make in my routine when I get home and have my computer again.

Are you in a routine that you need to rethink?  Are you stuck in a rut?  Then maybe you need to do something like I did.  Don't read any newspapers for a week, stop watching television for a season or take a break from email and cyberspace.  See what emerges as you interrupt your business as usual.  Keep me posted on what you learn and do, and I promise to do the same.

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"How did it go?"

Today I am off to Nairobi and will be back in Zimbabwe on Friday. Yesterday I spoke at both morning services at Celebration Church here in Harare and had a great time. I hope those listening had a great time, too. I am sometimes asked after I speak, "How did it go?" and I usually respond, "I don't know. You'll have to ask someone who was there."

I have seen speakers who thought they were great, but who I thought were entertaining but lacked content. Then I've heard others who didn't think they hit the mark, but who the people thought were fantastic. My objective is to deliver what I believe God has given me in such a way as to bless His people. If they are blessed and connected with God through what I said, then my mission is accomplished. If that doesn't happen, then I failed no matter how eloquent or profound I thought I was.

Yesterday someone asked me how it was to speak in the second service. The first service was packed and the people are usually very responsive. The second service is usually less crowded and less involved. My response to the question was that I try not to pay attention to the crowd when I speak. Don't get me wrong, it's easier to speak to an involved audience. At the same time, I feel like God has given me something to say and I want to say it regardless of the environment or the response of the people. i've seen crowds go crazy when someone preached, but when I asked some later, "What did he say",' they couldn't tell me. I guess I try to stay focused on God when I speak, but with a heart for the people. Does that make sense?

I once traveled with a man who would berate the audio man, fuss at the people for being "unresponsive" and deliver his entire message from his outline whether the people were still with him or not. I determined not to do that if and when I had a chance to speak. I have always tried to use Mark 12:37 as a guideline, for there we are told that "the large crowd listened to him [Jesus] with delight." The people loved to hear Jesus because He had great insight and spoke with authority. That is the model that I want to follow.

I also allowed God to deal with my "preacher's itch." There are some leaders who won't be involved in a meeting unless they are speaking. I think that tendency is gone from my life. I am not scheduled to speak again for three weeks, but I am happy, trusting that God will open the doors for speaking that He has for me.

So I am off to Kenya, feeling like I delivered the word that God gave me yesterday. I will trust Him for the results and move on to the work He has for me to do in Nairobi this week.

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