Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don't Be a Hater

We were walking down Sanford Drive. The sweet aroma of Georgia football was thick. We could hear the Redcoat Marching Band. We were surrounded in a sea of red and black. A hint of nostalgia warmed my heart as I caught a glimpse of Memorial Hall, the Tate Student Center, the University Bookstore, and the unsurpassed majesty of Sanford Stadium. For a brief moment, it was heaven on earth.

That's because, well, it became hell on earth, somewhat literally. A beautiful day in Athens and the excitement of opening day between the hedges turned sour as we encountered a group of men holding signs with condemning messages of the "lake of fire" that awaits sinners.

One group was making its way up to the corner of Baldwin and Sanford. Another trio stood firm with hands held high in hatred along Hooper Street, in front of Memorial Hall, as a band belted out contrived "Christian" lyrics to hard alt-rock guitar riffs (think Alice in Chains with the Jesus edge - "Jesus Chri-yi-yi-yi-yist!").

Anyway, I'm not trying to be critical of their musical talent. I'm simply saying that these folks have an opportunity to show God's love to 90,000+ people, but instead choose to be judgmental and send a message to others that isn't consistent with their supposed beliefs.

It upsets me (and embarasses me to some extent, I must admit) to be viewed as "the same" as those bullhorn-types when it comes to my faith in Christ. I know God is big enough to take care of himself, but I get awfully defensive. It really takes restraint for me not confront these folks. But, I know deep down that it would likely do even more damage to the cause of Christ. Besides, those folks are chomping at the bit to initiate controversy, and they invite scoffers because it fuels their "fire" (couldn't help the pun).

In the end, they too will have to answer for their actions and their public displays. I really cannot worry about that. But, I do pray for them.

And, don't worry, about 10 minutes after that, I was back in paradise, sitting with 90,000 of my buddies in Sanford Stadium, singing "Glory Glory to Ole Georgia" and watching the Dawgs take care of bidness between the hedges.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who Cares?

I had an interesting discussion at lunch today. A few of us were talking about the whole My Space/ Facebook deal. Basically, these are online communities that allow people to share their lives with others on a regular basis.

To date, I have avoided setting up a page on these sites. But, more and more people are telling me I "need to set up a profile on Facebook."

As if blogging wasn't enough (I know you're thinking it).

The lunch discussion centered around the fact that people (mostly kids) tend to share entirely too much information on these pages. Many times they will share information that could compromise their reputations, or worse - their futures. Some can share such detailed information that it invites deranged lunatics to act on their impulses.

But, going a step beyond the dangers of sharing too much information, tons of people share completely meaningless information.

For example, people will update their personal page ten times in a day, and will share everything they are doing. Brushing their teeth. Talking on the phone. Heading to lunch. Checking the mail. Walking to the fridge to grab a Coke.

Thanks for sharing, but who cares?

Today more than any other time in history, information is meaningless. As author Daniel Pink writes in his book A Whole New Mind, we are quickly moving out of the Information Age. In the past, information was the equivalent of power. Today, anything anyone wants to know about anything or anyone is a mouse-click away.

Instead, says Pink, we are embarking (or already have embarked) on a new era in which "right brainers will rule the future." Since anybody can get information, creativity is now king. Individuality is reigning supreme in our culture.

Thank goodness.

I mean, I think it's great that you just texted your best friend. Or that you are drying your hair. Or, just popped open a can of Red Bull.

But, for Pete's sake, I don't care to know about it. Tell me something interesting ABOUT you. Share your opinions. Bare your soul. Tell me your thoughts on drilling in ANWAR. But, I'm not interested in the type of granola you just picked up at Publix.

OK, I gotta run. I just trimmed my toenails, and I have to dispose of the clippings.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Protecting Your Brand

Have you ever driven down the street and seen litter on the ground along the road? How about knee-high weeds or grass around a home or business? Shopping carts out of place across parking lots in retail centers? People walking around holding up homemade signs promoting a business?

What about a terrible graphic or logo, pixelated images, or sub-par printing materials used to promote a church, business, or event?

How do these things make you feel? Are you more likely or less likely to frequent these places or events when you encounter any of the items mentioned above? Almost certainly, these things produce a negative impression.

There is a business here that is a local franchise of very successful regional restaurant chain. Recently, the restaurant hired a couple young guys to walk up and down the sidewalk along a busy highway with a sign held over their heads. The sign includes the restaurant logo and an arrow pointing in the direction of the restaurant. This is a restaurant that has been here for several years on a relatively busy highway. The people driving by can clearly see the restaurant - it's only about 50 yards off the road, and it stands alone.

Further, the guys holding the signs often look poorly groomed, and many times are sitting in a tailgating chair with a cap down over their eyes, with the sign resting on their lap.

So, the question is: WHY would a restaurant that is clearly visible from the road - AND has big-time brand name recognition - hire people to walk the streets with signs?

The short answer is that they don't realize what this is doing to the way people view their brand - and more specifically, their local franchise.

When I see this, I see a restaurant that appears desperate. I also see one that is trying to cut corners by simply having a warm body hold up a sign, rather than sinking their marketing dollars into community events, in-store promotions, and sponsorships that reach outside the walls of their establishment.

There are other businesses and organizations that do other things that repel customers. Things that may not be obvious, and things that may not be intentional. But, rest assured, people do notice when you compromise your brand by being lazy or selfish.

In a nutshell, great organizations genuinely care more about the people they are serving than themselves, and it's evident. So, with that in mind, take a closer look at your situation - whether it's your work, your church, your neighborhood, or even your own home. What impression would someone have if they walked in? Would they return for a second visit, or would once be enough?

Care enough about yourself and your organization to do the extra leg-work to ensure that others have a favorable - and lasting - first impression.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Great Idea! Where Have I Heard that Before?

How are you at handling criticism or advice? Are you receptive to friends, family, and co-workers offering you words of wisdom that could help propel you past the impasse that perhaps you find yourself mired in? Do you take suggestions from those closest to you to heart, or do you dismiss them?

What about on the flip side?

Have you ever made a suggestion to a friend or family member, only to have your input seemingly swept aside? You try your best to offer up some sound advice, or perhaps share an idea that could possibly improve things, but the response is luke-warm at best.

What's more is that many times your friend or co-worker will hear the very same advice from another source, and suddenly it's the best idea he or she has ever heard! Brutal!

A friend of mine, Jamie Maddox, uses this quote all the time. I don't remember who said it, but someone once said, "You can be as successful as you want to be as long as you don't mind who gets the credit."

And, if you are someone who likes to offer up unsolicited ideas and suggestions to others, this is something you are going to have to deal with - like it or not.

I'm not sure why, but there's something about hearing things outside your inner circle that flips on the proverbial light switch. Many leaders may have already come up with the answer to their dilemma long ago. But, they've been sitting on it. They may be afraid to act, or they are reluctant to make a change for a multitude of reasons. And, it's not until someone completely outside their sphere of influence makes a comment that they feel empowered to act upon it.

Jesus knew something about this. He said that a prophet is without honor in his hometown. Basically, he knew that those who claimed to know the leader best (or the longest) would be the ones most likely to reject his teachings. Consequently, Jesus spent very little time in his hometown trying to talk some sense into these stubborn people.

Instead, he made the most of his time - and others' - by investing in the lives of those who were going to be receptive to his message of grace and love.

So, what does that mean for us? Does that mean that we don't waste our time offering up suggestions to those closest to us? Nope. It just means we have to make sure that our personal worth isn't rooted in the opinions of others. We cannot look to others for validation - only to God.

And, if you are in a position of leadership, and you are subjected to ideas and advice constantly being thrown at you, do your best to help the individual offering suggestions feel like they are truly being heard. And, second, don't automatically dismiss an idea from a loved one. Remember, your friends and family almost always have your best interests at heart.

And, you never know. The most sound advice may come from the most unexpected source!

Friday, August 15, 2008

What's the Hurry?

I betcha I tell my kids to "hurry" ten times per day. Sometimes the comment it justified, but most of the time, it's just second nature for me to say it - even if there's absolutely no reason that they should hurry.

For example, I just laid my 4-year old down for a nap. He said, "I want my puppy (stuffed animal). I'm going to go downstairs and get it."

My response: "OK, but hurry."

Why in the world does he need to hurry? I am not going anywhere (obviously, since he'll be napping). And, I have nothing pressing to do (except blog) - I am off on Fridays.

Any time I ask my kids to do something, I add the word "hurry" to the request in some form or fashion. And, after thinking about it, I am a little miffed at myself.

Yeah - sometimes they lag behind or drag their feet. But, most of the time I want them to rush to keep up with the ridiculous pace I am trying to keep. Instead of relishing the precious moments I have with them, I am preoccupied speeding up the treadmill of life - both mine and theirs.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Right now, we're in the middle of a series entitled August Rush at NorthStar. One of the main points of the series is this: we cannot slow down the rush - but we can control how we deal with it.

Can anyone else relate to this inexplicable need to hurry all the time?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Let's Go Spelunking

I would venture to say that most dreams never acted upon. When it comes right down to it, most of us just don't have the motivation to make a move. Or the courage.

But, on that rare occasion, the dream we had not only becomes a reality, but it becomes much greater than we ever imagined...because we dared to make a move.

One such example is Ruby Falls.

OK, before I go on, let me say a couple things. I have always thought that Ruby Falls sounded pretty cheesy. I went there as a kid about 25 years ago, and I remember very little about that excursion. I mean, you see the signs everywhere, and the painted barns and homemade signs covering the Southeast have likely drawn more conversation than the a
ttraction itself.

But, Amy and I took the kids up there last Friday for one final family getaway before school started. And, I will say that the discovery of Ruby Falls is nothing short of a miracle. A miracle that required action on someone's part.

That someone was named Leo Lambert. As a kid, Leo and his buddies would play in the caves, nooks, and crannies at the base of Lookout Mountain. But, in the early 1900's, a railroad tunnel was built along the base of Lookout Mountain, along the Tennessee River, and the natural entrance to the caves was closed up.

In 1923, as an adult, Lambert, and a group of investors
, purchased the land on the end of Lookout Mountain in hopes of reopening the caves to the public. Five years later, while excavating an elevator shaft, and opening in the rock was discovered about 260 feet down into the mountain.

For the next 17 hours, Lambert and a small crew of his men explored the new cave they had discovered, the crown jewel being the 145-foot waterfall located deep in the heart of the mountain that would ultimately be the main draw for the Chattanooga area for decades to c
ome. What you may not know is that after discovering the void in the rock, Lambert spent the next six hours crawling on his belly in almost complete darkness in a space only 18 inches high and five feet wide. It was at this point that he was first able to stand to his feet, and it was still another several hundred feet before he discovered the now-famous Ruby Falls (named for his wife, Ruby).

The story behind the famous landmark is perhaps more remarkable than the landmark itself. And, that's how it usually is. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of passion, and a team of inspired supporters to bring a vision to reality.

Just like Leo Lambert, there are thousands of us today with a dream we hope to achieve. Some are humble, and some are extravagant. But, they are equally important to the dreamer.

You may not have to crawl on your stomach in a rocky cave in tight quarters for six hours to achieve the dream God has given you; but, it'll take work, and it'll take heart, and it won't be easy.
But you can do it.

And, like Leo Lambert's, your dream may not be nearly as big as the discovery you make along the way!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What's the Deal with Laminin?

A friend forwarded a video to me the other day that just blew me away. For those of you who are more interested in the scientific arguments surrounding Intelligent Design, check this out.

Even if you could care less about the science behind God's creation, you will dig this discovery. It's called Laminin, and it could truly change how you see things.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lights Out!

There I was, in pitch black darkness. Gripped by uncertainty and paralyzed by indecision.

"What do I do now?" I asked myself repeatedly. I sat there dumbfounded, unable to comprehend completely what had just happened. In my heart of hearts, I knew I had to take action.

(Before you read on...and I know you will...please know that you will likely classify this under the heading "TMI." But, with that disclaimer, I leave the choice to proceed up to you).

Before I tell you (in the words of Paul Harvey) - the REST of the story, let me hit the rewind button.

I avoid public restrooms at just about all costs. Not for going #1. But, for the other, more time-consuming visits to the restroom. It's not too unusual. Many people I have talked to don't use public restrooms to do their business. No big whoop.

But, on that very rare occasion, there's no avoiding it. And this was one of those times.

So, I went to the most remote, far-removed from high-traffic areas location I could find in the time nature allowed. I felt relatively safe...for a few moments.

When you already dislike using public restrooms, you hate it even more when someone walks in. I am a pretty private person, so I feel completely exposed and emasculated when someone invades that space (and, I can guarantee you that they aren't too keen on it, either).

So, I hear someone walk into the restroom. I am deathly silent. No shuffling of feet. No coughing or clearing of my throat. Silence. That's how I roll.

Apparently, I was too quiet. The dude washes his hands, opens the door to walk out of the restroom, then SHUTS OFF THE LIGHTS!

WHAAAAT? Why did he do that? I mean, the light was on when he came in, so he should have just left it alone.
So there I am. In the dark. Contemplating my next move.

Best I can tell, I have two choices. I can deal with the darkness, which seems like a relatively reasonable option. But, then a thought occurs to me: What if someone else walks in and realizes there's a dude in the stall of the bathroom with the lights out!

So I formulate a far riskier second option: I can make a mad dash for the light switch, and try to get back before anyone walks in.

I go with Option #2 (no pun intended). It's a bold move, but I know it's the best one. I reason that it's the option that reduces the amount of potential embarrassment to yours truly.
(In hindsight, I know that this assessment was not completely rational. In fact, the risk for Option #2 creating irreparable humiliation was far greater).

I know you're dying to know how it all came out (another poor choice of words, but I am on a roll here).

Long story short, I got out of there without further incident.

And, I escaped embarrassment.

Well, until now.