Friday, August 29, 2014

The Right Way To Be Wrong

There are only a small number of things that are guaranteed in life. Death and taxes are two things that most people mention that can’t be avoided. One other to add to the list is failing. You will fail in your life. You will shoot and miss, apply and get rejected, and take risks that don’t pay off. No one likes to admit it, but everyone messes up. Sometimes our failings are small mistakes that go unnoticed and have very little impact on us. Other times, we make bad decisions that end up hurting us and the people who care for us most. Sometimes being wrong costs us money or a job, sometimes it costs us relationships.

As painful as it is to be wrong, there are ways to handle it well.  Often times, the way we handle being wrong has a greater impact on our life than the initial wrong itself. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind the next time you mess things up:

Own It Early
The longer you drag it out, the worse it gets. If you wait for someone else to confront you on something you know you have done wrong, you will lose a golden chance to earn back some trust. Waiting around to see if you are found out makes it look like you are more upset about getting caught than you are about the bad decisions you have made.

Avoid Excuses
Most of the time in life, there will be other people involved in your messes, and a lot of those times they will be partly to blame. The quickest way to lose credibility and respect  however, is to try to blame your mistakes on other people. Don’t blame other people for things you have done wrong! Yes, they probably did bad things as well, maybe even worse things than you, but that doesn’t matter. They are not your problem, you are your problem. So, if you want to begin to turn the mess you have made into something better, start by taking personal responsibility for your part of the mess. Something like this would work: “This part of the mess is mine. I did it. It was wrong, and I have nobody to blame for it but myself."

Leave It Behind
This is important in two ways. First off, if you continue to make the bad decisions you just apologized for, people are going to stop taking you seriously. If you messed up, and have owned it, the next step is to do your best to make better decisions. You won’t be perfect, but you can make great effort, and effort is noticed and appreciated by those around you.

Second, when you’ve blown it, you can’t spend your life feeling guilty and beating yourself up. Take responsibility, work at doing better, and move on with your life. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself or punishing yourself, those you have wronged don’t need that. Also, when you have owned your sin with God, He forgives you and moves on. If He chooses to move on and not hold your past against you, then you should do the same.

You will inevitably let people down in life. If you can handle your failures with courage and honesty, however, you deepen your relationships with those around you, and also grow in the process!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Honest But Uncomfortable Definitions: Arrogance


A trait exhibited by those who doubt their own intelligence. It is often manifested by the person incessantly telling you about the depths and uniqueness of their intelligence. People who are arrogant may or may not actually be intelligent (although, people who know they are intelligent most often don’t feel the need to try to convince others of it). Arrogant people desire the approval of those around them, but are very difficult to endure, and therefore very rarely get it.  Arrogance isn’t incurable, but it takes a great deal of humility and honest to eradicate it once you have contracted it.

How to deal with it in others:

Arrogance is most often defended by a combination of a blank stare and the phrase “hey, how about that”. For example:

Your coworker: (with a smug look on his/her face) I had to spend 40 minutes on the phone with that lady before she finally understood what I was saying. She told me that no one had ever explained things to her as well as I had. I don’t know what this place would do without me.

You: (with a blank stare on your face- see above for example) Hey, how about that. (Exit the conversation immediately; it doesn’t really matter where you go.

How to deal with it in yourself:

Admitting that you are arrogant is 80% of the battle. Remind yourself at least three times each day that no one really cares how intelligent you are, so long as you treat them decently. Repeat process as needed until arrogance is in remission.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tony's Emmy Predictions

Posted by Tony
The Emmys
The Emmys are tonight and I have several favorites that I hope get rewarded for terrific seasons. As I have noted before, I think the present group of dramas on TV are as good as has ever been.  Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Downton Abbey and True Detective are nominated for best drama. I can never remember a stronger field (though I thought Downton Abbey had a sub-par season.) I hope that Breaking Bad brings home the Emmy simply because I thought it had the best season of arguably the best series ever. I will be a little disappointed if it doesn’t win. The Breaking  Bad episode “Ozymandias” is nominated for best writing. As I said last year, it was the best hour of TV I have ever seen. I will be likewise disappointed not to see it win.
For some of the other awards, here are my favorites (not favorites to win, just the people and shows I will be rooting for):
Best Actor-Bryan Cranston-but I feel certain Matthew McConaughy will win. The Emmy voters won’t be able to resist giving the Emmy and Oscar for best actor to the same guy in the same year. Also, he was incredible in True Detective and Bryan Cranston already has a shelf full of Emmys
Best Actress-Robin Wright-please, no more Claire Danes
Supporting Actor-Peter Dinklage-he had a great year in Game of Thrones
Supporting Actress-Anna Gunn -nobody came close but the Emmy voters do love Maggie Smith
Best Director:  Vince Gilligan
Guest Actor-Robert Morse
Guest Actress-Kate Mara or Diana Rigg
Comedy-Big Bang Theory-but it never wins so look for Orange is the New Black (I like it too), please no more Modern Family, the most overrated show on TV
Comedy Actor-Jim Parsons
Comedy Actress-Taylor Schilling
Miniseries-Fargo -I also really liked Luther (congratulations to the Emmys for finally discovering this great British show)
TV Movie: Sherlock-though I am certain The Normal Heart will win
Actor in a Movie or Miniseries: Billy Bob Thornton
Before ending, I did want to point  out a few of my favorites that didn’t get nominated. Let’s hope the Emmy voters will correct these oversights next year.  Tatiana Maslany for Best Actress for Orphan Black. The single biggest oversight this year.  Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys  from the Americans.  Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy from Hannibal. Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff from Sons of Anarchy.

Want Better Relationships? Tell Better Stories!

I grew up in a tiny town nestled in the heart of western North Carolina (see above). My hometown had one post office, one gas station, and zero traffic lights, what it did have, however, was really great stories. There really wasn’t much to do in our town when I was young. Entertainment on the weekends usually meant going over to another family’s house for dinner. The kids would trample through the woods, coming up with whatever games our imaginations could conjure, and our parents would sit on the porch and talk. When it got too dark to play anymore, the kids would settle in as well and listen to the stories our parents would tell. They were personal stories about hard times and overwhelming challenges, but also about good days and special memories. The stories would make us laugh at times and reflect at others. Those stories always made me want to live the kind of life that would collect great stories of my own to tell someday.

Stories connect people in ways that few things can.

A Jewish poet said it like this:
"I will teach you hidden lessons from our past, stories we have heard and know, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of our God. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did."                        (Psalm 78: 2b-4)

Stories make us stronger. Stories encourage our children to dream big dreams of their own. Stories make all of our relationships deeper and more fulfilling. Here are a couple of thoughts that will make you a better story teller:

1)Be Honest With Yourself

Take some time and think back over your life. Think about the hard times and the really good times as well. When have you laughed? When have you cried? What was God like for you in those moments? You have great stories to tell. They may not seem great to you, but they could mean the world to those who care about you. Every honest story you tell is a small piece of you and is incredibly valuable to those who hear it! 

2)Be Honest With Your Listeners

Your story isn't pretty. Mine isn't either. Remember, every great story has hardship, and every great hero has to overcome some obstacles along the way. Include your best moments in the stories you tell, but be honest about your mistakes as well. Your audience, (especially your children) need the encouragement of knowing that everyone messes up, and that sometimes those mistakes can still lead to really great things!

3)Trust The Process

Your children, or spouse, or friends may not always seem deeply enthralled by your stories. As a child I rarely made eye contact with the adults as they told their stories. I dug, twisted, kicked, and bounced continuously, but I was listening, and the stories were impacting me. Your stories matter, because you matter, don't let a distracted audience ever cause you to doubt that!

If you want stronger relationships, become a better story teller. You already have great stories inside of you, you might as well share them!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Finds - August 22

Kick up your feet, grab your tech tool of choice and enjoy some of the best thoughts the web has to offer:

Right Theology or Right Action

Check out this brief article by Rick McKinley on finding the balance between doctrinal truth and social action. If you don’t have both, you don't really have either. 

You Are Probably Already Infected!!!!!

This article goes out to all of my germophobe friends out there. Good luck sleeping tonight:

No Trust, No Relationship

An excellent article by my good friend Neil McLamb on the importance of trust in our relationships. After you check out the article take a second and look around his new website!

Repentance Is Good But Not Easy

Any article that references The Mission, which was a great movie, deserves a look. Check out this great article by Zack Hunt from The American Jesus on the cost of repentance.

Have a great weekend, and if you haven't, take a second and become a follower of this blog! I like having you around!

Photo Courtesy of Death To The Stock Photo

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How To Change The World In One Easy Step

A few days back as I was rumbling through a used book store, I came upon a coin operated vending machine (see above). Instead of giving out a small toy or bouncy ball, this vending machine handed out poems. I was intrigued, so I fed it my quarter and was rewarded with this classic poem by William Blake:

This poem reminds us, among other things, that cruelty is a man-made invention. We cannot bemoan the condition of our world without first taking a good look at ourselves. Cruelty and jealousy and envy and greed, all have a human face, and often that face is mine. It’s all well and good to point out the injustice in the world around us, so long as we remember that all efforts for justice and goodness and hope begin with me. My job is to change me, that’s how I change the world. We can’t wait for other people to get their act together for the world to be better, that’s not how it works. I start with me, you start with you, and before long the world is a more beautiful place. It’s an amazing thought to know that you can change the world before you even step out of your front door!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Applause You Need and Why It May Be Wrecking Your Life

“I live for the applause, applause, applause…”
                                -Lady Gaga

She’s right you know.

We all live for the applause. It may not be the applause of 50,000 screaming fans in a packed out stadium, but we live for it nonetheless. You may be more comfortable calling it “praise” or “affirmation”, whatever it is, we are all wired to crave it. You may look for affirmation from your boss, your spouse, or even your kids. Your hunger for applause may be why you work 80 hours a week, bought that new car, or never speak your mind. We all want to know that we are doing a good job, and that our efforts matter to the people that we care about or look up to. Our hunger to be noticed isn’t unhealthy, but what we do with that hunger could be.  Here’s a couple of questions to consider:

Do I let the need for applause affect how I make decisions?

Applause and affirmation from people whose opinions we value is a great encouragement. When pleasing others becomes my goal, however, I'm on thin ice. When the need to be noticed drives how I make my decisions, I lose myself. I no longer make decisions based on my values and direction in life, but instead just sway to whatever I think will get me noticed or a pat on the back. Some people will use their love, attention, and applause to control others. If your need for affirmation drives your decisions, you will be one of the people they control!

When no one is applauding me, do I assume I must be failing or inadequate?

This one is so tough! Everyone has been here, whether we would like to admit it or not. It’s so easy to doubt yourself when you are not getting feedback.  Healthy homes and workplaces offer feedback and will take time to give encouragement when needed. It's important to remember, however, that every boss, spouse, and friend, even when they are healthy can get distracted or pre-occupied. When the feedback and applause stops, for whatever reason, you have to be able to honestly evaluate yourself. You have to know that you are a good person, and that you are doing a good job. Even if your performance is down, you need to be able to see your value clearly. Once you begin to doubt your worth, you are on very shaky ground!

When God finished creating the world and it’s people, He stepped back for a second to applaud, (“it is good” – Genesis 1:31). God sees your value and loves you deeply. I hope that there are those around you who also see that value, but more than anything else, I hope that you are able to agree with God today and know that you matter and are incredibly valuable!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Finds - August 8

Here's a few inspiring thoughts from talented bloggers around the web:

We all want what we want, but getting it could be easier than you thought. Allison Vesterfelt over at Storyline has an excellent piece on the art of getting what you want…

     The Easiest Way To Get Exactly What You Want

To live with courage and conviction is all anyone could hope for. Maximilian Kolbe was that and more. Follow along as author of One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp recounts his story…

We all mess up, and most of us do it hourly. Check out Carlos Whitaker’s take about improving your skills when it comes time to say “I’m sorry”.

      Carlos Whitaker's I'm Sorry Skills

If you are looking for an intelligent and insightful piece from a very gifted pastor, take a few minutes and read why Nadia Bolz-Weber hated her pastoral care classes in seminary…

               Have a great weekend!!!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Like Kale For The Soul

Kale has been cultivated for over 2000 years, but only recently has it become the Beatles of healthy food. Sales of Kale seeds have risen 20-30%  over the past year. There are even “Eat  More Kale” bumper stickers on the roads, and as you well know, bumper stickers never lie.

So, why the sudden fascination with kale? It’s actually rooted in another growing fascination, the one with personal health and wellness. More and more people today are paying careful attention to the food and drinks they consume. Calories are being counted and carbs are being watched. The thought is, that what we take into our bodies will have a lot to do with how well and how long they operate and function.  So, acai, pomegranate, kimchi, and flaxseed are becoming household words.

It’s wise to take care of our bodies, but how about our souls? In the same way that taking damaging or worthless things into our body has consequences, it’s equally true that taking damaging things into our soul will be harmful. Even though many people spend tons of time and money monitoring their bodies, few of us ever give any thought to our souls (Probably because there aren’t too many members of the opposite sex “checking out” your soul when you walk down the street). We avoid fried foods and sugary drinks to keep our bodies in shape, but what about our souls? Are there things that we are watching, listening to, or reading that are doing damage to our souls? It’s not my job to tell you where your line should be on things you watch, read, or hear, but it is your job, and if you are like me, it’s a job you neglect from time to time. Not only do we need to avoid toxic things that damage our souls,  but they are in need of nourishment as well. Times of solitude and reflection, thoughtful reading, and acts of generosity are just a few of the things that our souls need to grow and develop.

So, the next time you are drinking a bottle of green juice that combines carrot, ginger, sweet potato, plantain, radish, banana, kiwi, and coconut juices, take some time to reflect on what you are feeding your soul. After all, what good is a body if it is not being driven by a healthy, purposeful soul!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Today someone is sitting in a sterile doctor’s office on a paper-covered bench, hearing for the first time that cancer has begun to attack their body

Today someone is hearing their child say her first word

Today someone is filing for divorce

Today someone is burying their father

Today someone is moving into their college dorm

Today someone is wondering where they will find money to feed their kids dinner tonight

Today someone will taste chocolate for the first time


I don’t know what your day has in store for you today, but I pray that you will embrace every moment of it’s goodness, and find peace from God for every moment of it’s pain.  After all, today is all we have.

Photo Courtesy of Death To The Stock Photo

Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Finds - August 1

In his letter to early Jewish followers of Jesus, Paul encouraged the people to remember other followers who were suffering as a result of their faith. (Hebrews 13:3) The following article and many others on the web concerning the suffering of Christians in Iraq reminds us that Paul’s words are as applicable today as they were 2000 years ago. I encourage you to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering as you read this.....

If you haven’t been spending hours watching various Ted Talks, then I apologize for introducing you to what will no doubt become a new addiction for you. If you are in need of a bit of inspiration this weekend, watch Benjamin Zander’s (pictured above) wonderful talk about his passion for classical music.

You may not be up to date on all of the conversations flying around the Christian blog community about Mark Driscoll as of late. I have thoughts about Driscoll and all that is going on, but this is not the time, nor is this blog the space for it. You don’t have to know anything about Driscoll, however to appreciate Matthew Paul Turner’s timely reminder about the true nature of grace. Read and then re-read Turner's post!

I am so proud of this new blogger! I was proud of her when she was a student in a youth group I worked with, and she continues to amaze! Follow DeAnna and Jonathan’s journey into adoption here:

 Photo courtesy of