The Key to Destiny


   Alex couldn’t stand the sight of it—one more baby, another young mother—at the mall, at the grocery store, in the park where she sometimes wandered, imagining her child on that little slide. Everywhere she went, babies in strollers in the neighborhood, in car seats at the gas station, in the nursery at church. Alex wanted a child—she’d shared how much—but for her, it was not to be. She and her husband had tried, almost from their wedding day, but still, no baby. There was only cruel disappointment as months turned into years and a decade passed.

   But one day, that all changed—but not for any reason Alex could ever have foreseen. It happened when she learned about the Biblical law of “sowing and reaping”: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). Essentially, this means that we harvest what we plant. This is a foundational truth in both the physical and spiritual realms, also known as the “Principle of Return” or the “Principle of Reciprocity” (derived from the word “receiving”). In short, how we implement this law will determine whether we succeed or fail in the pursuit of our dreams and destinies.

As Biblical laws go, “sowing and reaping” is huge.

   However, most people are not aware of the scope of its effect; many understand that this truth impacts finances—monetary giving results in a financial return—but many don’t realize it also influences all other areas in life. Yes—all. Here’s why:

   Principle #1: You reap because you sow. Every farmer knows that in order to produce a crop, he must first plant seed. If he chooses not to plant seed, he won’t reap a harvest. Period. There is, after all, nothing there to grow and multiply. And while we might think that fact would be a no-brainer, many is the person who plants no seed in some area and yet expects a harvest in that area. Take finances for example: a person might be fervently petitioning God for provision, yet gives no money in donations or offerings; in essence, he plants no seed. That would be one reason for no harvest.

   Principle #2: You reap what you sow. Every farmer also knows that if you want carrots, you plant carrot seeds. You don’t plant watermelon seeds or bean seeds or a coconut. If you need money, you give money—and you give it first. We do not reap before we plant. That’s all. Moreover—and this is crucial—this principle applies to anything we sow: if we sow anger (or kindness), we will reap anger (or kindness) from others. If we sow division (or unity), we will reap division (or unity) among groups. If we sow unhealthy habits, we will reap illness, disease and even death. If we sow healthy habits, we will sow health—mental, emotional and physical. The problem is that many people sow bad seed, but still expect a good harvest and are totally dumbfounded when they reap disaster.

   Principle #3: You reap more than you sow. Farmers also know that seed is multiplied after it is sown. For example, one apple seed produces an entire apple tree, itself bearing hundreds of apples, each apple producing multiple seeds. The same is true in the spiritual realm: Whatever we sow, we will reap as a multiplied harvest. That’s great if we’ve planted good seed, but if we’ve sown bad seed, then we will reap pain, loss, disaster and regret—lots of it. Furthermore, if we don’t plant anything, we’ll reap nothing but drought. In other words, say we sow neglect in a relationship, chances are good that we won’t just reap reciprocal neglect; we may well reap a loss of the relationship. Still, some people think they can “get away” with sowing bad behavior because they don’t see a bad return on their bad seed. Yet.

   Principle #4: You reap later than you sow. Seeds take time to grow and crops take time to manifest. That’s why we have “seasons”; there is planting time and harvest time. We don’t harvest in the spring, meaning we don’t harvest immediately after we plant. The same is true in the spiritual realm; harvests take time. But—and this is key—a crop will appear. We will reap the consequences of our actions. Moreover, just as some seeds take longer than others to produce—beans sprout in weeks; oaks take decades—some actions take longer to manifest consequences than others. Lesson? Just because a harvest doesn’t happen immediately, doesn’t mean it’s not coming. This is good news for folks awaiting a good harvest produced from good seed. It’s not particularly good news for those who’ve sown wrong seed.

   So what of Alex? After she grasped the law of sowing and reaping, she decided to host a baby shower for every pregnant woman in her church—no lie. In short, she sowed the kind of seed she wanted to produce. Within a period of time, she became pregnant and had a child and I believe she now has two children. She sowed seed into the lives of others of the kind she wanted to reproduce, and she was blessed with a “harvest” of that seed.

If you take nothing else away from this principle, understand this: If you sow no seed, you will not—you cannot—reap any harvest. A crop cannot grow where it has not been planted.

   Need money? Give money. Want to get married? Bless others in their marriages. Want to see loved ones saved? Pray for others’ loved ones. Want success in business or school? Help others to succeed in theirs. It’s not difficult.

It is your key to destiny.







That Mysterious Highway to Destiny

Highway with Moon II

   Late one last-summer night, I was driving south on Interstate 81 after dropping son #2 off at college. The road before me was dark, but the brights were on, and I was wide awake. Still, I never saw what hit me. But whatever it was slammed my front bumper so hard it cracked the grill and shut down the hybrid’s electrical system. I coasted to the side of the road, certain of only one thing: I had never taken my eyes off the highway, even for one second, and I still never saw anything in the road—no deer, no furry little critter—nothing.

   The road was empty.

   The road to fulfilling our purpose in life is much like a long highway trip—peppered with potholes, detours, speed traps, slippery bridges, traffic jams, fog, and even crashes. And often we don’t see them coming. That’s the bad news. However, much of our lifelong journey is also filled with breath-taking scenery, divinely-appointed encounters, adventurous explorations, iconic diner stops and, if we’re lucky, a whole car/van/truckload full of beloved backseat drivers along for the ride. “Are we there yet?” isn’t so annoying when you realize it means you actually have a destination.

   And we do have a destination: our destiny. The problem is that the road to achieving it is not going to be all starlight and moonbeams—but we expect it to be. We know bad stuff happens to people—but not to us. We know fulfilling our dreams and visions won’t come easily—except to us. We know that failure is always a possibility—except that, deep down, what we really believe is that failure only happens to the weak, the lazy or the “bad” people of the world. And we’re none of those.

The point? Our expectations set us up to believe that nothing can stand in the way of achieving our dreams if we just obey the speed limit and drive.

So when things do pop up in the middle of the road and we bust an axel on the Cinderella coach of life, we flip. “How could that have happened to me?? I pay my tithe/work hard/rescue little kitties from mean people! It’s so unfair!”

   Can I just make a suggestion? It ain’t like that.

   Will we always have a full gas tank, smooth highways, and an accurate GPS? Absolutely not. On a long highway trip, we map out the route before us. We program the GPS, anticipate the gas station stops, and reserve the hotel rooms. However, the GPS isn’t always up-to-date, the gas station is farther away than we calculated, and the hotel we booked is overpriced—especially considering the cold showers, slooooow room service, and thin walls.

   So what do we do? How do we accomplish our destinies when the unexpected leaps out of the darkness and smashes our windshield? What happens when our expectations of life, love, and liberty are stalled, roadblocked or even T-boned? We have two choices: We can either abandon our destiny and climb back onto the hopeless hamster wheel of life or… Option #2: Get a new battery, find another route or, after any necessary rest and recovery, start all over again. We may need a brand new vehicle—a new means of “getting there,” of fulfilling our dreams and destinies, but we’ll find a way to get one.

   Is it fair when we’re the one life chooses to dump down the rabbit hole? Probably not—although it helps to know that we all have to crawl out of some dark sinkhole, sometime, somewhere. A bankruptcy, an illness, a relationship irretrievably broken—all dark pits, no question. However, like deep ruts in a broken road, those pits aren’t bottomless.

   Is it frustrating to spend 22.5 hours on a trip that should have taken six? Of course. But how often do we find out later that that traffic gridlock kept us from participating in a pile-up further down the road—one that would have kept us from ever reaching our destination? A layoff that launched us (albeit kicking and screaming) into a far better job—just before our old company went belly-up. Or an illness that revealed a deadly disease while it was still treatable. All delays along unpaved and pitted roads. Sometimes we have to fight our way back to the highway despite the dents, busted rims, and/or the rusted undercarriage—but we keep driving.

   Will it be hard? Absolutely. If you’ve ever had to push a car out of a ditch, it can seem impossible. But you probably didn’t do it alone—you got help: a group-push or a tow—and together you accomplished what you couldn’t do by yourself.

   Have you ever had to (heaven forbid) stop and ask for directions? There are times in life when the road to our destiny is foggy or we’ve been detoured and don’t know how to get back on track or, horror of horrors! the GPS  has “lost satellite reception”. Sometimes we simply need to humble ourselves and be willing to ask for guidance or counsel. And not from Siri or Alexa.

   Have you ever had to back completely up and re-learn how to do something you thought you could ace? We all have. A return to school or training or practice? Writers get it: learn and revise then do it again. And again. And…

   So fun.

   Or… you might be having one of those days when the car won’t even start and you don’t know why. Sometimes our dreams and destinies do the same; they stall and we don’t have a clue. Then what? Well, for our cars, it’s a trip to the mechanic for a hook-up to the diagnostic machine. Sometimes for us, it’s a trip back to the drawing board to diagnose what’s gone wrong.

   Destiny-chasing is not easy; don’t expect it to be. Just the same way we invest in car insurance—and not because it’s mandatory but because we know sometime we’re going to need it—we need to expect that things on the destiny highway are not always going to go smoothly. There will be bumps in the road and we need, as best we can, to plan for them.

   Business is slow? Budget for marketing from the start. Trouble meeting deadlines? Hire help, get an intern or consider an accountability partner. Potential lawsuit by one of “those” customers? Get liability insurance. Cash flow problems? Arrange for a line of credit. Inventory shortage? Partner with multiple suppliers. You get the idea—plan to stay ahead of problems.

   On the highway to your destiny, may the lights always be green, may the traffic always be light, and may your adventure change the lives of everyone you meet.


The “Calling”…

Butterflies ITHE “CALLING”…

   Fact or Fiction: Monarch butterflies flutter a thousand miles every year to escape below-freezing winter temperatures in Canada and the northern United States.

   That’s fiction. They travel two thousand miles.

   Monarchs fly about fifty miles per day for two weeks until thousands gather at butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico. And why do they do it? They don’t know; they’re just driven to do it.

   Why do you pursue that dream you do? Why do you put up with the frustration, long hours, exhaustion, self-doubts, fears, rejection, and sometimes, failure—only to start all over again—and again and again?

   Because you’re “called”.

A calling is that destiny you’re wired to pursue, that desire to accomplish something you can’t get away from, you can’t run from, and you can’t quit.

   You might try, but you always go back—to writing that book, pastoring that church, working that business, chasing that degree—day in, day out, month after month, year after year, until you either get it right or die trying.

   That is a calling.

   Jesus had a calling. He was born to die. He knew it, and he couldn’t escape it. Oh, he could have, at any given moment, cashed in his chips and gone home. He could have gone back to his carpentry shop, gotten married, and had kidlets—don’t think he couldn’t have. But he really couldn’t have. He was driven to do what his Father had called him to do: to sacrifice himself for the sin of mankind. And he knew where that would happen too. The Bible tells us that Jesus traveled through towns and villages, healing people and doing ministry, but “always pressing on to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). Jesus knew he would be killed in Jerusalem just as all the other prophets had been, but like the butterflies driven to endure the exhausting journey to Mexico, he was compelled to get to Jerusalem. That burden haunted him, despite knowing he would die an excruciating death, hanging naked and despised, on a bloody and splintered cross. Nevertheless, he said, “’I am under a heavy burden until it [his death] is accomplished’” (Luke 12:50, LB). And what were Jesus’ very last words before he died?

   “’It is finished.’”

   If you’re feeling the pressure to quit something that’s not quite working out, sometimes a failure to succeed might be an indicator that you’re not called to that thing. But if that’s the case, you should be able to let it go. Sure, there might be some mourning for the death of something you’d put your heart into for so long, but if you’re not called to that job or ministry or activity, the grief should pass. However, if the drive and passion to do that thing simply won’t leave you, if you know, deep down in your soul that it would be wrong to let that thing go, then that’s an indicator, too: you really are called to that destiny.

   I remember my last writers’ conference. I was halfway through a three-book thriller series; I’d finished the first book, tweaked it, polished it, and perfected my pitch. I had paid for my registration, scheduled my appointments with agents and editors, and packed my bags. Then I hit the road. I was absolutely certain that finally my big break would come!  

   So I met with agents and publishers—and several asked to see my book (or pieces/parts—you know how they are) so I went home and did the due-diligence proposals. Everything was going as planned and pretty soon I would be hearing back from folks asking for more…


   I heard virtually nothing except from one agent who did give me some (rather confusing) feedback. So I quit. It was clear that I had no business daring to presume I could get published—ever. Wasting any more time under the delusion that I could be a writer would just be stupid; I needed to face the fact that I simply didn’t have what it takes and move on. Moreover, I wasn’t just hosting a temper tantrum, either; I really believed it. So I didn’t write for six months. I read a lot but I was done with writing. Instead, I cried. And I ranted some, particularly that Jane Austin could use telling “ly” words and still get published or that Taylor Caldwell could “head-hop” three times on the same page and get away with it.

   It was all so unfair!

   Still, with each passing day, I began to feel the lure of my long-neglected pen. Eventually, I ventured to write some short pieces—but just for fun, mind you. However, when those showed some promise, I began to think that perhaps, just maybe, I could play around with a couple of other book ideas; maybe it was just that one particular book I’d have to let go. Still, the whole time I was whipping up new characters and trying on new plotlines, I knew, deep in my heart, that I had to go back to the first book and try again.

   It was that book I couldn’t get away from, no matter how often I put it down “for good”.

   So, with much trepidation and just a little hope, I’ve resurrected the manuscript from its dark cocoon and begun to chop, revise, and rewrite until what’s emerging from the chrysalis is a very different creation than that which had dared to call itself a novel before.

   I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but I’ve come to realize that I have to finish that book. At times, it feels like I’m hiking uphill fifty miles a day but still, I know one thing: I’d rather do what I’m called to do and fail than to look back from my deathbed and wish I’d given it one more shot. Or one more after that.

   Like a butterfly tempted to thwart its advance to Mexico and camp in Milwaukee or Topeka or Santa Fe, the lure to abandon our assignments and settle can be overwhelming at times. But we can’t; we have to see our callings to their destinations. That’s Destiny—like the butterfly has.

   Like you have…







“Promotional Anxiety Disorder”—It’s Really A Thing.

Promotional Woman II - FREE


   Have you ever heard of Eve’s Garden Café? No? No one else has, either. That’s because Eve never promoted it.

   Would you rather have your fingernails pulled out with pliers than have to promote your business or book or “brand”? You’re not alone; many people who love their businesses still hate promoting them. And it’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable doing that. However, as any successful businessperson, agent or publisher will tell you, promoting your biz is not just a “nice” idea, it’s the difference between success and failure.

   Now for the good news: promotions don’t have to be scary. Rather, it can be fun to promote your business or your brand (and even if you’re job seeking, you have a brand: you). Just recognize two things: the fears surrounding promotions and the ways to overcome those fears.

   Fear #1: “I don’t have what it takes.” Let’s face it, not everyone has a “salesman” personality, meaning not everyone naturally feels comfortable pitching their product or service to others. The fact is, when we think of a successful salesperson, we sometimes make two wrong assumptions. First, we assume a person has to be obnoxious in order to succeed in sales, and second, we think that a person is either born a salesman or not. But both are myths. Still, we think these things are true so we fear even trying. After all, we’ll fail. And then we’ll look stupid. Or we’ll tick people off because we’re too pushy. And we’ll look stupid some more. And then we’ll hurt our business because who wants to do business with stupid? Right?


Being pushy is only one way of selling something; it’s not the only way, and it’s not the most effective way.

   Fear #2: Fear of failure. Let’s be clear: If you’re passionate about your business (and who’s not?), then you’re halfway to being a good promoter. The other half is simply telling people what’s great about your business (or book or brand). Tell lots of people—and then leave it alone. You don’t have to be aggressive or arm-wrestle them into buying your product/service or signing your book or hiring you; just hand them a business card, offer to answer any questions they may have, and smile. That’s all. They’re adults, if they want to do business with you, they will. But here’s the key: the more people you tell, the more customers you’ll get. It’s like planting seeds; who goes out to plant a garden and plants only one seed? (If you do, no offense, but that’s why you don’t have a garden.)

   Will you convert every conversation into a sale? No. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed—no one turns 100% of their pitches into sales. If they tell you otherwise, they’re lying. Just begin your conversations with a simple, “May I tell you about my product or service?” If you’re required to present your pitch in writing, make certain it’s the best proposal, query, or resume you can. And if you don’t know how to write one, find someone who does and learn.

   Fear #3: Spending money. As the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” A portion of your budget should be allocated to advertising and promotions. However, if your budget doesn’t allow you to invest much, there are a few inexpensive things you can—and must—have. First, get a logo for your business. A logo is simply a uniform presentation of your business name and can be as simple as finding a computer font and color you like and typing your name. “Coke,” for example, is just one word, but it always  looks the same; that’s a logo.

   A logo can be more elaborate with pics, etc. but it doesn’t have to be, and you can DIY or hire someone. Regardless, your logo should be on all your promotional materials because it helps customers to visualize and remember your biz name.

   The same is true of a business card—you must have a nice business card. They’re not expensive; you can get 500 or so for $10-$30 on sites like or I designed and got my own four-color, glossy cards for around $35 (and having the company design your card doesn’t cost much more). These companies also offer brochures, signage, banners and any other print thing you might need. However, whatever you can design on a computer, like letterhead with your logo, do yourself.

   A website is also a must-have but here’s a tip: you don’t need an actual “website” for a stunning-looking site with multiple pages, pictures, social media links, etc. All you have to do is to choose a free (yes, free) “blog” site from somewhere like WordPress. You can pick from hundreds of styles and then choose options to make the site your own. Just pay for your domain name from somewhere like for $10 a year!! (If you don’t want to pay for a domain name, you can get a free one from WordPress but it’ll have “wordpress” in the name and I don’t recommend that.)  I pay $18 a year for my domain name and not one penny for this WordPress blog site you’re reading.

   Now, for the disclaimer: If you want lots of other things on your site that involve code, you may have to go with a web designer to put it all together. That will cost up to quite a bit more so do your research first. The point is you may not need to do all that.

   NOTE: When choosing a business name, ALWAYS check to see if your business name domain has been taken!! DO NOT PRINT ANYTHING UNTIL YOU DO!! Just type in to see if it’s available. (And try to get “.com” because that’s what people are used to typing in.)

   Social media is another must-have and accounts are free! While you may not be on all social media, begin with the major players: if nothing else, a Facebook business page should be a priority and then Twitter if you want to push special promotions on your FB page. If your biz includes products or services that will benefit from pictures, have an Instagram account.

   And did I mention that it’s all free?

   Industry trade shows are another great way to reach customers actually searching for the products and services you offer. Just buy space at these shows and you’ll meet these potential customers in person. Trade shows include bridal fairs, home and garden shows, health and wellness fairs, and car shows as well as lots of others. Granted, these can cost hundreds of dollars for exhibit space but, like any investment, while not guaranteed, there should be a return on your money. My rule for making any kind of investment, whether it’s promotions, products or anything else is this: “What can I afford to lose if this investment doesn’t work?” If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t spend it.

   Want low-cost ways to market your business? Mailing lists or databases of potential customers can start at relatively low prices and then, to save on postage for mailings, look into bulk rates. Also, check out radio and television sponsorships for news, weather, or special programming which tend to cost much less than actual 30 or 60-second ads.

   I could go on but you get the point: promoting your business is easy and fun! Plus there’s nothing like seeing a professional-looking postcard, website, sign or vehicle ad with your name and logo on it! In-person selling is just a small part of promotions and you don’t have to be a pro salesperson to talk up your business.

   So pick a promotion and get busy because one thing will always be true: You can have the best product or service on the planet but if no one knows about it, it won’t sell. Period. But once they know about it, there’ll only be one thing you’ll have to worry about…

   Can you keep up?




Giants In the Land

Corporate Giant II


  Throughout history, there’ve been some people who have, as they say, “beat the odds”. History is full of them, as is the Bible—even Cinderella overcame the impossible. And whatever you think of Donald Trump, you have to admit that he beat the odds as well—very long odds—to become President of the United States. When he entered the presidential race, there were 18 other people running for the Republican nomination, including powerful political “giants” like Jeb Bush, Chris Christy, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and a bunch of other people whose names I can’t remember. At the same time that that circus was brewing, Hillary Clinton—fueled by the whole Washington political establishment (not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars)—symbolized a giant in her own right; even should Trump become the Republican candidate for president, he’d still have to face down the powerful Clinton machine. The odds were very much against him winning even the Republican nom much less the election.

   Rewind a few thousand years and you have the same story with David and Goliath. David was a little shrimp of a nobody suffering from delusions of grandeur. After all, he had the unmitigated gall to think that he could possibly be any match for the heavy weight champion of the Philistines, the renowned Nephilim giant called Goliath. David had no military training, no armor, and no support—even his own brothers thought he was an egotistical little snot. Still, he had a slingshot. And he had defeated a bear. Oh—and a lion.

   And then there’s fast-food giant Chik-fil-A… Of course, it didn’t start out as one of the most successful food chains in history. In 1946, Founder S. Truett Cathy founded the business when he and his brother opened an Atlanta diner known as “The Dwarf Grill”. (Does anyone else see the irony in that?) Chik-fil-A—from dwarf to giant—just like Donald Trump, catapulted from political non-entity to POTUS, and David, from an unknown shepherd boy to the most famous king Israel has ever known. Yet despite all of the adversity that has come against President Trump, King David, and S. Truett Cathy (for closing on Sundays to give employees time to attend church), they have not been defeated. To the contrary, they’ve been victorious on a scale unprecedented.

   How is that even possible??

   There’s only one reason: When faced with the giants of their times and industries, they did not speak fear, back up or run away; they continued on the path they believed they had been called to and no “giants” were going to stop them.

   On the flip side, we have the account of the twelve men assigned by Moses to go into the Promised Land and spy it out so that the wandering Israelites could finally move from the desert into the land that God had promised them—a land “flowing with milk and honey”.

   If you don’t know the story, Moses sent twelve men into the land of Canaan, instructing them to get intel on the strength and numbers of the people living there, their cities, and the land and crops. The men returned (carrying grapes so huge that it took two of them to carry one cluster on a pole) and they gave Moses their report:

   “‘We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the walled cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there… We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us… all the people whom we saw are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim [giants]; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight’” (Num. 13:27-33).

   Except for Joshua and Caleb, the men were intimidated by the challenges presented by the Promised Land: the walled cities and the giants. Because of their fear and consequent reluctance to move into that land, God banned them from going in—except for Joshua and Caleb—who believed God and were therefore willing to take on the walled cities and the giants.

How many of us have a dream, a destiny, that we know we’re called to pursue—and yet, we don’t? We’re too afraid of the walls in front of us and the giants surrounding us.

   “Walls” represent obstacles to our dreams, those things which deter us and keep us apart from our goals. The Israelites faced them—the “fortified” walls, strong walls, keeping them from achieving their God-ordained goal of conquering those cities and those tribes. Ten of the twelve spies ran from the walled cities but two did not; those two, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land after all of the others had died. However, when they did, God had a rather unusual plan for tearing down those walls; when the time came to conquer Jericho, the Israelites marched around the walled city, shouting and declaring the word of the Lord. It was an unconventional plan, but because it was God’s plan, it worked. The Israelites conquered the city that day.

   As for the “giants” in our lives, they represent the competition that we often face when we venture out to break into some new industry or business or to achieve some prized goal which thousands of talented others are also vying to win. Think about competing for a job or a business deal or a spot on the sports’ roster or a publishing contract. Or think about breaking into an industry with a new business among others already long-established in the market share or founding a ministry that others judge you unqualified for.

   The competition—the giants—can make us tremble and flee.

   But—the “lions” and “bears” represent all that God has led us through in the past: victories in the face of impossible odds. David vs. Goliath. Trump vs. Clinton. Cathy’s Chik-fil-A vs. McDonald’s (and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell)—these are all examples of those who refused to look at the strength or height of the giants or the walls; instead, they kept focused on the goal. Moreover, they looked back at what they had already accomplished, knowing that God had used all of the “lions” and “bears” of their past to prepare them for the challenges of the future.

   It’s the same with you and me: In pursuit of our dreams and destinies, we’ve all faced terrible giants and fortified walls—and we will again. The only difference will be whether we stand and face them or we turn and flee.

   To strengthen our faith and resolve, we need to focus on the fact that if God never backed his people in the midst of impossible odds, he’d never get anything done through us. And he loves to work through his people.

   Keep that in mind the next time a ten-story wall looms in front of you or a Goliath rears up in your face.

   Remember the lions and bears.




Just Having A Little Fun. Right…?

Rip Off Alert


   Are people really trying to rip you off? Yes. Yes, they are. And you know what they say about a fool and his money, right?

   Take Beth, for example. She thought she’d save some money by shopping at the big department store’s “May Day” sale where she bought a cute sweater for a cool 50% off! Killer deal, right? Maybe—except that she still paid $100 for that sweater. Now, to hear Beth tell it, she would never have paid that much for a sweater but this one was on sale and it just would have been wrong to pass up a half-off sale!

   Now I know what you’re thinking: “But if it’s a brand name then…” Maybe. However, unless I’m wearing that brand-name tag on the outside of the sweater, I don’t normally move in circles where someone would come up to me and notice that that particular sweater deserves to cost $200. But maybe that’s just me.

The dirty little secret of the marketplace is that many stores mark up merchandise just so that they can then turn right around and mark it down for a “momentous, one-time-only sale that you can’t afford to miss!”

   (Yeah, I can. Really.) And ever notice how often these retail stores offer these “incredible, one-time-only events”? Let’s count ‘em.

   In January, there’s the “New Year’s Sale” and the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Sale,” not to mention the occasional “Big Snow Event Sale” or “Polar Vortex Sale”.

   In February, there are sales for Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday (or a “Presidents’ Day Sale), and somewhere in the mix between February and March are the Marti-Gras’ sales.

   Come March, of course, are the HUGE St. Patrick’s Day sales—and being Irish is not a prerequisite to have a sale commemorating ‘ol St. Pat (although you do have to like collecting a little green). And these “Pot O’ Gold” sales continue for at least two weeks—or until followed by the “Spring Forward” sales (celebrating the dawn of daylight savings time). Of course, then the “Spring” sales immediately commence, regardless of whether Mother Nature has finished her infamous snow dumps or not. (“Not” seldom occurs .)

   In April, there may, in fact, be an “April Fool’s” sale (no joke)—unless Easter comes early, in which case those sales can run simultaneously for three weeks, overlapping the “Spring Break Sale,” and/or “End of Winter!” sales. And don’t forget all of the weight-loss companies “guaranteeing” that you can lose “UP TO” 15 pounds before summer!  (Realize that “up to” starts at a half pound…)

   Besides flowers, May brings the afore-mentioned May Day sales as well as Mother’s Day, college graduation sales, and Memorial Day sales.

   And on it goes—the big Madison Avenue conspiracy to separate you from your cash.

   Summer brings still more grad sales plus more “Big Savings” for Flag Day, Father’s Day, the 4th of July, and “Christmas in July”. (Really.) And that’s not all! Beginning in July are also “Back to School” and “Dog Days of Summer” sales—both of which continue ad nauseam till fall. And don’t forget—you can also lose UP TO 15 pounds before fall—if you call right now! (So exciting!!)

   Then it’s the “End of Summer” sales, followed immediately by Labor Day sales which continue until the Columbus Day sales (celebrated even by those who strongly disapprove of Christopher Columbus) and Grandparents’ Day sales. Somewhere in the mix begin the Halloween sales because that’s a huge cash cow with people in the U.S. spending $92 billion a year on costumes and candy. Of course, immediately following the nationwide candy chow-down, you can conveniently lose UP TO 15 pounds before the holiday parties—and save! (But only if you call in the next 15 seconds.)

November 1st kicks off the Veterans’ Day sales—merrily brought to you by corporations and companies who never give another thought or discount to veterans any other time of year.

   And somewhere in there fall the “Fall Back” sales (lamenting the end of daylight savings) and the pre-Thanksgiving sales. These are followed close on by Black Friday sales which now begin on Thanksgiving evening (not to be confused with the Thanksgiving Day sales), the Super-Saturday sales and the Cyber-Monday sales.

   Then, before we’ve barely had time to digest the pumpkin pie, it’s time for the “holiday” sales: Hanukah, Quanza, and Christmas—all the way till 11:59pm on Christmas Eve. The “After-Christmas” sales begin on December 26th (although the occasional “Christmas Night” sale has been spotted), and post-holiday sales continue till the New Year’s sales—followed closely by the “Lose the Holiday Weight” campaigns (up to 15 pounds). And all of these sales, naturally, drag on until the MLK sales… then rinse and repeat.

   Of course, there are also all of the national “Fill-in-the-blank Day” sales—like national Donut Day, Pizza Day, Hat Day, Library/Book Day, National “Smoke-Out” Day (not sure what’s on sale there…), and—drum roll, please… Coffee Day! Add to that gifts for the various “Teachers-Policemen-Nurses-Firemen-Administrative Assistants’” days and you have the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to save money dozens of times a year—and that’s not even counting all of the anniversary sales that most stores launch two or three times a year! Just think of all the cash you’re saving!! Especially at “up to” 50% off…

   So, grab your water bottles, shopping lists, and riot gear and hit the malls. And may the sales be with you!

   Oh, disclaimer.: Lest anyone become so bothered by this massive corporate conspiracy that sleep aids should become necessary, rest assured—none of this is really true; there is no Madison Avenue back-room think-tank, and no one’s really ripping you off.

   I made it all up.







Frustration Overload



   When Bernie, a middle school student, gets frustrated, there is much yelling and screaming, throwing of chairs and books, and even some fists tossed around. No surprise that, awhile back, Bernie ended up throwing chairs at home for a semester. Sadly, after investigating a very loud ruckus in the hallway yesterday, I discovered that Bernie was still battling his frustration levelsand losing.

   Over the years, I’ve watched hundreds of students as they struggle to cope with their own shortcomings, weaknesses, and failures. Or not cope. The number one challenge in dealing with any of those? Frustration. The difficulty is that there’re many different methods of dealing with frustrationsome successful, some not.  

   Method #1: Meltdown. Like Bernie, usually anyone who melts down over a challenge or trial—whether adult or student—does it for one of two reasons: embarrassment over others’ perceptions of why they can’t do that thing (whatever it is) or anger at themselves for being “stupid” —evidenced by the inability to accomplish some task or goal.

   It was a few years back when I first tutored Bernie after he’d been removed from school for his violent reactions to frustration. Whenever he wasn’t able to accomplish an assignment (or didn’t want to), the meltdowns would commence. There’d be the aforementioned activities capped off with a refusal to try at all and then a finale in which he’d end up screaming, “I’m so stupid!” Sadly, no amount of reassurance or coaxing could convince him otherwise.

   While, as adults, our meltdowns might not be as violent (hopefully), they often still involve some form of pushing back: arguing, blaming others, and/or the ever-popular “freeze-out”. These usually stem from either seeing ourselves as “stupid” (even if we don’t recognize that that’s how we feel) or from seeing a situation as stupid and a waste of time. Sometimes the frustration isn’t about how we feel about ourselves; often it’s over the powerlessness we feel when some situation really is stupid, ridiculous or harmful and we don’t have the authority to change it.

    The fix? Timeout. Sometimes students reach such a level of frustration that they either ask to time themselves out—usually by sitting outside of the classroom where it’s quieter—or they have to be directed to a TO—the hallway (if they cooperate) or the principal’s office (if they don’t). Adults are the same way—sometimes in life we need a timeout. These might range anywhere from a 30-minute soak in the Calgon bubbles to a withdrawal from a job, relationship, or ministry for a short (or long) season. Of course, a voluntary TO is always less humiliating, but the problem is that sometimes we don’t recognize our own frustration soon enough to separate ourselves and deal.  Unfortunately, the consequences for not timing ourselves out can be much more devastating should we neglect to do it before someone else has to make us. Losing a job or business, nuking a relationship, or being removed from ministry are all sad consequences of failure to recognize and deal with our own shortcomings and/or bad behavior and the frustration which inevitably follows.

   The lesson? Even if a voluntary timeout might be painful to have to do, it’s a much better option than having someone else—God included—step in to do it for us.

   Method #2: Negativity and Complaining. Protesting and muttering are common reactions to frustration and are, admittedly, part of the human condition. In fact, those are reactions with which I struggle; I just don’t handle nonsense and/or stupid situations well. To clarify, it’s not struggling people I resent—rather, it’s ridiculous requirements and/or “hoops” that absolutely defy common sense that smoke me. (Common Core comes to mind.) Am I complaining? Yep. And I could let myself off the hook by making the observation that everyone else is complaining, too, but that would be rationalizing.

   But what’s the big deal about complaining? The problem with chronic muttering and complaining is that negativity is both harmful to us and contagious to others.

   The fix? Three Options: On the surface, it would seem that I have two options to relieve the frustration of futile circumstance: I can try to make the best of a bad situation or—I can move on. However, for a Christian, there is another option: I can implement the Ezekiel 37 solution and prophesy to those very dry bones—that impossible situation—and see a very real solution to that problem. Welding the authority of the weapon of the Word of God is powerful to change circumstance and to relieve the frustration of hopelessness.

   The lesson? Complaining does very little but prolong the problem or situation—stupid though it may be. More importantly, muttering and complaining only multiplies the frustration in our own lives.

The bottom line is that it’s difficult to deal with frustration unless our thinking changes.

   First, we have to look in the mirror and admit that we have a problem with frustration—which can be hard because it’s probably the one negative emotion to which we feel entitled. The only way we can break the cycle of frustration in our lives is through deliberate effort to be grateful and to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” (Phil. 4:8). This type of focus works whether one is a Christian or not. We know this because research shows that optimism has beneficial effects on the brain.

   The truth is that we can reprogram ourselves to think more positively if we really make a concerted effort. It won’t be easy because it’s never easy to change a long-ingrained habit but I have to believe that once having conquered the better part of frustration, we’ll have a better quality of life. After all, who wants to live life angry?

   I know I don’t.





Fight Like A Girl.

Girls Fighting


   Ever heard the term “fight like a girl”? Ever seen girls fight? It’s dirty. By virtue of the fact (I guess) that ladies aren’t supposed to duke it out, we’re never taught the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules that dictate a good, clean fistfight.

     That is, most girls aren’t.

     Back in the day when I was being bullied by a pack of particularly vicious junior high girls, my well-meaning father taught me how to defend myself that way. Alas, but I found out the painful way that when girls fight, fists aren’t the only body parts involved. While there is lots of punching and smacking – hard – upside heads and other places, there’s also lots of leg action: kicking and tripping, which is usually followed by much rolling around on the ground. Oh, and let’s not forget the hair pulling – lots of hair pulling. And I don’t mean just a gentle tug here and there. No, this is the grab-a-handful-of-hair-and-yank-HARD kind of hair pulling. Have you ever tried to smack, kick or trip someone who has her fist wrapped around your hair? In case you have not, the fact is that that move generally dictates the location of your head. Let’s face it – whoever gets to the hair first usually wins.

     Those are his Lordships’s rules for girls.

     Granted, you might never encounter the infamous junior-high girls’ species (feared by wolf packs worldwide), but make no mistake: you will cross paths with a ruthless adversary in this lifetime – sometime, somewhere. It might be a battle for your dream, your destiny or even for your life, but regardless, in order to win, you had best comprehend the rules. Or lack of them.

     Rule Number One: Understand the game. I was once playing Monopoly with a few friends, one of whom complained that he “never” wins the game – ever. A few minutes into the game and I began to see why. I watched as, turn after turn, he would land on a property and pass on buying.

     “Why aren’t you buying any property?” I asked.

     “I’m saving my money.”    

     “For what?”

     “Because saving money is good.”

    What my dear friend didn’t understand is that while it’s good to save money in real life for retirement and other stuff, this wasn’t real life and there is no retirement in Monopoly. I explained to him that early in the game, his only job was to buy up as much property as he could and start building because if he didn’t, someone else would – and then he could kiss his cash good-bye. My friend was a quick learner because in no time, he had snapped up all four railroads, both utilities, and a couple of monopolies on which he proceeded to build. In the end, he owned us. Why? Because he was willing to let go of his idea of what the rules should be and play by what the rules really were.

     Rule Number Two: Watch who you’re listening to. Recently I heard an interview with former heavy-weight boxing champ Joe Foreman who was asked whether he ever felt discouraged or defeated by hecklers booing and shouting. He had a rather surprising answer. He said that when he entered the ring, he blocked out every single voice around him and literally did not hear any of them. He said that it was only when the fight was over and he got back to the locker room that he would find out what others had been yelling because he had so completely tuned out. Foreman’s focus was on one thing only: winning.

     The Bible gives us another good example of this principle of censoring the voices around us. At one point, Jesus heals a leper and then tells him to go to the Temple and give an offering to the priests as a testimony to his healing (Matt. 8:3). But the very first thing Jesus tells the man is, “’See that you don’t tell anyone.'” Why? Because Jesus knew that if the former-leper had stopped to chat with anyone about his healing, some skeptic or other would start telling him how lepers can’t get healed or that his healing would just wear off in the morning or some silly thing that would erode his faith.

To Jesus’ point: We need to be very careful who we’re listening to when we’re trying to do the difficult or even the impossible. Otherwise, we could well be talked out of believing that we can do what we were born to do.

     Rule Number Three: Why not you?  It’s way too easy to be intimidated by the competition while pursuing whatever vision we’re working. Unless we figure out, as some people have, the secret to overcoming that paralyzing insecurity.

     I remember once in college, I had a friend who had developed a crush on God’s gift to women (or so he thought). Of course, other women must have thought so too because he never lacked for girlfriends. So when my friend decided she was going to make this guy monogamous, I have to confess, I giggled. For days. But I’ll never forget what she said.

     “He’s only human. He has to fall sometime. It may as well be for me.”  

     The fascinating thing was – she was right and he did.

     So why not you? Someone has to get that job or record deal or scholarship or agent or client. So instead of thinking about all the reasons why it shouldn’t be you, begin to focus on all the reasons why you should be the chosen. On the way there, it helps to remember one thing: Everybody was nobody before they were somebody. That might be a cliché but that’s only because it’s an indisputable truth. How did those somebodies get on the map? By believing that they were the possibility.

     The bottom line is that we all have to contend for what we believe in – our dreams, our visions, our destinies. And someday, somewhere, someone in your game will be the one to beat the odds and win the prize. Why not you? Fight for it. Fight for it like you mean it.

     Fight like a girl.





The Magic Genie Lamp—and Other Success Myths



   My sister has a lot on her plate. She has a full-time job as a nurse case-manager at Duke University Hospital where she manages a department with several employees under her supervision; she’s in school getting her Master’s degree; and she goes to Guatemala every year on a medical missions’ trip. In between, she’s a wife, mom, mom-in-law, grandmother and, may I say, an awesome sister. But why does she have so much responsibility? Because she’s so responsible.

   “’Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…’” (Luke 16:10a).  

   That principle is the great equalizer. In our society right now, there is much chatter over “fairness” and “privilege,” the debate being over whether some folks have more opportunity for success than others. The thinking is that some are born with advantages and some are not—which is not untrue—but the real fact is that success is determined, not by how one starts, but by how one finishes. In other words, it all boils down to the story of the three servants and their allotted talents.

   If you don’t know that Biblical parable, here’s the short version: a master (think “boss”) gives ten talents (think money) to one servant, five to another, and one to a third. He tells each of them to invest wisely because he expects to receive a profit on his investment when he returns. So… the first and second servants invest wisely and each makes a 100% profit on the amount he was given. The third servant hides his one talent for fear of losing it and then—and here’s the key—blames it on the boss, saying, “You’re a hard master.” He doesn’t take responsibility for his choice not to invest his talent; rather, he buries his talent and then accuses the boss for the lack of return. What does the boss do? He takes that man’s one talent away from him and gives it to the one who began with ten and now has twenty. Why? Because he liked the first guy better? No, because the first servant proved to be more responsible.

   To prove the point that his reward was about responsibility and not about the money, what if the first servant had buried his ten talents and the third servant had doubled his one? The first servant would still have had eight more talents than the first servant but I guarantee you one thing: the boss would have taken those ten from the first and given them to the third servant because that servant had proven himself responsible.    

   “’Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much’.”

   When I say that responsibility is the great equalizer, I’m not making it up.

If privilege is the guarantee of success, then all people born to privilege should be successful and no one born to disadvantage should ever be able to accomplish anything. Right?

   So wrong.

   Granted, some people are given many “privileges” in life: they were born in America (as opposed to some country with no opportunity); they were born a certain gender or race or creed; and they were born to affluent parents who could afford to send them to college. However, let’s say that instead of being grateful for all of that and working hard to multiply the return on those advantages, they party, can’t keep a job, and squander away their money. In short, they waste their talents and see no return (at least no good one).

   But, on the flip side, let’s say another person grows up economically disadvantaged, comes from a one-parent household, but works hard in school and earns some scholarship money. Still, once in college, he has to take out loans and work—which, no lie, is really hard. But he sticks with it, majors in business and graduates. After saving some money (and thereby proving himself an acceptable risk to a bank), he is able to get a business loan to open his own small business. Granted, he’s got loans to pay off but many of us do. So he works his tail off and his business becomes successful. Eventually, he is able to open a second location and his success continues. And how? Because he buckled down, used the resources available to him and did whatever it took, however long it took.

   In short, he was responsible.

   Fortunately, this scenario is not a fairy tale; many thousands of people do succeed by working hard and consequently achieving their dreams, regardless of their challenging starts in life. And many do not—regardless of their privileged starts in life. Why? Because it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. And when you prove yourself responsible in small things, greater things are given.

   “’Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?’” (Luke 16:10-12)  

   In the end, there’s really only one thing which determines success or not—and it’s not about whose grandpa founded the town, who’s got the nicest boss, or even who found the magic genie lamp at the garage sale. It’s about the one thing that only you can control: your commitment to responsibility.

   What are you doing with your talents?





A Name Like A Crown Jewel

Crown Jewels - post


   Shakespeare once said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Maybe it would, but let’s say we called a rose a “blackwart”—who would ever want to smell one? The point? The name of your business or product is probably the most important decision you’ll ever make in terms of success. Why? Because most other bad decisions can get a do-over but once you name your business or product, you’re stuck with it—for better or worse. A bad name is, at best, a lame cliché and, at worst, can convey an impression you never intended. Great business/product names, on the other hand, intrigue people, set you apart from your competition, and convey exactly the right image. Some examples?

   Let’s say you’re a truck manufacturer and want to brand your newest truck as strong, tough, invincible—a real “man’s man” piece of machinery. Which name conveys that image best: a “Ramor an “F-350? Let’s face it—the Dodge Ram moniker was a real home run. Whether a Dodge or a Ford is, in reality, the better truck is not the point. Maybe a Ford is a better truck (I don’t know), but when you put the names head-to-head, a “Ram”—big horns and all—just sounds tougher. Besides, what’s a “350” convey, anyway? Nothing. It’s just a model number. So… “Ram”—big winner, “F-350″—not so much.

   Cosmetics? Which company brand sounds more appealing? Revlon? L’Oreal? Cover Girl? Well… isn’t the idea that make-up is supposed to make us all look like magazine cover girls? What else is it supposed to do? So Cover Girl was a brilliant pick. L’Oreal, being a French word (although I have no idea who it is or what it means), isn’t a horrible name. After all, all things French are supposed to be sophisticated, non? Revlon? Not even a factor.

   Other examples include Bird’s Eye (frozen vegetables). This is my question: Why on earth would you call a frozen vegetable company that?? It’s just disturbing. It makes me wonder what would be in that plastic bag. Green Giant, on the other hand, doesn’t have a lot to do with vegetables but a giant is an image you’re likely to remember at the grocery store—and, hey, it’s green…

   Recently, I discovered two service company names that were particularly bad, one using the word “creative” and the other “beautiful”. If that’s the best these businesses can do in terms of originality, I wouldn’t throw them any cash. Those words do nothing more than tell what the owners are trying to convey.

   So—how do you choose a fabulous name for your business or product? There are a few do’s and don’t’s.

   #1: Show, don’t tell. As with any good writing, adjectives are far inferior to actual images. Use an image in your name if possible because most people are visual thinkers and if they can see a picture in their minds, they’re more likely to remember your company name. Goes something like this: “Uh, you know, that restaurant with the moose in the name…?”

   If, for instance, you’re trying to convey “elegance” in a brand, do not (not, not, not) ev-er use that word. Don’t call your bridal shop “The Elegant Lady” (or some such lame thing); do something different. Use an image in the name that conveys elegance: think “The Velvet Boutique” or “Lace Gloves and Gowns”. A good example is “Victoria’s Secret” (as opposed to “Hildegard’s Secret”). Victoria is an elegant name, perhaps because of its connection with Queen Victoria, so the royal association is illustrated, not stated.

   Keep one important thing in mind: Most adjectives used in branding are overdone and therefore, entirely forgettable. And that’s not your objective. For example, Royal Caribbean Cruises means nothing. It’s supposed to convey (I guess) that guests are treated like highnesses but the word “royal” is so overused that it doesn’t even register when we hear it in a name. The same is true of words like “quality” (Quality Inns), “superior” (Superior Sound) or “luxury” (Luxury RV’s, Inc.)—and a million other sorry adjectives. Now, that said, occasionally an adjective will fit, simply because there is no image that will,  but in choosing one, make certain it’s not worn out and meaningless.

Most adjectives are the plague. Avoid them.

   #2: Clichés are invisible. Much like adjectives, clichés are also overdone and under-effective. We tune them out. One of the worst is “Think outside the box.” That’s supposed to mean “be original” but it’s really so overused that it’s become an ironic joke. If a cliché is even to be considered, it must be given a twist. For example, Taco Bell did exactly the right thing with that same overused cliché in their tagline when they gave it a new spin. “Think Outside the Bun” is brilliant! It makes us stop and pay attention when we recognize that they changed up a burnt-out old adage and so we actually hear the message (which is entirely the point). The fact that “box” translates nicely to “bun” is what makes the idea so ingenious; they’re saying “Be original—get a tortilla instead of a bun”—except that they say it without telling it. It’s perfect.

   #3: Pay attention to what you’re saying. A while back, I saw a sign for a company called “Irregardless”. May I just say—there is no such word. (The word is “regardless”.) The fact that they either don’t know that that’s not a word or didn’t care enough to find out before attaching it to their brand makes me think that they’re probably careless at best and, at worst, not especially knowledgeable. Probably not the impression they were aiming for.

   It’s all about image.

   #4: CHECK THE COMPETITION! Unfortunately, if you love a name, chances are someone else might have loved it first. For example, “Trendsetter Events” is a company name being used by several event-planning businesses around the country. And even though the domain name is not being used (because it’s for sale for a ridiculous amount of money), there are soooo many other businesses starting with “Trendsetter” that you’d want to avoid it entirely. Moreover, even if your is available for a reasonable price, check to make sure it’s not already being used on Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes people never buy the domain name but use your favorite company name with the on social media.

   Bottom line: The very last thing you want is for potential customers to confuse you with another company.

   Branding your business is exciting and can be lots of fun. Just make certain you take the time necessary to make yourself stand out from others, not just in your industry but from other companies everywhere.

You can have the best product or service in the world but if your name and brand don’t convey that image, it won’t sell. Period.

   So—put on your thinking headgear, test drive some ideas, and then survey friends and potential customers; get feedback.

   Remember, your product or service is like that infamous apple in the Garden of Eden. It’s your job to charm people into feeling that they would pay any price to have it.