Funny Guy

On one of my international trips, I was in the car with three or four young men when one of them asked me a question: "Dr. Screen Shot 2022-06-15 at 7.45.16 AMStanko," he said, "I probably won't ever get another chance to be with you like this. I like to be in front of people and make them laugh. You do that so well. Can you share any secrets with me?" I am often asked questions about how I do what I do, so I had an answer ready. I thought I would share with you what I told him.


1.  Accept who you are. I've always made people laugh and I love itmost of the time. There were occasions, however, when I abused and misused humor to make people look silly. I can remember one night when I asked the Lord to take away my humor because I had used it incorrectly. However, I sensed that God had no intention of taking it away; He wanted to teach me how to use it properly.

Many times since then I have been able to use my humor to de-fuse sensitive situations. My humor has enhanced my ability to speak and write. In other words, being funny is who I am. The first step to using it properly was to accept it as a gift. 

2.  Develop who you are. Once I accepted the fact that being humorous is part of who I am, I then set out to make my humor effective. I studied other humorous people. I watched their routines, studying what worked and what didn't.  I noticed that people did not laugh at everything they said, yet they were still considered comics. 

I've still made lots of mistakes and I've said and written many things that weren't funny. Yet I keep working at it, studying how I can be better at what I do and who I am. More often than not, I will hear feedback that says, "You should be a stand-up comic." I laugh and respond, "I already am!"

3.  Work at who you are. The final thing I said to the young man in the car surprised him. I told him that after I accepted who I who and began to develop my skill, I then had to work at being funny. I think a lot about what to say in certain situations.  I may even go back and reconsider, "What could or should I have said in that situation that may have been funny?" When I am an emcee or a speaker, I try to plan scenarios that could be funny before I go on, even if I'm working with another person. 

However, much of what I do is spontaneous; I'm not a good joke teller. Yet I have found the more work I do to make people laugh, the more opportunities present themselves for me to be humorous. 


So there you have my three secrets of humor, and they really aren't so secret. They apply to almost any gift or talent you may have.  Humor may not be your gift.  I know, however, that you do have one, and that you may be looking past it or doing nothing with it. So, your assignment is to take these three tips and apply them to your own life and work.   

For instance, are you a good cook? If so, then are you applying these three principles to your life in the kitchen?  Are you taking cooking lessons?  Giving lessons? Writing cookbooks? Teaching others to cook?

Creativity, productivity and purpose aren't magical concepts. They require a lot of work on your part, not only to find them, but to fulfill and express them.  I urge you to do your part so that the world can enjoy you to the fullest.  As you work on your gifts, I promise to continue to work on my ability to make people laugh.

The End of Self

The end of self is the true beginning of self. What am I talking about? Is that a riddle? Double-talk? Let me explain. Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 6.52.25 PM

Most people are familiar with Jesus' words that pertain to picking up a cross and following Him. The cross isn't the end of your personality; it's where it begins. The cross enables you to come into contact with so you can develop your personality as God intended it to be. The problem is that we are so steeped in the self-willed self life that it's almost impossible to let go. This is highlighted by Paul's words in Philippians 2:19-23 when he described his assistant Timothy:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.

Can you imagine? Of all the great men with whom Paul traveled, he had no one like Timothy. Timothy had reached an end of self to such an extent that he could be genuinely interested in the welfare of others and not his own. If Paul only saw one such man in his life, how many will you and I see? Perhaps the better question is: Can you become the one Timothy that other people encounter? More on that later.

I've been thinking this past week on the examples I can offer of people who haven't come to the end of self and self-will because they haven't truly picked up their cross. Here are some thoughts:

  1. If you have no experience in an area, but offer your uneducated opinion, and then are offended when people don't follow or listen to you, you haven't come to an end of self.
  2. If you can't accept advice, and insist on doing things yourself in your own way, even when you don't have the expertise, you haven't come to an end of self.
  3. If you refuse to change your habits, like how or where you work, or stubbornly resist adopting new technology or work habits, you haven't come to an end of self.
  4. If you've consistently had no results in an area of life, work, or ministry, but cling to the ways you've always done it (and get upset when someone speaks into your dysfunction), you haven't come to an end of self.
  5. If you believe you're entitled to your opinion (which you are), but that your opinion is special simply because it's yours, you haven't come to an end of self.
  6. If you ignore the input of someone who has walked a path before you, especially when that person has no vested interest except to see you succeed, you haven't come to an end of self.
  7. If you've failed in an area, but still want to be the one to give advice or direction instead of listening and learning, you haven't come to an end of self.

Keep in mind that I'm not suggesting your surrender your life's direction to anyone but the Lord. However, I regularly see these dynamics and tendencies mentioned above at work in my consulting and teaching and it keeps people from bearing fruit and transforming into the people God wants them to be.

What's more, I've seen them all operate in my own life, past and present, and I'm always confronting where I'm more interested in serving my own image of who I want to be (or seem to be) as opposed to who others and God need me to be. To the extent that I've come to an end of self, I have been able to embrace my true self and it has been liberating. I invite you to join me, so that together we can form an army of people like Timothy who can selflessly serve others through our true selves.

Walking Down a Different Row

I just returned from a visit to my grandchildren and took time to go to a local farm to pick some Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 3.17.04 PMberries. It is hard work for this farm is on a hill, it was hot, and while the berry bushes had plenty of fruit, it was spread out among many bushes. I find it fascinating that I could walk down one row with bushes on both sides of me and see plenty of fruit, but then when I went to the next row and looked back on the row I came from, I saw fruit I missed. I tried to see all there was to see when I went down the first row, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not see it all. What I needed was a change of perspective to see all there was to see.

When I have led cognitive and social learning seminars, I include a phrase, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." Of course, the things I am looking at don't change, but my perspective is changed according to my approach and angle for viewing. I have used the same concept when I have taught preaching classes, for I tell students that they must suspend what they think they know about a verse or passage for even a short moment as they prepare to speak, for as soon as they are convinced they know what a passage says, they will miss what else it may be saying. This is called the lock-on, lock-out phenomenon. As soon as we lock on to what we think we know or see, certain we have seen all the berries or the meanings there are, we lock out the possibility of seeing more.

When I was a pastor and did some marriage counseling, I would surprise couples when we began by asking them to tell me what their partner was about to tell me about them. "What is your wife/husband going to tell me about you?" Many would make an effort to answer my question, but quickly switched gears to report what was wrong with their spouse. They had locked on to the problem with the other person and had often locked out their contribution to the need for counseling. 

What's my point in all this? It is a valuable exercise to put yourself in someone else's place or to shift your perspective from time to time in order to see what you cannot see from where you have been. For example, today in the mail I received a copy of a book The Best Short Stories by Black Writers (1899-1967). Why would I order and read this? I do so because I am not black and I want to read something written by people who don't look like me and probably don't think like me. Since I work with many African Americans, it will help me walk down a different row to see what I could not previously see.

When we don't walk down a different row, it may be because we are not as secure in our position as we would like others to believe and thus need to read or be exposed only to things that will reinforce our current position. That's not wrong unless it is what we always do and thus cut ourselves off from the "fruit" that is right in front of us but we can't see, not because we aren't physically capable or don't want to, but simply because we cannot see it from where we are standing—mentally or physically. Do you have the courage to walk down a different road and see something new? Or will you keep walking up and down the same old row and limit yourself to what you are convinced is all there is to see? While you are answering those questions, I will be reading the book I just got in the mail.

A Spirit of Fear

If you are like me, you know 2 Timothy 1:7 by heart: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (NKJV). I use this verse often when I coach people to find purpose or to be creative, and I have felt free to use this truth in many other areas of life and ministry, including my own. Therefore I was surprised this week when I looked at this verse in the context where it is found, and discovered that I should not be as free to use this verse as I have been, for it seems to be  specific and focused in one and not all areas of life.

In the verse before seven, Paul wrote these words: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God FanIntoFlamePicwhich is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV). Paul was urging Timothy to recognize the gift he had and instructed him to fan the gift into flames. When our homes had a fireplace, I would often have to employ this tactic. If I could get a small flame going, I would gently blow on it, giving it more oxygen so that it would spread. That is what Paul was telling Timothy to do: Take the smallest spark of his gift and do what he had to do to make it burn hotter and brighter.

So the context for not having a spirit of fear is not applied to all areas of life, but to the expression of our purpose and gifts. Paul would not tell us not to be afraid where our gift is concerned unless it was a common tendency for it to happen. We shrink back in fear when we have a chance to express who we are instead of taking every opportunity to do so and to learn how to do it more effectively.

Where are you afraid to express your gift? In fact, do you know what your gift is? Have others laid hands on you to confirm or release the gift? What can you do to fan it into flames, giving it the oxygen it needs to flourish and prosper. I have been on a search and destroy mission the last few years of my life to find and eradicate fear, and it's been a large task. I suspect this will continue for the rest of my life.

What are you doing to confront and neutralize the fear where your gift is concerned? I encourage you to read these verses and the others in 2 Timothy 1 and do what Paul was advising Timothy to do, which was to stop hiding behind his fears but to step out into the light of self-expression, which is the only way to honor God for making you who He made you to be.

Personal Direction for 2016

It occurred to me that I updated my Facebook readers of my publishing plans for 2016, but did not post an update on my blog, so here goes. First of all, Happy New Year! I trust the year has gotten off to a good start for you and that you are pursuing purpose and fruitfulness in these first days. I am starting the year off with a personal fast to set my course for the year, and to seek the Lord's guidance on many issues.

As you may know, I began a publishing company last year called Urban Press. Business is good, and right now I am in the final edits of four manuscripts that Urban Press will publish. That''s about 650 pages of writing that I am juggling between the four works, and it's been both a challenge and a privilege to help shape the four narratives of the four authors.

I began teaching again for a new semester last week, and this semester I will teach History of Leadership, Leadership and Strategy, and the Pentateuch, as well as oversee two final projects for two separate Master's-level leadership classes. On February 25, I will be part of a team returning to Kenya to reconnect with our work there.

I decided to stop two things as 2016 began and one of them was my daily devotional that I have written every day for the last seven years (the other was a Saturday morning radio show here locally). The good news is that each one of those days can be found on my personal blog, if you still want to access something to stimulate your daily Bible study. Simply go to my site, look down the right side, and you will see a link for each year's devotional - Daily Dose, Leadership Walk, Life Matters, What Would Jesus Ask?, and Purpose Pearls. Those represent about 1,800 daily devotional entries, so I am sure you can find something there you like.

In a few weeks, I am going to experiment with a new devotional format, and that will be video. I hope to launch a daily video devotional, but I have to figure out the logistics and how exactly I will do that. I assume I will post the link on this site where you can watch. My thought right now is to go back and do What Would Jesus Ask You Today? in this first video series. All that is subject to change as I seek the Lord.

Of course, you can access all my material in book form by purchasing any devotional from Amazon. All my books are in Kindle and paper format, so you can carry one with you in your briefcase or in your e-reader. I am working on three personal projects right now: a 20th-anniversary revision of Life is a Gold Mine: Can You Dig It?; Unlocking the Power of Your Productivity; and Your Life Matters: Daily Reflections from the Book of Psalms. Those projects are part of the reason I stopped publishing a daily devotional this year, for I am starting each day by working on my own material before I move on to teaching or editing other people's works.

Thank you for bearing with me in this transitional period. It will take some time for me to find a new work rhythm, but I am confident it will come with God's help and direction. My eyes are fixed on him as we start a new year, and I know He will lead and guide. If you have any thoughts, questions, or impressions of the direction I should take, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. Thanks for your support, and please also let me know if I can help you in your own quest for a purposeful life.

W51D5 - Personal Development

"Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands or war, my fingers for battle" - Psalm 144:1.

David was a leader in Israel who began his career as a warrior, taking down the giant dGoliath. Then he led troops in battle, which brought him fame and King Saul's jealousy. Because of that, David led a band of misfits as Saul pursued him to kill him. Then David became king of the tribe of Judah, and eventually all Israel. David recognized it was God Himself who trained him first as a warrior in preparation to be king. That led David to praise the Lord his Rock. Leaders must develop themselves for whatever role God wants them to play, but they must recognize that God directs their development program. This realization should lead them to worship the Lord as the source of their development and ability to lead.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today's Step is to define your area of expertise as a leader. For David, it was for war; what is for you? Is it technical expertise? People skills? Finance? Cross-cultural work? Training? Communication? Once you identify those area(s), then you must pray and ask God for His help and grace. Also ask Him to show you what you can do and where you can go to become the best 'you' that you can be. Don't leave your development to chance and don't wait until you get there to get ready. Get ready now, but remember to worship Him along the way.

W46D5 - Personal Development

"And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 'This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other'" - Zechariah 7:8-10.

Personal development involves spiritual growth and development. In the verses above, the Lord spoke to His people through the prophet and outlined His plan for their development. That plan included: 1) dispensing true justice; 2) showing mercy to others; 3) being moved by compassion; 4) helping the helpless; 5) empowering the powerless; and 6) avoiding plots and plans harmful to others. Leaders should adopt this outline as a list of personal values they can pursue and express that will make their leadership more gentle, kind, and sensitive to the needs of other people, especially the poor and downtrodden..

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to lay out a leadership and personal development plan that includes the points mentioned in today's verses. For today, focus on one of the six points in this devotional and think of ways you can develop that particular area or practice. For example, if you choose point six, consider how painful it is to 'hatch' plans that affect people's lives without their input—and then determine to be more inclusive in your planning and subsequent communication with others.

W41D5 - Personal Development

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well" - Psalm 139:14.

This verse does not just pertain to one's physical being - anatomy, life systems, organs and skeleton. It describes a human's personality, intellectual and emotional makeup as well. Some people try to change how they look and act because they are convinced that there are serious flaws in both. There may be, but they may also be exactly as God intended them to be. What God is mostly concerned with renewing or changing is one's thinking, which will transform those areas that do need changed while enhancing and maximizing the characteristics that are an important part of each individual's God-designed personality and physical appearance.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to read Romans 12:1-2 and remind yourself that your main focus for leadership and personal development is your thinking. If you can change your thinking, you can change your behaviors in any area, and bring about personal transformation that will enhance your leadership effectiveness. Where is your thinking most deficient and holding you back? Where finances are concerned? Public speaking? Learning new skills?

W36D5 - Personal Development

"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well" - 3 John 2.

The writer was not just concerned with the reader's spiritual well-being, but also the reader's physical health. Leaders often encounter stressful situations requiring many hours of attention and labor. It is easy to allow physical health to deteriorate under those conditions, but leaders need all the energy and stamina they can muster to produce and maintain excellence on the job. This necessitates exercise, having regular medical checkups, eating properly and well, getting enough rest, doing fun things, and maintaining healthy relationships. And one thing a leader must especially watch and maintain is an ideal weight for his or her age and body frame.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Don't allow the pressures of and time invested in leadership to destroy your health. Your Step today is to assess your physical condition and health habits. Is your current weight what you desire or do you need to go on a diet and lose some pounds? Are you eating the right foods for you? What about your exercise program? Are you taking time to stay in shape? Do you have a hobby that allows you to step away from work and do something you enjoy?

W31D5 - Personal Development

"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them" - Joshua 1:6.

Since leaders take people to places and help them do things they could not go without them, those leaders must prepare themselves for the difficulties of the journey. According to today's verse, the first qualification or characteristic is strength, which includes mental, physical, and emotional. The strength must be for a purpose, which of course is to reach the destination or achieve the goal many thought impossible. The second is courage. Leaders cannot faint along the way, but must face the intimidating unknown with resolve and wisdom, for sometimes those leaders need the courage to change course or admit mistakes.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to consider strength and courage and how they factor into your leadership effectiveness. Start with strength. Do you have the strength to say no to distractions, and to persevere in the midst of difficulties? Where else do you need to have strength? Then go on to courage. Can you reflect on personal examples when you exhibited courage? Where might your courage be lacking now and what may it be costing your organization or your personal development? What can you do to bolster your courage to act—or not act when that is the need?