Choose wisely

Millions of Americans rushed to their local gym this past week with excitement and resolve. I should know. I’m one of them.

Over the years, I’ve tried to make exercise a regular part of my routine but a couple of months ago that “routine” became a little…well, let’s just say “sporadic”.

Maybe it started when I broke two of my toes. Perhaps my desire to spend more quality time with baked goods added to my lack of motivation. Whatever the reason, I realized I needed to start fresh.

Upon my return to the gym, I discovered something crazy. I had become weaker! The weights I once threw around with ease, were now were accompanied by involuntary grunts and groans.

It didn’t stop there. When I ran, I was considerably slower than before. I’ve never set any land speed records but even the thought of running at my previous speed made me want to hyperventilate. It was enough for me to ask myself, “What the Hans and Franz is going on?!!”

As I sat on the edge of my bench, looking like a face swap between a dejected Charlie Brown and a forlorn Mr. Clean, I had a realization. Yes, getting back into shape is a pain (in more ways than one) but there is also a valuable lesson to be learned.

Our bodies are gift to us. They teach us that the decisions we make turn us into the people we will become.

Even though we might not like it, we can understand the ramifications of our decisions on our bodies. For example, if I eat more than my fair share of Italian cookies and choose to skip the gym for a while, my physical well-being is going to suffer.

What is often tougher to see are the ways that we are affected emotionally, spiritually and intellectually by the decisions that we make.

Each of us has thousands of choices to make within the course of a day. In the end, our lives become the sum total of those decisions.

Does that mean we need to obsess over every little decision? No, but it may mean we take our daily choices more seriously.

Sometimes it’s helpful for me to look at extreme examples in order to grasp a concept. For instance, one of the biggest news stories of this past year was the rampant nature of sexual harassment across our country. I am thankful that this has become a national topic of discussion. Sexual harassment is an epidemic and it has to stop!

Interestingly enough, these stories have shown that sexual harassment isn’t a “conservative” or “liberal” problem. It doesn’t have its roots in what ethnicity or economic background you come from. At the core, sexual harassment is a heart issue.

My guess is none of the men who are accused of sexual harassment woke up suddenly one morning and said, “I’m going to start terrorizing women today”. Most likely, they came to that point after years of little decisions. One gray area turned into another and then another until finally they had become a person who could act so heinously without ever giving it a second thought.

So what’s the point? Are we all doomed to become pathological liars or abusers? I don’t think so. Still, our decisions may lead us to another tragic place. We may fail to be who we were designed to be.

Who do you want to become? Are the choices you are making today bringing you closer to becoming that person or taking you further away?

My prayer is that the decisions I make in 2018 will lead me closer living out my created purpose. I hope you’ll experience that joy too.

A picture says a thousand words…or does it?

The sands of time bury pictures on Facebook until they are so far under the surface that we hardly remember their existence. A few days ago, I was scrolling through some of my forgotten treasures.

As I clicked from one picture to the next, I found myself uttering noises like, “Awwwww!!!” or “Heyyyyy!!!” Each image captured a special moment in time. I was moved as I watched how much my kids have grown, how my hair hasn’t and all the adventures we have shared over the last decade or so.

In a particularly nostalgic moment, I came across a picture of my wife and me on a vacation. Since she happened to be sitting on the couch next to me, I pointed to the picture and said, “Look how happy we are!” Joy filled my soul, simply looking at the snapshot.

In response, my wife turned to me and said, “Is that all you remember about that trip?” It was like one of those scenes in a movie when that record scratching sound gets played. All of the sudden I was knocked off the 30,000 foot cloud I was riding on.

My mind was whisked away to a rather lengthy and passionate “discussion” we had on that very same trip. Even though it wasn’t our biggest fight, I remember it well. It encapsulated a lot of the frustration and feelings we have experienced over the years. In an instant, that very same picture that brought me a sense of peace and happiness, delivered feelings of discomfort and angst. Did that negate the joy we truly were experiencing the moment? No, but it didn’t represent every part of us either.

It has been said that “A picture says a thousand words” but I would suggest that those words aren’t always the whole truth.

When I am scrolling through a newsfeed…Yes, even my own! I can assume I know the entire story behind the picture that I am seeing. Rarely, is reality the same as that image.

I think of all the family pictures we took with wiggly, whinny kids (and parents for that matter). Sometimes it seemed like it took 50 or 60 photos to get ONE that looked halfway decent. Some of the truly “high” moments in life were also accompanied by “lows”.

This doesn’t mean the beauty of those magical moments isn’t authentic but it puts things in perspective. For someone so quick to see everything as, “all good” or “all bad” I need the reminder that things aren’t always that clear-cut. The boxes I create to put myself at ease are often crafted for my comfort rather than seeing reality.

Holding joy and sorrow in tension is one of the most difficult aspects to maturity. Yet it is essential if I want to see the world (and myself) accurately. It also helps when you are scrolling through your newsfeed.

Sometimes success means stepping into the batters box

Success. That word carries a lot of weight, especially in modern American society. We are obsessed with success. It is so much a part of the air we breathe that we don’t even stop to think about it. Movies, social media and the news are filled with stories that either celebrate the accomplishments of individuals or point a finger at their failures and subsequent demise.

If we aren’t careful, we can subtly fall prey to thinking that we are only worthwhile if everything we touch turns to gold. The problem is nobody has the secret “Midas touch”. Even if they did, that old fable reminds us that the results wouldn’t be as glorious as we envision.

We desperately need reminders of the true meaning of “success”. In my life, one of the places I have learned the most is through baseball.

I was reading an article about statistics in baseball on last week. I’ve added the link to it here.

The article talks about a player and manager named Cap Anson. This is a excerpt…

The legend goes that Cap Anson, asked what he’d like his tombstone to say, replied, “I guess one line will be enough: ‘Here lies a man that batted .300.’

 There are three reasons we care, for our purposes today, about Anson’s response. The first is the throat-clearing opener: “one line will be enough.” Anson had one of the game’s most extraordinary and complicated major league baseball careers. He was baseball’s first superstar, rapped 3,435 hits, won five pennants and almost 1,300 games as a manager, and played a prominent and despicable role in preserving segregation in the sport. A book could probably be written about any one of his 27 seasons. In his estimation, one line would be enough. That’s how powerful “batted .300” has been in baseball.

The article goes on to talk at length about why batting .300 is a significant accomplishment.

With all due respect to the author, I think he may have actually missed Cap’s main point.

It may offend our modern sensibilities but what if Cap wasn’t talking about the game of baseball at all? How about if he was talking about life? That certainly reframes the way I read his quote.

In the batter’s box of life, there are always opportunities to hit a home run or strike out. There are also times that you hit a nice single up the middle or you crush the ball but a fielder makes a nice play. No one succeeds in everything even when you are doing everything “right”.

No hot streak lasts forever and no slump defines what you are able to do at your next at bat. In the end, batting .300 in life is probably a very reasonable “batting percentage”.

I wouldn’t characterize my success in life in home runs, stolen bases or runs scored. I think the best way to judge my success is if I’m willing to get into the batter’s box day after day.

Am I willing to swing away even when I struck out my last time up? Can I stare down each pitch as it comes my way and give it my best shot? Can I take the occasional fastball to my arm or back?

In life, having the courage to step into the batters box is half the battle. After all, nobody bats 1.000.

Gaston and the Beast

A couple of nights ago, our family finally got around to seeing the latest rendition of the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast”.

As expected, it was a visually compelling movie. I thought they actually did justice to two of the most memorable scenes from the first film.

“Be Our Guest” used cutting edge computer animation to capture the sense of excitement and wonder displayed in the original film.

The iconic scene of Belle dancing with the Beast was also done extremely well. In the cartoon version of the movie, that scene was so inspiring that one of my friend’s little girls turned to him and whispered wistfully, “Daddy. Someday I dance with a doggie?” I imagine similar sentences were uttered again in theaters across the country.

A lot has been written about this film from a ton of angles. I guess that’s what proves it is a good work of art. There are so many themes to discuss that it could be it’s own college level class.

Our family Cinema 101 discussion started as we were exiting the theater. Turning to my daughter I said, “Don’t ever marry a guy like Gaston!” (I think that one should be fairly obvious but it needed to be said). I went on to say, “Don’t marry a Beast either”. A guy who needs you to fix him isn’t worthy of your energy.

“After all”, I said, “What’s the difference between Gaston and the Beast? Isn’t it just the fact that Belle took the time to help one and not the other?”

By this time we were in our car and a big debate ensued. My son injected “No! It was that the Beast was open to change but Gaston wasn’t!” Wisely, my wife affirmed his observation.

Perhaps because we hadn’t been in an argument in two hours, I decided to challenge my son’s assertion. “But how do we know? Belle never gave Gaston a chance.”

I might as well have lit a match to a bunch of bottle rockets by the way the ideas were flying around the car.

In the end, one of the easiest ways to see how open Gaston and the Beast were to change was when trials came.

When Gaston discovers he can’t have Belle, he manipulates in whatever way he can to get his way. He sweet talks, he lies, oh yeah and he attempts murder! The whole time he deflects criticism away from himself.

Meanwhile, when the Beast is faced with the same situation, he chooses to let Belle go. This means a cruel fate for him and all the singing furniture in his house. This selflessness is the soil where true love grows.

My hope is that my kids will experience this kind of love in their lives. They won’t be caught in dysfunctional relationships centered in selfishness. I pray they will be people who are open to change and healing and they will find other people committed to the same.

Most likely, the biggest help I can be to them in that area is to model those things in my life and marriage to my “Beauty”. I want our relationship to point to a “Tale as old as time” that is beyond ourselves.

Good Friday from a chilling perspective

I am a religious leader. I make it a top priority to carefully cultivate a love for God in my life. One of my other primary responsibilities is caring for the people I have been entrusted to guide.

It is a high calling and I do everything within my power to take it seriously. I’ve studied for hours on end. In an attempt to make my words match my actions, I’ve set up a series of rules to help me avoid the appearance of doing anything improper. Naturally, I demand that those who are following me observe the same code of ethics.

There are many threats to this way of life but perhaps the biggest is teachers who lead massive numbers of people astray. It happens all the time. Presumptive leaders tell the crowds what they WANT to hear instead of what they NEED to hear. This gives them a sizeable following. Then, they use that popularity as a way to control and manipulate.

I am always on the lookout for these imposters. I am vigilant about what others teach and compare it to what I have studied for years. If the two don’t match up, I have learned to take action quickly; our country, our independence and our way of life depend on it.

A little over three years ago, one of these false leaders rose from relative obscurity. From the very beginning I suspected that something was wrong with his teaching. He didn’t study under any religious professor but he spoke like a person with authority. He seemed to have unique power but if I didn’t know with certainty where he came from, how could I ever know the origin of his power?!

There were signs that he could be special. Huge crowds gathered because blind people started seeing with 20/20 vision and others who were never able to walk were running around. Thankfully, I knew all this was a façade. After all, occasionally he did these things on a day we weren’t supposed to do any work.

Sometimes this same man would tell people he forgave them of everything they had done wrong in life. This included all their outward behaviors as well as all the attitudes they held in their hearts. Obviously, no one can forgive these things except God.

Finally, this man had the audacity to claim he was equal with God. I knew it was the final straw. We had to take drastic measures to make sure this message didn’t spread further. The worst-case scenario seemed to be a plausible reality. The delicate balance of order and control we had worked diligently to foster with the government could come crumbling down.

Last night, my fellow religious leaders and I had the man arrested in the darkness in order to avoid a scene. When a mob brought him before our council, his fate was a foregone conclusion.

At first I was frustrated. We couldn’t get any witnesses to agree on a crime he had committed. Eventually though he slipped up like I knew he would. He claimed to be God in front of all of us! It was all we needed. We knew that we could convince the government that he was trying to start an insurrection and execute him.

It turns out, that was easier said than done. Government officials didn’t instantly see things our way. They tried using every tactic they could to release him but in a stroke of genius, we found the phrase that finally got them to cave…

“We have no king except for Caesar!”

We all know that only God is our true king but the ends justify the means, right? The man needed to be killed for his blasphemy.

A simple charge hung over him at his execution. He was a king.

Can you imagine if this man was alive? People might surrender to him. I might have to give up my right for influence and importance. His followers might value honoring him more than they value their country, their traditions or the relative peace and comfort we have created.

No. Like I said, I do everything within my power to take my job seriously.


Seven Haikus to Celebrate Spring

Creativity and productivity are not mutually exclusive.

A favorite book of mine from last year was written by one of the founders of Pixar, Ed Catmull. “Creativity Inc.” describes the rise of Pixar from a startup company founded on the outrageous idea that computers could be used to make animated films, into the creative force that produced blockbuster hits like “Toy Story”, “Cars”, “Monsters Inc.” and “Up”.

One of the major themes throughout the book is that creativity fuels innovation more effectively than focusing on production alone. When we give our brains the space to think creatively, it can help us develop solutions in totally separate areas.

Because I’d hate for all the lessons in that great book to go to waste (and because I had a hankering to write some haikus) here are seven haikus to celebrate the arrival of spring. 


Grass is green again

No more white stuff on the ground

My lawnmower waits


Rain turns dirt to mud

Worms slide across my driveway

It’s a bird buffet


Temperatures climb

It’s not freezing anymore

Goodbye winter coat


Start ignition light

Flames rise beneath metal grates

Burgers. Ribs. Steak. Yum!


 Gorgeous day outside

Wear the least clothes possible

First sunburn this year


 Flowers start to bloom

Stretching from their winter sleep

Oh no! It’s snow. Retreat.


Fresh Air. Breathe it in.

Pollen floats. Sniffle. Sneeze. Sneeze.

Time to take Zyrtec

All right. I’m no T.S. Elliot but it’s fun to try for a day. It also feels strangely energizing.

The next time you need to be really productive, try writing a couple of haikus, painting on a canvas, or even making up your own song (depending on your musical talent, you might want to keep the performance to the shower). Giving yourself permission to be creative in one area might have added benefits in others.

Ten Leadership Lessons

You might not consider yourself a leader but chances are at some point in your life you will be asked to lead others. No matter if the context is work, school, sports or your family, a valuable question to ask yourself is, “what does it look like to lead well?”

Thankfully, I’ve had many gifted and loving people pour into my life over the years. They have shown me what leadership looks like by their words and actions.

As I reflect on what they have taught me, here are ten important lessons I’ve learned about leadership through the influence of others.

  1. Love the People you lead

 Leadership is not primarily about tasks. It is about people.

Opening up your heart to the people you are responsible to lead can be scary. It takes time and emotional energy. It also hurts more when people move on. On the flip side, there is more joy, connectedness and contentment than if you keep your heart closed off.

  1. Keep your priorities straight

 The pursuit of success can blind us to what is truly important in life. I talk to a lot of guys in their 50’s and 60’s who wish they would have spent more time with their wife and kids instead of running after the next promotion.

I can either look at my marriage and family as a hindrance or my primary place to lead well. When I get the order right, I find myself thriving in both places. When I don’t, well…it’s not where I want to live.

  1. It’s not about you

If you are leading people to yourself and how great you are, you are leading them to the wrong place. People need to be engaged in a mission greater than themselves. That mission is not you.

 Also…don’t take yourself too seriously.

  1. More is caught than taught

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for formal training in leadership. Practical instruction is always important. However, what really sticks with people isn’t what you taught them on an intellectual level, it’s how you treated them and how you interacted with the world around you.

  1. Leaders are Learners

The phrase, “Leaders are readers” is also popular. I’ve always got a couple of books I am working through (usually very slowly!) but learning includes more than books. Listening to podcasts, radio, reading blogs and watching movies can all be excellent ways to learn. Even better…take time to listen to people. You might be surprised at what you discover.

  1. Keep the main thing, the main thing

It is extremely easy to get distracted from my primary focus. There are a lot of “good” things that I can do. I need to constantly remember the vision before me and filter my decisions through that.

  1. If you want to lead, follow

Someone wise once told me, “The best leaders have learned to be the best followers”. That’s a great way to evaluate the leadership potential of others as well as a great statement to reflect on.

Once someone lets “leader” become an identity rather than a role, it almost always creates issues.

  1. Don’t ask people to do things you aren’t willing to do

Pretty straightforward but surprisingly not that common.

That doesn’t mean that leaders should ALWAYS be doing what everyone else is doing. There are certainly times that leadership requires a different focus. Still, true leaders aren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up and get dirty.

  1. As goes the leader, so goes the movement

Every organization, business, church etc. will take on the personality and values of the leader.

When I was working for Wegmans, I noticed that every store had a different “vibe” even though they each carried the same products and had the same systems in place. I eventually came to realize that this personality was based more on the store manager than anything else.

If you want what you are leading to be healthy, YOU must pursue health in your own life.

  1. Stay Thankful

No one appreciates being around people who are ungrateful. We all know this instinctively. Yet because leading requires thinking about a better future thankfulness can slowly evaporate like a puddle on a hot summer day.

Taking time to write a “thank you” note, an email of gratitude or simply saying “Thank you, so much!” face to face can do a lot to keep thankfulness alive and well in your heart.


Those are some of my favorites. There are definitely a lot more!

How about you? What do you think of that list? Is there anything you would add/subtract? I’d love to hear what you think!