We is Better than Me



Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. ……….But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

The emphasis throughout both the New and Old Testament is that life is better lived in relationship with another.  I came across athe following quote that is attributed to C.S. Lewis:

The safest road to hell is the gradual one . . . the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. This is why it’s so dangerous to do life alone.” 

A quote from a resident of a halfway house in Darien Connecticut put it this way:

The mind alone is a bad neighborhood.”

A 2015 study done in the U.K. found that a majority of the men surveyed (51%) had two or fewer friends, and 15% had no friends. None.  Nada.  Zip.  That’s hard to imagine.   According to C.S. Lewis, they are leading a dangerous life. It’s so easy in life to do things solo – without any aid from our friends.  We live in community with one another – in fact, most of the New Testament deals with how our Christian life is to play out on the horizontal field with other people.  Christianity is an individual decision,  but it is also a team sport.

So, who is on your team?  Do you have a friend – someone who knows you inside and out – the good, the bad, the ugly, including what your spiritual and thought life, and what junk you have in the trunk of your car (or “boot”, as it is called in other parts of the world)?  The British survey is sobering, but it really is even worse, because their definition of a “friend” really doesn’t go beyond an acquaintance with whom you share a common interest.  That’s not the friend that will stick by you through thick and thin, and will help you up when you have failed or fallen down or had a serious setback of circumstances.

The passage from Ecclesiastes above is one of the many scriptures that follows the theme of what I call the “principle of the twos” in the Bible.   Another one is found in Proverb 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.”  I have met with two men weekly for the past 24 years.  It is an intentional and covenantal relationship. Over time, we have shared each others ups and downs, successes and failures, trials and tribulations, and rejoiced at each others accomplishments for the kingdom. It’s second nature to us to be transparent with our lives and challenges.  I am really saddened how few other men have what we have experienced over a long time.

The majority of men I meet disregard the principle that life is best lived in community, unfortunately to their detriment. As the title says, “We is better than Me”.   Pastors are often the biggest offenders and yet the most vulnerable. They put moats around their lives and become insulated from others because of their position.   But that’s not how Jesus modeled it when he sent out the seventy-two disciples in Luke 10.  He sent them out two by two with a reason. This was their first “road trip”. Had I been advising Jesus, I would have suggested that it might make strategic sense to send them out individually because they would have covered more territory.  But Jesus had more wisdom than me, knowing full well that sending them in twos was more important than getting more geographical coverage.

I have long been known as an advocate of having someone else in your life (other than your spouse) to whom you can confide in and be accountable to.  The evil one doesn’t attack us in groups:  he isolates us and takes us down when we are alone.  Satan doesn’t influence a group to go out and collectively commit adultery.  It happens when we are isolated.

If you don’t have one or more close friends that you can be transparent with, you risk violating the biblical principle of the twos, and as C.S. Lewis suggests, you are in danger.  I encourage you to find one today.

Bill Mann


The Power of Others


 Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.                           1 Thessalonians 5:11

One of my recent reads is a book entitled The Power of the Other: The Startling Effect Other People Have On You, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom, by Dr. Henry Cloud.  It was suggested reading by a colleague of mine, and the title of the book intrigued me so I downloaded it.  The author is an expert of the psychology of leadership, and is an author, speaker and leadership consultant.  He has advised CEO’s,  boards of public companies as well as individual leaders, and his book is loaded with anecdotal evidence of his thesis.

The book describes how some people are able to surpass limits in their performance with input from others, the point being is that they may not have succeeded without help.  “Limits” here include an “obstacle, a leadership dilemma or challenge, a conflict with a person, a weakness or a problem – something that they know is getting in the way.”  He concludes that “the reason that [you] have those limits is the lack of relationship, of human connection”. Studies consistently show that “people trying to reach goals succeed at a much greater rate if they are connected to a strong human support system”.  In other words, most successful leaders attribute their success to someone else who made it possible. Your performance “is either improved or diminished by the other people” in your life.  Good stuff.

Cloud goes on to say that most leadership advice and business books focus on how you lead others, how to perform and build your competencies, but ignore the people who affect you and the power you may have as an “other” for them.  He breaks connections into what he describes as the “Four Corners” of connection.  The First Corner he calls “Disconnected” where the individual is unable to build a strong relational culture.  They become loners. Corner Two is called a “Bad Connection”, where you are pulled toward someone who “has the effect of making you feel bad or ‘not good enough’ in some way”.  The Third Corner is described as the “Seductively False ‘Good’ Connection”.  This is a dangerous place because the connection may include an attachment to “promotions, awards, or positive results, or even to sex, drugs or a Ferrari” in an attempt to feel better. It leads to shallow connections, self-centeredness and being out of touch. Leaders here often surround themselves with “yes” people – people “who tell them they’re great and their ideas are stellar.” “Flattery is the perhaps the worst drug for those in Corner Three”, and they often become controlled or manipulated by the flatterer.

Corner Four is where you want to bewhere relationships become a necessity, just as is oxygen, water and food for your existence. This is the corner where you are able to be authentic – your whole self, and where you can express your heart, mind and passion. It also is place where accountability exists – where others will be checking in with you to see how you are doing. “There is no such thing as a self-made man.”  Leaders who accomplish the most and overcome the most are not afraid to say they need help from others. In Corner Four, one finds friends and colleagues who are mutually dedicated to open, honest discussions which are carried out in an environment of caring and grace (my term, not Cloud’s).  It is an environment where caring, honesty and results are key: “Caring enough about someone to not be hurtful in how we say things, the honesty to say them directly, and a focus on behavioral change and better results.” Cloud cites research that says that the brain responds best to a ratio of five positive feedback messages for every negative message.  Something to ponder in your interactions.

This past weekend, I noticed a magnet on my daughter’s refrigerator that I liked. It was a saying from Euripides, a Greek playwright, who said   One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.  I mentioned this quote to my wife, and she quickly said that we have good relatives. Point taken, but the principle is generally sound in my experience.  My mother put it another way.  She maintained that you can count your true friends with the fingers on one hand, and you usually will have fingers left over.

One consistent theme that I have espoused is the importance of mentoring in other people’s lives. I look at my own life, and can see the hands of a select group of men and women who shaped me and directed my path in some significant way. I learned from them in ways that I never learned from sitting in a classroom.  Life experiences teach a lot, and being able to get the benefit of someone’s life experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – was essential, indeed even critical, to my development.

So, my challenge is to consider being an important “other” to someone around you – a younger person or even a peer. Someone they would consider in Corner Four as Cloud describes it.  Cloud has it right – we need that connection to become all that we can be and to push us beyond where our own self-imposed limits may have kept us.  The next generation is out there, looking for this guidance and support to help them overcome the obstacles they encounter. They are looking for someone of character that they can trust to invest and speak into their life. You can be that “other” person in someone’s life.  Consider it today!

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  Dr. Henry Cloud’s book is an excellent read, and includes ways of minimize conflict in leadership and developing a Corner Four environment:  https://www.amazon.com/Power-Other-startling-boardroom-beyond-/dp/0061777145/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476888487&sr=8-1&keywords=the+power+of+the+other+dr.+henry+cloud

WORSHIP:  Listen to Avalon sing Orphans of God, where the lyrics say “There are no strangers/ There are no outcasts/There are no orphans of God”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu3b4RPwQPw 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentgorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.




A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:13

I have often wondered about this as a value or goal in life.  Being happy is fine, but is it really biblical?  There are only a few references to being happy in scripture, but by and large, it is not a strong biblical value.  The Declaration of Independence which declared America free from England on July 4, 1776,  granted three inalienable rights given to us by our Creator which include “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Benjamin Franklin, one of the signers of the Constitution, sums it up this way: “The Constitution only gives you the right to pursue happiness.  You have to catch it on your own.” While the framers of the Constitution actually articulated a public policy espousing happiness as a goal in 1776, this public policy has not gone away 250 years later.

Surprisingly, there is a strong “happiness movement” afoot today as a matter of public policy.  Take this quote by Laura Musikanski  in 2011 from the Journal of Social Change from Walden University: “The happiness movement represents a new paradigm where social, economic, and environmental systems are structured to encourage human well-being in a sustainable environment. Bhutan has adopted Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a way of determining its society’s success in contrast to purely economic goals and the singular use of the gross domestic product indicator. […] In the United Kingdom, happiness indicators are being used to collect data and the government is starting to explore their application to policy. The Bhutanese GNH policy screening tool has been adapted for the grassroots activists, providing opportunities for everyone to participate in the happiness movement.”  Also, another essay in the same Journal describes how the governments of China, Spain, Norway, Canada and New Zealand are studying the development and use of subjective well-being indicators. I humbly suggest that the subjective “well-being indicators” exclude the presence or existence of faith in one’s life, but maybe that’s just me.

I’ve often wondered about that last right in our Bill of Rights– the pursuit of happiness – because in today’s world, it often gets misapplied to a “me” thing – what makes me happy is important, as opposed to what makes my Creator happy. If you are looking for your purpose in life, you will find out that it is “Not about you” as Rick Warren asserts in the first line of his book The Purpose Driven Life.

Being happy is an emotion – you can be happy, you can be sad and have lots of other emotions. So often though, what makes us happy is episodic, temporal and related to circumstances, or “happenings”.  If your emotional state for happiness is based on happenings, what happens when your happenings happen to happen differently than you wanted them to happen?  You might want to read that back a couple of times.  Happiness is not a constant state, because, if you are like me, you know that things aren’t always hunky dory, or something that makes you laugh or happy.  We are wired to generally want to feel good.  I get that.  But if happiness is your goal, then you want to live a life that is mess-free, shiny, perfect and easy.  Anyone who strives for a mess-free life is looking for perfection which is destined to fail, so that goal is designed to lead people down a difficult, and yes, unhappy path. I always stayed away from any goals (in my professions or life) which required perfection.  Excellence, yes, but not perfection. We all can realistically say that it is just not possible to be happy all of the time in life. If so, it will leave an unreasonable expectation that cannot be fulfilled.

I came across a quote from Vanessa Scotto who wrote that she stopped making happiness her goal.  She writes: “Many of the most purposeful and memorable moments of our lives challenge us in unbelievable ways. We may feel energized. Inspired? Certainly. Enthused? Often. But happy? It’s simply not always the dominant state. Setting your sights at happiness won’t bring you the alive experience that you’re looking for.”  I have to agree with her.

So, what is the better (and more biblical) value?  I would suggest contentment and joy which can exist in all circumstances, good or bad. That’s not to say that being happy is not important, but contentment is a state which can exist regardless of your circumstances, good or bad.  Take the verse above – can you be contented through heartache and happiness?  James 1:2 exhorts us to “consider it pure joy [….] whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Note it does not say that the testing of your faith produces happiness, but we are to endure hardship with joy knowing that God is in control.  Wow.  I always think of this passage when bad things happen because it gives a long-view perspective on how we are to handle adversity.

Back to happiness and its concept as embedded in our culture which embraces it and basically tells you to do anything that you want “as long as it makes you happy.” As Vanessa Scotto notes, that leads to a slippery slope and near term thinking.  The challenge is to seek contentment in all things that can include happy things.  That’s a constant state, not just a temporal one. That’s what our Creator wants for us. As a mentor, I really don’t dwell on happiness as part of a mentee’s purpose in life.  It’s too superficial and not realistic. Being truly happy is when your passions actions and life are consistent with one another.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  Vanessa Scotto on Why I stopped making happiness my goal: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-9965/why-i-stopped-making-happiness-my-goal.html

Essays on happiness as part of public policy. http://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/jsc/vol6/iss1/5/

PHOTO:  The happy girl in the photo is Sarah Fischer, one of my grandchildren, who, when asked recently what she liked about me, said she liked me because I made her laugh. That makes me both happy and contented. .

WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman sing Better is One Day where the line continues Better is One Day in Your Courts than Thousands Elsewhere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4Fj9bbEmVk 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site (www.mentgorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

Critical Thinking



For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 5:14

This post is another theme has been rolling around in my head for a while. It was triggered by an editorial opinion piece by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Politics of ‘The Shallows’” on September 29, 2016.  While the topic of her editorial was specifically directed towards what ails American democracy, her topic is broader than that because it brings focus to a culture that has too much information to process, and too little thought. Her headline includes a reference to a book entitled The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. Carr’s book, written in 2011, is an interesting read on its own because it explains how the brain works and processes information and actually has the ability to reprogram itself. His thesis is that the internet has caused changes in the brain in a culture addicted to digital technology, and those changes are not all good. Effectively, the digital world is reprogramming the wiring in our brains, both how we think and process information.

Both Pew and Barna have done studies regarding the millennials who generally don’t read very much, and are addicted to digital technology because of FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out which is the topic of an earlier post).  It is not limited to politics – it encompasses all of their understanding of history, religion, the arts, as well as western thought.  Everything!  As Noonan writes: “This year I am seeing something, especially among the young of politics and journalism. They have received most of what they know about political history through screens. They are college graduates, they’re in their 20s or 30s, they’re bright and ambitious, but they have seen the movie and not read the book. They’ve heard the sound bite but not read the speech. Their understanding of history, even recent history, is superficial. They grew up in the internet age and have filled their brain-space with information that came in the form of pictures and sounds. They learned through sensation, not through books, which demand something deeper from your brain. Reading forces you to imagine, question, ponder, reflect.”

She continues: “Watching a movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis shows you a drama. Reading about it shows you a dilemma. The book makes you imagine the color, sound, tone and tension, the logic of events: It makes your brain do work.”  Note the last part – “it makes your brain do work”.  It’s not passive but active and it stimulates your brain to think critically and develop your own ideas about the topic at hand.  You have the chance to hear an argument and think about whether you agree with it or not, and if so, why not.

Peggy Noonan sums it up with this statement: “If you can’t read deeply you will not be able to think deeply. If you can’t think deeply you will not be able to lead well, or report well.”  As a mentor, this is instructive because it applies to the next generation who are digitally hooked on information which is generally very thin at details, nor requires any real thought or reflection – what educators call creating the ability to do critical thinking.  Critical thinking is the “objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”  Sadly, it is a missing component in the next generation’s culture where often a judgment is formed based on “shallow” information without much thought or consideration.

In 2015, the Barna group did research on the amount of reading done in a digital environment – an environment where every day 2 million blog posts are written and 850,000 hours of YouTube videos uploaded along with 5 billion posts and content are shared on Facebook alone. Here’s the sobering result: “Although fears of America becoming a post-literate culture may be overstated, they are not completely unfounded. A majority of the general population reads five books or less every year (67%). Broken down a little more, one-quarter of all adults don’t read any books at all (25%), while two out of five read anywhere between one and five books a year (42%). One-third of adults read five or more books a year (34%). Among the generations, Elders are the true bookworms—with about one-quarter reading more than 15 books a year (23%). Gen-Xers read the least; the highest proportion—one-third (32%)—reports reading zero books at all.”

According to The Mindset List put out by Beloit College every year since 1998, the class entering college this year (called the Class of 2020) think that books have “always been read TO them on audible.com.” This is the Class that was born in 1998 and are mostly 18 years old. For those wanting to engage the next generation, the authors of The Mindset List provide several questions which would be useful for mentors.

While that is encouraging, I’m not sure it is the equivalent of actually reading the book and being able to stop and reread a section to be sure you understand what was written. Listening to an audio book or watching the movie is not equivalent to reading. In my own experience, whenever I have read the book and seen the movie, I usually consider the book better because it contains all of the nuances of character building and plot that is missed when it is translated onto the screen.

I find this trend highly disturbing.  I’m an avid reader and always have been.  I read the Wall Street Journal daily, along with World Magazine and The Economist, and usually I’m working through several books at the same time. My current books include Bonnhoefer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet and Spy, by Eric Metaxis, I just finished It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies by Mary Eberstadt which should be required reading. My nightstand has a copy of The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges which I’ve really enjoyed.  Couple that with a couple of non-fiction books, and you get the picture. And, although the research by Barna and others is based on studies done in the U.S., I believe that the phenomena is more universal based on conversations with people outside the United States.

A couple of futurists out there – Tim Elmore and Ralph Ennis, for two – have authored books that cater to the younger image driven generation. Tim has created a series called Habitudes (available at Amazon) and Ralph has written a book entitled Worth a Thousand Words: The Power of Images To Transform Hearts.  Both authors integrate pictures into their text because this new generation is more connected to images.

Where does this end?  Well, as a mentor and now writer, I can only encourage others to read. My own son was probably an example (and not a good one, I might add).  He bragged that he had gone through High School without reading a book. That’s almost unthinkable. Fortunately, due to a skiing accident, he postponed going to college for a year and instead, spent 6 months with his older sister in Australia and New Zealand where there was no television. For entertainment, he began to read and quickly learned to love it.  I personally think that his learning to enjoy reading was a turning point in his education because he did well in college.

So the challenge is clear:  we need to encourage the next generation to dig deeper than the screens on their mobile phones or computers. We need to encourage reading.  Reading is actually easier today with the advent of Kindle which permits the easy downloading of books onto any device. I’ve used it with my friends overseas and can supply them books via Kindle as a gift where getting a hard copy is almost impossible (the cost of sending the book often is several times the actual cost of the book). In interacting with my mentees, I often ask what books they are reading and suggest ones that I think might be appropriate to their circumstances.  It’s easy to do – you can do it too, and our next generation of leaders will be better off for your encouragement.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  Barna: The State of Books and Reading in a Digital Age https://www.barna.com/research/the-state-of-books-and-reading-in-a-digital-world/

Peggy Noonan: The Politics of ‘The Shallows’ http://on.wsj.com/2dh82Ad

Nicolas Carr: The Shallows- What Internet is Doing to Our Brains: https://www.amazon.com/Shallows-What-Internet-Doing-Brains/dp/0393339750/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1475761574&sr=8-3&keywords=the+shallows

A New York Times editorial entitled Intimacy for the AvoidantI: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/07/opinion/intimacy-for-the-avoidant.html?mc=aud_dev&mcid=fb-nytimes&mccr=MidMCTest&mcdt=2016-10&subid=MidMCTest&ad-keywords=AudDevGate&_r=0

The Mindset List can be found at:  https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/   The questions for mentors are found here:  https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2020/guide/

Tim Elmore’s series called Habitudes can be found at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=habitudes

Ralph Ennis’s book Worth a Thousand Words is available on his website:http://www.ralphennis.com/image-series.html

WORSHIP: Listen to Hillsong sing “From the Inside Out” which has the lyric in the chorus ”Consume me from the Inside out.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqwsWocqfTY

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site and entering your email address.





 Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity…… Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:12-16

To some of the older readers, WYSIWYG is an acronym that may be familiar. To the younger generation, not so much.  It means What You See is What You Get.  It came from the earlier days of internet world, and was used to describe the computer code so that the content you see on a web page (print and graphics) would be in a form closely resembling its appearance when printed or displayed on the screen of your computer.  It was also used in word processing back in the late 1980’s.  What’s interesting is that it has a spiritual counterpart:  lifestyle Christianity, where the lifestyle of the individual is consistent with his faith walk, or WYSIWYG.

The passage above comes from 1 Timothy 3 where Paul provides a checklist of what an Elder is supposed to “look” like.  It always struck me that the criteria listed by Paul for being an Elder has nothing to do with accomplishments, education or awards.  They criteria have everything to do with a person’s character, his reputation and his life.  Reputations are important, an often it only takes one bad action to ruin it.  We are told in Proverbs 22 that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common.” At the end of 1 Timothy 3, Paul goes on to exhort the young Timothy “to watch his life and doctrine carefully” so that “everyone will see your progress.”  I have always loved that verse – we are not directed to be perfect, because that isn’t possible. But we are to live our lives in such a way so that others can see our progress.  That’s an achievable goal. If one’s life is reflective of his inner values, then WYSIWYG applies.   Over time, if that wasn’t the case, others would notice and see the imperfections.  We might not think so, but others see our faults, sometimes better than we do.  We either don’t see them (which is a blind spot), or we ignore them, which is a conscious decision.

Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, sums it up this way: “Kids don’t learn from what you try to teach them. They learn from who you are.” Your children and friends can easily see if your conduct is consistent with your values.  Put another way, you have to do more than “talk the talk” of Christianity, but you have to “walk the walk” as well.  Sadly, I have observed a lot of Christians over the years who are quick to spout Christian platitudes, but whose conduct in life sends an entirely different message to others.

One small anecdote using the  symbol of the sign of the fish. Many people often put the symbol on their cars to identify themselves as followers of Christ. I was always reticent to put one on my car for fear, as the wife of my pastor once said, “of giving fish a bad name.”  What she was suggesting was that you have identified yourself as a follower of Christ, you have identified yourself as one who obeys all law, including traffic laws. So, if you are seen speeding or running stop signs, people will take note.  Not that I speed or run stop signs, but I never wanted my driving habits to be the basis of my witness to others. What you do has to reflect who you are, and there is a disconnect if you identify yourself as a Christian and then do very un-Christian things.  That’s what WYSIWIG is – where your life is consistent with your faith in everything you do.

WYSIWYG raises the bar of our lifestyle, because we are told that our life should not cause another to stumble. If what we do turns off someone from coming to faith, the consequences are, shall we say, not good according to several passages in Matthew (Matthew 5:29 and 18:6-8).

In the mentoring context, one of the things a mentor can do is to aid his mentee in seeing the blind spots in his life, or even help areas where he is failing but is looking the other way because he has rationalized his conduct. It’s the area of mentoring I refer to as identifying obstacles which would keep your mentee from achieving his or her goals.  I also refer to as helping the mentee get rid of the “junk in the trunk” or, in the African world, “junk in the boot.”  I had to come up with the latter phrase because in the part of the world that has European roots (from British or French colonization), they refer to the “trunk” of a car as a “boot”.  It was only when I used the boot that my metaphor made sense to my audience.

Basically, it’s the stuff that we haul around, sometimes unknowingly. I call it “freeing up” and I describe the process this way:  Identifying things that are holding the protégé back from achieving a vision.  This takes time to explore a person’s history, areas of life, and life experiences.  It may identify areas due to bondage of past circumstances, unhealed wounds, spiritual wanderings.  A mentor can serve a valuable purpose in another’s life just by helping him identify areas of his life that are holding him or her back.

So, how does one develop a good name or reputation?  Put another way, how can you become a person who is described as WYSIWYG?  It takes living a consistent lifestyle that others see and want to emulate or copy. It means that your actions and speech are consistent with your values. That’s not to say that you can be perfect – in fact, we know that everyone falls short in one way or another, which is one of the driving reasons we need Jesus in our life.  Failing in life with the humility to acknowledge it and repent is the hallmark of a Christian lifestyle.

Our challenge is clear:  if we want others to be able to describe us as WYSIWYG, we have to be able to have our own lives stand scrutiny.   A mentor can be that trusted person who can hold us accountable for our actions. In this context, the “mentor” is not always someone older, but can be a peer, just like the group of three men I have been meeting with for the past 24 years. Personal accountability to another is often missing in our culture, yet it is a biblical imperative.  It is not optional. We are to give account to one another (see James 5:16), and ultimately, give account of our actions on that last day when we stand before our Lord (Romans 14:12).  If you don’t have someone in your life (mentor or accountability partner), you are probably a train wreck waiting to happen.  Seek one today – it is important that we have one another in our lives.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  Passages to consider and reflect:  James 5:16, where Paul exhorts us to confess our sins to one another. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+5%3A16&version=NIV Colossians 3:6 has a similar “one another” where it says we are to teach and admonish one another. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians+3%3A16&version=NIV Romans 14:12 is also important because “each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+14:12&version=NIV

WORSHIP:  In order to be WYSIWYG, one has to be grounded and have a solid foundation anchored in Christ.  Listen to Hillsong’s Cornerstone which addresses this:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV3rYXc152E

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site and entering your email address.




So, friends, it’s obvious that our visit to you was no waste of time. 1 Thessalonians 2:1  (The Message)

We all want to direct outcomes – and by that, we want to control how things turn out in life.  It’s our human nature.  We prefer things to turn out the way “we” want them to turn out, so much so that we are disappointed when the result is not as expected.

I came up with an illustration years ago on this theme.  I said we all want to be great play-writers or authors – a budding Shakespeare as it were. We love to write our own script for each act of the play of our life, including the ending.  God, on the other hand, wants to be the author of the outcome of the play, and take the pen out of our hand so He can write the ending He wants.  Instead of handing Him the manuscript and asking Him to bless it, He wants us to hand the pen to Him with blank pages so that He can write it His way. How the play ends is what I call an “outcome”.

My mother had an analogy I liked.  She said raising children is like a test of archery – at some point, you have to let go of the arrow and let it fly on its own. While you can point it in the right direction, things like winds or the elements can change its course.  Life is a kind of “wind”.  She also said that letting go of the arrow was the hardest part for her.  That analogy extends to mentoring as well. Our role is to help our mentee figure out what the target is supposed to be in his or her life. One of the primary roles that a mentor does is to help a mentee find God’s purpose in their life, and then assist them in taking steps to achieve it.

Over the years, as I have mentored many men, I have learned that a mentor’s role does not include dictating the outcome for your protégé.   Put another way, just being involved in someone else’s story does not guarantee that it will turn out the way you (or your mentee) desires.  I have learned to trust God for the outcome.  It is also a reminder that our influence in someone else’s life is really as a catalyst for change – and you can’t guarantee what the change will ultimately look like. As the passage in I Thessalonians 2:1 reminds us, our encounters with others is not in vain and is not a waste of time, but we need to trust God for the results of that encounter. In the NIV version, this passage is translated that “our visit was not without results.”

The desire to control and dictate outcomes is particularly true with our children.  We want them to be successful and to lead vibrant and productive lives. Well, my life experiences say this doesn’t always happen, at least not in the way we wanted.  When I first became a Christian, I met a man named Dave Eshleman, who seemed to have perfect kids and a perfect Christian marriage.  We lost touch for a while, and when I caught up with him a few years later, he told me the agonizing time that he and his wife had with one of his daughters who had gotten hooked on drugs. It reminded me that even good parenting doesn’t assure good outcomes.  There are too many variables and influences on a child’s life that you can’t control.  The story has a good ending because the daughter on drugs went voluntarily to a radical rehab center that straightened her life out, recovered and straightened her life out, and has two wonderful daughters who are excellent scholars.

Another story of unanticipated outcomes relates to the son of long-time friends of my family who had a strong Christian marriage with four wonderful children.  One of them, Tony, was in high school when their world changed in an instant.  While at swimming practice, he dove into shallow water by mistake and became a quadriplegic. As the father told me later, “you never know what is around the next corner.”  Tony’s story, after his injury, is remarkable. He managed to make the best of his lot in life.  He graduated from college, and has been involved in writing, music and even goes skiing at Alpine Meadows in the Lake Tahoe basin in California which has a great program for skiers with disabilities. Tony writes a blog:. http://fasterbarnacle.com/  Right now, he is facing a challenge of corrective surgery on his spine at the point where it was damaged some 25 years ago.  Without the surgery, he could suffocate. His story is an inspiration to anyone that knows him.

One of the songs I’ve learned recently written by Matt Redman (10,000 Reasons –Bless the Lord)  has the following lyric:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning

It’s time to sing your song again

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me

Let me be singing when the evening comes.

This lyric emphasizes that our attitude of gratitude should exist at all times. Whatever the  outcomes in our life, “whatever  may pass” or “whatever lies before [us]”,  we still need to worship a loving God.   “The point behind the song is this,” explained Redman to Worship Leader Magazine.If you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there’s something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not his. We live beneath an unceasing flow of goodness, kindness, greatness, and holiness, and every day we’re given reason after reason why Jesus is so completely and utterly worthy of our highest and best devotion.”

Our challenge is to trust God for the outcomes in life – for providing hope and courage in any circumstance or outcome, realizing that God is in charge.   While we all desire to have perfect lives with perfect children who turn out perfectly, that just doesn’t happen.  We are the archer in other’s lives – we can only point them in the right direction and hope and trust that they hit the target.  That’s what a mentor does – he is an archer guiding his protégé’s direction in life.  We can only pray and trust God for the outcome that He wants.

Bill Mann

WORSHIP:  Listen to Matt Redman  sing “10,000 Reasons”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.  Ecclesiastes 2:23

OK, I know this may be a new acronym to you.  It was to me.  FOMO means Fear Of Missing Out. It turns out that a high number of our next generation are addicted to social media because of FOMO.  Recently, a study was done which tracked happiness in the world’s population of 18 year olds and under (basically high school students).  One would assume that in the affluent society of America that our kids would be happiest.  Well, you’d be wrong.  In fact, they weren’t second, third or fourth.  Check out the results from this report from the “Global Kids Happiness Index.”  The results seemed counter intuitive. In fact, minority kids in Spain, Mexico, Germany and Brazil were all ranked happier.

You might also have assumed that affluence would go hand in hand with happiness. Again, you would be wrong. As Tim Elmore puts it, “Of the four largest ethnic populations in America, the happiest are African-Americans followed by Asians and Hispanics. Coming in fourth are Caucasians. So, while the majority of American wealth is enjoyed by whites, it doesn’t equate to happiness.”

One of the things that didn’t surprise me was that technology and information which is at our kids’ fingertips has had one effect:  kids are now more worried about global issues than school.  As Elmore notes, “Awareness of global problems results in students feeling more angst about global conflict than their own homework.”  Many worry that social media has increased the amount of anxiety of our youth which has exposed them to global issues.  Despite random “happy” posts on Instagram or Facebook, these kids have a higher rate of depression and anxiety than prior generations who were not exposed to social media.

And the digital obsession is partly caused by FOMO.  Our youth feels a real sense of “fear of missing out.”  When they see on the screens of their cellphones about the activities of their friends, they can become unhappy because they are not in the middle of all the apparent fun others are having.  That results in more anxiety and depression. Although the passage from Ecclesiastes 2:23 talks about constant work, it really addresses the notion that constant “busyness” of any kind – even that derived from non-stop digital access – causes no rest and ultimately is vanity.

In a provocative essay entitled “I Used to be a Human Being”, Andrew Sullivan writes, as an early web adopter, that the internet, and subsequently the smart phone,  became so addictive that it started to ruin his health.  Sullivan observes: “Since our earliest evolution, humans have been unusually passionate about gossip, which some attribute to the need to stay abreast of news among friends and family as our social networks expanded. We were hooked on information as eagerly as sugar. And give us access to gossip the way modernity has given us access to sugar and we have an uncontrollable impulse to binge.”

Just this past week brought two illustrations to FOMO in action.  One I observed while riding my bike down a country road surrounded by horse farms.  I notices a girl riding her horse along a path near the road, but looking down,  It wasn’t until I got near her that I saw that she was texting on her smart phone. This past weekend, we hosted three young women from the Liberty University Praise Team who sang in our church.  At one of our meals at my house, one of them brought her cellphone to the table and basically was absent-mindedly checking it while the food was passed out.  I almost said something, but she finally put it aside and joined our conversation and our meal.  As Sullivan notes in his essay, “Just look around you — at the people crouched over their phones as they walk the streets, or drive their cars, or walk their dogs, or play with their children. Observe yourself in line for coffee, or in a quick work break, or driving, or even just going to the bathroom. Visit an airport and see the sea of craned necks and dead eyes. We have gone from looking up and around to constantly looking down.”  I have to admit he is right. We don’t just eat;  we take pictures of our food to connect on Instagram.

The downside of all of this is that smart phone technology has created an addictive but constant distraction which prevents us from developing real face to face relationships or even appreciating the scenery around us. We have also lost the ability to remain silent – to listen to what God is saying to us.  It is often broken up by reaching for our phones to see a text, or answering an email. Sullivan argues that smart phone technology and resulting connectedness has caused a disconnect from our sense of humanity and one another.

Perhaps the most startling thing Sullivan said was the impact of the digital world on the church: “If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation,” Sullivan continues “Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasm, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary.”  That thought needs to bake in today.

The same students who were unhappy in the Global Kids Happiness Study listed several things that made them happy, but at the top of the list were three things starting with “F”:  Family, Friends and Free Time. Too often, though, connections with family and friends has become a digital experience instead of a face to face encounter. How sad, because so much is often said in non-verbal communication, and I fear many of the next generation won’t learn that art of communication.

FOMO is not just an American phenomena, by the way.  I sent a draft of this post to a young woman in Cameroon, Anita Etanga,  who mentors several young women.  She said it was “200%” correct for her and that it was an “epidemic both to adults and the younger generation [and] teens.”  Her solution?  Spending time and being “engaged with the teens, and statistics show that they are the most affected persons.”

The challenge here is to reach a generation that, in a matter of a decade (which is about the time that smartphones have been around), have found the church become less relevant because of all of the distraction. As Russell Moore writes in the Washington Post, “The digital revolution has made visible a spiritual problem that has rocked our churches for a very long time — the idea that identity is found in frenzied activity.”  Both Moore and Sullivan advocate a life that is balanced with times of rest – time set apart from distraction or reflection. To that I would add the development of a personal relationship – possibly with a mentor – which is devoid of distraction, and where the sole purpose of the encounter is developing the relationship itself. Most mentors have earned their service stripes in a world without digital distraction (and have done pretty well without it, I might add).  We have something to impart, that isn’t found on a smart phone: life experiences. I urge you to consider Investing in another’s life today.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:   The article written by Russell Moore in the Washington Post entitled How the Church Can Rescue us from our Smartphones: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/09/21/jesus-doesnt-care-how-many-twitter-followers-you-have/?utm_campaign=ee73a87ab3-  The article in New York Magazine entitled “I Used to Be a Human Being”:  http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html

WORSHIP:   Join Matt Maher as he sings the Lord, I Need You, declaring that “You’re my one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need You”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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It is Well with My Soul



Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

I love music, perhaps because my father was a musician and played piano his entire life. I was too lazy as a child to keep up with piano lessons, and switched to playing a bass violin until I was in high school.  When I retired a few years ago, I decided to join our worship team at church. I described myself as a 70-year old rookie since I have neither had  any formal training nor done any singing in my life.  None!   I have found joy in being a part of the worship experience.  I’ve learned a number of things, including reading music better, and realizing that the role of a worship leaders is to help others connect to God through music. The goal of the worship leader is not to call attention to themselves, but to have the privilege of leading others to an encounter with God. Or, as someone once said, if it’s not “happening” to the people in the seats, then what is happening on stage doesn’t matter.

I’ve also learned a number of songs, some of them new and some being older ones with an updated arrangement which still have a heart connection.  We recently performed the song  It is Well with My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. The song has always been a favorite of mine. The song itself is remarkable, but the story behind the song is riveting and compelling.

Some of you may know the back story to the song’s creation, but in case you don’t it is worth repeating. The song was written by Horatio Spafford and the music composed by Phillip Bliss and has been a popular song since the late 1870’s.  Stafford, a wealthy lawyer and businessman in Chicago,  counted as friends noted Christians such as Dwight Moody, among others. At the height of his success, his son died at age 2 and shortly afterwards his vast property holdings were destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  On top of that, his business interests were hit hard by a recession in 1873.  He had planned to travel with his family to Europe in 1873 for a long postponed vacation, but stayed behind to work on a zoning issue which came up from one of his properties affected by the fire two years earlier.

While his family was crossing the Atlantic on the SS Ville du Havre, the ship collided with another ship and sank quickly, causing the death of all four of Spafford’s daughters. His wife, Anna, survived and sent him a telegram which is now famous saying: “Survived alone.”

Spafford then followed on a ship Europe to join his grieving wife.  When his ship passed near the spot in the Atlantic Ocean where his daughters died, Spafford was inspired to write It is Well with My Soul.  Picture this:  a song as uplifting as this song is written by a man who had lost 4 children, and had suffered financial ruin, yet at that moment, he could pen the now famous words: “When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.”  While I have never experienced the death of a child, I have suffered financial setbacks, and I can tell you that in the middle of my own experience,  which pales in comparison, I don’t think I would have been able to write a song such as this.

Armed with the back story of Spafford’s circumstances, the lyrics of the song are made more remarkable.  I cannot imagine a father reflecting on his circumstances yet in such moment can pen the line “It is well with my soul.”  The first verse goes like this:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The ending of the Spafford’s story also needs to be told. After returning to America, he and his wife had three more children and moved to Jerusalem in 1881.  They helped set up a philanthropic effort called the American Colony which served Jews, Christians and non-Christians alike with philanthropic efforts.  The Colony was joined by Swedish Christians and played a critical role in providing soup kitchens, orphanages and hospitals to oppressed communities of Jews and Christians both during and after World War I. The Colony later became the subject of Jerusalem by the Nobel prize-winning Swedish author,  Selma Lagerlöf.

The theme of this post is how one finds grace and peace in God in the face of heartbreaking circumstances or tragedy in our lives. When we feel faith-less, God is faithful. When we feel weak, God is strong. Our challenge is the same as that faced by Spafford.   Our answer is what Spafford found: we need to rest in the hands of our Lord so that we may be able to sing It is Well with My Soul regardless of what life throws at us.  Only a belief in a loving God can inspire one to be at peace in every circumstance.  Spafford found a peace which was anchored in God in spite of the most debilitating adversity. He had hope – a hope that transcends all human understanding. We share that same hope and need to learn to lean into God when tragedy strikes.

Bill Mann

LYRICS:  You can find the lyrics to the It is Well with My Soul here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jarsofclay/itiswellwithmysoul.html

WORSHIP:  Listen to It Well with My Soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6yDFn3OAFo

A Matt Redman contemporary variation on this song can be found at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygH1BXuP7Gs

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of this site and entering your email address.