Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does God Speak to People?

One of the last things I was left with to point to after The God Delusion were two moments in my life of 35 years at the time... While the book mocks the notion that God speaks to people, I understand why...

  • How many TV evangelists, pastors, and wanna-be prophets do we need to hear from that have been 100%, dead-wrong in what "God has told them". Look at what people see in the media? Pat Robertson has not always been right. Why is that?
  • How may times have you heard a Christian say, "God told me to do this or told me to tell you...."- enough already. To many people in this world.... WE LOOK FOOLISH.
  • Why would God tell one person to vote for the Republican and another to vote for the Democrat? I don't get it. And....right now there are people quickly rushing to explain why God would do that... STOP IT.

I've been burned thinking I knew when God was talking to me. I made decisions on those thoughts and they were dead wrong. The truth is, either my "tuner" (and most others) are out of whack, or I need to have some humility and admit, "I don't know if that was God or if it was just my own distorted thought".

The irony is, there were two times that seemed different... 2 times in 35 years. One was...

When my business was crashing, creditors were calling, and stress was pumping through my forearms, I vividly remember driving through the Angela and US31 intersection in South Bend and yelling out loud at God... "God, what is the deal!!!".... and instantaneously, this thought pops in my head, "Are you willing to let go of the business for Me".... I yelled back, "Am I willing to let go of the business for You? I don't even know if that's you talking!" Later the next day, it struck me, wouldn't I have said "Am I willing to let go of the business for God"- it was a third person statement stuck in my head... Since that moment, I've taken gradual steps to let go and I continue to see it's been the right shift in my life.

Oddly enough, that moment was one of the core things I was left with after reading The God Delusion.... a personal glimpse, a brief interaction, a course-changing blip that reminded me... that was something, a real experience that came from.... Someone.

Blind Faith

The God Delusion is a dangerous book. I know of people that have walked away from their faith after reading this book. At our dinner last night, Jamaica Abare mentioned she was surprised at how many of her 18-yr old college students were reading this book. Scary. I read this book to try to understand a thinking completely different than my own. My second lesson from this book: I had blind faith.

  • My trite Christian cliches' and pad answers got blown out of the water

  • The basis of my faith got stripped away and left me naked to my core

  • I realized I was blowing smoke about much of what I believed and had only a few tangible nuggets left to hold onto

Ignorance really is bliss. I remember driving to work a few days after completing the book and having a deep, sinking feeling in my gut when thinking...."what if there really is no God?".... it was a hallow, sad, desperate thought.

This book changed a filter in me and now simple Christian answers don't cut it. I don't want to be duped, I want to know and truly 'experience' God and not live in some psychological safe place hoping there is something there for us when we die. I no longer want a blind faith... I'm either all in or all out, life is too short. Do I know my faith? Do I know what my neighbor believes? Can I talk about it?

If you read this or like minded books, make sure you've got some good people around you to process this with. Thankfully, my good friend Rob Wegner told me "Hey man, just let me know if you need to re-saved, just let me know!"..... As funny as that was, it really meant a lot to me...

God Delusion Lessons Part 1: Kill Romance

Last year Kem and I had a week getaway to Orlando to fill our love tanks for each other.... but it was a bomb. Not "da bomb", just plain ol' bomb. One contributor was that I happened to be reading The God Delusion... Here are a few ways we learned to kill romance on that trip:
  • Ask your wife, "What if God is just some fictional spaghetti monster in our brains?" at dinner... it communicates you're really thinking only about her and she is your main focus
  • Have a Fed Ex package arrive at your condo overnight with urgent work to-do's
  • Go to a place with tons of people and external stimulus for your spouse with ADD.... like say..... Orlando... so she can be calm and peacefully thinking about her man
  • Go to a trade show for your work
  • Talk about how much dinner cost and how you now only have $64.38 per day for the rest of your trip
  • Lay out by the pool by yourself
  • Have a few beverages at DIFFERENT times than your spouse during the day to really make sure you're out of sync

Thanks to a great dinner and smart discussions with Brad and Jamaica Abare last night, I was up at 6:30 AM on vacation with too much stuff in my head..... more God Delusion to come...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Love Change

Have you noticed? People hate change. How do people react to new policies and procedures at work? Moving. Finding a new job. Losing a job. New church service times. New Coke. Having to learn a new skill. It doesn't come naturally.

One of the things Kem and I have tried to push in each other is being "good at change", embrace it, expect it, and at times love it.

In the last nine years, I've had a career change from self-employed in sports collectibles to insurance to manufacturing to the electrical industry to new home construction and now to the technology world. Here are just a few things I've learned:

  • Each change I make in life generally gets a little easier, it takes practice

  • I am my worst enemy. My fears of what I don't know and how I might look ignorant have been my biggest mental hurdle

  • My raw skills and talents translate into any industry or situation- as I've started new jobs, I lean heaviest on these things while I go through the industry specific learning curve

  • When having to learn something new, I need to have a realistic timetable of when it's going to "click". It would be so easy to give up. I experience, study, read, ask, work, study some more, and eventually... things start to click. For me, it seems like the 1 1/2 year mark seems to be a threshold to get past.

In today's world, being good at change will make us more valuable, adaptable, and with practice... can get a little easier. What have you learned from change in your life? How can we practice change?

The Gift that keeps on Giving

I love leftovers... This is prime rib from LG's in Palm Springs with a little garlic 'totoes and four veggie thingies.... 2" thick meat....
The other bonus is that it takes a $130 dinner bill and makes me think it's really (2) $65 meals... hey... that's not all bad....
Some things (food) are just easier to justify.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Size Matters

At our resort here in Palm Springs, they have these little 4 ounce coffee cups... how wrong.
  • Just when I "nestle" in to write a little or get comfortable on the couch- my coffee's gone.

I think I've gotten up three times just to write this post.

Size matters. I like big cups and I cannot lie- these little cups make me cry...

Invention idea (or just buy me one if it exists): A portable coffee pot with a 4-hour battery so you can bring it with you wherever you want to "sit" and not move. I want to be able to sit on my balcony, in my backyard, or in front of my TV set and enjoy my cups of 'jo....

When a leader gets kicked to the curb

Friends of mine are going through a tough time right now in their church- the head pastor has resigned, the children's paster is following, families are leaving, all for what? My Dad is a Lutheren pastor- our family went through this when I was in junior high, I've seen it over and over again and it makes my blood boil every time.

First, I'll admit I don't know all the details in this situation but will observe generically:

  • The older I get, the more I value leadership. So when I see a leader that is forced out, burned out, or lost, it saddens me deeply.
  • Leaders are hard to come by. People talk about leadership a lot, but good to great leaders are few and far between.
  • What's left after this mess? To the followers, I say, "Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it." Who leads now? Where's the vision? Can a volunteer board with full-time jobs and families really lead a ministry of greatness? Or is it on life-support, flat, and all about them?
  • The grass is always greener: Many people and organizations lose any hope of greatness because they don't/won't persevere through tough times with their leader and settle for revolving pawns.
  • A team with a mediocre plan but is pushing together will outperform a splintered team with a great plan.
  • Pastors are people, they're not perfect- most of them feel alone and are under attack weekly within their own ranks. They need our support and encouragement.
  • Leaders create and cast vision, this takes an incredible amount of dedication and work to carry out- as a follower, hen-pecking and spouting off opinions is easy, rolling up our sleeves and aligning to be part of the solution is hard work.

Most of our roles will be as followers. As a follower, what teams are you on, what church are you in, what organization/company are you a part of? Are you part of the solution and positive push or do you need to gracefully find another team?

What we do can be so destructive.... I pray for my friends and these leaders....

My Big Head

When I had an insurance job (that lasted all of....uh 9 weeks?), I had to learn a "coined" presentation that looking back on it was pretty cheesy- but one thing I was told that stuck with me was: "Don't come back to me until you've given this presentation 100 times"- in their structure, that was about a 3-4 week period for that to occur giving 30 of these a week..

So with this blog, it makes me think about my first 100 blogs, here are a few things to know:
  • I think it's funny that I'm writing to myself... this blog has been "live" for all of 4 minutes now... I'm speaking to an audience of me... (great point, well stated, ahh yes... I see...)
  • Don't worry, I don't like my big head on this template either... after a few hours of dinking around with blogspot templates, I simply had to go with something..
  • Luckily, I have some good friends that will be helping with some of this layout schtuff..

This is new. It's change. But to be great at anything, one has to be willing to to put the work in, a 100 presentations, and look like a dork.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm ready to get to know my friends

Maybe I over-analyze, maybe I'm stubborn, maybe I'm just slow... While on vacation in Palm Springs, CA this week, I'm looking forward to getting to know my friends. All in my first day here, my blog, Facebook, and Tweeter accounts are officially launched... :)

In a few short hours on Facebook, I realize, I have 15 friends... I could be cool and act like it's nothing but a thing- but it fills my tank. My friends and my relationships matter... I feel loved. I love my life and I love doing life with you all...

My hope for us all is to "maximize" life here as it's so short. Let's not simply grow old, let's change this world. You (my friends) are my boardroom, my consultants, my team, my support... I can't wait to see how our stories play out!