The Uncommon Cold

I was speaking with a woman in Johannesburg the other day and at the end of our conversation she sneezed. It was only then that I realized that she had a cold. She had what I call a dignified cold. I was sitting across from her and I was manifesting what I call an undignified cold.

I have never had a dignified cold. When I get a cold, it is a always a messy, traumatic experience. Everyone within earshot hears me and thinks, "It sounds like that man either has a cold or the plague. In either case, I had better stay away from him." I have tried everything I know to do to stop a cold, but to no avail. I've consumed massive quantities of vitamin C, taken nose drops, and sat in a hot tub until the sweat poured. If I take any medication that stops my uncontrollable drainage, my cold only reappears 10 days later to resume its southbound flow.

Of course, this can be embarassing, for when I least expect it, fluid won't just come from my nose; it will literally fall from my nose. I almost have to go around wearing a handkerchief, let alone carry one. And the morning coughing! The other morning when I awakened, I began my morning cough routine. How bad was it?

People in the hotel across the street from the one I was staying in called over to ask if we could keep the noise down. The police came hearing the noise, thinking that there was unauthorized construction going on inside the building. The people in the room next to me called the front desk to complain that I must have a large dog in the room and they thought that no pets were allowed. The front desk finally called and kindly asked me to do what I was doing poolside. The pool must have been low and needed filled.

Then there's the experience of flying when I have a cold. That makes it even more of an experience. The air pressure in the cabin serves to gather all the congestion in my head into one big ball, about the size of my brain. I know it's this big, because it clogs both my ears at the same time. When I first get off a plane in this condition, I see people's lips moving, but I have no idea what they are saying. And I can hear my own voice inside my head and it sounds like I'm screaming. Yet everyone asks me to repeat what I just said, so I must be whispering externally and shouting internally.

I can never remember how the old adage goes, whether you should "feed a cold and starve a fever" or "starve a cold and feed a fever." So I try to starve and feed my cold at the same time. But as I said, nothing ever works. I've just learned to go on about my business, but to cover my desk and workplace with plastic to protect those items that aren't waterproof.

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My Times

I have not been able to post anything the last few days from Harare. It is the rainy season and we've had some bad storms, knocking out power. Then there have been problems with the email services and I came down with a cold last week, draining my energy. (It's no fun being sick on the road.)

I have been meditating on one verse the last few weeks: "My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love" (Psalm 31:15-16). A few weeks ago, I was the in the backseat of a car heading to Louisiana. The driver looked down for his cell phone and just that quickly the car moved onto the shoulder of the road while we were traveling at 75 miles per hour. For just a split second, he struggled to regain control, which he did, and we proceeded to our destination.

Then just yesterday, I was driving to the airport to catch my flight for Johannesburg. Suddenly a young man ran out of nowhere and tried to break into my car. I was able to escape, but not before he broke out the back window. I was safe, my "stuff" was intact, and the window can easily be replaced.

I am aware of these two instances where the Lord protected and "saved" me and I am thankful. But how many other things has He "saved" me from that I am not even aware of? I would think there have been plenty. So I have been thanking God not only for His protection that I know of but also for His protection, the occasions of which are known only to Him.

These events haven't put fear in my heart, but they have certainly given me perspective. My mother is 89 years of age, and I hope I live to be that old! But tomorrow may be my last day. I want to continue to make the most of the opportunities I have to be effective and productive, but all the while I want to have a proper perspective: "My times are in His hands." What a good place for them to be!

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Back To Civilization

I arrived in Zimbabwe last week and almost immediately went off to a resort in an area near Nyanga, about three hours outside of Harare, the capital city. The drive is beautiful, eventually taking you through and to an area of magnificent rock formations. When I see those formations, with some large rocks precariously perched on top of others, I know that the flood in Noah's time must have put them there. Of course, I am sure many scientists and geologists would disagree with me! There wasn't a lot of traffic because there isn't much fuel in the country due to the economic crisis.

I met with the leadership team of Hear the Word Ministries for two days after we arrived in an area called Juliasdale. We started our mornings at 6:30 am and ended them with dinner around 9 pm on both days! The only break during the day was for lunch. That may sound like a grueling schedule, but I have to admit that I enjoy meetings like that--especially if we are getting something accomplished. And we did make a lot of progress, discussing issues like vision, mission, and structure for the Ministry that now employs 200 people.

(It was an interesting sidenote that we did not have any cell phone coverage or access to email for the time we were away. I have to admit that it was a nice break.)

Hear the Word Ministries, under the leadership of Pastors Tom and Bonnie Deuschle, is a dynamic organization that is involved in church planting, education, business training, music production and much more. There aren't many other organizations like it in the world that I know of. I come here often because there are so many interesting projects to work on, and because I love the people of Zimbabwe.

Pastors Tom and Bonnie give me a "shopping list" when I come and I go to work. My main emphasis is identifying new talent for the multifaceted work they are doing and providing Pastors Tom and Bonnie with another set of eyes and ears, giving them feedback on what I see and some suggestions of how to do what they are doing more effectively.

I will always be grateful to Pastors Tom and Bonnie for the faith they have had in me and the purpose message. I know that I am difficult to work with at times. I am direct, sarcastic, and aggressive, and my humor, which I use to stay focused, engaged and to defuse tension, can be a bit much. But they have looked past my weaknesses to try and mine the "gold" that may be there in my experience and purpose. And they almost always try to focus my time on my strengths, which I would like to think are as pronounced as my weaknesses. So now I am here to work for two more weeks before I am off to London and then home to the States in time for Christmas. I'll keep you updated on my work here and will give you more information on Hear the Word in the coming weeks.

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The Joys of Travel?

I get a lot of comments from people who express their own desire to travel as I do. It is a well-documented fact that I love to travel, and many people have told me I should write about my travel experiences. Indeed there are many exciting, funny and not-so-funny stories I could share--like the time I dropped a briefcase on someone's head (that was actually funny, but not for him). Then there was the time the rental car shuttle bus shut the door on my head, bending my glasses and giving me two black crease marks down either side of my face.

Last night, I came up to London from Nairobi on a KLM (Royal Dutch Airline). You haven't lived until you've spent a night on a plane (last year I spent 22 nights flying to and fro). I have learned to sleep on a plane and often get off one of those red-eye flights and go to work. Last night's flight had its share of unglamorous and frustrating aspects.

First was the packing. My dear friend, Kentice Tikolo (a women), picked me up at my hotel to take me to the airport. At that point, she gave me some things to take home so I had to repack my bags in front of the hotel on the sidewalk. I knew my bags were too heavy then and, when we got to the airport, my fears were confirmed. KLM then decided to charge me $180 for excess weight! This happens to me often, especially in Kenya, and I fight it every time, appealing to anyone who will listen that this is unfair and arbitrary (I actually left with less weight than I had coming in and they had charged me nothing for my heavier bags when I originated in London).

After I paid my fine, I then requested an exit row seat so I could have more leg room. The agent proceeded to give me what is called an exit row, but is really the second row in the middle, next to the real exit rows. I argued with her that this wasn't what I wanted, but she insisted that this was the only exit row she had avaiable. I again appealed and she finally said, "We have the row in front of that but we save it for the babies." I said, "I'm acting like a baby, so I'll take that one." Her supervisor approved so I won that battle.

Then I got through passport control and ran into a friend from Pittsburgh whom I had not seen in at least 25 years--I would never have recognized him but he did me. Then as I was going to change money and buy some coffee, I walked past my gate and they told me I had to be through security 90 minutes before the flight left. I had never heard of such a procedure so I had to run to do what I needed to do. Now I am sweating hard as I enter my gate.

I fell asleep as the plane took off and missed the food that was served. I found this out as the attendant dropped at my feet an entire tray of uneaten food that he was collecting. When I asked for some (not what he had dropped; I wanted my own tray), I was informed that I had slept through the meal time and was out of luck.

We landed in Amsterdam and I caught a flight to London. We landed 20 minutes early and then had to wait 35 minutes for an available gate. When I disembarked I waited 30 minutes to clear passport control. When I got to the baggage hall, I found out that there were not luggage carts and I have to drag my two bags plus two briefcases out to meet my ride. Now I am in a heavy sweat for the second time on the trip and I am hoping the person picking me up has a sinus problem so he won't smell me.

My ride is there, thank God, for there have been times I've waited hours for my pickup. We then proceed to go over to the hotel, more than one hour away. I grabbed an hour's sleep and then went off to a church leadership planning session. We had a good session, although it was my first time working with the team leader and it took us a while to get our rhythm as we planned and talked. The meeting turned out to be a productive one. But then I was rewarded for my effort and pain.

The team I was with surprised me and took me into London's theater district where we saw Rob Lowe starring in the stage adaptation of the movie A Few Good Men, which had featured Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. I love live theater and the play was great! We rode a crowded subway to the theater, enjoyed one another's company, had drinks together at intermission (non-alcoholic in case you were wondering) and then got back to the hotel at 11 pm. All in all, it was a typical day of life on the road--frustrating, angering, challenging, exhilarating and rewarding.

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Out of Africa

I am packing and getting ready to leave Kenya later tonight. I had a hard time deciding if I should invest the time to come here with the five days I had between my time in London. But after all is said and done, I'm glad I came.

In the last four days, I had one-on-one purpose assessments with 15 people, had a purpose seminar this afternoon for 25 businessmen and leaders, spoke at the Daystar University student chapel service to 400 students, and had five meetings that could possibly lead to some significant opportunities during future visits, the earliest of which could be in February.

There is something special about the purpose message and Kenyans. They respond to the message so enthusiastically and they "get" it and the implications for their lives. I love Kenya, its people and my work here.

During my seminar today, I "ran into" two friends from my hometown of Pittsburgh. They were here doing some missions work and we all agreed: You must come here to experience the openness of the people. It's almost impossible to describe.

If you would like to come with me on a future trip to Africa, write and let me know. Stop talking about your dream and take steps to make it happen! And if you've been already, is it time to come back?

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Anyone who reads my material knows that I love to travel. I don't like travel, I don't enjoy travel, and love is probably not strong enough to explain how I feel when I get in a plane, train, or car to go somewhere. I have logged three million miles since 1989 and I still get a rush when I plan and take a trip.

Marcus Buckingham wrote a book entitled The One Thing You Need to Know. In that book and in his presentations, he asks a question to help the listeners focus on what they do best. The question is: Describe your best day at work in the last three months and what made it the best? When I recently led a seminar, I included it for my audience and then I answered it along with them. My best day in the last three months was the day I traveled to Vancouver, Canada and taught that night on purpose. My best days are when I'm traveling and teaching.

What contitutes your best days at work? Do you know? How can you have more of these best days? Let me hear from you on this, but excuse me if I don't always read it the day you write it. I may be on a plane going somewhere.

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Staying Home or Life on the Road?

Yesterday I got on a plane and came down to Mobile, Alabama, where my family and I lived for 14 years. I was excited about coming, since it had been more than four years since my last visit. But then again, I get excited about going anywhere. I have logged 3 million miles since 1989 and I still get a rush when I go to an airport and get on a plane.

Five years ago, I had to make a decision. I wasn't happy being on staff at a local church. I felt stifled and every time I traveled, it created tension with my home leadership. But I watched our leadership travel and then come home and try to manage activity at home. Quite frankly, that didn't work for anyone.

I see a trend in the church where leaders want to be local leaders and national and international speakers. This makes them, as they like to use the term, apostles and bishops. In my opinion, this doesn't work. It takes tremendous organizational abilities to maintain a heavy travel schedule. And most of what is called "apostolic" is really speaking at special meetings at conferences, hardly a place where a lot of church development takes place. And isn't the historical position of the Church that a bishop doesn't pastor a local church but rather gives oversight and direction to a group of churches full-time?

I understand why some men travel and pastor locally--they need the regular income that the local church provides. But is the church being served well when a leader does this? The Apostle Paul didn't do this. He traveled, established new churches, and then left the church to be led and managed by a local team, continuing to give oversight to those he had started If leaders today want to be apostles and bishops, shouldn't they do the same thing? (You can read about Paul's apostolic pressures at 2 Corinthians 11:21-33.)

I am not against any pastor or leader traveling to speak or consult in other church settings. But I think we need to revisit the practice of trying to do both on a full-time basis. As for me, I loved the travel and work on the road so much, I gave up the security of a check from a local church. I invite other leaders to face these same realities and give their full attention to either their travels or their local responsibilities.

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