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What’s in a name? A lot, thank you.

Imagine being a 13 year-old boy in the 70’s. Divorce was not yet the norm, and it was unusual for you to have a different last name than your parents. You haven’t seen your “real dad” since you were 8, and you REALLY identify with your step-dad.

You get it, right?

Junior high isn’t the most forgiving sub-culture in the world, and constantly explaining who you are and where you came from can be both exhausting and humiliating.

Wouldn’t you want to change your name? Wouldn’t you want to remove the obstacles that keep you from your mission? (Which, in junior high, is survival with the minimum amount of humiliation and pain.)

This week our organization announced a name change…from “Campus Crusade for Christ” to “Cru”. For 29 years I have been a part of this amazing group. Our DNA has always been to take the gospel, the love of Jesus, to EVERY person on the globe – giving every person the opportunity to say “yes” to Jesus!

In recent years, however, our name has become an obstacle. The media would have you believe that “Christ” is the issue. It’s not. But if we remove “Campus” and “Crusade”, which are obstacles, we are left with “Christ.” (I think we can all agree that that’s a bad name for an organization.)

So our leadership embarked on a prayer-saturated, sober process to rename a 60 year-old organization…an organization with a clear reputation for being willing to do ANYTHING to take the Good News to the four corners of the world, where men and women desperately need to know the God who loves them so dearly.

Explaining and operating with our name actually became an obstacle to our mission – to exalt and proclaim the name of Jesus! As our US Director stated, “We care more about effectively proclaiming the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ then we do about having the word ‘Christ’ in our name.” So we made the change.

Like hundreds of churches and parachurch organizations that operate without “Christ” or “Jesus”, our mission is not defined by our name. Our mission and values drive us…and our mission is the same mission and call given to Dr. and Mrs. Bill Bright in 1951, to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

Oh, and that 13 year-old boy? That guy was me. Changing my name made all the difference in the world to me, and I survived junior high with minimal damage.

Mission accomplished.

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The month of May and the speed of life.

I love speed.

Motorcycles, boats, planes, remote-controlled cars….anything fast. As anyone with the need for speed knows, however, the love of velocity can also be risky business.

I remember my first and only trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500. One of my good friends was college roommates with one of the top drivers that year, and he got us pit passes for the race. While almost 200,000 people were in the stands, WE were allowed on the track! I was standing literally 3 feet from one of the Indy Cars when I heard, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” As the cars roared away, I ran off the track and over the pit wall. It was an exhilarating experience.

While standing in the pits produced some amazing moments early in the race, honestly, it got a little boring after 30 minutes or so. Why? Well, we could only see about 100 feet of the track from where we were situated, right at track level, and at the speeds the cars were carrying, we couldn’t even tell what color the cars were, much less who was driving. Eventually we took some seats in the grandstands. It wasn’t as frenetic and exciting, but it definitely gave us a better and more enjoyable view of the race.

My life is often like that Indy 500. I love the exhilaration of the pace, the roar of my schedule, and the riskiness of trying to accomplish more than I should sanely attempt. But there is a problem…

I miss the race.

As husband and father of a beautiful family, I am prone to miss out on the big picture in order to experience the adrenal rush of the speed of my life. Oh, how beautiful my life looks when I slow down a little and watch from 30 rows up.

How about you?

Leading when no one is watching….

OK….the truth is, 111,310 people were watching. And then there was the television audience….probably millions there. They just weren’t watching what I was watching – leadership in all it’s glory.

The date was September 22, 2007, and thanks to a friend’s generosity, I was given tickets to the Michigan-Penn State game. Michigan didn’t have a very good team, but the crowd at the Big House was still amped up. It was a fun atmosphere for me and my then 11 year-old son.

The game was a grinder. Mid-way through the 4th quarter, the score was 7-6 Michigan. The Wolverine offense, quarterbacked by freshman Ryan Mallett, was basically one-dimensional. Team captain Mike Hart finished the game with 44 carries for 153 yards. He was it….the only bright spot on offense.

The Wolverines eventually pushed ahead 14-6, only to see the Nittany Lions come back with a field goal, making the score 14-9. With 6 minutes left in the game, Michigan got the ball and was desperate to run out some clock. They handed the ball to Mike Hart…..and kept handing it to him, over and over again.

With 3 minutes to play, Hart ran up the middle and was destroyed by a Penn State linebacker. It was the 41st carry of the game for the running back, and when he was carried off the field, there was a sense of dread in the crowd. Their leader was gone.

Penn State called a timeout. It was 3rd and 3, and without Hart, you could sense the Nittany Lions thought they could stop Michigan, get the ball back and put the game away. That’s when I watched the drama unfold on the sidelines. Hart had positioned himself away from the coaches, and just before the timeout was over, he limped onto the field and told the running back who had replaced him to go back to the sideline. When he lined up in the backfield, I think everyone, including the coaches, looked on in shock.

Hart knew what was coming, and he did his job perfectly. At the snap of the ball, the Penn State defense blitzed their linebackers, hoping to catch the freshman quarterback off-guard and cause an interception, a fumble, or at the very least, an incomplete pass. As Mallett faded back, the injured Hart stepped in front of the linebacker just before he reached Mallett, and he crushed the defender and put him flat on his back. Pass complete, 1st down, game essentially over.

Mike Hart, who could hardly walk, came back on the field at the perfect moment.

To block. For someone else.

I have watched a lot of football in my life, but I will remember that play as long as I have a memory. THAT was leadership.

And at least one person was watching.

Hope….the worry killer.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Honestly, I’ve missed it, if for no other reason than it gives me the opportunity to reflect on my life.

In recent weeks, my responsibilities in virtually every area of my life have increased. Less time, fewer resources, less time for relationships….700 miles per hour with my hair on fire all the time. It’s not a healthy way to live, and I know it. But do I change anything?

See, the problem is that by nature I am a positive guy. I recently took a personality test that seeks to identify each person’s top 5 strengths. My top strength?

Positivity.

Huh? Is that even a “strength”??

To be honest, I think I’m really more of an ostrich than an optimist. Instead of having a positive outlook on reality, I am, at times, more apt to look upon difficulties and trials and bury my head in the sand….pretending that everything’s okay by ignoring the problem. Eventually, it catches up with me and I land on life’s great debilitator…

Worry.

Worry sucks the life out of us. It kills our joy and shields us from the beauty that surrounds us. As Corrie Ten Boom stated so perfectly, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”

So what kills worry? Well, if you read the title of this blog post, you know my answer…hope. I don’t have a corner on the pain and sorrow market, but I have certainly had some dark moments, and it is hope that has sustained me, powering me invisibly forward, helping me get my eyes off myself and on to something productive and purposeful.

I think it is a theory of quantum physics that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. I believe what’s true in quantum physics is also true in life, and that worry and hope cannot exist in the same space. My hope is in my relationship with my Creator.

Where’s your hope? I’d love to hear about it….

Why You Should Understand Your Weaknesses – Michael Hyatt

Occasionally I come across a blog post that I think is important enough to republish. While the ideas contained in this blog post are widely known, I still see leaders, good leaders, who insist on trying being experts in everything. As Michael Hyatt points out in the blog, that philosophy is not only counter-productive for those of us leading, but it also inhibits development of people who have strengths in our weakness areas.

Enjoy the blog, and subscribe to Hyatt’s RSS feed….he shares quite a bit of good material!

How to make men cry….Brian’s Song and military reunions.

When I was a kid, the main test of manliness wasn’t bungee jumping or paintball domination. You could be as tough as nails, but there was one question every boy asked his friends.

“Did you cry when you watched ‘Brian’s Song’?”

Now, let me be clear here. I cry at supermarket openings and McDonald’s commercials, so I was never the litmus test for manliness. That being said, if crying at videos is grounds for giving up one’s “man card”, I defy any guy to watch the video below without turning it in on the spot.

The men and women that serve us are amazing, but I rarely think about their sacrifice in the context of the little people they leave behind. This video will change all that…and it will for you, too.

Who’s watching your backyard? The power of community…

I love Colorado. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the Indianapolis area, where I live, but I LOVE Colorado. One of the great blessings of my life is that my job takes me to Colorado for an extended time every two years. I have been making this pilgrimage for 28 years now, and it never gets old.

When I was single, the trek was easy. I just packed up and left. As my family grew, however, this trip required some planning…someone had to take care of our house, our yard and our dog.

Several years ago, when my kids were little, we asked an 18 year-old girl if she’d house-sit for us when we ventured west. She was mature for her age, and we knew that she’d take care of the place, and our dog, to the best of her ability. We returned to find the everything in good shape, and generally as we left it.

Or so I thought.

A couple days after returning home, I realized that there was a strange plant growing outside our back door. It wasn’t unusual for us to have a weed or two grow through the cracks of our brick pavers, but this plant looked strange….it had grown large very quickly and had red stems leading to the green leaves. I went to my computer and “googled” the plant, and when I saw the picture of my strange weed and read the description, I couldn’t act fast enough.

Jimson weed. Poison.

The description read: “Symptoms include incoherent speech, impaired coordination; rapid heart beat; and dry, flushed or hot skin. In extreme cases, users can experience seizures, intense visual or auditory hallucinations, or cardiac arrest.” Yikes!

Having small children who put everything in their little mouths, I was horrified. What might have happened had my kids found the plant before I did? I shudder at the thought even today.

The 18 year-old girl who watched this plant grow had no idea what it was. Why should she have considered it harmful to anything, much less my kids? She wasn’t wired to think that way. If I had one of my close friends staying in the house, however, I’m pretty sure they’d have been at least observant enough to know that I wouldn’t want a large nasty weed growing up through my pavers. Perhaps they’d have been a little concerned by the ominous look of that fast-growing weed as well.

Here’s my point….who’s watching your backyard? Do you have friends, close friends, who know you and love you enough to speak freely when they see poisonous plants growing in your backyard? Do you have people who will speak up when they see you jeopardizing your job, your kids or your marriage? Who is is your community that will be honest enough to uproot the poisonous plant that threatens you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

The gift of teaching….

Every once in a while I am reminded that there are people who have the gift of teaching. They are not necessarily teachers by profession, but they teach….having an amazing ability to connect to the heart of people in a way that is unique and powerful.

My brother Todd is like that. He is able to subdivide anything he is talking about into bite-size morsels that are easily digestible. Just last week, my 14 year-old listened to him share the physics and movements behind a particular knee-board trick. The first time my son tried to execute it, he performed it! Yes, he did a great job, but his teacher also connected with him, giving him everything he needed to know to learn effectively.

This afternoon I saw a video on TED that moved me….as much for the teacher’s skill as for the topic. If you have 20 minutes to spend, I think this video would be worth the investment.

How to motivate people…it’s NOT old school!

I have the privilege of working with some amazingly talented people. People, for the most part, who are from a generation different than my own. My generation, the “boomer” generation, has generally defined success in tangible ways….more money, more stuff. There is almost a linear equation that provides motivation for us:

Good job+long hours+sacrifice=lots of money, cool stuff and a comfortable retirement

It’s been my observation, however, that subsequent generations do math a little differently…okay, a LOT differently. My anecdotal evidence has now been corroborated by a recent study. Daniel Pink, author of the brilliant books “Drive” and “A Whole New Mind“, gave a presentation at TED that puts words to what most of us already intuitively know….we need to change the way we lead our people! Check out this video….

Changing my life…not unlike changing my golf swing!

I remember when I first started playing golf. Like most new players, I was terrible. Slice right, pull-hook left. I was awful. As I continued to practice, however, I got better. Not PGA tour better, but I got the point where I could eventually break 100. I was ecstatic! I saw a few pars, the occasional birdie, lots of bogies and some 12’s. Not perfect, but hey, I could play.

Then I met Dave.

Dave was a really good player, and playing with him made me suddenly discontent with my progress. Sure, I could break 100, but could I break 90? I asked Dave….”Dave, can I break 90?” He said, “no”.

WHAT??? NO??

Well, he explained that I’d never break 90 as long as I kept the swing I had developed. To improve, I would basically have to start over, get quite a bit worse for a while, and rebuild my swing.

I did that, with great success….I was shooting 120 in no time!

As I continued to work on these new techniques, however, I began to see change….real change, and before long, I was scoring in the low 80’s. It was a painful process, but it worked at some level.

What’s the old saying (alternately attributed to Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin or Albert Einstein)? Something like, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There are many areas of my life where I need to adopt a new strategy….I need to jettison my mediocre thinking and drive toward something better and more effective. Sure, in the short run, it may get messy. But I’d take a short term loss for a long term gain any day. How about you?

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