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November 2007
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December 2007

On the Other Hand

While you are escaping the frenzy of the season, don't lose its energy. A bit of stress is propelling. Management of stress is essential and must include developing tools to harness it as a source of energy and inspiration.

Christmas is about celebrating the coming of Light into a world of darkness and that carries huge implications for our lives, opportunities, possibilities, and calling.

You must find the balance and you must find it within yourself.


Frenzies are frequent and frightful in the frantic days before Christmas. All that we have resolved to do for our businesses and families well in advance, we feel we must do now and finish quickly.

To this wave of hyperactive scrambling I would say one thing: STOP!

Spell FRENZY with me - F-R-E-N-Z-Y and let this acronym guide you.

F - Fake it. Whatever is left undone, just let it hang and act like you are finished and that it was your idea not to overdo it.

R - Refocus, Reschedule, and Relax. Start December 26 and plan for next Christmas. Stop where you are with cards an d send out Epiphany cards or Easter cards. Whatever is not done can be done some other time. You are not alone. Stop whipping yourself, slow down, and enjoy the holiday in the spirit of grace.

E - Exhale. You are hyperventilating. That is not helpful to you. You don't have to do it all in the next couple of days. There will be other Christmases and people need widgets all year long.

N - NEXT! It is always NEXT! Next year, next Christmas, next prospect, next opportunity; all of these come around. "Some will, some won't, so what. NEXT!"

Z - Zero - That is what you will gain from beating yourself up over your failures.

Y - YES is what you need to say to the gift of God is Jesus Christ. Nothing in your lack of planning or implementation can negate the reality of the wonder of His incarnation. Celebrate with a humongous YES!

About that frenzy? Let it go. At about 10 A.M. Christmas morning, none of it will matter.

Ann Felton

Ann Felton passed away this week in a way that was, from my perspective, suddenly. We visited last in September and it was, as always, too short a visit with exploding currents of information and more stories than I could absorb. However, I was, again as always, desperate to take as much in as possible while I could, suspecting, but not knowing that it would be our last visit.

Ann was my aunt, my father's sister, the family historian, a student of Virginia and Virginia Baptist history, an enthralling story teller, and one of the warm people in my life who always made me feel that she was glad I came or called. She was one of the most interesting people I have ever known and my memories of her holding me spell-bound go back as far as I can remember.

She made history come alive, especially the wide and dispersed history of our family. She made strangers who I had never met and never will meet seem like long lost friends. She fleshed out cold facts and gave me the sense that the people  whose names occupied genealogical lists were actually real folks with real stories whose stories somehow intersected with mine and factored into the person I am today.

Perhaps it was from her and my grandmother, her mother, that I first learned to love stories of common people making a way in the world. I came to appreciate their wonderful idiosyncrasies and to revel in hilarity of the common place.

She called me "Buddy," a distinction I am sure that I share with hundreds of other people. However, it made me feel special.

She knew that I loved the history and that, while I had little time to do the rigorous research and study she had done, I wanted to hear it and read it. She was always ready for me and my visits. She always had notes and articles, books and pictures ready for me to peruse. In our last visit, I was reading with one eye, looking at her with the other, occasionally glancing at my notes and jotting some things down, listening with both ears, and forming questions with my mouth.

Somehow all of that seemed quite normal.

Ann's husband, Staley died several years ago and was a challenging counterpart to her intelligence and curiosity in his own spheres of interest. He was a man of quiet wit; she was a woman of boisterous enthusiasm for life. While she grew quieter with the years, she never lost her gifts as a conversationalist. There was never a moment of boredom in her presence.

Ann collected friends and valued them highly, bringing something of value into her own life from every relationship. She was a loyal friend, a devoted wife and mother, an attentive and devoted daughter, and a committed Christian.

Her spirit was gentle and generously compassionate, but she was never a push over. She could be a formidable force when fighting for the people she loved. You always knew where she stood on issues, but she was not recalcitrant in  clinging to outmoded views or unsubstantiated beliefs. Her faith was an intelligent and active dynamic. She was widely read and raised four wonderful children who were and are curious, conscientious, and congenial in her own manner.

I am deeply grieved to part with the last link to a past I know too little about, grieved and sorrowful to lose my aunt and friend, sad for Sims, Larry, Beverly, and Alan, my fun cousins who have absorbed so much of the culture she formed around her. Ann was my connection to our entire family - those I knew and those I never met. Because she knew people so well, she could interpret them with a warm humanity and sweet humor. I always felt welcome in her presence. I cannot replace her. There will not be another. I just assumed that she might always be around while knowing that she was getting weaker each time I saw her.

In recent years, she lost so much of her physical strength and independence. That was hard, but her mind was alert and free and she was surrounded by books, notes, and a very busy telephone. She was  very active intellectually and interactively. She was still growing, learning, and corresponding. In the last few weeks, that very core of her lifestyle was severely threatened by immobility. I wondered if she could survive it.

She did. She stepped into a realm where her curiosity and sense of wonder can flourish, in the presence of people she knew without ever meeting and a Savior she has known for many, many years.

We will  miss her, but we shall see her again.

Heaven must be a very interesting place for my aunt - so many people to meet, so many stories to tell and to hear. I know she is busy.

Amazon Gift Cards

We don't have time to shop between now and Christmas so we just made an executive decision to purchase some Amazon Gift Cards. I would suggest the same to some of you.

This will, hopefully, give me some time to update my blog.

Use this link for your convenience and I would appreciate the business.

Thanks and relax!

Sunday Morning Blessing

It is a joy to count all of you as my friends.

You encourage me.

What a blessing to see so many who aim for something better and toward becoming all they can be.

It is a source of joy to see so many who are cultivating faith in their lives and businesses.

I apologize for the gap in these postings. Life seems to have other plans than those I neatly organize sometimes.

And that is part of the beauty of it.

May your God-given dreams envelope you in a sea of wonder. May your goals be ever before you to get you up and get you going. May you celebrate your successes and embrace your failures as cobblestones on the road to success. May the joy of this season of hope lift you to higher planes of grace and deeper levels of commitment. May your view be always fixed ahead and above while you live with awe in the present and in peace with the past.

May the One who gives life and health guide you over the storms of this present sea of danger and opportunity steadily into the port of purpose.

May each day of your life be filled with glorious manifestations of infinite possibilities.

May your home be a reservoir of love overflowing into the streets of your city.

May your life be a lighthouse of hope and integrity; may your words be well chosen food for the souls of many; may your thoughts be seeds of greatness for yourself and others.

You have it in you and I am honored to be called your friend. Keep up the good work. You are making a difference in this world and the world to come.


Here is Roger McGuinn singing "May the Road Rise to Meet You." (His own version)


- Tom Sims, The Dream Factory,



Abraham Lincoln: The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.

Malcolm S. Forbes: The best vision is insight.

Theodore Roosevelt: The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

Lincoln, Forbes, and Roosevelt have contributed to my thinking about best things today. In the early 70s, Jimmy Carter wrote a book inspired by something Admiral Hyman Rickover said to him. The title of the book was, "Why Not the Best?"

Whatever your politics, it is good reading.

Here is my contribution to those who, today, are aiming beyond mediocrity for what is best:

B - Better. The best is better than good. If all you want it good, there are many choices. none of them are the best. They are just OK.  For those whose aim is toward the best, today is opportune and tomorrow is a place of wonder. Progress is expected. Failures are the price of success and are merely temporary assessments on the road to what is incrementally better. People who are focused on being and doing their best are not discouraged by their imperfections, but inspired toward something better which is ever before them.

E - Ever - Ever improving, ever reaching, ever growing, ever expanding, and ever celebrating small victories are characteristics of people who aim high and keep aiming higher and higher. They are "EVER People." Such people have a sense of eternity in their hearts, knowing that this life is not all there is, but that it is important and that every day counts. The most effective "Ever People" are also "Forever People" who have grounded their lives in something and Someone who can interpret their existence in terms of eternal purpose. In the meantime, we keep going.

S - Satisfied Dissatisfaction - Those who are ever-becoming and never satisfied with mediocrity have a deep sense of satisfaction which is not to be confused with complacency. It comes from enjoying the journey, celebrating progress, and living by grace. Grace not only offers God's forgiveness for shortcomings and His mercy for our failures, but it gives us the ability to receive these and renew our hope that we can become more and do more. This sort of satisfaction is deep and inner and is never circumstantial or subject to our arbitrary score cards. Because it is not circumstantial, it means we can never be circumstantially satisfied while at the same time, we are kept by the power of perfect peace.

T - Trust - People who aim for the best are people who are cultivating an extraordinary capacity for faith in God, in themselves as servants of God, in others as children of God, and in the future as something being fashioned by God for the unfolding of a great and glorious purpose. They are infused with trust that what is better is not merely a fantasy, but a possibility. You cannot aim for the best without believing in it or in the possibility of its attainment.

All the BEST to you!

- Tom Sims, The Dream Factory

And More ....

Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” - Ann Frank

These kids are learning early that they can become MORE every day:

This video was uploaded to YouTube by their teacher  in honor of them being that teacher's first class ever.

Thanks to Sneefie from Singapore.

Left Wing/Right Wing

Yet another reason why I resist wearing labels such as "Conservative" or "Liberal" with an upper case "C" or "L" comes to surface as I hear the word,"wing" attached to directional terms such as "left" or "right."  This comes from a guy who cannot tell you off the top of his head what a "red state" is as opposed to a "blue state" or why they are opposed at all.

Words I like to describe words like these are "deceptive," "misleading," "ambiguous," and "meaningless."

But back to the wing metaphor. My grandson brought me one shoe to put on his foot the other day and I sought to explain to him why he could go outside with one shoe on and what it might be like to feel lopsided.

Then, I thought about airplanes and realized I wouldn't consider getting on a left-winged or right winged airplane. I prefer my aerial transportation with two wings. Balance means a lot to me at that elevation.

I read an interview with a guy today who thought he'd always been on the left wing of a theological issue. Then, he said, a movement emerged that went further to the left and left him in the center. When you are in the center, you might lean to one side or the other, but you are still in the middle.

"Talk of the Nation" had articulate spokespersons for "both" sides of the Guantanamo Bay issue before the Supreme Court today. Both made sense and I felt a tug of "leaning" as each spoke and ended up in balance after weighing all the arguments.

Now there is a sticky issue where the definitions have been in flux.

I don't want to live in a one-winged society. I am not impressed with one winged philosophies and would not feel happy about a brain with a single hemisphere. I want a multitude of counselors helping me look at all sides of any question. This is true in politics, religion, and business.

Proverbs 18:17   says, "The first to present his case seems right,  till another comes forward and questions him."

I think that is by design. Truth is simple, but not simplistic. The best course of action may not always be the most obvious. We need point and counterpoint to make good and wise decisions.

Perhaps that is why the American people as a body politic can be so shifting in their political party loyalties. As a people we know that you can't fly the "airline of state" with one wing - nor a business, nor a life.

If you are a decision maker, make sure you are getting good information and that all of your advisers are not always in 100% agreement. If you are not wrestling with some of the major matters that come before you, you are probably not getting the best out of your own abilities to think clearly and objectively.

We all have biases and they are helpful when they inform us. They are dangerous when they blind us. They are disastrous when the rule us.

Fly with both wings!

How do you fly with both wings?

  • F - Face your own limitations in perspective, knowledge, and ability to know it all. There is a vast storehouse of knowledge that no human will ever possess. The only all-wise and all-knowing one is God and He ha distributed bits of His knowledge widely among diverse peoples.
  • L - Listen carefully to what others are saying. Respect those with whom you disagree and who disagree with you. Consider that people who are wrong about one thing may have insight into something else. Never throw out babies with the bath wash or dismiss the value of people because of your prejudices.
  • Y - Yin/Yang it. The truth of a given situation may dwell in the tension between paradoxical opposites and failure to look for it there will deprive you of the truth you seek to make a good decision.


Sneaky Christmas

Christmas has been sneaking up on me for years.

Here it is, the first Sunday of Advent and I am, as usual, unprepared to meet the opportunities of the season with a ready receptor and available resources.

Every year I declare it will be different the next in both business and ministry. I will be geared up to reach the greatest number of people in every dimension of my life. I will have new books ready to sell and give as gifts. I will have amazing sermons ready to preach, cards ready to send, and e-commerce possibilities ready for big boosts to my income and that of my church.I will visit every lonely soul with an annual pastoral call and make contact with every old friend I have ever know. Those I miss will be centers around which I attract great guilt and regret to myself and I will sit beneath the tree wishing I had done a much better "job" of Christmas.

I plan for optimum. Then, it doesn't happen. It never really has. I have never been ready. I have always been ambushed by Christmas.

Yesterday, Andrea came home with all sorts of Christmas paraphernalia and she, Elijah, and Kaibian hung Christmas lights while I tended the baby and backed up Microsoft Outlook. Then she had the audacity to build a fire in the fireplace and host a cozy pre-Christmas moment in the living room.

The most infuriating part of it all was that she was 100% right and everyone enjoyed the time - some of us quite reluctantly.

All this is going on around me, and I am not even at the starting line. I am sulking over the fact that another Christmas has apparently already arrived without giving me the appropriate heads-up.

I am learning to do everything I do in the tiny cracks between other things in my life. No more protracted thinking times or solitude (some of which, I have quite frankly wasted away).

Yesterday, for instance, Kaibo did something unbelievably cute  which reminded me of a deep spiritual truth and - (Wouldn't you know?) - I didn't have a pen and paper with me to reflect upon it. And if I had, he would have grabbed it out of my hand with an expression of glee and called out, "BOOKIE," proceeding to write on it and everything else.

I guess I'll just have to live these moments and reflect later.

I had my alarm set for 3:50 A.M. - I had intended 5:00 A.M.. Adrianna roused me at 3:30 A.M. and the alarm went off as I was feeding her. Something inside me deceived me into resetting the alarm for 5 and returning to sleep. When it went off, I rolled over not to rise till 6:00 A.M.

So much for beating the rush - morning or Christmas.

For years I have had myself convinced that I was not experiencing anything unless I was writing, preaching, or singing about it and that it was even possible to miss the actual events as long as I expressed them with words.

Now I am wondering if anything I have ever done is as important as what I am doing now, wiping baby spit, changing diapers, playing cars, reading stories, and making breakfast.

In a little while, I will walk onto the platform of my church and preach on Jesus changing the water to wine. I will relate the words He spoke on that occasion indicating that His time had not yet come to the timeliness of all God does and the wonder of Christ's coming in the fullness of time with the new wine of grace and the ruddiness of incarnation. I will point out the significance of this event and its meaning to the Advent season and lead our people to the Lord's Table to partake of the bread and juice symbolizing His sacrifice for us and His abiding presence with us.

The service will begin at precisely 11:15 A.M. whether or not I am ready.

Christmas will come on time too even as Jesus came on time.

I may not feel that I have time for anything, but my times are in His hand.

A friend of mine in business was telling me that recently he had not been sure what his "WHY" was, that great dream that gets a person up and going and propels him over obstacles and frustrations. It is the reason for all we do and when we lose sight of it, we are a bit lost.

I think I know mine. It is an extension of one I have had in my heart for a long time, but it is currently taking a different shape that I had expected.

Our economists are on the clock. They measure things by quarters and points. They calculate the minutest details to formulate their forecasts and evaluate Christmas by  growth in predefined indicators.

What that still small voice that the prophet Elijah heard is yelling in my ear this Christmas is that there are no predefined indicators available to us which can define the bottom lines of our lives or the value of these moments. There is no adequate preparation for what had always been an invasion.

Light has invaded darkness suddenly. Praise has overwhelmed the noises of traffic. Hope has burst upon the scenes of despair all around us and we don't have to manage it, capitalize on it, or seize it. It seizes us.

Do what you can while you can. There is no problem there. Work hard, work smart, and work quickly. However, when you have done what you can and the results may not be what you projected, don't beat yourself up. The greatest loss to your bottom line is missing the unplanned, unanticipated moments of wonder. Success is a big part of what I teach and write, but it is not everything - especially our limited definitions of it.

Applause is fulfilling (for a few seconds) - making a sale is cool - commissions are great - a well attended event is gratifying - a smooth program will be remembered for a while ---- BUT - the smile on a baby's face when she has a clean diaper is HUGE.

And being surprised by Christmas sneaking up on you and realizing what it means for a sad and angry world to be visited by a joyful and loving Savior - That is amazing.