“John, take a look at freedom!”

Occasionally God shows you what freedom looks like. If you’re paying attention, it’s more beautiful than a sunrise. It’s soul transformation beaming through human eyes.

Today, I was honored to witness God free his worried, fearful, lonely, grieving, scared, bound, coiled, anxious, tearful, exhausted, and insecure child. All I did was cheer. As the layers unpeeled, they brightened, eased, smiled, bounced, shined; years washed off their face. I don’t remember a transformation so obvious, so instant. 

What made it possible? Trust. Prayer. Safety. Courage. Honesty. Ownership. Confession. Awareness. Desire. Empathy. Calm.

We all wanted it. We all witnessed it. But none more so than the child freed to fly like a released bird from its lonely cage of fear.

Why do I believe in God? Only He could do what I witnessed today.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Yukari Harada

3 Questions to Refresh Your Bible Reading

If you’re reading this post, you most likely fit into two categories:

  1. You read the Bible regularly, or at least try, and know that at times you need a “pickmeup.”
  2. You have yet to really figure out how to make Bible reading a thing you do.

Guess what…God knows it and understands. Yet, I’ll paraphrase Max Lucado, God sees where you are but isn’t content to leave you there. So when it comes to Bible reading, God desires for you to enjoy communing with him through his words to you.

Whether you are flowing along completely satisfied in your approach to Bible reading, or if you try one more devotional plan that leads to “failure” you are done with it, or you’re indifferent about it, indulge me to encourage you to consider asking yourself these three questions the next time you open your Bible.

  • Who am I when I approach the Bible?

I’m not suggesting you have to flash your official birth certificate heavenward to remind your Creator that you are his handiwork. He knows you, trust that. But do you know your spiritual identity? What if that’s how you approached the Bible? 

Rather than the father of four who wants out, you are God’s son who needs advice, courage, wisdom. 

Rather than the wife of Mr. Grumpy Pants, you are God’s daughter who needs empathy, forgiveness, patience. 

Rather than the employer who wrestles with growing your business, you are God’s servant who wants direction, guidance, blessing. 

When you open the Bible, what might happen if you engaged it with your heavenly identity over your earthly title?

A note to those in category #2: If your answer to who you are is something like Skeptic, Doubter, Curious, First-Timer, or anything that sounds unacceptable to those church-goers, it’s worth repeating. God knows you. He wrote the Bible for you, too.

  • What question focuses my reading?

Once you’ve landed on who are you, then it’s time to figure out why you are reading the Bible. If your answer is because I’m supposed to, let’s go ahead and admit this-that ain’t cuttin’ it. Legalism leads to exactly where you are.

You have to have a reason with purpose that says, “I know God sees me where I am, and I’m not content staying there either.” With that in mind, word a question that will give your heart and mind direction. 

For example, “As a child of God, what is God saying to me?” Or, “As a follower of Jesus, how does this apply to me today?” Or, “As a believer seeking transformation, what steps of growth are possible?” Or, “As a skeptic, what hope do I see in these words?” Or, “As a first-timer, what can I learn about God?” Or, “As a doubter, how does God show himself?”

Once you’ve worded that question, post it somewhere in your eyesight every time you open your Bible. Maybe it’s on a post-it. Maybe it’s at the top of a notepad. Maybe it’s on your computer screen. Write this question in your heart as well as in your vision.

  • Which part of the Bible allures me?

Now that you know who you are and what question is guiding your heart and mind, here’s where I believe freedom shows up. Your entry into heaven isn’t based on did you read the entire Bible or any other works orientation. Free yourself from any system that enslaves you. If you feel God guiding you to read from Genesis to Revelation, fantastic. But if you find yourself stuck in the dull drums, give yourself the freedom to sit as long as you want where you are getting the most from it. God isn’t abusive. He may be corrective as a Good Father and Shepherd, but when you know who you are and why you’re reading his word, all his words can fulfill you. Choose to read where God leads you and feast as long as you want.

One last note for those in Category #2: If you don’t know how to answer this question, here’s a suggestion. Go to the New Testament and try one of the first four books. Most people like to start with the Gospel of John.

God promised that when we seek him we will find him. May these questions assist you in finding God.

(This post was prompted by a coaching session. If you have yet to receive the benefits of a coaching relationship in your life, let this be a testament to what’s possible.)

Canoeing the Mountains (book review)

Finished this book last night, following a simulcast with the author on Monday.  I’ve tweeted quite a few quotes while reading.  Here are two from the end of the book that summarize it, in my opinion.

  • “We are all called to take the hill – with grandma.”
  • “God takes us into uncharted territory to transform us.”

Yes, the target of this book is leaders. Yet, anyone could gain much from this insightful work by Tod Bolsinger.

Yes, the target is mostly church leaders. Yet, business leaders who face a new day they didn’t see coming could also benefit from this read.

Bolsinger takes several pages from history through the 19th century story of Lewis and Clark to relate to those in 21st century leadership. Leaders today face uncharted territory which may feel like you have the wrong equipment for the job-like having a canoe to cross a mountain.

If this sounds remotely like what you are feeling, you should get this book and read it soon. Then have those you lead read it. Then start asking better questions together that may totally change everything. Instead of trying harder, maybe the answer you’ve been looking for is in reframing the question. As for you, your transformation can happen when you face uncharted territory, when you canoe the mountain.

Onward (book review)

A few weeks ago I saw Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, interviewed about his book Onward. He and his book’s message intrigued me, so I downloaded a copy. Plus, I needed to check off a book on leadership in my 2018 reading self-made requirements.


Onward did not disappoint. It was even more than I expected. A bottom line summary is the book tells the story of the transformation of the company in 2008-2009. This transformation involved many things which required excellent leadership by Schultz and the partners he empowered to lead at various levels in the company.

The writing is strongly narrative without too much direct leadership application. However, here are a few leadership principle highlights:

  1. Communication is always important, but it is even more essential when things are not working. Ensuring that communication is narrow, clear, and repetitive to set expectations wins people’s trust.
  2. A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.
  3. People have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted.
  4. How leaders embody the values they espouse sets a tone, an expectation, that guides their employees’ behaviors.
  5. Growth for growth’s sake is a losing proposition.
  6. Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow.

Besides the narrative of the New Orleans conference, worth the purchase of the book alone, this is the quote I most liked:

Wherever the location, the best beans – the ones with enchantingly complex flavors and compelling characters, known as arabica – grow under some degree of stress, like high altitudes, intense heat, or long dry periods.

This truth exemplifies the story of Onward. We can all learn from these beans. We can all be on the mission of moving onward.