Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

One of my favorite expressions is “KISS”, which stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid”. I, of course, am always the last “S”.  It is a principle that has a lot of applications, believe it or not.  I used the principle when playing golf, in my law practice, and it has an application at the end of the year, other than its more traditional “kiss” which is a custom on New Year’s Eve.

The principle of KISS is straightforward.  It suggests that if one simplifies the task in front of you into simple steps, you can accomplish a lot.  If you attempt to do too many things at once, then your chance of success dwindles.

This is the time of year that we often reflect on the past – what has happened in this past year that is important or significant.  It’s also a time to think about what next year will bring and what we plan to do new or differently. The end of each year is often a time for making resolutions for the New Year.

In the above passage, Paul is exhorting Timothy to set a goal of doing his best to present himself to God as one approved, and to correctly handle the word of truth in his life. That’s a resolution we all could adopt. It’s straightforward and not complicated.

I’ve been an active person for my entire adult life. I have observed people make a New Year’s resolution to get more exercise.  They go to the local health club and sign up with good intentions. Every January, you can see the effect: the health clubs are crowded.  It thins out in February, and by March, the number of new people have all but disappeared so that the regulars can enjoy their exercise routines without feeling crowded.

What happens to those resolutions?  Well, like a lot of other things, they don’t get etched into habits that stick.  One theory of mine is that the resolution to exercise more in the New Year was one of many resolutions, instead of being the only one.

So, what does KISS have to do with the end of 2016 at hand and looking forward to 2017.  Everything, I suppose.  It’s a little like your golf swing.  In golf, there are probably 100 different things that you can do to improve your swing.  Unfortunately, your mind can only handle one “swing thought” at a time.  I used to joke about holding my “swing thoughts” down to the top seven, knowing that I was only capable of one swing thought at a time.

So, for golf, KISS means that you only work on one swing change at a time.  Once you perfect that change, and then go on to the next one.  Don’t try and do several at once.  It just won’t work, and you’ll get frustrated

I practiced law using KISS as a motto – try to keep it simple even though some of what I did was complex.  My clients understood that I was always looking for a way to solve a problem with the simplest solution rather than the most complex.

KISS when applied to year ends is somewhat the same.  Often, I find that people who have a list of New Year’s Resolutions often fail to carry through, other than for a brief period at the beginning of the year.  If I had 10 resolutions to accomplish in 2017, my chances of accomplishing them would be remote.  If I choose one resolution, or maybe two at the most, my chance of success is much better.

My challenge here is to everyone to choose a KISS resolution for 2017.  Come up with one or maybe two things you want to do accomplish in 2017. Ask yourself this question: What is the one thing I want to achieve next year?   Keep the list to a manageable number of things to tackle. You might look back at 2017 as being the first year in which you succeeded in keeping your resolution.

Bill Mann

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Help your mentee use the “KISS” principle in life, not just in coming up with goals for the New Year.

WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman use the principle of “KISS” in his song “Let My Words Be Few”:

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I Don’t Know

Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. Proverbs 18:13 (The Message)

If you are anything like me, we like to be right.  We want to appear to have all the answers, even though deep in our minds, we know we don’t, but we often don’t want to admit it. I’m as guilty as the next person on this. We can get tunnel vision without realizing that we may marginalize people.  In attempts to get our point across, we don’t listen to others.

Tony Dungy, in his devotional book Uncommon Life, uses a humorous example of people who pretend to know more than they do.  He cites the example of Nathan who was told in law school: “If, after three weeks in class, you don’t know who the class jerk is, it’s you.”  Ouch!

Charles Stanley said: “God gave us two ears and one mouth and maybe he was trying to tell us something.”  That is the gist of the Proverbs 18:13 passage.  Even now, when I am in the company of my wife in a social context, she will privately comment on how well I listened.  Sometimes, I don’t get a good grade, even after 50 years of marriage.  She is my biggest fan and my biggest critic.

My wife recently read one of my posts and said it was too long. She may be right, so I am trying to shorten them. I face the decision of trying to do justice to a topic, and I find that my short essays end up being short novels.

The reality is that I don’t know everything.  Wish I did, but that’s not the way it works. Neither do you, for that matter. When you step out with an “I am right and I know better” attitude, your lack of real knowledge may become painfully apparent to others.

Over the years, I became more comfortable in admitting I didn’t know an answer.  As a lawyer with a specialty, I was often asked questions within my area of expertise.  As I grew more secure about myself, if I was asked a question that I didn’t have an answer to, my response was that I wasn’t sure but that it would be an easy question to research and find the right answer.

I would then tell the client I would follow-up when I had the answer. Not only did I feel less stupid, but I knew that sometimes an “obvious” answer may not be accurate without some thoughtful consideration. It would have been unprofessional to provide an “off the cuff” answer that might have been wrong or misleading.

John Maxwell, a well-known life coach, says this: “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

The “know it all” attitude may be a result of ego, but it can also be attributed to insecurity and the fear of being exposed as not knowing what you should.  What’s interesting to me is my recent discussion of the different levels of leadership in an older post.

Maxwell is known for his development of the five levels of leadership.  The fifth level is attained by only a small number of successful leaders. One of the attributes of this level is humility.  No, that’s not a misprint.

The leaders on the fifth level are secure enough in their strengths and realize their weaknesses, and are quick to admit they don’t have the answer to a specific issue or challenge.  They often develop strong boards with other successful individuals, yet they are comfortable admitting they don’t have an answer and need help.  That’s a great model for all of us.

In the mentoring arena, one of the greatest things that a mentor can do is be a sounding board for a mentee.  Just having gray hair doesn’t insure that one knows everything; it does indicate that there are enough life experiences under the belt that the mentor and mentee can help each other work toward the best solution when a challenge arises.

In a perfect world, there are clear solutions and answers to problems. Unfortunately, I don’t live in a perfect world, and often issues are complicated and choices for decisions are not always “all” right or “all” wrong.

I used to describe myself as living in the “gray”, because my advice as a professional involved coming up with the best decision where there was no black or white.  My decisions as to the best course came after considering how each option might play out after considering the pros and the cons of each.

One of the biggest challenges in public discourse today has been the inappropriate use of labels in arguments.  When you label someone “stupid”, “bigoted”, “racist”, it cuts off discussion because the labels become an insult.

Think of it this way: If you started out every conversation by saying “I think you are stupid”, do you actually think your conversation (or your relationship, for that matter) will go anywhere?  This is now all too common in America, and it has polarized our culture.

The challenges of this topic cover a lot of waterfront.  The first challenge is what your attitude is when you want to appear “right”?  Are you willing to listen to others whose views may not be on all fours with yours?  Are you dismissive of a challenge?  Or, are you willing to listen to others and validate their position or their beliefs?  Can you collaborate with someone whose views differ?  These are hard questions.

In the mentoring context, are you willing to model to your mentee that you don’t have all the answers?  Are you willing to say “I don’t know”, but I can think and pray about your situation and maybe then I may offer some suggestions that may help?  That’s real mentoring.  Knowing when to listen and when to offer advice.  Sort of “Listen before you leap.”

Bill Mann

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Work on your listening when you are with a mentee (or anybody else, for that matter).  It may be more important than what you say. Also, don’t fear saying “I don’t know” but add that you can help find the best answer.

FURTHER STUDY: Read more Maxwell Quotes at:

A description of the Five Levels of leadership by Maxwell:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Matt Redman sing “May My Words Be Few.”

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Now I am coming to you again, the third time; and it is still not going to cost you anything, for I don’t want your money. I want you!  2 Corinthians 12:14 (NLT)

 What could a post entitled “nothing” be about?   Well, it’s about Christmas. Yes, Christmas! It is a counter-cultural commentary on the excesses of the “giving” season.   My wife bears the brunt of the Christmas gift chase because, with nine grandchildren and seventeen total in our immediate family, no one gets left out when it comes to finding something under the tree.

Add to that our extended family and a 14-year old German exchange student, and….well, you get the picture. She doesn’t rest until she has all of them taken care of with an appropriate gift.  She often crashes in bed at night still worrying about what gift to get for someone on her list.

She asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and the answer was really “nothing.”  I have all I need in terms of stuff.  Anyone who has lived as long as I have already has enough “stuff”.  Getting more stuff for me isn’t what makes me content.

What makes me content can’t be boxed or wrapped.  It has no price tag and you don’t have to worry about it being damaged when shipped if bought online.  You don’t even need to get trampled at the mall while shopping for me.

This post was inspired by a post by Anne Miller Simon on Facebook where she commented that every year, she gets questions from her children as to what she wants for Christmas.  Her answer is classic:

I want you. I want you to keep coming around. I want you to bring your kids around. I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help, make me feel needed. I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your husbands/wives, your kids, your fur babies. I want you to continue sharing your life with me.  […] I want you to come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me. I don’t care. [….] I have the things I need, and I want to see [my family] happy and healthy. When you ask me what I want for Christmas, I say “nothing” because you’ve already been giving me my gift all year. I want you.”

Couldn’t have said it better.

Hearing my kids and grandkids laugh is music to my ears.  There’s nothing like a giggle of children to make me smile. We enjoyed raising our kids, and having them as grownups with their own children is a special reward.  Watching each grandchild grow up with their different personalities and talents is wonderful.

Even more fun for me is watching them interact with each other.  The cousins love to be around each other and it’s just fun to sit back and observe them having fun with one another.  There is no gift on earth more valuable to me than to sit back and enjoy my family.

So, that’s why this post is entitled “nothing.”  Nothing can improve on what I just described.  Nothing is worth more to me than the above.  Nothing can change the relationships I have with my friends around the world and those I mentor. Absolutely nothing!

The challenge here is to reflect on what really matters in your life.  I bet it isn’t acquiring more stuff.  Stuff is fun sometimes, but it doesn’t last and it doesn’t lead to lasting joy. I enjoy giving stuff, and grandkids enjoy receiving gifts.  It makes them giggle.  It makes them give me a hug. That’s my gift from them in return.  That’s priceless.

So, when your family asks you what you want for Christmas, take a moment before you answer to reflect on what really matters in your life.   I’ll bet it has more to do with relationships than “stuff.” Maybe your answer will mirror mine and Anne Simons: “I want you.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Let your mentee know that watching him or her grow is the best gift you could ever have for Christmas.  You can Be the Gift to someone else.

WORSHIP: Listen to what is really important at Christmas.  The song Emmanuel (or God with us) sung by Chris Tomlin. It’s one of my favorites this time of year.


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Baton Pass


Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.”  Joel 1:3

Everyone has seen the Olympics. One of the premier track events is the relay where four runners from the same team run the same distance – either 100 or 400 yards or meters.  They must pass the baton to one another.  It involves teamwork.  The pass of the baton is an art in and of itself.  Dropping it means failure. Passing it on safely insures that the team will be competitive and have a chance to win.  Winning a relay is often determined by fractions of a second, and any delay can spell defeat.

The Olympics are replete with stories of dropped batons during the relays. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, both the women’s and men’s US relay teams dropped batons resulting in the loss at a chance at medals by two teams that were highly favored to win a medal – if not the gold, then at least the silver. It was a disaster.

Similarly, I’ve been watching a cultural baton drop with our next generation.  I had coffee with Skip Harlicka the other day.  Skip is writing a guide-book on life: Find Yourself- Find Your Fit:  a Lifetime Journey.  His audience is aimed at adolescents, millennials and parents.  His book is due to be released sometime in the spring of 2017.

We had a great conversation on what the next generation want and need, and part of it is critical thinking.  It is a book with questions at the end intended to elicit self-discovery.  The millennials today are lacking critical thinking skills, and this book is an attempt to make them think critically about themselves.

They also need mentors.  Lots of them.  There is a supply demand issue.  The millennials want mentors in their life.  But when they look around, very few of the older generation are raising their hands or offering to come out of the stands as spectators and go to the sidelines to coach. It is a baton drop, and just as in the relay metaphor, it can be a disaster for these future leaders.

It might not end their race, but it will mean that they will finish the race below where they should have.  With a mentor, they might have “medaled” in life, but now are left to do it on their own.  They have no one to help them hone their skills or develop them so that they might achieve their aspirations.

Skip’s book will also talk about the value of a mentor, which resonated with me. His book will cover six areas:  Emotional, Financial, Intellectual, Physical, Social and Spiritual.  We had a great discussion about these topics, and I’ve written on all them in my posts over the past year.  We come from different backgrounds, but have a similar goal which is to help pass the baton to the next generation.

Just think how valuable it would be, if you were an adolescent, to have someone come beside you and help you think about these topics in an interesting way.  As I have said before, it is a lost opportunity if the wisdom of the older generation is not passed on.

I am currently working with two millennials who didn’t have a father in their life – both from an early age.  While I can’t replace their father, I can provide a sounding board that they haven’t had in their lives to this point.

I worry about the next generation.  Cultural shifts have caused an increasing number of them to grow up without a two-parent family.  I don’t need to cite study after study that indicates that a single parent environment is not the best in most cases. Most studies involve discussions of the result of divorce, but an alarming trend is occurring which is the increase in unmarried mothers and its effects on the children.

Current statistics in the US indicate that 40% of all children are born out-of-wedlock today.  That only means the need for mentors in the future will increase, not diminish.  These children will not have role models which are essential to one’s growth.

The challenge here is a clarion call for the older generation to step up and consider mentoring the next generation.  They need to fill in the gap caused by the absence of fathers in this current generation and be role models where none exist.

For the next generation, the challenge here is to go on the offensive. If you want a mentor, don’t stand around waiting for one to tap you on the shoulder and ask if they can invest in your life. Be the aggressor – don’t be afraid to ask, because in most cases, no one has asked them before.  Find someone you admire, and seek their counsel.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   As an old advertising slogan advises, “try it, you’ll like it.”  Step out of your comfort zone and have the satisfaction of investing on someone else.

FURTHER STUDY:  One outcome of single parent families is an increased opportunity to observe domestic violence:

An article on the why single parenting puts children at risk:

WORSHIP: Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin:

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Fa La La


 The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  Matthew 1:23

Many of us will recognize this line from the Christmas song Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly.  We might even remember the lyric that runs before it: “Tis the season to be _____”.  What is the next word?

Well, it’s “Jolly”.  Yes, Jolly. Something like happy, giddy, or silly.  We often think of Christmas of a time of joy and happiness, which is a good thing.

Our secular culture has overtaken the original meaning of Christmas. In Christianity, December 25th is reserved as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. But in our culture, Santa Claus now dominates the scene.

Christmas decorations break out in the stores earlier and earlier it seems.  Some stores even have decorations up in the middle of November.  The decorations serve the purpose of a visual reminder that we need to get gifts. Everyone is focused on tangible gifts to give to our family and friends.

Everyone, except my grandson, Teddy, that is.  Teddy loves Christmas like none other.  Not just the gifts part – that’s OK, but he loves the decorations.  All of them.  He couldn’t wait to help decorate his tree, seen above.  Putting on the ornaments just clicks his clock.  His excitement is infectious. He loved putting up all the garland of pine boughs on the stair railing.

Even more, he loves to come to our house and help my wife arrange her Christmas village of small houses in our dining room with the ultimate excitement at setting up the tiny railroad that runs around a track on the table. He has a willing accomplice in my wife who loves helping him and just watching him smile.  That’s what “jolly” looks like in our family.

But there’s another part of Christmas where there is no “jolly”.  It is a season where some have difficulty and suffer what has been described as the “Christmas blues.”  These are people who don’t have family around and they are lonely. Others have suffered the loss of a family member recently, and the Holidays only serve as a poignant reminder of their loss.  Statistically, one in every six people have a hard time at Christmas.

We live close to a large military base at Fort Bragg.  Consequently, we have military families in our community. Many of them are in Special Forces and are deployed to places where even their own families don’t know where they are.  These families are often left to celebrate Christmas without a father, or in some cases a mother, who are on deployment.

I was surprised, but Christmas is also a time of stress.  Just preparing for it and the invasion of friends and family takes a toll.  There’s a stress test called the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory which is a test that quantifies events in life with stress “points” on a scale of 1 to 100.

At the top of the scale, 100 points is awarded for the loss of a spouse and divorce gets 73.  Yet, Christmas garners 12 points which has always surprised me. It seems counter-intuitive to me.

I have always liked the Holmes-Rahe inventory because it is objective.  It merely identifies events and gives points and does not attempt to give subjective analysis. If the event happens in your life, you get the points. Period.  It doesn’t ask if you liked the event or not. Still, the stress impact of Christmas time cannot be ignored on our families.

Our church has been doing a series of sermons this month around the theme “Be the Gift.”  The theme highlights that there are those around us who have difficulty this time of year.  The series encourages all to “be the gift” to those around us who are lonely, feeling hopeless or who have no family to support them. We are reminded to reach out to those who have little in life to be “jolly” about.

For example, we can “be the gift” to Teresa Jean Culpepper who is serving a life sentence in a medium security prison in Troy, NC.  Or, it could be our Mexican friend, Galdino Garcia, who has been in the United States for 17 years without any family. He has five children in Mexico whom he hasn’t seen in over a decade and one grandchild he has never seen except through pictures.

These are part of our extended family this time of year. We try and reach out to them due to their circumstances.  My family now extends to Cameroon where I try and reach out and bring some joy to people who are facing civil unrest in their country.

The challenge here is for you to look around you to those who don’t have anything to be “jolly” about this time of year. Make it a family thing as we do with Galdino. We recently visited Teresa Jean in prison to bring her some cheer, but came away cheered up by her spirits and good humor. You can be the joy in someone else’s life – you can be the joy of the birth of Jesus who is the reason for the season.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Encourage your mentee to “be the gift” to others who have no “jolly” in their lives this Christmas.

 FURTHER STUDY:  You can find out more about the Holmes-Rahe stress inventory:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Casting Crowns sing Joy to the World:

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About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25

Last Saturday, my wife and visited an inmate at the Southern Correctional Institute in Troy, North Carolina, a medium security prison. Her name is Teresa Jean Culpepper, and we’ve known her for 15 years. My wife met her in Raleigh where she was doing bible studies for inmates at the Women’s Prison, a maximum-security prison.  Teresa Jean is in prison for life without the chance of parole and has been there for 17 years.

We visited her to cheer her up, but just the opposite happened. You see, Teresa Jean has adapted to her environment, just as the Apostle Paul did in the Acts passage.  She knows that she will never get out of prison and she is content to minister to other women around her.  The prison bars don’t limit her mission in life. While she doesn’t sing to other prisoners, she does provide humor and a much-needed witness of Christ to others.

My favorite Teresa Jean story is one that occurred a few years ago during a period of bad winter weather.  Teresa Jean oversaw the inmates that operate a toll-free telephone line in the Women’s Prison in Raleigh for the tourism industry in North Carolina. Most people don’t realize that this phone line is manned by inmates.

A cold front hit our state bringing with it icy and snowy roads, yet she was still able to “go to work” since she didn’t have to venture outside the prison and she didn’t need a car. A couple of days in a row, a man called and wanted to know if it was safe to venture out on the hazardous roads.  Teresa Jean politely told him they didn’t give hazardous road or driving conditions and that he needed to call the State Highway Patrol.

On the second call from the same man the next day, she repeated her message that her job was about tourism, not road conditions. There was a pause and he asked her “Where do you live?”  “I live in Raleigh,” she replied. “That’s where I live!” the man exclaimed.

He asked her how difficult it was for her to get to work. Her reply?  “Actually, it wasn’t difficult and I had an escort.”  “Really?” he asked.  “What kind of place is it where you live and can get escorted to work in bad weather?”   “Well”, Teresa Jean paused, “It’s a gated community.”

Now the man’s curiosity was raised. He continued, “What a great place to live and work! I’d love to live in a place like that1 How did you get in?”  Teresa Jean answered that she “met” the qualifications as determined by a panel of peers.

The man exclaimed “I would kill to have a job and live in a place like that!”  Without hesitation, Teresa Jean replied “Yes, that would do it.”

You can’t make this stuff up.  Here is a woman who has 5 children and 10 grandchildren that she rarely gets to see. During our visit, she offered insights into the harsh reality of prison life where violence, drugs and sex are rampant.

She said she was glad she was tall because her size intimidates others who might try to abuse her physically.  She has accepted her circumstances, or as she said last Saturday while waiving her hands “I’m over it. Time to move on.”

This story illustrates a principle that Teresa Jean has learned.  You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can make sure your circumstances don’t control you or your attitude. It’s a choice and you can make it. She has trusted in God for all things, and has accepted that the only thing within her control is her attitude.

After our visit, I reflected on people I know who are in prison without bars. They might be “imprisoned” by family issues, divorce, loneliness, depression, despair, uncertainty or health problems. It might include those who live in desperation. The “prison” may be deep bitterness for something (or someone) in your past with no room for forgiveness.

The circumstances might even be connected to where you live, or even where you don’t live. Some have responded like Teresa Jean and have decided they just need to move forward.  Others feel trapped by their plight or are resentful of their situation and it affects their attitude and their life.

Many carry around this baggage for much of their life, never realizing that they have the ability, in Christ, to jettison it and to “move on” as Teresa Jean puts it.  As a mentor, one of the steps that I take in my interaction is called “freeing up.”

The process involves helping your mentee figure out what baggage he has in his trunk (or in Europe, his boot), and to help free him up because it is holding him back from achieving his (or her) vision and dream.  It is a way of helping break the chains that holds him or her back.

The challenge here is both personal and practical.  Personal to the extent you have baggage that imprisons you.  How can you break the chains?  Have you sought help from others, or are you just content to go through life shouldering the baggage by yourself?  If so, you are as much in prison as Teresa Jean only you haven’t dealt with the issues that confines you.

On the flip side, have you reached out to those in prison?  Not just those behind bars, but to those who might be lonely during a Holiday, or to shut ins, or to those who are desperate and just need a friend to talk to. You don’t need to go to a medium security prison to find them.

For mentors, you can play a valuable role in the life of a mentee by helping them overcome the chains that imprison them and holds them back from being the best they can be.  You are not trained counselors – that’s not your job – but you can provide guidance on how to help your mentee free himself of things that holds them back.

Bill Mann

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor may be the means to help a mentee break the chains or circumstances that has held them back, sometimes for years.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Vertical Church Band sing “I’m going free – Jailbreak.”

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Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthian 15:33

Have you ever thought about your habits?  Good or bad?  When you go into a familiar restaurant and order the same thing over and over.  Or, have you ever thought about why you always sit in the same place when you go to church?

Humans are creatures of habit, and I’m not immune.  I even stand in the same place on stage when I sing on our worship team.  No reason for doing that. Some habits are addictive and not good for you. Smoking, for an example.

I had dinner recently with close friends in our church and mentioned that I was writing this post. I noticed that they always sit on the left side of the sanctuary.  His wife said they sometimes change rows depending on how crowded it is and have even sat in the middle a couple of times.  “Never on the right side?” I asked.  “No, never”, they replied. They had no idea that they were doing this – it was second nature to them until I mentioned it. “Habits” often become so routine that one doesn’t notice them.

These are innocuous habits – I wouldn’t say they are good or bad, per se.  We all have bad habits – those are ones that we often wish we didn’t have but have been powerless to change over time.  They can be small things – reacting poorly to adverse news – saying words that you wish you hadn’t.  Not always bad words, but words that are harmful and do damage.

Many books are written on this topic, including Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which was a best seller 25 years ago. It has sold 25 million copies and is translated into 40 languages.  More recently, Tim Corley surveyed 233 individuals who were self-made millionaires in order to write his book Change Your Habits, Change Your Life.

Corley’s interviews resulted in seven common habits that set this group of people apart and the simplicity of them is interesting. The book’s focus is to help one become successful materially, but the lessons apply to anyone in any context.

The seven habits?   Number one was reading – most of the highly successful people spent 30 minutes a day or more reading.  For me, one part of my daily reading is making a habit of reading scripture at least four times a week (see my post “Four Times”).

The second was exercise – staying in good shape physically. (See my post entitled “Younger Next Year”). Since retiring, I’ve taken up distance biking and distance swimming as a means to stay in shape.  If someone whose age starts with a “7” can do these activities, anyone can. Walking or running are the simplest exercises to do and don’t require a lot of equipment. Just do it! as the Nike commercial tells us.

Third was to build positive relationships – that’s a frequent theme  of mine, particularly suggesting mentors in your life. Develop deep relationships with others, and seek out a mentor who can give you objective counsel. (See my post “We is Better than Me”). The Corinthians’ passage above suggests that you should be careful with who you hang out with.  Good advice.

Fourth was pursuing goals. A mentor’s role in someone else’s life is to help them identify goals or a vision for their life, and then walk alongside them as they pursue them, giving course corrections as needed. (See my posts titled “Goal Keeper” and “Ruddering“).

Corley is quoted as saying that you should find your own goals and pursue them to avoid “putting your ladder on someone else’s wall and then spending the best years of life climbing it.”  He adds: “Find your own walls, your own dreams and your own goals and pursue them.”  Well said.

The next one kind of surprised me:  Sleeping well.  One of the key factors in clinical depression is not getting enough sleep. Most of the those interviewed by Corley slept 7 or 8 hours a night.  The sixth habit one was one aimed solely at building wealth – diversify your sources of income.

The seventh habit is one that I liked:  Avoid wastes of time. Time is a valuable resource, so invest your time wisely. If you see time as being important, “it will force you to become aware of how you exactly invest your time.”

In my law practice, I learned something called the 80/20 rule. Church growth experts will tell you that when a church reaches 80% of its capacity, it will stop growing.  Often, 20% of the donors in a church produce 80% of the total giving. There are lots of other illustrations for this simple test.

In the marketplace,  20% of your clients will produce 80% of your income.  Conversely, 80% of your clients will and can waste your time. As my law practice got more successful, I learned that it was a good habit to go over my client list periodically and eliminate clients that wasted my time or were “high maintenance.” By doing that, I reduced a significant time drain so I could better serve the 20% of my clients that mattered.

The challenge here is to reflect on your own habits – good or bad.  Can they be improved? Can you adopt habits that others have modeled which increases your effectiveness?  Do you have someone to help you develop good habits, get rid of your bad habits, or help identify goals and dreams so that you can put your ladder on your own wall, not somebody else’s wall. That’s what mentors are for. That’s what they can do for you.

Bill Mann

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Help your mentee develop good habits that will enable him or her to succeed in life. For millennials, helping them see the value of reading 30 minutes a day is a good start.

FURTHER STUDY:  An article on Corley’s habits of successful people:

Stephen Covey’s gook on Seven Habits

Thomas Corley’s book:

WORSHIP:   We Fall Down by Chris Tomlin reminds us that we fail but can leave those failures at the feet of Jesus.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at

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Comfort Zone


When I think, my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, Even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions.  Job 7:12-14

We all have one.  A comfort zone is a state where we feel comfortable, protected, secure and at ease.  We don’t like to get out of our comfort zone.  It’s…….well, it’s un-comfortable.  Getting outside the comfort zone means we put ourselves in an unfamiliar environment that we don’t want to be in, or are having to do something that makes us uneasy.  But, as someone once said, Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

Jesus wants us out of our comfort zone where everything is second nature to us and we don’t have to stretch.  When we are in a comfort zone or our element, we can just run on cruise control because we are dealing with something that is known to us.

But the world beckons outside our comfort zone.  As Roy Bennet says: “If you always do what is easy and choose the path of least resistance, you never step outside your comfort zone. Great things don’t come from comfort zones.” I agree with him.

My comfort zone was always on the intellectual side of things – figuring out how things worked in law, for example – learning a complex tax code and contemplating how to help my clients navigate around it to their economic advantage.  Some of you might think that’s goofy, but I liked it.  It was stimulating and, over time, I became more proficient at it.

On the other hand, there were many things I did not like to do.  I hated the thought of having to stand up before people and do any public speaking.  That might have been why I gravitated to a “transactional practice” because it meant that I didn’t have to make arguments in court in front of others.

If called upon to speak to a group, my hands would break into a cold sweat and my stomach would turn into knots. Totally out of my comfort zone. And I shunned leadership positions, preferring to work in the background to achieve my goals and needs, letting others take the leadership position and supporting them.  I was very comfortable in the background.

Then my life got turned upside down when at age 38, I became a Christian.  It changed my world – not immediately, but within months.  I started attending a bible study which I loved – I soaked up scripture just as I had the tax code.  It was fascinating and all new to me.  The second year of the bible study, I was asked to be a leader of 15 men.  I took a big gulp and said yes. I was petrified – first because I wasn’t a bible expert, and secondly because I never had done this before.

Within a short time, I helped organize and set up a church in Raleigh with others and ended up on the Elder Board.  We had over 500 people at our very first service. That put the size of our new church plant in the top 10% of all churches in the United States.  My learning experience was straight up. No curve to my experience – just jump out of the boat and start swimming.  Upon later reflection, I realized that Jesus had kicked me out of the boat. It wasn’t just a gentle push.

In my legal career, the small law firm I had helped start in 1978 merged with a large international firm based in San Francisco in 1985. I was selected by my partners to be the manager of our Raleigh office and put on a 5-person management committee (called ExCom) which was responsible for the oversight of 17 offices and 550 lawyers. A leadership position to which I was drafted by my partners.

I remember sitting on a plane headed to one of our monthly Ex-Com management meetings in San Francisco and wondering how this had possibly happened to me.  I mean this was something I had intentionally avoided for most of my life.  I was out of my comfort zone, for sure.

I retired from 45 years of law practice at the end of 2013, and one of the things that appealed to me was being more involved with the MentorLInk ministry.  I didn’t know what that looked like when I discussed it with my close friends before retiring.  It was just a desire to do more because I would have more time on my hands.

Two years ago while at our regular lunch with my friends Stacy Rinehart and Ralph Ennis, we were going over upcoming travel schedules to get an idea of what lay ahead.  Stacy mentioned that he was going to do a MentorLink training in Kenya.  Without much forethought, I wondered out loud that I might be interesting to be involved on such a trip.

The next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Nairobi, Kenya.  Stacy took a different airline so arrived around 9 pm by myself in Nairobi after 22 hours in an airplane.  We stayed at a hotel near the airport. Because of a scheduling conflict, Stacy had asked me to speak at a church in Nairobi, and Bishop Patrick Maithya picked me up the next morning at 9 am and I was still adjusting to the 8-hour time change.

We drove to his church and on the way, Patrick turned to me and said: “Brother Bill, in Kenya when we worship, we dance when we sing.”  I responded that I was looking forward to that experience, and he continued: “If you will, just move your feet a little, and everyone will understand.”  Wow!  No pressure there. Having two left feet wouldn’t matter.

My apprehension of speaking to a church in a foreign country quickly disappeared.  I delivered my message which had simultaneous translation, a first for me.  In America, we take for granted that our audiences speak the same language.  Considering that, just a few years ago, I would have been petrified to speak to any audience, much less one in a foreign country, I found the experience encouraging.

In America, the Church has become a comfort zone where we can exercise our faith, often with total anonymity. Very few churches urge people to go on a short-term mission trips or even be involved in missions.  I am grateful that my church here is an exception.

The value of a mission trip is not what is accomplished abroad (although that is important). It is what is accomplished in the heart and mind of the participant.  I have yet to meet anyone with foreign mission experience who wasn’t changed in some subtle but profound way.

One area where comfort zones become moats to ministry is the area of mentoring. I am a strong advocate of mentoring (in case you hadn’t noticed), because I firmly believe it is our obligation to pass on our faith lives to the next generation. It’s a biblical imperative which has gotten little lip service in the world or the church, to the detriment of the next generation of leaders.

I recently have formed a friendship with Steve Morrow, a man who discovered MentorLink on his own and has become involved in facilitating some of our institute sessions with others.  He was drawn to our emphasis on learning from the inside out and our methodology of teaching. He just retired and is contemplating what the next steps in life are for him.

During our last conversation, I challenged him to do two new things he had not done before.  The first was to find a younger man to mentor.  Kind of a “get out of the stands and get on the sidelines to coach others” admonition.  I want him to have hands-on experience of investing in another’s life.  It will change him, although I can’t say how at this point.

The second thing I suggested was for him to join me on trip to Togo next May.  One picture is worth a thousand words.  The experience is life changing in so many ways, but, as you can imagine, it takes a little courage to get out of our comfort zone.

So, what’s your comfort zone?  What will it take to get you out of it?   What is it that you have never stretched for?  Has anyone encouraged you?  Have you felt a nudging of the Holy Spirit to do something out of your comfort zone?

What about going on a mission trip? Facilitate a class?  Become a mentor to someone you don’t know anything about?  Join in their life experiences and provide support and Godly counsel of your life experiences?

There’s an infinite number of things that you can do, but if you are stuck in your comfort zone, nothing will happen.  My challenge to you is to consider doing something you’ve never done before for the Kingdom.  Big or small.  Doesn’t matter.  You’ll find that if you are in God’s will, you will not be un-comfortable.

Bill Mann

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Don’t shy away from starting a relationship with someone you don’t know.  I have only known  one of the men I have mentored before we started meeting together. Most were referred to me.

FURTHER STUDY:  Read The Light in the Heart by Roy T. Bennett, a writer who encourages people to nurture their minds with positive thoughts of generosity, kindness, peace, empathy, compassion, humility, love and joy.

WORSHIP:  Join Michael W. Smith singing Open the Eyes of My Heart:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at

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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

God wants us to prosper.  I get it. That’s not hard to glean from this passage. Even I can figure that out.  But often, this message gets distorted in a way that causes harm to believers, not just in this country, but particularly in Africa and Latin America.

Many of Christian television stations available in Nigeria and Cameroon feature Christian shows that focus on the Word of Faith movement which includes something called “prosperity theology” or “health and wealth gospel.” The Word of Faith movement has its own adherents in the United States, many of whom have TV shows and broad followings.  Their popularity belies their twisted message.

The idea is that you can “name it and claim it.”  Sort of a perversion of “you have not because you ask not.”  You can see the churches that preach this gospel in Cameroon and Kenya– often they are huge gaudy buildings which stand out starkly in contrast to the more normal understated buildings of other churches.

It is a message that brings, unfortunately, a false hope to people who have no ability to obtain the level of promised prosperity.  Interestingly, the word “prosperity” does not appear in the New Testament.  That, in itself, should be instructional.

In his book, Leading in Light of Eternity, Stacy Rinehart comments that one leader in Cameroon said that the prosperity gospel affects some 75% of the churches in his country. The pastor is quoted: “Pastors who want to maintain their people preach prosperity. It is what the people want to hear. It is like parents bringing candy to their children because they want it.

Spirituality becomes a test of what you have and what you give, even though those aren’t the values taught by Jesus.  Stacy concludes that these pastors are but one kind of three false teachers delineated in scripture.  He has an Appendix to his book to document scriptural passages on heresy and false teaching.

The Apostle Paul was especially hard on this heresy, cautioning believers to be cautious of listening to men of “corrupt mind” who equated Godliness as a path to access riches which is a “trap leading to ruin and destruction.”  (1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11).  The prosperity message has an obvious appeal in countries where the standard of living is very low, and is a seductive siren call to a way out of poverty through a false message.

One of the great verses is in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  I vividly remember Charles Stanley pointing out that this passage does not condemn having money, but instead looks at our motive. As he said, “some of you have committed the sin of loving money when you didn’t have a dime.”

Paul experienced both having very little and having plenty, yet was able to say in Philippians 4:12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Nothing in that passage even suggests that every believer is entitled to be wealthy or prosperous, but instead says that we should be learn to be content with our material circumstances, whatever they are.

So, what does biblical prosperity mean (as opposed to the heresy advanced by many)?  Well, to me it means that not everyone is assured of riches. In fact, we aren’t even assured of a happy life without trials, temptations or even grief and sorrow. Jesus kind of nailed it by telling his disciples “You cannot serve God and mammon (money).”  (Matthew 6:24). Those that teach otherwise are twisting scripture to fit their personal agenda.

Instead, the bible teaches stewardship – that we our stewards of everything we possess and that we don’t really “own” anything while here on earth.  It is all God’s, and it’s our job to employ our resources in ways that glorify him, not ourselves.  Buying fancy foreign cars, or huge homes may impress other people, but not God. God is concerned with what we do with what we have, not with what we want to have.

My own concept of the value of money and possessions was formed by teaching a Christian financial class in our church in the mid 1980’s, and then later attending a Crown Ministry class with my wife.  There are many good resources out there including courses offered by Dave Ramsey.  Forty Days with Jesus has a 5 session series which has a focus on Money and Possessions which gives a good biblical teaching on this topic in video form. The link to this is given below.

I think back to the saying that you will never hear a man on his deathbed say they wished they had worked more so they could have more stuff.  In fact, I doubt that anyone on their deathbed would say they wished they had bought one more expensive painting that they could put next to their bedside to comfort them as they die.  Yet our secular world sends out seductive messages of materialism that appeals to our senses, and often, those messages get assimilated into prosperity theology.

Having more stuff is good, “they” say.  All you need to do is pray for it.  To me, not so much.  I went through several years of financial distress where just meeting the basic needs of my family was a challenge.  I quickly learned that “stuff” was not important.  What was important was relationships with family and friends.  Those are priceless.  That’s real prosperity.

Paul, in  1 Timothy 4:3,4,  cautions us to be careful with our theology and doctrine:  “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” The prosperity gospel is something that appeals to “itchy ears”.

The challenge here is for all to have spiritual discernment about what is, and what is not, true teaching about prosperity, money and possessions.  Unfortunately, many of those who advance the health and wealth gospel are highly visible and have wide television ministries.

Being popular doesn’t equate to being correct.  It is not our job to eradicate false teaching, but it is our job to learn Jesus’ values directly from Him, not from someone with popular appeal. As mentors, it is also our responsibility to be sure our mentees have a firm grounding in this area.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY: A primer on prosperity gospel theology:

Information on Crown Ministries founded by Howard Dayton:

Lead in Light of Eternity  by Stacy Rinehart:

A book on false teaching is Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century:

For a Days with Jesus videos on Money and Possessions, go to:

WORSHIP:  The song Enough by Chris Tomlin reminds that Jesus is Enough for every need.

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

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