This Blog Post Started by Simply Burning a Brush Pile!

Out of necessity, but partially in memory of the good times my mother and I enjoyed outdoors, I burned a brush pile last Wednesday evening after supper, that had resided nearly a week in the rental driveway measuring approximately 25 by 14 and 4 feet in height. During the last year that house had two larger ash trees out by the road done in by the ash bore that required the attention of Matt Wenger to take them down because of nearby electric lines. Until recently before my accelerated aging, I took down my own trees but no longer. Prior, if I ever lacked confidence in my ability to drop a tree precisely where I wished, I merely attached a 75 foot cable as high as my extension ladder would reach and then let my tractor guide the tree’s path insuring minimal damage to its surroundings. I finally now realize that for me to be cutting trees down with chain saws is simply much too risky for me any longer, either as a hobby or even of necessity.  

A word I use with increasing frequency these days is “transitions.” I compare it to the phrase “new normal” that describes whatever in my lifestyle or physical capabilities that are currently diminishing and my excuse to accept in resignation whatever the loss. Burning brush piles, is not normally associated with transitions; whether they are relationships, employment, spiritual concerns, or even economic woes.  Fortunately or not, I have a long history of burning brush piles. It actually was a skill taught me by my mother before I even entered first grade in the District #51 one room school house in Height of Land Township of Becker County MN. Like many simple functional lessons in life, I “caught” and appreciate these lessons more by observation rather a simple syllabus, and certainly not a detailed OSHA manual.  

As I recall now, we often entered this activity much as a carefree hike or a picnic but without substantial food or drink; perhaps cookies or an apple, and really rarely, an orange, as normally we were not gone that long. Times were quite different; even the concern for either staying hydrated or the perils of drinking too many sodas were still decades away. Actually, the temperature could vary greatly, from well below zero to a humid sticky summer day.

By far, the most critical factor was the combustibility of the pile’s immediate surroundings. You understand the facts of our situation here. We were literally playing with fire, here on the edge of several thousand acres of largely state owned lands about which we knew only two things for certain but it was only the second that concerned us. First, most of this acreage could have been purchased then by merely paying the delinquent back taxes, frequently for less than $10. per acre. Now the going rate is more like $2000 per acre and delinquent taxes have disappeared like rain clouds during droughts. I have yet to meet or hear of anyone who hugely capitalized on this opportunity. The second fact is any woods can burn if coaxed sufficiently if conditions are favorable. Realize only a match can start a forest fire but it may require virtually an army to curb its appetite once started and conditions are right. Consequently, most of our jaunts were enjoyed during the winter months when the effort expended to start the pile perhaps was more difficult, but never do I recall we ever worried about a fire getting the upper hand. Often we were out after a fresh powder snow and when accented by a roaring fire amongst a sea of white, whether under a mid-day sun, total dismal gloom, a glowing sunset, or even under northern lights or a bright moon, all such conditions were potential Kodak moments. Ask the over 50 crowd who Kodak was.   

It also seemed to me the winter “burnings” were more adventuresome. We were more relaxed and often sat within the desired range of the fire, to be not too warm, or too cold, while sitting on our seats fashioned from chunks of wood from a nearby woodpile munching on whatever, generating and securing happy memories. Spring and fall fires were less frequent because of increased risk, and summer virtually never, even though safer because of the green foliage but more because we were always so busy planting and reaping since daylight began well before 5 AM and lasted until nearly 11:00 PM so burning brush piles was just a job best done during the slower and safer winter months.

Besides, now you know as the  wood burners do, firewood production warms you at least three times; first while cutting it, second, while burning the brush piles, and lastly, from the stove while heating your home. Truth be told, depending on your degree of mechanization and the season during which you produce your firewood, you can also generate considerable heat while splitting it, then moving and stacking it near your outdoor furnace, or if your furnace is inside, by hauling it inside each day. After 20 years of feeding my outdoor furnace, I know the best advantage for me was the healthy exercise it generated. I thoroughly enjoyed my high efficiency gas furnace this past winter and never once needed to get up early or go out late to make fire. Checking the fire twice a day sorta went out the window for me, as did the Yellow Pages also. Remember them?

Perhaps the most significant condition to consider before entering a Minnesota woods whether for pleasure or toil, is it’s pesky wildlife.  Most Minnesota woodcutters favor being in the woods during the winter cold rather than the summer heat because the summer wildlife will literally consume you, though not nearly as quickly as a fire on the run. The pests include such as simple deer flies, horseflies, and especially the mosquitos. The ointment of choice as a lad in the sixties when I was cutting poplar cordwood for turkey shavings was a greasy oily concoction called “6-12” sold in small 1-2 ounce glass bottles for a buck plus maybe, but that little bottle lasted a long time, perhaps a whole season, depending. Literally, “a little dab would do you for the day.”

Now for a historical sidebar or perspective. The expensive aerosol “OFF” products debuted sometime before the August 1969 Woodstock concert for a point of reference. I was hitchhiking down I-81 thru PA towards Waynesboro VA and got a ride several days following the concert with a van of attenders as far as Strasburg, VA. FYI, that was also the year of the July 4th Wayne Co. flood as well as the summer Hurricane Camille dumped nearly 30 inches during the night August 14 in Nelson & Rockbridge Co SW of Charlottesville VA killing 23 people as presented in the book “Torn Land.”       

Getting back to transitions, usually the bigger combustibility challenge was getting the pile to burn, rather than to protect the thousands of acres beyond us. Sometimes the piles were too wet from recent rains and to help with all that, Mother brought along a box of the Ohio Blue Tips matches that were actually made in Wadsworth OH that were always near her four burner gas stove without a pilot light powered by the two propane cylinders out back rented from and serviced monthly by Skelgas in Detroit Lakes. Besides the matches, mother brought along a small metal can partially filled with kerosene and even a feed sack partially filled with dry kindling such as dry wood shavings, twigs, bark, even cardboard, to first coax and then engage the larger pieces of brush into consuming flames.

Strange, I never recall performing this consumptive brush pile ritual with my Dad. Mother had a knack for making fire. Our home was heated with firewood until shortly after I left home when an oil furnace was installed. Although I never made much firewood, I was expected to haul out each winter’s supply in the fall starting about in 4th grade after it was completely cured and ready to be placed either in the basement or in a pile adjacent the basement chute for it’s debut in January after the fall installation had been consumed.

Since our furnace during my youth was not that large or efficient, I remember well mother rising, maybe as early as 4 am to do her magic in the coals so the house would be toasty warm when Dad & I rolled out at 5. A unique division of labor! Mother was just glad to finally have a gas stove in the kitchen as I remember well her cooking on the wood only stove/oven. Although the electric lines via the REA stimulus funding after WWII came past our farm 1951, mother used her wood fired kitchen stove until they bought Grandpa Gingerich’s gas stove on his auction before moving to pastor assist in the  Sunnyslope congregation in the Phoenix area in 1953 which served her well until about the same time the oil furnace took up residency and she then acquired a new electric kitchen stove.

Please understand, I did not begin to go where I originally intended to travel while reminiscing about my mother,  but we did indeed cover a few of my family, cultural, and technological transitions basically during the 50’s & 60’s. It does appear the book ends of my life were heavily influenced by both fire and wood, but certainly much less during my mid-life quasi-professional years.

One prevailing thought that I pondered Wednesday evening after I lit maybe one of my last brush piles, and was watching it being consumed so rapidly, was the Luke 16: 19-31 account of the rich man begging Lazarus to first cool his tongue and that not being done, had the audacity to request he be sent to warn his five brothers of hell’s very unique non-consumptive fires. Perhaps we’re not transitioning so well here either. I do choose to believe the unique fire mentioned in scripture is real. How can I not? Why would I even consider risking today’s subjective “seen” science over and against faith in God’s Word and His promises, especially for an empowered life here and a resurrected life thereafter regardless if inflicted by natural causes, fire, sword, poisoning, guillotines, even slow debilitating torture as done during the Reformation. Life here is fleeting, temporal, merely a mirage to prepare us for the eternal. For it is after death that true Christ followers will rise victorious and partake of the feast prepared for them in eternity.

Death by fire took on a deeper dimension for me this past absolutely gorgeous November 5th morning at 8:30 when I burned up my Toro Zero Turn by being stupid with a pile of tinder dry leaves more than twice the size of this little brush pile I just burned. I did so by backing into the pile repeatedly and having the red hot exhaust ignite the leaves and by the time I was aware of the problem and turned to look behind me, flames were already  several feet higher than my head. It was then the protective circuitry to keep me from dismounting with the blades in motion I presume were burned thru killing the ignition, stalling the engine so the mower was then rapidly being engulfed in flames. I safely exited running for my Stihl Back Pack to blow the flames away from the mower and normally once it is warmed up, the back Pack starts on the first pull. But since I had not started it prior that morning, it took me a few minutes to come back with it operating full bore, but by then the mower was beyond even salvaging. But thankfully, I was safe, as I had escaped with only burnt pride and burns on my face that healed in 3-4 weeks. And yes, Schlabach Engine near Apple Creek does sell mowers most days to fire challenged persons with insurance money even though such clients may periodically exhibit a lack of respect for hot mufflers and tinder dry leaves.

Need I say any more? I hope you got the picture. Make it a real Kodak moment for yourself and your five brothers while you’ve yet opportunity.


On Being a “Steward” and More!

I retired tonight May 18, 2021 at 10 pm. I had two naps today; one about noon during the time I was doing my weekly vacuuming, sweeping and moping usually  performed prior the weekend but it was missed prior since my two brother in laws were here, so I did it today as the house was quiet. Only Loretta’s mother, Eileen was here. And it was a short nap as my phone soon dinged. The second occurred this evening after supper and my 30 minute stint in my micro lab. Suddenly I was exhausted so upon coming back into the house, I spread out in my all-purpose leather recliner chair in our house office that has also served as my bed since my devastating crash landing because of wet slippery snow on the yet green grass back on 1/15/21 breaking up my left side rather well including three ribs, a clavicle and even the scapula. The recliner is simply more comfortable yet than my bed. I slept an hour and not having utilized my sleep machine, both Larry and Loretta watching TV in the adjacent solarium, were well aware of my presence and reminded me of the fact and I noted I should always hook up before I am tempted to relax and travel beyond.

I can see now writing you of why I simply crawled out of my recliner at 11:10 pm to start a more personal approach to my blog writing is going to get much more complicated than I ever intended. But the first point I want to make is, if you want your prayer time to be a creative adventure you must not be exhausted.  Otherwise, sleep will do you in and you’ll have to regroup in the morning. However, I am experiencing that my evening reflective prayer times can be absolutely delightful adventures and springboards to numerous other spiritual escapades God is preparing for me if I were just seeking his presence more fully.

Let me share a revelation I experienced this evening while trying to wind down and go to sleep before I finally realized I could no longer quench the Spirit so I got up and began writing. Actually the revelations of all that had happened to me the past few days that I think may make interesting reading (you’ll be the judge of that) were coming so fast I was realizing I really need to try dictating but that will require better equipment than my Apple phone and a whole lot of practice on my part.

Earlier in the evening while in the micro lab 30 minutes I was listening to John Bevere’s last book, for the second or third time, “X – Multiple Your God Given Potential.” In recent months, I’ve been giving this Chapter Four, “Stewards,” considerable traction time while evaluating my life; especially since I floundered badly. Bevere identifies three clear aspects of stewardship from both the Greek and English definitions:

1.) Oversees what belongs to another,

2.) Carries authority to manage what has been entrusted, and

3.) Is responsible: he or she will give an account to the owner.

Suddenly mere stewardship has been supercharged in that God created and owns everything! Psalms 24:1 declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness” (NKJV). This makes us stewards over everything in this realm. We are to manage the earth – all land, water, air, resources, animals, fish, and fowl. We are responsible to care for the good of human beings spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. This includes all godly and beneficial knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Paul writes of being “stewards of the mysteries of God.” The New Living Translation says we have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries,” hidden truths that had not yet been revealed. Therefore the exact stewardship he refers to is not merely managing money, time, resources (all valid stewardship), but rather the gift (charisma) on his life. I am continually reminded how contrary the globalist’s current agenda and narrative is in comparison to God’s laws and truths as revealed in scripture; ageless, timeless, and regardless!!!

So, how does this apply to us as Christ followers today under the influence of current culture? As Peter writes: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Peter 4:10 NKJV). All our highlighted words are found in this one verse (gifts: charisma; stewards: oikonomos; and grace: charis). If you are born again, you have a gift or gifts that have been imparted and entrusted to you. These gifts are specific endowments of grace that empower you with special and unique abilities.

May I refer you to another scripture, I Cor 9:16-17 where Paul says, “Yes, woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel!” The Greek word for woe is defined as “disaster, horror.” Here is the sobering truth: If Paul didn’t administer his gift properly, then others would not experience the benefit, and even suffer the loss, of what God intended them to receive. Paul knew the gift wasn’t given for him; it was given to others through him. Realize the gifts of God on your life are not for you; they are for others to benefit through you.

Realize I’ve drawn heavily from John’s words above and he then goes on to give three examples of persons very uniquely gifted and although they used their gifts memorably, they did not generate God’s expected fruits; Adolf Hitler, Whitney Houston, and Freddie Mercury. To answer the question whether any of these three used their gifts well, and some may argue that the musicians  did, but consider the question through the words of Jesus in Matt 11:19 “Wisdom is shown to be right by its results” and Luke 7:35 which states “Wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.”

In the event you were a fan of either Whitney or Houston, lets add another perspective. Lets view their legacies from the vantage point of ten million years from now. Examining their eternal perspective may change your original 80 year view. The sobering reality that I am continually facing is that my gifts will be examined in light of God’s eternal Word that commissions us to build His kingdom. Will our legacy be enduring (by either results or lives) or will they be consumed in the fire as straw & stubble and pass away with all the other world’s latest and greatest inventions and solutions to end racism and restore peace and prosperity?

We all have three choices: You can steward your gift at any given time in one of these three ways:

1.) You can use it to build the kingdom

2.) You can use it to benefit yourself.

3.) You can neglect it by not using it at all.

For additional perspective, later in the chapter, John brings forth two more pertinent scripture for these tumultuous times, first for the believer, and secondly, for the unbeliever In I Cor 1:1 as stated earlier, Paul says, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” immediately followed in 3-5 “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord Himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time – before the Lord returns. For He will bring our darkest secretes to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each whatever praise is due.

The following Luke 12:2-3 passage is thought to be referencing the unbeliever’s judgment – the great white throne judgment – where unbelievers will give an account for their sins due to not receiving the saving grace of Jesus Christ “The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secrete will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark (our private motives and secrets) will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”      

Folks, I had no idea when I began writing 3 hours ago I would end up here saying we have three choices. It was not at all my intention. I was just going to share a few of the ideas that God has literally littered across my mind the past few days that I want to develop with you. Perhaps next time, I won’t preach so much.

Blessings as you Go Forth Aware and Assured of Making Wise Steward Choices>>>> merlin

Seeking Personal Mission Clarity…… while daily out & about your spheres of influence.

“How Not to Wisdom” from Oswald Chambers online Utmost for His Highest May 17 from Disciples Indeed: “It is perilously possible to make our conceptions of God like molten lead poured into a specially designed mould, and when it is hard and cold we fling it at the heads of the religious people who don’t agree with us.”

The following is taken from Chris Hedge’s book “The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm & Love Well in a Culture of Compromise” beginning Pg. 236.

Humans are triune beings: body, soul, and spirit. It’s the spirit part of us that is like God and will live forever. And because each and every person has a spirit and is made in the likeness of God, we will always be on spiritual journey. Like homing pigeons, constantly returning to their nests, our spirits are continually in search of their Creator. This innate spiritual part of us explains why we are the only part of creation that worships. And it’s also why we need to fight the cultural battle spiritually.

How do we do that? The same way Jesus did. He came face-to-face with the Devil when he was tempted in the wilderness (see Matt. 4 and Luke 4), and every time the enemy tried to tempt him, Jesus responded with a verse from the Bible. He used the Sword of Truth to defend himself from the Enemy’s attacks. Think of it this way: Jesus didn’t confront the Devil as God. He confronted the Devil as a man with the Word of God. We should do the same thing.  

Remember, because each and every person has a spirit and is made in the likeness of God, we are all continually choosing the outcomes of our spiritual journey.

Here are five scriptures and five model prayers we can pray (make them your own) for the people God has given us to influence.” Write down their names, read the scriptures and pray for them collectively regularly. Perhaps we have not because we ask not!

1. Pray that the Father would draw them to Jesus.

 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6: 44).

Father, I pray for the people around me, that you would supernaturally draw their hearts to you. Send your Holy Spirit to them, and give them the desire to give their lives to you. Help them to recognize their longing for more as spiritual, as a thirst only you can quench. Open their ears to hear your voice.

2. Bind the spirit that blinds their minds.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4: 4).

Father, bind the evil spirits that are blinding the minds of the people around me in the name of Jesus. I pray that they would be able to see clearly, to recognize who you are, and to give their hearts to you. Remove all hindrances the Enemy would use to distract them from your truth. Open their eyes, Lord, that they might see Jesus.

3. Let loose the spirit of adoption (personal relationship with God).

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8: 15).

Many people think Christianity is just another religion. They only see God through the lens of the organization and institution of the church. They may even feel frustrated, angry, or betrayed by people in churches they have encountered or by religious legalists and their hypocrisy. But God didn’t come to build an organization. He came to have relationship with his children. He wants his kids to come home. Praying for people to have personal encounters with the living God makes a huge difference.

Father, I pray that people will understand how much you love them. Loose the spirit of adoption for the people around me, so that they come into a meaningful relationship with you. Stir in their hearts a longing to come home, to hear your voice, and to see you welcoming them with open arms. Let them know you are always running to meet them and hold them close.

4. Pray that believers will enter into positive relationships with the lost, and pray that we will see the opportunities that come across our paths.

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9: 38).

This one is twofold: we can pray for other Christians to influence the people around them positively, and we can also look for opportunities to influence others positively ourselves. God’s plan to reach people is worked through those who already know and love him. Jesus asked us to pray for people to go into the world and be salt and light. He came to bring the good news of the gospel to all people, and his desire is that everyone would know and love him. As his “spiritual farmers,” we should be attuned to opportunities to plant spiritual seeds in the lives of the people we encounter each day. We may have no idea who has already been praying for them and the culminating impact a kind word, a compassionate act, or a loving attitude can have to draw someone to Christ.

Father, I pray for the lost around me to meet believers who will influence them in a positive way. Lord, let my life shine in such a way that people want to know the God I serve. Allow others to see my genuine love and concern for them in all that I say and do. Let me be your hands and feet to serve them and let them know just how much you love them.

5. Release the spirit of wisdom and revelation on them, so they may know God better.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1: 17).

It’s that “eureka” moment. That “aha!” when it finally clicks. It happens in class when you suddenly understand the math equation or how something works. The most important moment for it to happen is when the lights come on spiritually. People need to see their own sin, see what Jesus did on the cross, and see the hope that comes from giving their life to God. They need wisdom, not just knowledge, of spiritual things and insight into how spiritual things directly impact them.

Father, I pray for the people around me to experience the spirit of wisdom and revelation. I pray that they would truly understand their spiritual condition and see what Jesus did for them on the cross. Help them to have the information and experiences needed to come to you, so they can understand all you have for them.”

Blessings as You Go Forth in Greater Clarity of Your Influence>>>>> merlin

Lead Like Dabo! And Beyond……

1. Be Honest and Clear with your Expectations –

When Dabo recruits a high school player he tells them that he will not promise him playing time. He says, “If you want to play at Clemson you will have to earn it. You will have to compete and work hard for it. We won’t promise you playing time but if you come here no one will love you like we do.” Dabo clearly and honestly shares what he expects from the player and what the player can expect from him and his staff. As a positive leader you want to meet with your current and future team members and share what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

2. Be an Over Believer –

When Dabo became the head coach in 2008 he knew Clemson had talent but lacked belief. So the man whose father left when he was young, was homeless for a time growing up, made the Alabama football team as a walk-on, and had come to believe anything was possible, knew his number one priority was to inspire his team to believe. He brought in two signs on his first day as head coach to share with his team. One sign said “Believe.” The other sign said “I can’t” with the “t”crossed out. Since that moment Dabo has believed in his team more than they believed in themselves. I’ve seen how his belief raises the level of belief in his coaches and players. When asked if he was an over achiever he said, “No. I’m an over believer.” It’s amazing what your team will accomplish when you believe in them.

3. Be a Better You –

What makes Dabo so great goes beyond the coach he is and has much more to do with the man he is. Authentic, faithful, appreciative, giving, caring, loving, full of integrity and tough. He loves his players and they know it. He wants them to be their best so he gives them his best. He’s the real deal. The truth is to be a better leader you need to be a better you. Who you are determine show you lead and how you lead determines the culture and team you create.

4. Be Demanding but not Demeaning –

Dabo is known as a fun coach who likes to have a good time but he is very demanding. If his players are not giving their best effort or doing the right thing they will hear his voice. He demands that his players strive for excellence but he does not demean them in the process. He may call one of his players out but he’s doing it to call them up to greatness. As a leader it’s okay to demand excellence. But then it’s your job to lead in a positive way to help your team achieve it.

5. Be a Leader Wherever You Are –

After giving a speech where I mentioned Dabo, a gentleman came up to me and said he had worked with Dabo the few years he left coaching and worked in real estate. He said Dabo was the same leader in the real estate office that he is as a football coach. He showed up every day with a positive attitude, worked really hard and believed they were going to conquer the world. He said not surprisingly Dabo quickly enhanced the performance and success of the company while he was there. I loved hearing this because people think they have to wait for a certain position before becoming a leader. But Dabo was a leader in real estate and as an assistant coach and that lead to his current prestigious leadership position. Wherever you are decide to be a positive leader. Don’t wait for the title or position to do it. Lead where you are in a positive way and your influence will grow and so will your opportunity to lead more people.

The above document touting Dabo’s positive leadership for any aspect of life was provided me by Jonathan Dunn, my personal coach and co-founder of Dream Leader Institute. Not having heard of Dabo prior, I “DuckDuckGo’d” him and watched a 1:57 min clip from a TCI interview with Dabo Swinney learning his son Will will graduate from Clemson this spring and that both he and his brother Drew evidently play football under their father at Clemson. That too speaks well of Dabo!

I included the above for your inspiration and because it relates well to my past week in that I experienced Saturday two significant encounters in my life that I’d been praying about. Then today Pastor Carl’s sermon was again titled as a question, this time “What Does God Want For My Life?” or more specifically “Do I Really Want What God Wants For My Life?” (under girding the importance my will plays in determining anything of value) speaking from I John 4 highlighting four points God wants his followers to possess: Clarity, Companionship, Character, and Confidence (Boldness).

May I share a few insights that has taken me my entire life to realize that even though I may have wanted what God had in mind for me, I certainly didn’t follow thru to insure its occurrences. For example, I failed to focus on God’s resources to provide me the clarity I needed to succeed; I often refused his overtures for relationship / companionship from Himself and other Christ followers whom loved me; frequently I failed to reflect or give testimony or manifestation to the character and love of Christ, and lastly; the confidence in not only what God has accomplished, but yet in what God will do here forward thereby providing us the confidence or a boldness to live in love without fear.

For example, I try not to retreat from difficult situations for frequently the situation will change if I don’t. Becoming a looser in life isn’t difficult, and I believe the biggest losers in life are persons such as me earlier in my life, who refuse to live by the Four C’s of Carl’s sermon not believing in the potential God has given us and too often, even in the church, people just give up because they do not want to see ahead to what could be, if God’s resources were only facilitated.

With God, nobody and no situation is hopeless. I believe everyone has the potential to be an everyday visionary – to apply their faith in God and His Word to improve their lives. So folks, what do you want, and specifically cutting to the chase, what do you really want from whatever God wants for you to have? Whatever that is, if its burning in your heart, say that, speak it. Do not fall into the trap of just looking forward with your natural eyes. You must first look up to God, then deeply into His Word, and then ahead and imagine your future utilizing the 4 C’s! I heard someone say once “I never tell God what I have, what I can see, He already knows that. I tell Him what I want, what I can not see, and specifically what I believe He has given me the intense desire to want and in his timing, to HAVE!

I find the shepherd boy David’s comments quite revealing after assessing the balance of power between the Israelites and Philistines and their Goliath. After his brother Eliab’s rebuke to David in NKJV of I Samuel 17: 28 “I know of your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” (29) And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” (30) Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did. (31) And when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. (32) Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this uncircumcised Philistine seeing that he has defiled the armies of the living God.”

It seems King Saul and his army had lost their passion and forgotten their cause! Perhaps the many people in the church today who fail to achieve their goals, either because of past events or future potential disasters or conflicts, are similarly afflicted. Success in life requires we must stay passionate and remember the “cause.” In other words “stay the course” and protect this principle at all costs. David’s passion to believe God made him a great king. He slew the giant with a cause, faith, and one small stone…. and everyone saw it.

And guess what? With social media today, your victories and defeats may assuredly appear quite untimely. .. especially the latter!

Blessings as you go forth richly endowed to enjoy your journey>>>>> merlin

Loving Intervention by an Angelic Teacher

From A Teacher:

Yesterday, I shutdown class about 5 minutes early and told my students I wanted them to just sit and talk to one another. Several of them immediately opened their laptops and began navigating to their favorite computer game.

I said, “No laptops. I want you to have face-to-face conversations right now.”

After a collective groan went up, I observed something both wonderful and alarming. For the next few minutes, a couple of tables came alive with conversation. They looked at each other in the eyes and talked with great enthusiasm and interest. It was beautiful to watch and listen to .

However, many students were deflated. They did not know what to do without some sort of entertainment from a device. A couple of them put their heads down and avoided eye contact with anyone. I went around the room to those students and tried to engage with them. Some of them mustered a few words, but most didn’t know what to do.  

I share this account as a wake-up call for parents, grandparents, and guardians. It’s tragic to me that a large percentage of today’s youth do not know how to have real conversation, but it’s not really their fault. It is our responsibility as adults to lead by example and hold our kids accountable. Unplug every day, talk, and listen to your children. Getting lost in a device does not help them cope with and overcome the things they’re going through mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. All it causes is isolation and depression. They need relationships; they need you.

I plan on doing it again today. Please share.

Post Easter Reflections & the Subsequent Fermentation of My Mind

I keep wondering today what the people I used to “know casually” before the pandemic hit with its lock downs, are really, deep down thinking these days, and on so many subjects that we are experiencing. I have always found making social phone calls repugnant. I’m not the type that prior pandemic, socialized on the phone. I jumped into texting with both feet for its brevity, conciseness, and even better, it provided evidence if I ever forgot the communication. Now if I resort to email and if the subject is of consequence and considerable depth, I much prefer attaching a document as it may easily be used or modified for another application later.

All the above is said because in my daily activities now in this synthetic pandemic exercise of life, I’ve dropped verbal communication substantially because my life simply does not intersect other humans verbally in person. This is perhaps a great time saver but quite contrary to my past out-going demeanor historically. I thrive meeting new personalities and seldom prior the pandemic did I meet  a stranger that the foundation for a friendship was not lain.

And my concern here is very specific in nature; I am concerned about what is transpiring (or not) in the hearts and minds of my Christian brothers and sisters. So far I’ve not heard, seen, or read substantial evidence anywhere that we as believers are “overflowing” amongst each other with “righteousness” as we pursue fellowship. Personally, I find my mind is working substantially overtime because it has virtually unlimited time to inwardly, may I say even “selfishly” to process, as I am challenged by the many books and scripture I either read or hear expounded.     

For example, our pastor each week rolls out a smorgasbord of delectable challenges for our consumption and possible implementation during the next week. I confess seldom do I ever engage during the week in conversation with anyone else in the congregation about these delectable morsels direct from God’s word to sanctify us into righteousness to attain His eventual praise “Well done, faithful servant….” In the business world, this procedure would be viewed as bordering insanity; dispensing pertinent truth to the employees (congregants) each week with little or no provision for cross fertilization, feedback, or processing. Eventually, the “morsels” are simply forgotten, because they seldom if ever stay in view long enough for any effective processing, and leading to compromise and/or implementation. How discouraging this must be each week for conscientious pastors with visions and dreams for their congregations when it seems once we’re out the door, all is forgotten!

But yet this is exactly the way traditional churches have functioned for years. And just perhaps the pandemic forced restructuring will either remove the blinders or our spiritual cataracts. There has to be scads of materials, papers, books and podcasts written on this phenomena. I have not spent a minute searching the internet because I’m just writing you now with what I’ve been “compelled” to say to my readers who possess a tad of history with my words.

For example, today our pastor’s lead in question was “what are we inviting people to?” with the text taken from I John 1:1- 2:2. The three points were fellowship, faithfulness and forgiveness. In SS, we spent most of our time exploring fellowship and its subsequent synonyms: koinonia, communion, participation, etc. The point was made fellowship as promoted in scripture too often today in our church becomes merely socialization, perhaps like a club of similar interests to discuss flowers, gardening or antique cars or tractors (mere idols even!). However, in such clubs the discussion one hears is usually centered on their interests, whereas I tend to think church fellowship discussions seldom if ever center on spiritual sanctification. Pay attention at your next church fellowship event. Perhaps we ought to add the “F” word “friendship” which is really the precursor word for “LOVE” which is the foundational word for everything biblical since God is love.

Personally, I believe I struggle spiritually most in being friendly or inclusive of non-members (no matter who, whether in church, out of church, new age, globalists, etc.) Who of those whom I could (if I would) intersect with daily am I even coming close to inviting into friendship with me? I maintain we’re totally kidding ourselves in the church if we think we can muster real spiritual fellowship with anyone without first extending our genuine friendship and simply love them without an agenda as Jesus did, does, and will, always our free-choice, totally non-manipulative, simply being attracted by His overflowing love.

No question folks! This is difficult when our “fellowships” indeed are riddled with interests and fractions of all stripes and persuasions that literally steamroll our sanctification pursuits. Perhaps today this sin of non communication for us in its myriad of forms and levels that must be addressed first by each one of us before we do so corporately or we will be as ineffective (even decimated) as was Israel soon after the Jericho miracle of deliverance when they went up against Ai with flagrant sin in their camp and were soundly defeated.

Perhaps even Paul’s admonitions in I Corinthians 11:17-34 are worthy of our study and application. I have been told there are several ways we can become all things to all people.

1. Listen. We are often too eager to share our own thoughts, jumping into the conversation before we really hear what the other person is saying. We all  appreciate being heard; when we extend that courtesy to someone else, he or she is more likely to listen what we have to say. By listening first, the other person becomes a an individual we care about rather than simply a mission field to convert.

2. Be kind. This should go without saying for Christ followers, but, unfortunately, we can forget kindness in the passion of the moment. This is especially true on social media. Online anonymity leads many people, even some professing to represent Christ, to make rude or hate-filled comments.

3. Be sensitive to culture. Western culture is changing rapidly and in many places Judeo-Christian principles are no longer accepted or even understood. By first listening to discern where people are spiritually and then finding commonality with them, we may be able to reach those hungry for a truth they’ve never heard.

4. Deal with prejudice. Prejudice of every kind has been part of human history since the beginning. Despite how hard we try, we all carry some form of prejudice against certain other people groups. Ironically, even those who denounce prejudice of any sort are usually quite prejudiced against those who they consider prejudiced! Admitting to God our own pride and repenting of our judgmental attitudes and lack of love must be an ongoing process for Christ-followers wanting to follow Paul’s example of being all things to all people.

I’ve been told the goal of a Christ-follower is to be inoffensive in every way except in the matter of the cross. The message of the cross naturally give offense, but we cannot water it down. “The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (I Cor 1:18). Jesus warned us not to be shocked when the world hates us – it hated Him first (John 15: 18). Our message is offensive to human pride and contradicts the sin nature, so our behavior and our attitudes should not give offense. To follow Paul’s example, we must humble ourselves, let go of our “rights,” meet people where they are, and do whatever Jesus calls us to do. He died to save them. We must love them enough to tell them that in ways they can understand. Taken basically verbatim from

FYI, I currently know no one more skilled than the author Andy Andrews, who has authored more than a dozen books filled with short stories geared for the churched  to be mentored in the art of these four points. For the unchurched, he  captivates his readers as they are subtly drawn into or exposed to possibly considering, perhaps even adopting “a new perspective” as Andy continually presents “Jones” as he literally coaches everyone he encounters. Which I fully believe is the mandate for all of us Christ-followers!

I suggest if you are “reading and understanding” this blog with any degree of longing understanding, perhaps for a more purposeful life, and spiritually in sync,  you strongly consider investing a portion of your precious time in reading one of Andy Andrew books. Begin with “The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective.” Ten short chapters, each introducing you to a person in crisis whom encounters Jones. When you’re done, your only assignment is to tell me who you think Jones is…. I do have loaners for you locals…

Also, there is no doubt that my mind has been greatly stimulated by my currently reading the updated Eric Metaxas book on “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” It no doubt is adding several dimensions to my observations and concerns for the “confessing” church as it was deemed and referred to in Germany after the regime clearly controlled the “brownshirt German Christian Church” after the mid-thirties.  If any of you are seeking a most interesting pertinent church historical read, though be aware much of it is quite comparable to the shenanigans we are witnessing in our government and culture today, I highly recommend Bonhoeffer.

Incidentally, to help us rise above the negative about us and focus on His truth, I recently heard that for Christ-followers, every morning is Easter morning. Go forth every day in the Light of Easter!>>>>>merlin


Bottom line, just so you know, in order for me to accomplish the four points above ( to listen, be kind, be  sensitive, counteract or eliminate prejudice), I must learn to utilize the dreaded phone and invest my precious time in listening, while being kind, sensitive and counteracting prejudice wherever encountered. Using the phone frequently for voice interaction/communication from here forth is what I need to surrender to His process today. Yes, and perhaps even after all the social distancing criteria are long forgotten and we return to more normal social interactions.

Bedrock Courage on the Threshold of Easter 2021

Scott Peck, in “The Road Less Traveled,” began by saying, “Life is difficult” followed by “Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact life is difficult no longer matters.”

Yes, once again I am cruising about in Dr Henry Cloud’s book, “Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality” where on page 172 he states this phenomena. “If you orient yourself to the reality that nothing good is going to happen if you can’t first deal with the bad things that are going to happen, then you are ready to have something good happen. Once you understand that principle, you are in the program.” Relax, I read this several times too before I finally understood it. I believe this principle is bedrock in order to achieve your life’s productivity in all dimensions…. merlin)

Continuing in that vein, Cloud states “ But if you can’t orient yourself to that reality, nothing good is going to happen, because that reality will not go away. It is still the nature of the universe regardless of the frenzy of today’s pop culture’s rhetoric or consuming narrative. It is true that in your business life, personal goals, and relationships, you will encounter problems. Period. If you are not prepared to meet them and resolve them, then they will be the end of your hopes for making anything work, either personally or professionally.(or even spiritually if you are fortunate enough to possess that dimension.. merlin)

Dr. Cloud on page 173 told while attending an Easter gathering, a friend, a CEO  of a company, shared that he was about to hit a rough spot. In order to clear the deck before he left on a long trip later in the month, he had scheduled some difficult conversations surrounding relational issues for the next week that he needed to face into. He admitted it could get pretty tough.

Picking up on face into, Dr Cloud had also heard the CEO earlier use the words lean into. I have learned over the years, passive people such as myself, for example, tend to talk about events in such a way that removes us as “actors”, and instead, we view ourselves as being “acted upon,” and not the cause of what has occurred. In other words, “I ended up here” as opposed to “I chose to be here.”

Personally this “ending up” reminds me of when in life I’ve been tempted to adopt the popular victim-hood mentality. Fortunately, I never could allow myself to adopt that crutch though I’m not entirely sure why. Was it because my parents and community positively modeled free enterprise and opportunity so strongly and effectively as opposed to godless communism /socialism, even though our Minnesota county was statistically as impoverished as Appalachia during the sixties?

Or was it because of my spiritual heritage? Raised in a very conservative faith theologically, I was taught that although I was endowed with seeds of greatness, my future spiritual success (material success was always secondary) was visually portrayed as the narrow way vs. the broad way, so early on in life, I was trained to evaluate my life decisions in this very simple easy to grasp spiritual dimension. In other words, my outcomes were my choice. Understand I never felt manipulated or coerced, just loved. But I waas aware God had a plan for my life and I was looking forward to making his plan happen. And therein, was my biggest problem. Naively I was determined to make it happen regardless, even if it were my own version on the narrow way! Big mistake! Pity my folks as they endured their eldest marking the days off on the calendar from twelve months out until I packed up my few bags, got on my motorcycle and drove off to Hesston Kansas to begin college.  

I still remember well as a high school junior driving home in our family’s ’58 black 4 door Chev together with my girlfriend Pam, my parents and two younger siblings, after we had attended our high school’s Friday evening Class Night event, the week prior commencement. Later Pam commented as I was driving her home, how she had observed during that 20 minute ride how much my parents loved each other. Later, I recalled thinking that was really strange for her to say, and especially so since she was in the front seat beside me sitting directly ahead of them and unable to comfortably even see them. I just now realized perhaps she was able to observe them in the rear view mirror. But now years later, I realize perhaps the stark contrast that was so readily apparent to her, was obscured to me as I’d not yet experienced negative family relationships in the painful dimensions as had Pam and many of my peers.

Likewise, I now understand how this CEO deliberately chose problems as issues to face and lean toward, not away from. And to think, he even scheduled the events to repair the situations, as opposed to passive persons like me, merely waiting for it to happen, blow over or even worse, for me to actively avoid it and even run from it. Apparently, the CEO preferred to deal with issues promptly, actively, and directly. Plus, he wanted to make sure the problem was fully resolved before his later trip avoiding from having it linger and causing any more damage than it had already inflicted throughout his kingdom.

Dr. Cloud goes on to say this was just the way this successful CEO lived all of his life. He did not avoid his problems, whether personally or in his business. He was rewarded in his career for his integrity and values-driven business and has grown a company based on promptly addressing customers’ problems and solving their issues in ways that leaves them better off than before the problem occurred. He has also been chosen by governments to do business in special projects that others were denied because of his reputation as a “fix what is wrong with integrity” kind of person.

In his cloud of witnesses he has left many satisfied partners, customers, employees, and others, as well as revenues in the billions. He epitomized “no problems, no profit” in the way of “face problems and become very profitable,” both in relationships and financially. And again, for the person ‘in Christ’ facing in and leaning in as this CEO aptly demonstrated, though I am not at all privy to his spirituality, imagine with me if such an insightful businessman were also under the umbrella of the Holy Spirit, I dare say the world has yet to see what could be accomplished by such a personality if he/she was so loyal in their obedience to God.

To summarize, I propose profits are earned by conquering problems best viewed as opportunities sought. Therefore, facing, embracing and solving problems are our mandate for a fulfilled life and not to be avoided. (merlin 03/29/21)

May I offer the rough analogy of going to a dentist to repair a tooth as a challenge that you usually can’t wait to get fixed; either to eat comfortably again or sleep through the night. But that is only true if your past experiences with dentists have been good and has led to resolution of pain without much trauma.

But, and this is a big but, if your past experience with dentists has been traumatic, and painful, you may have a dentist phobia, and you will avoid going. So, your avoidance keeps the pain intact and you by not facing the problem, will not experience the “profit” of getting it fixed. It is critically important we face the demands of our realities having the character and integrity to do so, based on either our prior experiences or our observation’s of others.

As a result of their character abilities, successful people face into embracing problems and their accompanying negative realities. Their internal equipment allows them to do this. And a portion of this equipment is this mind-set and attitude that facing the bummer music sooner rather than later, will be better for them in the end.

For example, Dr. Cloud said he is frequently amazed at how talented and competent individuals will allow their careers and relationships to be stalled out, disrupted, or even destroyed by avoiding the negative realities that make them uncomfortable. Actually, this overt denial of how bad the situation really is, becomes quite interesting and closer to home for many of us, when we get into the underlying issues, whether it be in business, academia, church or family.

For example, consider the wife who won’t confront her husband’s addictions, temper, selfishness, etc. or the husband who won’t confront his wife’s control issues, spending, various obsessions, etc., or vice versa. To do that would mean really getting out of our comfort zones and putting our arms around the problem in a full embrace …. And that usually means being much too vulnerable for our comfort!

We began this post with the quote from Peck saying, “Life is difficult” and oh, how well we each can echo that after the past year! Never did we anticipate the unfolding of history as we have witnessed it to date nor are we alone in our current uncertainty for we are reminded the last Tuesday Christ was on earth prior to his crucifixion, a similar cloud of pending chaos was descending on Jerusalem.

Actually, if you read the suggested reading for yesterday from Matthew 24:1- 25:46 you will be reminded of the numerous times during our year of confusion and lawlessness that we have heard these poignant scriptures referenced frequently in vivid detail to substantiate our town crier’s message in our increasingly oppressive current events. As then, Christ, who only needed to obey his Father, whereas everyone else from Pilate on down to the responsive thief on his cross, all had or have the same question demanding an answer from us, “What will you do with Jesus?”

Certainly, your answer can wait indefinitely today but at your own peril. Realize waiting ( or procrastinating) for the facts and confirmation from science is not without a price, and statistically, those lives left in the balance are often trashed. The roaring lion is good at his game. Without the Spirit , we tend to become a lost cause!

And, actually, if the history (which really is His story) and the facts and the science are all examined under the untainted criteria of true science as authored by God in His infinite wisdom exhibited not only on this micro planet we call earth but throughout the galaxies, one must conclude as stated, “In the beginning, God.”

 So, as we “in-Christ” prevail until that day, consider the triumph proclaimed in the Easter message when “His blood spilled for us” broke the bondage of Sin once and for all, and demoted Satan to be a defeated foe until his final destruction. Likewise, until God destroys this earth, good will trump evil, life will trump death, love will trump hate, and God’s justice will ultimately be served.

I suggest in celebration we consider the flooding value of forgiveness just sweeping over us! Of restitution coming instantly! Followed by restoration… And on all fronts … Even for the years the locusts have eaten! Now, add in total peace, love, and joy into the mix.>>>> Happy Easter!

Blessings on your journey home through the darkness of Good Friday and then bursting into His glorious light on Resurrection Sunday morning! Live in the Victory we’ve been given>>>>> merlin

Lackadaisical Competencies and Leveraging & Building Alliances for Self Recognition, Will Vaporize Integrity and Destroy Kingdom Building

As promised , we will look in on Dell since the November 3, 2003 article in Business Week as quoted in the prior blog “Three Common Denominators…” Unknown to me when I began that blog, was that my son Ben has a close friend, James, who joined Dell three years prior to the article. James relayed how on March 22, 2000, the stock price was $57.58. Three months later when he joined Dell, the stock was hoovering around $50. But six months later the dot-com bubble had burst, and on December 20, the stock price was down to $16.47. Indeed it appeared, Dell had an long arduous path toward recovery.

But fast forwarding almost three years to February of 2003, Dell stock climbed to $22.65 accomplished by such choices as first-ever layoffs, outsourcing, and other cost-cutting measures, that fed directly into the positively counteracting the negativity cited in the Business Week article. The efforts of Michael and Kevin no matter how successful Dell’s breath of talent’s, brains, competencies, and alliances were able to muster, there was still this thing that was the overflow from Michael and Kevin’s personal make-up, by humbling themselves and intimately sharing their personal integrity and portraying their courage to meet the monumentally oppressive demands of this scenario’s realities.

James identified for me  the following milestones Dell accomplished in becoming the powerhouse it is today.

In 2007 Rollins resigned and Michael returned as CEO

In 2009, Dell purchased Perot Systems for $4B.

At the end of 2013, Michael Dell and Silver Lake purchased Fortune’s ranked 51st company for $24.5B

In 2016, the same twosome purchased EMC for $67B; at the time, the largest ever tech acquisition.

In December 2018, Dell Technologies was relaunched as a public company with a $35B Market Cap sequenced in 2019 @ $38B, 2020 @ $55B, 2021 @ $66B.

Just now I googled ‘Dell EMC” and a CRN article by Mark Haranas on March 2, 2021, stated “Dell Technologies is trading at all time highs this week by reaching $83.48 per share, up from $28.87 nearly one year ago, representing a massive 189 percent share increase. In a huge win last week, Dell reported its best revenue year in the company’s history by generating $94.4 B in total sales for its fiscal year 2021, which ended in February.  

An extraordinary accomplishment in deed for a business to achieve. And I maintain such success is easier for our materialistic minds to quantify for a business as opposed to success in a spiritual realm. Too often spiritual successes are later riddled with graft, corruption and abuse, such as recent disclosures for Ravi Zacharias.

I personally was deceived over 30 years by Ravi and from where I sit now at my writing table, I see three of his books on my book shelves I’ve not yet burned. It will soon be a year ago I listened to his memorial service while I was working in the garden, telling my pastor neighbor that Ravi was one of the bright lights whom exposed my sin from past decades. Ravi’s writings and speaking spoke to me at a time when I myself was being lifted out of the mire of comparable personal deceit by the Holy Spirit. And this was not of course, the first time I’d been keenly disappointed by an author or church leadership.

I just now checked the internet since its been several months since I read up on the details. On the website, you will find an “Open Letter from the RZIM International Board of Directors on the ….”

The last paragraph states “ The findings of this investigation have convinced us more than ever of the necessity and sufficiency of the gospel. No one is without the need for a savior. Sin resides in the heart of human being. Jesus is the only person who is exactly who he says he is and the only savior worthy of our ultimate trust and worship. Jesus is fully committed to truth and to justice, and he unqualifiedly stands with victims.”

Immediately following then is a button to link you to a “Report that was compiled by an independent investigative firm, Miller & Martin PLLC. It contains disturbing content and graphic language and has not been edited by RZIM.”

I simply mention the above spiritual deceit, for in these days of media sensationalism in spiritual circles, whether we are the followers or leaders, we are set up for such disasters, whether by Satan or if not even purposefully engineered. The same is true in the political arena and the challenge for everyone, but especially for the believer or a Christ follower, is to exercise extreme caution in our news sources as we are now literally inundated by millions of ‘experts’, authors, podcasts, blogs, you tubes, etc. Consider my high school and college years in the sixties when we were dominated by only three major TV news networks and the perhaps 15-20 major magazines of that era arising from the boom years after WW II. And of course, newspapers than yet were prospering.

Personally, since we’re on the subject, I have found I must simply turn off the media inputs and limit my news sources to a few I’ve learned to trust over the years. As you, I am continually being sent clips, you tubes, and articles by well meaning friends, which serve me well to round me out with a continual flow of additional sources of materials and ideas, that they have already run through their “threshing machine” so to speak, so we can quickly and more capably compare our “grains of truth” against the scriptural standards.

But for what it’s worth, I read far more scripture now than I ever did prior. Personally, I read it out loud as though I were before a congregation but here’s a twist I learned recently, I do so with hymns being played not merely as background music but with sufficient volume for tempo, contrast, and another source of truth, not conflicting, but enhancing. Yeah, I know it sounds strange but when the lights go out and the internet dies, we’ll all go back and join our Amish brothers with lanterns and merely our own voices. Absorbing scripture, reading or listening to truth writings, and a vigorous prayer life are key today to thriving in all dimensions of life in this media driven culture.  

I include the following four Life Dimensions as necessary for living a fulfilled life: 1.) Attitude – Cultivating a positive mindset and emotions, 2.)  Body – Nourishing with fuel, movement and rest, 3.) Connections – Nurturing healthy positive connections, and 4.) Dreams – Purposely living a life of your dreams as provided you by your Creator. These four dimensions when under girded with a vibrant spiritual foundation, will serve you well.

Wow! We have certainly deviated from beginning with the Dell accolades progressing through the RZIM update as we attempt to flesh out our grappling of assessing spiritual success. The first Bible standard that comes to my mind just now is Matthew 7:16-20 which states “by their fruit we will know them.” I shall take the liberty to quote these famous verses from Matthew 7: 15-29 from The Message Translation since many of you know the KJV and the NIV nearly by memory. This version is vastly different!

15-23 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma, look for character.  Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned. Knowing the correct password – saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance  – isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience – doing what my Father wills. I can see it now – at the Final Judgement thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I’m going to say? ‘You missed the boat, All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

24-25 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, home-owner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was attached to the rock.

26-27 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on a sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

28-29 When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

 I realize I included an additional nine verses beyond what was necessary to make the point “by their fruit you will know them.” But frequently I sense a ‘spiritual momentum’ when reading so I continue on capturing the additional blessing beyond merely the specific truth being sought and this is an excellent example: charisma vs character; who preachers (ambassadors) are IS the main thing; serious obedience, doing what my Father wills; his words are not merely ‘incidental additions to your life;’ attached to the rock.  

Candidly speaking, success for many professing Christians today, is likely best summed up by by not hearing these words at the Final Judgement “All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here!”

This time I think I’ll just reverse the emphasis of the prior blog’s titles to “Three Common Denominators For NOT Building Successful Businesses NOR Expanding The Kingdom of God….. Lackadaisical competencies of the scriptures, leveraging selfishly and building alliances for self-recognition, that will automatically destroy or vaporize any possibility of possessing personal integrity.

Blessings on your journey home toward the Final Judgement hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant…… Enter into the joy of your master!” >>>>>merlin

Three Common Denominators For Building Successful Businesses and Expanding the Kingdom of God.

Competencies, Leveraging & the Integrity To Not Screw It Up!

It has been over ten years ago now I first read “Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality” by Dr. Henry Cloud which came out in 2006. After reading it, I resolved to make it required reading and conversation if I ever was graced again with employees.

Quoting from his preface, “You have heard all your life that character counts. You have desired integrity in yourself and in the people with whom you work. You have felt its affects, suffered when it is not present, and benefited when it has. You know that it is real.

But, too often, we do not connect the dots with how the integrity of character really works day to day, and how it affects our real results in the areas of life which matter to us most. We do not think that the way to more profits is a shift in our own character makeup, or if we do, we often do not know where to begin. Nor do we know how sometimes how to make personal shifts that will make our relationships more fruitful.

You will see how character traits supercede gifts, talents, and ability, and the ones who don’t, ultimately fail. And, the fun part will be finding that all of us can grow in all of these areas, and that the journey itself is of great value. So, join me in that journey, as we look at how Integrity is the courage to meet the demands of reality.”

Dr. Cloud begins Chapter One by telling how a friend of his out of her concern for her two twenty some year old sons, asked if he would take her two sons out for lunch and talk to them about success. They had been asking numerous questions about how some people become so successful making it ‘big.’ Perhaps he could give them some guidance since they were in the asking mode. Dr. Cloud replied likely not, since that really wasn’t his field. But she kept coming back with the likes of “you’ve worked with a lot of successful people. Just take them out and tell them something. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just give them somethings to think about.”

So, thinking he had been perhaps too dismissive, Dr Cloud relented and finally agreed to lunch, which instantly fired this mother on a mission up, and she would then not quit hounding him until he would tell her what his three points would be to her sons. Though the process weaves through pages, I’ll boil them down to succinctly this. People who become leaders , or really successful tend to have three qualities.

Number One: They have some set of competencies. They know their field, their industry, their discipline, or whatever. You can only fake it so long boys, so your get yourself in the library, the internet, or wherever and master your craft.

Number Two: Besides, skills they have to be what I call an alliance builder. In other words, they have to take their competencies and what they do well and build alliances with others who have competencies and resources and form relationships that are mutually beneficial. As a result, they leverage what they do well to much greater heights than just being ‘good’ at their job. They forge relationships and partnerships with people like investors , regulators, distribution centers, their boards, city governments, Wall Street, or whoever it is that has the capacity to make whatever they are doing bigger.

  Number Three: “Then I would tell them that they need to understand that the people who possess the first two abilities are a dime a dozen. There is no shortage of talented, brainy people who are very, very good at what they do and are equally able to work the system and schmooze other people to get things done. But if your boys are truly going to make it, they need the third ingredient as well: They have to have the character to not screw it up. That is what I think I will them if you have to know right now.”

Personally now, looking back soon to be fifty years since college graduation, I may be tempted to think my vision of those early years is now twenty-twenty. I particularly know exactly when I didn’t default by accident, or simply made a mistake, because I deliberately chose on numerous occasions as I have heard it said already, “with my eyes wide-open,” knowing exactly when I didn’t possess the needed ‘character’ for the situation at hand, and consequently, I most certainly did totally screw it up. See now why this book is so personal to me?

About five years ago I was compelled to give a copy of this book, Integrity, to a businessman I had never met, but I knew firsthand he had some very difficult decisions to make, similar to those facing the Dell CEO Michael S Dell and President Kevin B Rollins after the global crash in PC sales after 2001. Business Week magazine in its November 3, 2003 reported the following:

“When Dell and Rollins met privately in the fall of 2001, they were confident that the company was recovering from the global crash in PC sales. Their own personal performance, however, was another matter. Internal reviews revealed that subordinates thought Dell, 38, was impersonal and emotionally detached, while Rollins, 50, was seen as autocratic and antagonistic. Few felt strong loyalty to the company’s leaders. Worse, the discontent was spreading: a survey taken over the summer, following the company’s first-ever mass layoffs, found half of Dell Inc.’s employees would leave if they had the chance.

What happened next says much about why Dell is the best-managed company in technology at the moment. At other industry giants, the CEO and his chief sidekick might have shrugged off the criticism or let the issue slide. Not at Dell. Fearing an exodus of talent, the two execs focused on the gripes. Within two weeks, Dell faced his top 20 managers and offered a frank self-critique, acknowledging that he is hugely shy and that it sometimes makes him seem aloof and unapproachable. He vowed to forge tighter bonds with his team. Some in the room were shocked. They knew personality tests given to key execs had repeatedly shown Dell to be an “off-the-charts introvert,” and such an admission from him had to have been painful. “It was powerful stuff,” says Brian Wook, the head of the public sector sales for the Americas. “You could tell it wasn’t easy for him.”

Michael Dell didn’t stop there. Days later, they began showing a video tape of his talk to every manager in the company – several thousand people. Then Dell and Rollins adopted desk props to do what didn’t come naturally. A plastic bulldozer cautioned Dell not to ram through ideas without including others, and a Curious George encouraged Rollins to listen to his team before making up his mind.”

Listen to some of the actual words there: Impersonal, emotionally detached, autocratic, antagonistic, loyalty, focused on the gripes, shy, aloof, unapproachable, tighter bonds, including others, listen to his team. These are not usually the things you hear in in business and success training, but they are things of reality. No matter how huge the success that Dell’s talents, brains, competencies, and alliances brought about, there was still this thing that was the overflow from a person’s makeup, his integrity, and his courage to meet the current demands of his reality.

As was told in Point Number Three to the boys, ultimately we all have to pay attention to it, because attention will be given to it. Attention from half a workforce willing to leave a company if they had the opportunity merits a lot of attention! It is better if we do it proactively as Michael Dell did. Don’t we wish all CEO’s would heed that kind of feedback and take those kinds of bold steps, or how about politicians, pastors, spouses, or parents? It would solve a lot of problems.

Dr Cloud goes on to say “The reality to see here is that this stuff matters. Connecting with others in a way that makes them feel understood and valued is key to life and the basis of building trust and loyalty. From that base, everything else works. To do that requires the kind of character that is oriented towards others and makes proactive connections with them in a way that builds bonds.

I suggest you read again and ponder Dr Cloud’s three points for the mother on a mission for her two sons. In fact, when I read this book and these three points (gaining competencies, leveraging & being an alliance builder, & then, the integrity not to screw it up) I am visualizing how I can utilize them in “Living & Building the Kingdom of God,” my churches motto or mission statement. Sadly, I’m not so sure today that many church members ever think of applying these three points to their faith when it is exactly what is required of his followers. Read the Gospels and Pauline passages, especially I & II Peter for similar marching orders!

 Perhaps you ask “To do what?” Begin by considering your own kids or perhaps your grand’s. Or the  college grad that just moved back in with his folks next door. Perhaps that grad is you, or perhaps you’re the parents with the grad upstairs again. Realize  opportunities to meet the current demands of your realities are always awaiting you, whether within or outside your family.

May I suggest, for a change of perspective, just once, you forget all about yourself and look around you. Who can you take an interest in, offer wisdom , but most of all, just offer your willingness to listen, really listen. Perhaps you first need to start with your spouse, or one of your children, then an uncle, or a niece. Such opportunities abound. Don’t be shy. Get inspired! Read or listen to Andy Andrew’s book “The Noticer” to prime your pump. Likely a good idea if you seek His guidance first or your attempt may not end well. He’s been waiting for you to ask for His help. Apparently, exceptional intellect is not required; inspiration and obedience though, are usually in short supply as is prayer and scripture reading. Forget the foxhole mentality; do both for their pure enjoyment before the bombing starts.

Next blog post we’ll learn how Dell has fared since the Business Week article in 2003 until today. Did Michael Dell’s integrity, his courage to meet the current demands of his reality, actually serve him well?

Don’t forget that for Christ’s Mission Possible, it is all about gaining competencies, leveraging & being an alliance builder, & then, the integrity not to screw it up!

Blessings on your journey home>>>>merlin

FYI ….. The French Revolution Is Attacking The American Revolution!

By Wesley J. Smith on March 7, 2021 in Conscience originally published at The Epoch Times. Wesley Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.

“That’s insane!” These days, how often do we say those words? The litany could go on and on.

Dr. Seuss is suddenly persona nongrata, six of his books removed from publication because they are “racist” and “hateful.” That’s insane!

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has become a widely reviled personality because she claims that boys are born male and girls, female? That’s insane!

Statues of Abraham Lincoln are being torn down and schools named after the Great Emancipator renamed in the cause of fighting racism. That’s insane!

Woke educators decry mathematics education focused on getting “the right answer” as an expression of white privilege and patriarchy. Suddenly math is about social justice. That’s insane!

No. Actually, it’s not. “Canceling,” as it is called, is a coldly calculated strategy implemented with malice aforethought. The goal isn’t to persuade. Social excommunication, media de-platforming, and the trashing of venerable traditions doesn’t seek to reform institutions or promote societal improvement. Rather, the point is to destroy every traditional religious, social, and political institution judged guilty of constructing Western Civilization, toward the end of rebuilding society in the image of Woke.

Let me put it more simply: The French Revolution is attacking the American Revolution.

The French Revolution? Am I nuts?

I don’t think so. Sure, circumstances are different. Antifa and their allied corporate woksters are not attacking a king living in splendor as the common people starve. And to be sure, no guillotines have been installed in public squares chopping off heads. Well, at least not literally.

But I believe we are in the midst of a social upheaval every bit as radical and potentially destructive as the one that tore France apart in the late 18th century, a revolution that aims at demolishing traditional Americanism as thoroughly as the original version did the French monarchy.

The French Revolution isn’t just an historical event. It can also be thought of as a metaphor that describes a particularly destructive Utopian zealotry. Similarly, the American Revolution can refer to more than the events culminating in the founding of the United States, but also, as the embodiment of a value system of ordered liberty and individual freedom. The values of the two upheavals—both historically and as metaphors—could not be more antithetical.

Realizing that the neo-French and American Revolutions are not all one thing but in the real world can share attributes, we can make the following general observations:

  • The French Revolution is Utopian and believes in the perfectibility of society that requires a strong centralized power structure. The American Revolution is, paradoxically, conservative. Its locus of power is the free individual.
  • The French Revolution focuses on self-indulgence. The American, on self-restraint.
  • The French Revolution is authoritarian. It deploys institutional power to coerce adherence to the revolution’s values. In today’s parlance, that goal is equity, meaning equality of outcomes. The American Revolution stands for equality of opportunity, by creating a system in which people are enabled to go as far as their talent and character allow without regard to the color of their skin, their sex, or any other categorization.
  • The French Revolution tolerates only approved speech. It dictates acceptable lexicon. The American Revolution understands that reasonable people may differ. The answer to bad speech isn’t to punish but refute it with better speech.
  • The French Revolution detests traditional religion—particularly orthodox Christianity—and seeks to establish a mandatory secularity in the public sphere to which all must give obeisance. (For example, the Equality Act would impose transgendered ideology throughout society, including forcing women’s sports to let biological males compete.) The American Revolution upholds the free exercise of religion—that is, the right to live according to the precepts of one’s faith—as a fundamental human right. (Thus, religious pacifists may legally escape conscription into the military, even in times of war.)
  • The French Revolution feels, that is, its arguments are based mostly in hyper emotionalism. Its great potent tools are moral panic and the aroused mob sweeping all before it. No disagreement allowed. The American Revolution thinks. Its most effective strategy is free and open discourse as applied to established moral and legal principles, from which people are allowed to dissent.
  • The French Revolution believes in “positive rights” secured by an all-powerful government—even if that means citizens are coerced into their provision. The American Revolution perceives rights as emanating from God or as integral to human nature. Thus, government isn’t established to guarantee happiness but maintain an open and free society for its pursuit.

The Bible says we will be known by our fruits. I think that is also true of philosophical systems.

The historic fruits of the French Revolution have been despotism, death, and destruction—in the Reign of Terror in France, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and catastrophic Cultural Revolution of China, all of which were pursued with French Revolutionary values and zealotry.

The fruits of the American Revolution have been rising levels of personal freedom in the West unheard of in human history and the creation of the most prosperous society on earth. It is why downtrodden people from the world risk life and limb to get to the United States. They believe in the American Dream.

It will take time for the passions fueling our American French Revolution to bank. But if we stay resolute and defiant, if we resist succumbing to the Jacobins’ bullying, that day will come. As the old saying goes, the Revolution always eats its own.

But I fear our situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Today, Dr. Seuss was canceled. Tomorrow it could be Mr. Rogers—he was, after all a white, male, Christian pastor, who depicted living in a privileged suburban neighborhood, and spoke to his audience of children in the oppressive binary terms, “boys and girls.” Off with his head!