YOYO

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Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called a Friend of God.”.  James 2:23 (NRSV)

Many in the older generation would recognize the object in the picture above.  It’s a Yoyo which is something that kids played with in my generation – my wife was particularly good at it and has lots of tricks that her grandchildren love. There is even a science about what makes a yoyo yo?  http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/what-makes-a-yo-yo-yo/

More recently, the term Yoyo has taken on a new sense which I learned from my daughter several years ago.  At the time, she and her family were temporarily living with us in our house while they were building a new house for their family.  With all of the coming and goings, dinner was sometimes frenetic and unpredictable due to everyone’s busy schedules.

One afternoon, I called to see what that night’s dinner plans were, and my daughter, Liz, told me that everyone was going in different directions and that I was “YOYO”.  I asked her what that meant and she replied “You’re On Your Own.”  Short translation – it’s up to you to figure out your own dinner, which for me often meant that I ate out at a nearby restaurant. I get that.

Transition the YOYO concept from being on your own for dinner to being on your own in life and a spiritual dimension. As Christians, we know we are not alone and that God our Father is always with us as promised in Psalm 139.  In fact, we cannot escape him – he is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.

The Psalmist asks “Where can we hide?” The answer is we can’t.  In fact, James 2:23 says Abraham was a Friend of God because he believed God.  Anyone believing in God has the same standing with God as Abraham did.  He is our friend – just as the lyrics of the song “Friend of God” says, “I am the friend of God; He calls me friend.”  So, the bottom line is that we aren’t alone in a spiritual sense which is comforting.

Nonetheless, the value of friends in your life cannot be overstated.  Researchers have connected the dots and many of the social problems of our modern culture – from homelessness, divorce and obesity – actually have their root cause in the lack of friendships. The Greek philosopher summarized it this way: “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge.”

There are dozens of Biblical examples, including Nathan and Jonathon in David’s life.  Both played a role in David’s life – Jonathon, at first, who swore his loyalty to David in 1 Samuel 18:4 because “he loved him as himself.” Jonathon saved David several times from harm from his father, King Saul, who wanted to kill David.  Nathan on the other hand, was the only one to call David out for his sin with Bathsheba which resulted in Uriah’s death.

Tom Roth who started the Gallop Organization which does cultural and political surveys, has written a book Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.  The book is the result of his research with others on the value of friendship in one’s life.

Not surprising, you often become what your friends are – if your friend eats healthy, you are five times more likely to eat healthy. In the workplace, if one doesn’t develop a friendship, they have only a 1 in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their work.  In marriage, the research shows that friendship is five times more important than physical intimacy.

Roth notes that virtually all of the self-improvement courses focus on developing leadership, management and personal growth, but almost none of them deal with the development of a one-on-one relationship.

Roth describes the friendship between Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and Winston Churchill in early World War II. Roth observed that they wrote more than 2,000 letters to each other, and spent over 100 days together during that time in history, often spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day with each other.

Both knew each other’s strengths and flaws. In Churchill’s inimical words, he described his relationship with Roosevelt this way: “Our friendship is the rock on which I build for the future of the world so long as I am one of the builders.”

Roth’s book suggests that you conduct a “friendship audit” which will help you identify friendships that provide you with the different things you need, then to connect with them to strengthen you.  Roth has a website on which you can do an audit on any of your friends to help you see what the relationship looks like in terms of benefit and insights into the strengths of that person in your life.

On this point, I might disagree with Roth’s premise because I believe the strongest relationships have no quid pro quo – in a deep friendship, the relationship itself is the goal, not what you can get out of it.  There is a significant difference between networking and friendship. Networking involves developing relationships with others as a means to advance your agenda or career, whatever that might be.

A 2011 Harvard Business Review entitled “Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network” is a good source for developing smarter networks from a career standpoint, but note that the limits of article are based on the workplace, not in life in general. https://hbr.org/2011/07/managing-yourself-a-smarter-way-to-network

Sadly, I had a former law partner who only developed “friendships” based on what he could get out of them. I saw that as being shallow and something missing in his life. Before he left my law firm and moved away, I told him that I hoped he could find at least one friend that provided him with a relationship based on solely on developing the relationship itself as being the goal, not the means to an end or for what he could get out of it.

The closest friendships are based on the ability to like each other for who you are, not for what you or they can deliver.  I lost track of my law partner for several years, and then ran into a person with whom I knew he had a continuing business relationship.  I asked my colleague how he was doing.  His response didn’t surprise me.  He said that “Joe was still careening down the guard rails of life”.

Just the mental image of a car careening from one side of the road and hitting a guard rail sending it to the other side of the road is a picture of life without moorings and deep friendships.  As I said before, networking is not friendship, although in some instances, they may overlap and look the same.

Friendships take time to cultivate, first by building trust in each other, and then progressively moving to a level of transparency to where you can be yourself – warts, fears and insecurities and all – with another person.

Mentoring starts with developing a relationship based on friendship.  You start by creating an environment of trust by establishing the fact that what is discussed with the mentee is to be held in strictest confidence.  The mentor comes to the table with two objectives:  creating a safe environment to open up the level of communication with the mentee, and secondly to help the mentee become the best he or she can be. Sometimes being the best is project specific – being a sounding board for some activity or proposed endeavor.

It’s really simple.  Not complicated as some would think.  Listening happens to be a better skill than talking. Anyone can listen, even me.

The challenge is the same here as in other posts:  the next generation of millennials is desperate to tap into the life of a mentor.  They want someone who has experienced life to come beside them and help them find direction and purpose.  They often feel they are on their own and wish they had someone to guide them.  Your challenge is not to tell them “YOYO”, but to invest in them by spending time developing a relationship.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:

Tom Rath: . Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. Gallup Press: September 2006.  You can do an interesting profile or “audit” of any friend at www.vitalfriends.com.

Principles of smarter networking from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2011/07/managing-yourself-a-smarter-way-to-network

WORSHIP:  Listen to Friend of God:

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.

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Goal Keeper

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The picture above is a universally recognized picture of a goal keeper in a football game (only Americans call it soccer).  The goalie has a couple of responsibilities – the primary one is to defend the goal and keep the other team from scoring. He is also a coach on the field calling out to his teammates to help them to be in the right position at the right time, particularly on a penalty kick.

The goalie is the only one on the field that can see the entire field of play and where all the players are. He wants them to be effective at what they are doing by placing them in the best position for that particular play. Just as the goalkeeper gets players in the right position,

it’s an easy transition from the soccer field to life where a mentor sits down with the next generation and helps them identify the best position for them to be in life.

One of the things that the millennials and next generation want to know is what their purpose in life is.  One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Drucker who said: “There are two great moments in life:  The first is WHEN you were born.

The second is when you learn WHY you were born.”  In speaking to University Students in Cameroon, I quickly learned that they are passionate about trying to figure what direction they should take in life.

As evidence of how strong this theme is in our culture, Rick Warren’s book,  The Purpose Driven Life.  has sold over 32 million copies. It is the second most translated book behind only the Bible. By 2005, nearly a quarter of all Americans had read the book, and two-thirds of evangelicals.  Amazing readership and influence in Christianity.

If you understand that Christian books rarely make best sellers lists, this anomaly obvious hit a nerve in culture.  Like any book, it had its detractors, but by and large, the book was immensely popular.  It famously begins with “It’s not about you.”

When I was in Limbe and Buea, Cameroon last year, I spoke to two groups of Christian University Students. My topic was a discussion of how to find your unique purpose.  Most of the students were interested not just in what vocational field or job they were looking for but for a deeper sense of purpose – learning the “WHY” of what they did, as it were.

I only spoke for about 30 minutes, and covered two themes – one was helping them to develop their own personal mission and purpose statement as a Christian.  It was more a guide for them to use to analyze and develop as they matured.  Your specific purpose can change over time.

My life’s purpose recently changed – for 45 years, I practiced law, but when I retired, law was no longer my profession where I sought to make being a Christian lawyer not an oxymoron.  My overall purpose did not change – which was to glorify God through serving others, but my platform of service changed from law to other things – currently helping MentorLink train pastors around the world to lead like Jesus, including written this blog.

The second part of the message was for the students to seek out a mentor to aid them in life as a sounding board of their goals in life – helping them develop their own purpose or vision statement.  That’s why this is post is entitled “Goal Keeper” because a mentor’s role is to help the mentee determine his or her goal and purpose in life, and then help put them in the right position to attain that vision.

The first group  of university students I met with had 58 students, and when I opened up the floor for questions, there were 58 hands in the air.  I knew I had hit something they were really interested in.

Your occupation, job or profession, you see, is only one part of the puzzle. It provides a context in which you serve others, but is not, by itself, a defining purpose for the “Why” of your life.  It took me a while to discover that.  In fact, I came to faith late in life – I was 38  and had practiced law for 15 years.  When I became a Christian, it was, to put it mildly, a game changer in my life. It rocked me to the foundations – as a husband, father, provider and as a lawyer.

All of a sudden, I discovered that being introduced to Jesus provided a spiritual dimension to my life that had been nonexistent until then.  It changed my marriage – for the good, mind you – and was an overnight change of my values.  Within 6 months, I joined a disciplined Bible study in Raleigh – Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) – which met during the school year.

By the second year in BSF, I was asked to lead one of the small groups of 15 men which was daunting for a total biblical neophyte. It was a crash course in scripture – something that I really needed at the time.   I was like a sponge – I couldn’t get enough bible knowledge. I started wondering what my purpose was now that I had this spiritual dimension, and even toyed with going to seminary.

I struggled with my role as a lawyer, husband and father – thinking about how the long hours required were not good for my family.  Oh, sure, it provided a comfortable living, but it didn’t seem to have a real purpose to me, or at least I couldn’t see one initially.  My life up until then had really been like a railroad train – I just followed the rails wherever they took me. No end game.

During those questioning years, I encountered someone (I actually don’t remember who it was), who said that when you are looking forward to what God has in store for you, you should look back on where He has brought you up to that point to give you idea of your direction.  Basically, look to the past to get an idea of your future. I realized that God had led me to that point in my life, although I hadn’t been aware of it or even thought of it in that way.

With some soul-searching, I decided that God wanted me to be a Christian in my vocation – to effectively grow where I was already planted.  Vocation, by the way, comes from the latin and means divine call in the sense that you are called to your occupation . From that point on, I looked for ways to contribute to the Kingdom using the gifts, talents, expertise and passions that I had received.

Probably one of the biggest turning point in my spiritual maturity was connecting with a group of men who decided to join each other as a spiritual board of directors for each other.  We were actually a peer mentor group, although that phrase was not used until years later. The weekly hour-long sessions – usually a lunch – provided me a grounding and deep relationships that have lasted until this day.

It’s this personal experience that has led me on my mission of discipleship through mentoring. I believe in it because it has shaped me in ways that no classroom or lecture could.

Over the years, I began to mentor other younger men – our future leaders.  It has been one of the most satisfying activities that I’ve ever done, and continues to be to this day.  My goal is to serve the Kingdom by challenging others to be the best they can be.

What that looks like depends on the individual, and there is no “one size fits all” approach.  I take personal satisfaction for the role I have played in others’ lives – seeing them succeed and find their sweet spot in life is my reward.

My challenge is consistent and clear – you can be a Goal Keeper is someone else’s life. You have the experience and have a better view of the field of life than your mentee, and you can help them be in the right position for their vision. The next generation and the millennials are out there looking for you to put your hand up and offer to help. Don’t disappoint that divine appointment with someone you can be a positive influence on in helping them find their real purpose in life.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY: The Radical Mentoring website (www.radicalmentoring.org) has an excellent tool in their resources which is a free download entitled Finding Your Purpose by Regi Campbell. https://radicalmentoring.com/recommended-books/

WORSHIP: Join Matt Redman sing how he stands in awe of Jesus in  Let My Words Be Few :        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqIA_l2ypkE

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.

 

The Power of Others

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 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.

 

Happiness

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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

 

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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.

Carr’s 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.

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WYSIWYG

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 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.

 

Outcomes

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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.

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.