The Myth of the Weed-Eating Vegetable

Squash

THE MYTH OF THE WEED-EATING VEGETABLE

   Wouldn’t it be great if you could rub a little circle of wax on the hood of your car—and it spread to whole the rest of your car? Wouldn’t it be great if you could plant a few squash plants in the corner of your yard—and they choked out all the weeds on the whole rest of the property? Wouldn’t it be great if you never exercised ever—and your body just atrophied into rock-solid muscle?

   Not going to happen.

   Why? Because this world is wired for ruin, death, and decay. Now, I’m not trying to nuke your day, but it helps to note that we live in a fallen world and so one of the principles of success in any endeavor this side of the wormfest is that we have to stay on top of the wreck and ruin. Whether your goal is to achieve in the physical, spiritual or emotional realms, we have to “mind the farm,” so to speak. With the exception of Divine intervention, things don’t “just happen,” “fall into place,” or “work themselves out”.

   Don’t believe me? Let the electricity bill, mortgage, and car payments go and see if those simply “fall into place”. Forget about that annoying rust on your undercarriage and see if that just “works itself out”. Forget about whether your supervisor thinks you’re doing a good job and see if your paycheck “just happens”.

No Toil = Trouble

Work is way over-hyped, anyway. I mean, who needs to study for a test? We all know “remembering” is a given. And why worry about cleaning houses, doing laundry or even showering? We all know people and things just morph from dirty to clean. And relationships? None of that “touchy-feely-emotional” stuff is really necessary; people “just know” they’re loved—unless you tell them they aren’t. Right?

   The assumption in all of these instances is that the job or the relationship or the possession won’t suffer if it’s neglected; it’ll at least maintain.

But that’s a bad assumption because in a fallen world, nothing maintains; things have to be maintained.

   And the word “maintain” doesn’t even imply “progress;” to maintain simply means to keep something from devolving or degenerating or dying. To make progress, we have to work even harder than we do simply to maintain the status quo. So—it all equates to work.

   But c’monwho doesn’t know that?

   Really? So why don’t we do the work? The bottom line is because we don’t want to do it; work, after all, takes work. So we procrastinate and we postpone and we neglect and we ignore our negligence—until it’s too late to fix that problem or take that opportunity or even to achieve that destiny.

Target #1: Relationships.

One thing we wreck through neglect is relationships, not just with people, but with God. Neglecting to read his Word or worship or pray are all things which will sever our personal lifeline to God; we kid ourselves that we’ll “get to it eventually” and so, sadly, we never really get to know him at all. Moreover, our neglect of time with him puts an end to receiving the direction, guidance and/or provision we need in order to fulfill our assigned purposes in life.

   Satisfying relationships with people don’t just happen, either. We’ve all heard of the book The Five Love Languages. If not, the premise is that everyone has one love language which, when spoken to him/her, makes them feel loved. These love languages include words of affirmation, acts of thoughtfulness, gifts, touch, and time spent together. Point? Neglecting to fill the “love language tank” of your loved one and then expecting the relationship to blossom is on par with filling your car’s gas tank once in New York and expecting to make it to L.A. without filling it ever again. Not happening.

Target #2: Finances.

Money is another thing that requires deliberate attention. If we neglect to budget, for example, bills won’t get paid and the savings account will be empty. Nor is there any magic fairy dust we can sprinkle on the credit cards to make the debt disappear. (Sorry.) Of course, this all sounds so elementary that it’s almost insulting to point out but… if it were so simple, then no one would be overspending, going into debt, and struggling. The reason? Things that were supposed to “work themselves out” in terms of money, didn’t.

Target #3: Success.

Did you know that if success is achieved, it can also be lost? Achieving that weight loss—and then neglecting to eat right once the goal has been achieved? So disheartening… Or one year sober? Five years? Ten years? Amazing accomplishment! But then to neglect the vigilance it took to maintain sobriety for all of those months and years is a tragic tale told the world over… Or the midnight oil burned for decades to build the business and the reputation and the financial success—all now casualties of health neglected in favor of fortune and fame…

   To neglect a thing is all that’s required for that thing to go downhill in a hurry—and the same is true of our destinies. I don’t know who said it but, “If we’re not moving forward, we’re falling behind.” If we’re not being proactive and taking ground, then we’re forced to be reactive, to try to clean up the mess we’ve allowed to accumulate and the ground we’ve lost through avoidance, carelessness, and negligence.

   The bottom line is this: If we’re trying to avoid work, the fact is that it takes a whole lot more work to have to go back and attempt to fix the rotten fruit of our laziness than it does simply to do the work the right way in the first place.

   Life is a garden. And while it would be nice if I didn’t have to weed my garden, until my squash starts doing it for me, that’s what’s on the agenda in this lifetime.

2021: From the Ashes

Sunset Tree

      Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

   The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

   The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”

   The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

   Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.

   “Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest. I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.

   The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.

   “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”

   The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me,” he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

   The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

   The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail on an ocean or even a river; instead, she was taken to a little lake.

   The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” the once-tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God.

   Many, many weeks and months and years passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox.

   “I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered.

   The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said.

   In that moment, the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

   One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and rain.

   The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. 

   Suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

   One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry, jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

   But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.             (Source unknown)

  Whether you know it or not, you’re where you’re supposed to be.

   You’re in God’s plan.

The Night Jesus Left Home

Bethlehem Star IV

THE NIGHT JESUS LEFT HOME

   Jesus stepped into the throne room. Multitudes of blazing angels dropped to their knees, bowing their faces to the jeweled floors, wings covering their bodies. The symphonies of heaven—myriads of strings and flutes and voices from a dozen dimensions—all faded to a sudden hush. Crashing peals of thunder echoed to nothingness, and lightning flashed in blue and gold, then dimmed and winked out.

   All was silent.

   “Come here, Son.” The gentle words reverberated among the stars.

   Soft footsteps approached the throne. “This is the hour, Father.”

   “I know, Son. Let’s go to your favorite place.” God raised his hand and he and Jesus walked along a beach, quiet waves lapping the shoreline. A gull soared on the air currents high above the water, its lonely cry drifting on the breeze. Jesus stopped and watched. Then he turned, eyes blurred with tears.

   “Will I know you—at first, I mean?”

   “I’ll always be with you, Son, but at first, no. You’ll come to know me, as every other baby grows to do. You’ll grow in grace and truth and in my favor, but it will take time.”

   Jesus bent his head.

   “I’ll never leave you,” God whispered. “You know I love you, Son.”

   Jesus looked up and smiled through his tears. “’How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…’”

   God chuckled. “Holy Spirit will release those words one day.”

   “’I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach.’” Jesus paused. “Do you think I’ll remember that poem?”

   God slowly shook His head. “No, Son. You’re leaving behind your omniscience to live in the flesh, with all of its limitations and weaknesses. Your knowledge will be confined to what your senses tell you, and to what you’ll learn on earth and through the Spirit as you grow, but you’ll not take your foreknowledge with you. You’ll live in one dimension in time.”

   Jesus stooped and drew in the sand.

   “Are you certain you want to do this, Son?” God’s voice was gentle. “I’ll not force you.”

   “I know, Father,” Jesus murmured. “I know.” He stood and brushed the sand from his fingers. “I only want what you want.” He scanned the water and the beach and the mountains beyond. “I want to remember this—somehow.”

   “Your father on earth loves beaches, too, Jesus—he watches the sun set over the sea almost every night. You’ll watch with him.”

   “Is he—is he like you, Father?” Jesus brushed a sandy tear from his cheek. “I hope he’s like you.”

   “Ahhh, Joseph. He’s a truly good man, Son—the best I could find. He doesn’t yet know he’s about to become a father, but he’ll be a good one. He’ll train you, protect you, provide for you, and he’ll love you as I love you.”

   “Is that even possible—that a human being can love so much?”

   “It will never cease to amaze you, Son, what the human heart can carry, and what it can bear. There are realms of beauty you have not yet fathomed within the heart of man.”

   “More beautiful than you, Father?”

   God smiled. “The heart of a human being is his most precious crown. And when he offers it to you, it’s priceless—worth far more than anything else in all of creation.”

   “I’ll miss you so much, Father.”

   “I’ll miss you, too, Son. I’ll be with you every moment of every day and night, but I’ll miss talking with you and—” God waved His hand, “this—with you.”

    He held out his arms. Jesus rushed into them, kissed his father’s cheek, and buried his head in his shoulder. Then he pulled back, cleared his throat and looked into his father’s eyes. “I promise I’ll talk to you every day, Father. I’ll find a spot, far from everyone else, and we’ll talk, just like we do now.”

   “Call on me whenever you need me, Son,” God said, His voice low.

   For a moment, neither spoke.

   Lightning flashed, and a giant archangel dropped from the sky, his wings tinged crimson in the twilight.

   “Here’s Gabriel. It’s time. I’ll send him to Mary first, then Holy Spirit will embrace her. Then… you’ll go…”

   Jesus closed his eyes and nodded.

  God motioned and Gabriel spread his wings and slipped through a portal to earth. A moment later, a shining silver streak of light bolted across the sky, and Holy Spirit splintered the portal and disappeared.

   Jesus touched his fingers to his lips. His face began to shine, growing brighter and brighter, until a blinding light burst into the night—a brilliant star shimmering in the darkness far above the earth.

   And so it began.

The Big, Bad Competition—and Other Scary Stuff

Wolf

THE BIG, BAD COMPETITION—AND OTHER SCARY STUFF 

I’ve always wanted to go into business for myself (although this discussion could apply to any dream). I’ve worked a couple of businesses through the years helping others and I’ve learned the business-end ropes, so to speak, but now I want to do my own thing. However, while I’m exploring my options in the direction I want to head, I’m finding one thing consistently: the competition is fierce. And honestly, that’s a little intimidating. Can I succeed in a market with businesses already up and established in my industry? How do I break in? Do I have enough money? What if I invest but can’t penetrate the market?

What if I fail?

 Now I can cite the standard “not trying is failing” philosophy and there’s some wisdom in that. Nevertheless, it doesn’t quench the fear we often have of the competition which, in a nutshell, boils down to one thing: What if I’m not good enough? The logic goes like this: If I were “good enough,” then certainly I would succeed. However, as I’m finding, “good enough” or not, there are other factors besides talent in the mix.

Thing #1: Do I have the stamina to succeed?

Breaking into anything—business, writing and publishing, the music industry, even climbing the ladder at work to attain that desired position—all of that takes really long-term persistence. Do I have that? For instance, I also write fiction and the struggle to reach agents and publishers can be disheartening, to say the least. To offset that, there have been times when I’ve had to work hard to restore vision by reminding myself that even the most famous authors, at one time, faced demoralizing obstacles. (The business, by the way, is intended to fund the writing dream.) So, knowing that the way to success is often fraught with discouragement, downturns and disappointments, will I have the endurance to be successful in business?

Thing #2: Do I want to do this thing long-term?

That’s a question I’m seriously contemplating. Even if I do manage to achieve some level of success in the business venture I’m considering, will I someday grow bored with it? To be perfectly honest, I get tired of the same old thing, year after year, so one thing I’m researching is whether this business has the potential for change, for evolution, for creative expansion. Since it’s a creative-type venture, I’m pretty certain it will but I have to ask the question. If the answer is “no,” the next question would be whether or not I could sell the business and make a reasonable profit. The bottom line is that the last thing I want to do is to create a potential grind or to lose my initial investment of time and money by simply closing up shop.

Thing #3: What type of economy am I located in?

This is a question which cannot be overlooked because it explores the economic conditions of a potential business market. For example, are a majority of potential customers economically struggling, just making ends meet or prosperous? And is the product or service for sale a necessity or a luxury? Will there be repeat business or is the product/service a one-time expenditure? If the product/service is a necessity and especially if it’s a consumable necessity, then it should work in any kind of economy. People need the product or service and they need it on a repeat basis. However, if it’s a luxury item or service, then perhaps the best place to set up shop would be in a prosperous market. Otherwise, it may not succeed. In terms of what I want to do (involving the wedding industry), I need to consider these questions. Are weddings big business? Yes, but even within the industry, some products and services—like wedding cakes and DJs—are standard across the board. Others, like high-end, expensive venues or event-planning services, might perhaps only be successful in more prosperous locations. We need to know the economic landscape of our potential market.

Thing #4: How much competition will the market bear?

Every industry has its competitors, whether one is selling a product or service, opening a restaurant, or trying to get a recording or publishing deal—whatever. Competition is just a fact of life. However, it’s something I need to consider in terms of where I set up shop: How much competition in my target business market is too much? If my competition is too prevalent and the market is already saturated with the type of business I’m considering, will the market bear another business just like it? In other words, will there be the customer base to support what I want to do?

Many years ago, I invested in a pyramid-type business with what I considered high-quality products—vitamins, nutritional supplements and the like. And while I had never quite trusted that type of business structure, I knew that the products were good and that, being consumable items, repeat business could be expected. What I didn’t realize was that the awesome money that the people above me were making was not because of the great product; it was because they had convinced so many people to sign on beneath them. Consequently, I found out—the hard way—that the market in my area was already so saturated with people selling this product that there was no more room in the market for that business. And since I’m not comfortable trying to make money off of the sales of other people, I had no interest in trying to sign people on beneath me. So, I learned that lesson, cut my losses, and moved on. Still, there is some good news in terms of competition…

There will always be a need for a new generation of up-and-coming people and businesses to replace those leaving the market.

Next Gen Rising

Whether you’re trying to break into a business industry or the arts, don’t be discouraged by the competition trying to make it the same fields. Writers, bands, artists, actors—they all eventually (how do I say this delicately?) exit the market, most through retirement, some because of health problems, and a new generation is needed to take their places (and that’s not an age thing). The same is true of businesses; each has its run, and the market needs to replace those which move or go out of business.

Go-Getters Usually Get

So what do you do in the meantime? While you’re waiting to “break in” to your field, VOLUNTEER!!! Go out and find that person or company already doing what you want to do, explain that you just want to learn the business, and ask if you can help. You might have to knock on a few doors but someone will take you up on free labor. That way you’ll gain some experience, find out what you didn’t know that you don’t know, and maybe even find a mentor who’s willing to help you to catch that dream. In other words, go out and find your own internship. (Hint: It doesn’t matter what age you are, either—from a corporate-business perspective, free labor is free labor!) And then, when an opportunity happens, guess who’s right there and ready? Volunteering in your industry is a great way to find out whether what you’ve been dreaming about doing is really your dream come true.

So—once you do a little research, evaluate your location and market, and tuck a little experience under your belt, that big, bad competition won’t seem so scary anymore.

Who knows—maybe one day soon, you’ll be the competition.

To Run With the Horses

Arthur and Knights

You’ve probably not given it much thought lately, but a warhorse is an amazing creature. They’re not just what the warrior rides on—they are the warrior. They have, of course, strength, they have incredible instincts, and they are fearless. Why am I rambling on about warhorses? Because they weren’t born that way.

Warhorses are made.

The Legendary King Arthur

I’m reminded of a scene in the best rendition of the King Arthur legend that I’ve ever seen called, not surprisingly, King Arthur (starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley). In a nutshell, Arthur is a Roman commander and all of his knights, before they were knights, were Sarmation boys who were forced into 15 years of brutal servitude in the Roman army. Essentially, because the Sarmations were known to be valiant warriors, the boys are easily taken from their homes and become slaves.

Nevertheless, they come to love Arthur because, unlike other Romans, he believes all men were born free “from their first breath”. These men fight alongside Arthur for 15 years until the day comes that they’ve all earned their freedom; they have the papers and everything. The problem is that the Saxons are invading Britain from the north and the Saxons are evil. Everything and everyone they don’t destroy, they burn.

Still, now that his knights are free, Arthur will not order them to fight the Saxons. They ride off to return to their homes, taking the townspeople to escape with them, and Arthur rides off to face the Saxons alone (with a little help from Merlin’s druids but how much good will that do?). But as the knights are riding merrily away from the battle, the sound of the Saxons’ war drums can be heard in the far distance. The Saxons are coming closer. Nevertheless, the knights ignore them and keep riding south.

Except that their warhorses don’t.

Warhorses hear the sound of the battle and run toward it.

Their warhorses hear the sound of the drums in the distance and begin to fight their riders to turn around. The knights have a hard time reining them in as horses paw and snort and try to gallop away. The horses are fearless.

The Heart of A Warrior

Horses don’t become warhorses the moment some warrior throws a saddle on them and rides off into battle; warhorses, like the warriors themselves, are trained. They’re taught to run to the battle and through the thick of it, never slowing down. They’re taught commands, battle maneuvers, and defensive strategies. They’re trained in battle skirmishes so that they get used to the sounds, sights and smells of the battle. And they’re taught to keep on fighting—even when they’re wounded.

Warhorses begin as wild horses – whether they’re captured in the wilderness or born in a stall. And yet it’s that wild spirit that’s not broken but honed, trained and refined. The warhorse learns who its master is and, when submitted to him, becomes his partner, and the two accomplish more together than either one could ever do alone. Submission to the training of its master does not beat the horse into a wimpy little nag; rather it makes the horse into a warhorse—more fearless, powerful and magnificent than it could ever hope to be in the wild.

The Transformation

You and I are like those wild horses. We may have some skills on our own, but submitted to the Master, we can become more than we’d ever have dreamed—fearless, powerful and valuable resources in the war for the Kingdom on earth.

There’s a reason Jesus will ride to victory in the final battle on a warhorse instead of in an F-22 fighter jet or an Apache helicopter. A warhorse is his partner, it fights with him and for him. And a warhorse never runs.

If we listen, we can hear the sound of the war drums.

A Name Like A Crown Jewel

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.

The Best and the Worst

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.

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. That’s all.

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 “Satin and Lace ”. 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 the “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 didn’t know that or didn’t do enough research 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. Sadly, they probably put some money into promoting the name before they figured it out.

   It’s all about image.

#4: Spy 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 TrendsetterEvents.com 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 dot.com 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 dot-com but use your favorite company domain on social media. (TIP: Do not use the same name with .net, etc. if someone else already has the .com. People usually default to .com—you’d be giving your business to a competitor.)

   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.

So—put on your thinking helmet, 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.

Four More Ways to Shipwreck Your Destiny

Last week we discussed the first six ways to shipwreck our destiny. As noted, a shipwreck usually occurs as a result of some tragic accident or unforeseen error, and it could also happen due to a lack of awareness about any of a dozen situations or circumstances. As a result, many shipwrecks throughout history might have been avoided.  Sadly, however, for lack of information or attention, ships are wrecked, lives are lost, and dreams destroyed.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of many destinies.

  “‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge'” (Hosea 4:1).

The fact is, there are Biblical principles which will keep our destinies from floundering on the high seas of life. However, whether we’re aware of them or not, if we violate these principles, we can shipwreck any good thing we’re trying to do. Last week, we listed several hindrances to destiny, our first six. They are: not putting God first, misusing our authority, disobedience, failure to love others, unconfessed sin, and unforgiveness. Unfortunately, not knowing about these principles does not exempt us from the consequences of violating them. In other words, it’s not enough to know what we should do in terms of fulfilling our destinies; we must also be aware of we cannot do lest we risk failure.

Disclaimer: That does not mean, of course, that we cannot receive forgiveness for these sins; we certainly can. However, receiving mercy for our sin does not always mean that the consequences of our sin will be negated. And that’s not punishment; that’s just the principle that “we reap what we sow.” That said, there are four more Biblical principles which we would do well not to violate.

Thing #7: “Evil Speech.”  

Our words can be another hindrance to prayer. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining—all of these can impede our prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah admonishes, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk… then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing]…’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

Thing #8: Pride.  

This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad—no surprise there. For example, Naaman implored the prophet Elisha to pray for his healing from leprosy, but when Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River seven times, Naaman thought that ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his petition for healing granted until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

Thing #9: Wrong Response to Authority. 

We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because anarchy ensues and societies are destroyed when people rebel against authority.

Therefore, in order to preserve society, God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And answered prayer results in blessing.

Thing #10: Having Faith in Faith, Not In God

“Having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Period. The problem is that sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. But it doesn’t work that way. That’s because the essence of faith is the question “Do I trust God—whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

Bottom Line:

We are not saved by works—not disputing that—and the idea here is not to bring fear or condemnation but freedom and success. But the success of the works that we are called to do on this earth (our destinies) certainly depends upon whether or not we obey the principles affecting answers to prayer. Remember, God promises that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (I Peter 3:12).

And when God hears our prayers, our destinies are fulfilled.

 

Six Easy Ways to Shipwreck Your Destiny.

Shipwreck II

A “shipwreck” is always a tragedy. In the history of navigating the vast oceans, a shipwreck is something entirely unforeseen and unexpected by captains, sailors, and crewman alike. A shipwreck can be the result of a sudden storm, hidden rocks, error or even incompetence. 

Often, there is no recovery from a shipwreck.

Sometimes we spend vast amounts of energy trying to rocket-launch our dreams and fulfill our destinies. We drive hard, burn the midnight oil (especially as writers), and follow the experts, trying to do everything they say. Now I’m not knocking the experts; they’re experts for a reason. But sometimes in spite of the sacrifice of time, the worry, and the fervent prayers, things just don’t happen like they’re supposed to. And the frustrating part is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why. Right?

But there may be a reason. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to pursue the “shoulds” that we don’t recognize when we’re doing the “should nots”. In other words, there are some Biblical principles which, when violated, will shipwreck any good thing we’re trying to do.

Thing #1: Put God First.

 In other words, we cannot put our dreams, visions or destinies before God. Jesus says, ‘”Your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs… Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well…’” (Matt. 6:33). Our “needs” are not just categorized as physical needs; we need all kinds of intervention for all kinds of things. No matter—same principle applies: the big “if-then”—if we put God first, then he supplies whatever we might need. Period.

Thing #2: Misusing Authority.

I Peter 3:7 admonishes husbands to treat their wives with understanding and respect “as the weaker partner… so that nothing will hinder your prayers”. Now forget the debate over whether wives are the “weaker partner”—not the point here. The point is a larger one: A “weaker” person is defined as anyone who is under the authority of another person. Furthermore, everyone in authority is held accountable for how they treat the “weaker” people under their authority. Whether it be a child, student, employee, or congregation member, the warning is real: If we abuse or treat poorly people under our authority, we can’t then wonder why our prayers concerning our dreams and destiny are having no effect.

Thing #3: Disobedience.

We’ve all heard the term “brass heaven” meaning, essentially, that our prayers are “bouncing off the ceiling” or blocked. A “brass heaven” is referred to in Deuteronomy when God gives several “if—then” consequences to his people for both blessings and curses. In short, obedience = blessing and disobedience = curses, and one of those curses is hindered prayer. “’And your heaven that is over your head shall be brass, and the earth that is under you shall be iron.’” (vs. 23-28). While in context this curse for disobedience refers to a lack of rain, Matthew Henry makes the point that the curse impacts all things affecting the person, not just rain. Disobedience causes God’s deafness for everything from pleas for relief from curses to petitions for blessings.

Thing #4: Lack of Love.

Lack of love, particularly in a practical sense, hinders prayer. God has always had a soft spot for underdogs whom he vows to protect and vindicate. In Isaiah 58:6-12, the Lord clearly indicates that our actions impact our consequences. The “’fast [sacrifice] that God has chosen [is to] loose the cords/chains of injustice… untie the cords of the yoke… set the oppressed free… share food with the hungry… shelter the wanderers [homeless]… clothe the naked…’” The Living Bible expands upon this principle: “’Stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn.’” And the result? Then you will have revelation, healing, righteousness, protection and “’Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here I am’” (vs. 8-9). The lesson? We reap what we sow and if we sow mercy, then God answers our prayers. For example, a Roman centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant and the Jewish elders “earnestly implored Him [Jesus], saying, ‘He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue’” (Luke 7:1-5). As a result of the centurion’s love-in-action, Jesus listened to the man’s petition and went to his house.

Thing #5: Unconfessed Sin. 

The prophet Habakkuk says to God, “’Your eyes are too pure [even] to look upon evil; you cannot tolerate sin’” (1:13). “Tolerate” is a little mild for the translation. The KJ version says, “’You cannot [even] look upon sin’”. And the word “cannot” in all translations means “cannot”. It doesn’t mean “might not” or “can-if-He-wants-to-but-just-doesn’t-want-to”. God is not able even to look at sin, much less have fellowship with someone in it (thus the reason Christ died—but that’s another post entirely).

Therefore, since prayer is interaction with God (and God cannot interact with sin), then unconfessed sin results in unanswered prayers.

However, confession of sin restores fellowship with God. For example, King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, lied about it, and then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. Now if anyone should have had their prayers tuned out by God, it would be someone who’d done all that. But David repented of his sin, pleading, “’Don’t keep looking at my sin. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit in me…’” (Ps. 51:9-10, LB). After David confessed his sin, God was able to interact with him again.

Thing #6: Unforgiveness.

In Matt. 18, we’re told the parable of the servant who was forgiven by his master but who wouldn’t forgive his fellow servant. The master finds out and says to him, “‘Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'” He goes on to tell the servant that because he would not forgive another, he would not be forgiven. Therefore, if we refuse to forgive and so are not forgiven ourselves, we  carry sin, and this renders God unable to answer our prayers. (Reference #5 above.)

Bottom line:

If you’re feeling like your prayers are bouncing off of that “brass ceiling,” then how do you undo the hindrances to prayer that you might have unknowingly activated? It’s simple: a sincere and heartfelt, “Lord, I’m sorry for…” will open the heavens to you. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (I Peter 3:12).

That’s a promise.

Fearless

Lydia Darragh   Most Americans have never heard the name Lydia Darragh but if not for her, the American Revolution might have ended very differently, and we might be paying taxes to the British royal family to this day.

Liberty’s Spy

   During the Revolution, Lydia Darragh operated as a member of Washington’s spy network in Philadelphia where she owned a home. Her spying career began when the British took over her house as a meeting place, a move which inspired Lydia to begin hiding in a closet and eavesdropping on their conversations. Afterward, she’d send her son to relay the enemy’s secret plans and strategies to the colonists. One such intel interception is said to have saved the life of General George Washington himself.* Lydia Darragh knew she was risking her home, her freedom, and even her life to spy for the Americans, but she didn’t care; liberty was infinitely more precious than safety.

   There’s power in not caring.

The Most Hated President

   History has demonstrated that, throughout the ages, there’s absolutely no limit to what a person can accomplish if they simply don’t care what other people think. Take, for example, Abraham Lincoln. Here was a man who had lost election after election—over a dozen at least—and yet still ran for president. He didn’t care that there were many who mocked him, called him a “loser”, and made him a national laughing stock. Then later, once in office, President Lincoln was apparently not obsessed with amassing power or being voted “most lovable” because he pulled the plug on slavery, knowing full well that millions would despise him for doing it. Moreover, he had to know that he was putting his very life at risk. But he didn’t care. He only cared about doing what he knew was right.

The Shepherd King

   The same is true of King David in the Bible. David, scorned as a lowly shepherd boy, nevertheless faced down a giant because Goliath had dared to mock the living God. David was so horrified by Goliath’s blasphemy that he was willing to endure ridicule: the jeers of the whole Israeli army and the outrage of his own brothers who accused him of arrogance for having the audacity to believe he could do what seasoned warriors feared to do. Yet David didn’t care what they thought; he did what he had to do.

The Orphaned Queen   

   Then there was Queen Esther who breached protocol and approached the Persian king uninvited to plead for the lives of the Jewish people (Esther 4:11). And while such an emergency might seem to be an extenuating circumstance and so trump the royal protocol, it wasn’t—one simply did not appear before the court without a royal summons. In fact, such insolence often ended badly for the poor, misguided reprobates who’d attempted it in the past. Still, Esther’s attitude was, “‘If I perish, I perish.’” She didn’t care enough about the consequences of her “presumption” to compromise her mission. And because of that attitude, she saved the entire Jewish race.

   That’s the power of not caring.

The fear of man and his opinion is the death of many a destiny.

   Who is willing to face down ridicule, rejection, ruin and even death to accomplish that thing they were born to do? On the other hand, how many people have caved to the pressure of another man or woman’s opinion and abandoned their destinies?

   We’ll never know because their names have been lost in the dark void of compromise and fear.

Friend of Sinners

   Jesus never caved. Even when the Pharisees called him crazy, a fraud, a criminal, demon possessed—whatever they could conjure to destroy him—he never flinched. In fact, he struck back, exposing them as hypocrites, “white-washed tombs” and even murderers. Why? He simply didn’t care what they thought. As a result, he revealed corruption in the highest ranks of the Jewish leadership and shone a bright light for the poor, deceived people of Israel.

   But what if Jesus had cared about what people thought of him? He certainly would not have chosen to hang naked upon a cross or to be spit upon, mocked and humiliated before throngs of people. Moreover, he knew that scripture pronounced a curse upon anyone “hung from a tree” and that that curse included the family of the condemned; therefore, he would never have consented, by hanging upon that wooden cross (tree), to bring shame upon his family—that is, if he cared about what man thought of him.

   Not that that decision was easy for him. Just imagine what his notoriety did to the reputation of his mother, his brothers and his sisters. Did they live in shame forever after? Did his sisters have a difficult time finding men who would marry them—daughters of a cursed family? Possibly.

   Even so… Jesus could not afford to care about what people thought about him or even about his family; if he had, he would have quit. Thankfully, he did not.

Popular vs—Not…

   I daresay that behind every tale of success throughout history from the ancients to this very hour, there comes a moment when a person has to decide which he (or she) cares more about—his popularity or his destiny. If he fears the opinion of man and caves to the detriment of what is right, then destiny is lost. But if he moves forward past the “group think,” not caring about his critics or their speculations, then history is made. Fear of man has never inspired anyone to set a new trend or to blaze a new trail but instead, sadly, only to follow behind—even if it’s over the cliff he goes. 

   There’s great power in not caring what others think—and freedom. It’s the freedom to express yourself, to explore all opportunities, and to be who you were created to be.

   It’s the end of fear.

 

  • Kyla Cathey (“9 Women Who Helped Win the American Revolution”)

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Watch the Attitude.

Leadership Key

Watching the events of 2020, I can’t help but remember something the Lord told me a while back: Those in authority over others are responsible for how they treat those they are in authority over. This applies, not just to law enforcement (the big debate lately), but to all facets of leadership—from politicians, church and corporate leaders to parents, teachers, and caregivers. Everyone one of us who leads others—whether a nation or a classroom—will be held accountable for our treatment of others. That is the measurement tool, in God’s eyes, of a faithful leader.

LADYBUGS vs. WASPS

The fact is that no matter what realm we function in, we’re subject to leadership training of all makes and models—theories and policies and “best practices”—oh, my—by which we all must abide. And they are as distinctly different as a ladybug from a wasp; both are insects, but that’s about all they have in common. Leadership training is the same way; there are endless models but there are three common types under which most fit.

THE “TOP-DOWN” MODEL.

This basically means that one person or a small group of people make the rules and the rest follow, with little or no input. This model runs the gamut from government to family relationships and everything in between. And while that might be the job description for a CEO or Supreme Court Justice, it doesn’t work everywhere. Where it does work is in places where the people in charge, even with the final say, listen to others and treat them compassionately, even when “encouraging” compliance.

THE “DEMOCRATIC” MODEL.

This type of leadership is designed to seek input from other people or groups and allows for the majority to affect the decisions made by recognized leaders. Leaders are then responsible for implementing those decisions, having the authority to assign consequences to those not abiding by them. Entities using this model might establish committees, host elections or answer to a board of directors. Government, churches, businesses and institutions are often supposed to run this way, but it all boils down to one question: Will the leaders take the input solicited or is the requested collaboration simply for show?

THE “FREE-FOR-ALL” MODEL.

This type of leadership is simply a kind of “mob rules” approach which has a figurehead for a leader but often the bottom line is that the loudest and/or most disruptive people usually take the wheel. This type of “leadership” is usually the default when true leaders are afraid that their decisions might be unpopular; therefore, rules are either mythical creatures or enforced only sporadically or not at all. We’ve all seen out-of-control classrooms where a teacher has simply lost command and the mob rules—usually because the teacher fears any confrontation by naughty students who’ve never met a rule they liked.

Sadly, we’ve also seen this recently in cities where the rule of law has been abdicated and chaos reigns. This is where we get the old adage, “The inmates are running the asylum.” It’s not necessarily that the “inmates” have no legitimate claim or request but rather that they’re simply not equipped to manage whatever they’re seeking—usually because they have no conception of leadership—good, bad, or indifferent. Pretending they do never bodes well.

True and effective leadership only happens when two things coexist: A rule of law and leaders who consider those under their authority to be more important than their own careers, reputations or bank accounts. 

Jesus might have mentioned that when he pointed out that true leaders are servants first.

GOD’S MODEL OF LEADERSHIP.

In his Word, God very succinctly states his requirement for leadership: “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

One doesn’t have to be a Bible scholar or even a Christian to recognize the wisdom in that short admonition. If, as leaders, we “do justice,” we will not judge according to economic status, race, religion, gender or any other criteria, but only according to the standard of the law.

If we “love mercy,” we will make the decision best for the individual—within the confines of the law—and if consequences are required, we will implement them with compassion.

If we “walk humbly with our God,” we will recognize that we are not, by any means, perfect or incapable of error, and we will submit our will to his. We will also accept that we are accountable for how we treat others and ask God for an attitude adjustment if necessary.

I believe that in order to be wise, righteous, and compassionate leaders, we must look to that simple verse in Micah—and follow it. It’s not a complicated principle; it doesn’t take a college degree or a month of “leadership training” to comprehend, but it is the most effective leadership model we will ever find.

That is—if we really want to be effective leaders.

 

 

DRIVE YOUR VISION.