Monthly Archives: December 2009

Go to Bed!

It’s doubtful that Thomas Edison had any idea what the full implications of his incandescent light bulb were.  How could he have know that his invention would create the potential and eventually the fulfillment of a 24/7 society, where darkness no longer limits the length of our productive day?  Before Edison’s incredible breakthrough, most went to bed when it got dark.  (There’s only so much you can do by candlelight.)  But today, we create our own daylight with the flick of a switch.  As a result, more and more are getting less and less sleep.

Many of us view sleep as a “nice-to-have,” rather than a “need-to-have” activity.  Our work ethic leads us to look at sleep as wasteful and unproductive.  As a result, sleep deprivation has become a huge problem in hard-driving cultures around the world.  Increasing workloads, long commutes, busy after-work schedules and limitless entertainment options lead many of us to shortchange our body’s need for sleep.  We often brag to others about how little sleep we are getting.  But when we elevate sleep deprivation to the level of an achievement, we are really showing our ignorance.

The average amount of time an adult should sleep is 8 to 8.5 hours per night.  Your body needs to sleep one-third of the day to recover from the day’s activities.  During that time, your body conducts important maintenance work.  Inadequate sleep leads to:

  • A reduction in the amount of growth hormone that our bodies produce. This often leads to weight gain, but even if it doesn’t, those who don’t get enough sleep often crave carbohydrates and junk food.  Their bodies produce less leptin, a molecule secreted by fat cells that tells our brains when we shouldn’t be hungry, and insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
  • Hypertension and cardiovascular problems. The levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) rise when we are sleep-deprived.
  • Less creativity and problem-solving ability. German scientists at the University of Luebeck say they have demonstrated the first hard evidence that during sleep, our brains restructure memories before they are stored.
  • A decrease in immune system function as measured by white blood cell count. Sleep researcher Eve van Cauter at the University of Chicago had students sleep no more than four hours a night for six nights.  When they are then given a flu vaccine, their bodies only produced half the normal antibodies.
  • Impaired judgment and reflexes. A study published in the British journal “Occupational and Environmental Medicine” said that 16% to 60% percent of road accidents involve sleep deprivation.  Researchers in Australia and New Zealand have reported that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being drunk.  They found that people who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.

And if these effects aren’t enough, try this one on – sleeplessness causes death.  In experiments with lab rats, scientists have observed that a sleep deprived rat quickly develops abnormally low body temperatures and sores on their tails and paws.  Soon after, all their hair falls out.  While the normal life span of a rat is 2-3 years, rats deprived of sleep live for only about 3 weeks.

In humans, death from all causes is lowest among adults who get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly and significantly higher among those who sleep less than seven. The Japanese have coined the word “karoshi” to describe a type of death that occurs from working too many hours.  Some estimates indicate that there are approximately 10,000 deaths from karoshi in Japan every year.

It’s time to make some payments on your sleep debt.  Your body is an exacting creditor.  It will allow you to borrow from your sleep account, but it always adds the interest to the end of your loan.  Sleep now or “sleep” later.  If you don’t make some changes in your lifestyle, you might be looking at a large balloon payment at the payoff.



Filed under fatigue, habits, health, heart

Your Leadership Vocabulary

The Central Alaskan Yupik Eskimos have at least fifteen different words for snow.  They have a name for snowflakes; frost; fine snow; drifting particles; clinging particles; fallen snow on the ground; soft, deep fallen snow on the ground; crust on fallen snow; fresh fallen snow on the ground; fallen snow floating on water; snow banks; snow blocks; snow cornices; blizzards and severe blizzards.

Makes sense, right?  If you have a lot of something, you get to know it really well.  You see distinctions in it that other people don’t see, and pretty soon, you need new names for those distinctions.  In fact, the number of words in your vocabulary for that thing might be a pretty good indication for how familiar you are with it.  How many names do you think carpenters have for wood?  …or geologists for rocks?  …or body builders for muscles?

What about your “leadership” vocabulary?  How many of the following “leadership” words do you regularly use?

Advising, Assisting, Assuring, Challenging, Coaching, Commanding, Compelling, Conducting, Confronting, Counseling, Demonstrating, Developing, Directing, Educating, Empowering, Encouraging, Guiding, Influencing, Inspecting, Inspiring, Instructing, Investing, Managing, Mentoring, Monitoring, Motivating, Observing, Persuading, Praising, Preparing, Prompting, Provoking, Redirecting, Requiring, Serving, Showing, Spurring, Supervising, Supporting, Teaching, Testing, Training, Tutoring, Urging…

It’s a long list, and it gets even longer if you pull out the Thesaurus.  The better a leader you are, the more familiar you become with its nuances.  If you only know one word for leadership, you may not have very much of it, after all.

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The Gift of the Magi

Maybe you remember O. Henry’s short tale about the poor couple who loved each other so much that they each desired to purchase the perfect Christmas gift for their spouse.  Times were hard for Della and Jim.  They were surviving on $20 a week in an $8 flat, but there was nothing left over for extravagant giving.  The only extravagant things they had were Della’s long, luxurious hair and Jim’s gold watch, passed down from his father and grandfather.  Both had significant meaning for the couple and helped to make the tough times easier to bear.

Della’s desire to give her husband an extraordinary gift outweighed her love for her hair, and she found herself at the hair goods shop selling it for $20.  She spent the rest of the afternoon searching all the shops in town for the perfect gift until she came across a platinum fob chain that Jim could use with his wonderful watch.  She couldn’t wait for him to see it!

When Jim arrived home later that evening, he was dumbstruck at the sight of his wife’s short hair.  She told him how she had sold it to earn enough money for his Christmas present and assured him that it would grow back quickly.  Still, it took him several minutes to recover.  After assuring Della that the length of her hair could never change his love for her, he showed her a package he had been holding.  It was his Christmas present for her… a set of pure, tortoise-shell combs with jeweled rims.  Della had long admired them in the storefront window and imagined pulling them through her long hair even though she knew it was an impossible dream.

Realizing the sad irony in the gift, she looked up and reminded Jim how fast her hair would grow.  Then, remembering her present for him, she held out the watch chain enthusiastically.  Again dismayed, it was several minutes before he confessed to Della that he had sold the watch in order to have the money to buy the combs.

The greatest gifts always require sacrifice.  It is the sacrifice that makes them precious.  The last two pennies of a widow are far more precious than thousands of dollars from a millionaire.  O. Henry concludes his story by telling us that these two foolish people are really the wisest of all who give and receive gifts.  They are the magi, for they know the secret joy of giving what you cannot bear to lose.  This season, why not commit to giving at least one gift that costs us something more than money.

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Filed under Abundance, agape love, Christmas, delayed gratification, love, marriage, sacrifice, Service, Serving Others, unconditional love

The Waffle Innovation

Bill Bowerman was a legendary track and field coach at the University of Oregon.  He coached 24 NCAA individual champions, four NCAA championship teams, 64 All-Americans and the 1972 U.S. Olympic track and field team.  But what he’s most famous for wasn’t accomplished on the track.  It was accomplished in his garage.

Bowerman was an innovator.  He was always trying to protect his team members from injuries and make them faster.  He encouraged them to wear the lightest clothing possible.  He filmed top athletes and looped the tape so that he and his team could study the athletes’ techniques over and over.  He photographed close finishes and developed the pictures in a dark room he created at the field.  He helped develop the rubberized asphalt material used for track fields, because it was safer than grass, particularly when it rained.

But more than all these things, Bowerman was interested in improvements that could be made in an athlete’s running shoes.  Poorly designed shoes accounted for shin splints, foot sores, leg cramps and aching backs.  In the 1950s, he developed a shoe with a heel wedge, better support and lighter sole, but he couldn’t find a company to make it.  So, he began making shoes in his garage.  When he came up with a new design, he would try it out on his team members.  He experimented with different materials in order to lighten the shoe.  By his own calculations, every ounce of weight removed from the shoe was equal to removing 200 pounds of weight from a runner during a one-mile race.

In 1962, Bowerman started Blue Ribbon Sports with Phil Knight, one of his athletes.  Originally, they imported high-tech, low-cost shoes from Japan, but Bowerman quickly became dissatisfied with their design.  He continued to improve shoe designs in his garage.  Then, one morning in 1971, as his wife cooked waffles for breakfast, Bowerman had a mental breakthrough.  He could pour a combination of latex, leather and glue on the waffle iron, let it cool and create a running shoe much lighter than any other on the market.  Even better, the waffle pattern on the sole would allow for better traction.  It took some work (and forgiveness from his wife, no doubt), but he soon had the prototype worked up.  He showed it to Knight, and within a few years, the “waffle shoe” from their upstart company (now named “Nike”) revolutionized the athletic shoe industry.  A few well-placed marketing dollars later, and Nike is now the largest sports and fitness company in the world.

You might think you aren’t creative – that you can’t innovate like a Bill Bowerman or a Thomas Edison or a Bill Gates – but you can!  Innovation begins with a passion for what you do.  Creativity is important, but passion is essential.  Passion keeps you engaged after frustrating failures and costly setbacks.  Passion keeps you thinking over possibilities even after you’ve set the work down.  Passion keeps the door open for creativity to enter in at the most unexpected moments (like when your wife is making waffles).

You ARE creative!  You are made in the image of a Creator God, and He has put His creative spark in you.  All you have to do is find something you love and concentrate on it long enough for that creativity to emerge.

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Filed under creativity, dedication, innovation, overcoming obstacles

Volunteer Donor

I was developing a game for our church’s Christmas celebration, and I needed some photos for the game cards.  In my search, I came across the one pictured above and noticed that the label says, “Volunteer Donor.”  I wonder if that is an important designation.  Are there non-volunteer donors?  How do you get selected for that assignment?

But being the Christmas season, I think it’s appropriate for us to remember that there was an ultimate “Volunteer Donor.”  His name is Jesus Christ, and He volunteered to donate His blood a few thousand years ago so that we might be reunited with our Lord and Creator.

But why blood?  It seems so creepy!  All those Christian songs about the blood washing us clean and making us white as snow…  It seems really weird.  Why couldn’t Jesus just give us a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?

I’ll admit, it’s a hard concept to get our 21st century minds around.  Most of us don’t come in contact with blood on a daily basis unless we are avid fans of CSI, Law and Order, Dexter or Bones.  Even so, we all know that it’s precious…that without it, there is no life.  We take it for granted until the day we are in a serious accident or when a friend is in the hospital.  Then, we begin to grasp how essential it is.

God set the standard in the Garden of Eden.  After Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they tried to cover their shame with fig leaves.  God replaced their itchy undergarments with animal skins, because they were a more perfect covering and because He was illustrating that only a blood sacrifice would cover their sin.

It’s why Cain’s sacrifice of produce wasn’t acceptable to God and why Abel’s animal sacrifice was.  It’s why God required daily animal sacrifices from the Hebrews.  It’s why He also required an annual atonement sacrifice where the high priest would sprinkle animal blood over the cover of the ark of the covenant.  Only a blood sacrifice covers sin.

The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death.”  This means that when you sin, you earn death.  The debt of death has to be paid.  Blood has to be spilled.  In the Old Testament, God allowed men to pay their debt by killing certain animals.  Killing other humans wouldn’t work, because they had their own sin debt deserving of death.  We know this from Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The death had to be of someone/something innocent.  No humans were innocent – not even babies, because they were born with a sin nature.  In other words, they inherited sinfulness from their parents.  It can be hard to see in a precious infant, but it’s there.  It just takes a little while for the infant to be able to communicate his or her selfishness.

Animals are always innocent, because they don’t have free will.  They can’t choose to sin, because they don’t know the difference between moral right and wrong.  They can learn consequences, but they can’t learn to modify their behavior based on a moral code.  So, animal blood is always innocent.  It can pay the debt that men earn by sinning.

The problem is that animal blood only pays the debt for a short time.  Eventually, you have to sacrifice another animal, and then another, and then another…  It never ends.  Unless…. Unless there could be a perfect sacrifice – one that wouldn’t wear out – one that would pay the debt for all time.  That’s where Jesus comes in.

God gave the Hebrews the animal sacrifice as a model to point them toward the perfect sacrifice that Christ would make on the cross.  He was demonstrating that we needed a Savior, one that would end the need for daily and annual sacrifices of innocent blood.

But why is Jesus’ blood perfect?  Because He is the only man who has ever lived without sin.  He didn’t inherit sinfulness from His parents, because He was conceived from the Holy Spirit.  He lived His entire life without giving in to temptation.  At the end of His life, He had no sin debt to pay for Himself, so He was able to offer His payment (the innocent shedding of blood) for those He loved – namely you and me.

Blood is life.  Without it, your physical body could no longer sustain itself.  But the blood of Jesus is Life!  Spiritual Life!  It doesn’t sustain the physical body; it sustains the spirit and gives us the hope of new Life here on earth and everlasting Life in heaven after our physical bodies give out.  The blood of our Volunteer Donor pays our sin debt.  It IS our “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

That should give you a very Merry Christmas, indeed!

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Filed under christianity, Christmas, Covering, heaven, Jesus, sacrifice, Substitution

Take Your Cross

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

(Mark 8:34)

“We all have our cross to bear,” says the popular proverb, but most who say so have no idea of the meaning of Jesus’ words.  He spoke them right after rebuking Peter, who thought that he knew better than Jesus how to accomplish God’s purposes.

Jesus had been explaining that He must suffer many things and even die before He would rise again, but Peter thought there must be a shortcut.  Jesus replied (if I may summarize Mark 8:33-38), “Get behind me, Satan!  There are no shortcuts!  The cross must do its work.”

The work of a cross was to shame, to make the offender suffer, to kill him and to give warning to others about the consequences of crossing the authorities.  But these aren’t the purposes Jesus has in mind.  God’s perspective on the cross is very different from Satan’s.

Both have death in mind, but Satan used the cross to kill the person; God uses it to kill the self.  When Jesus says to “take up (your) cross,” He means that we should willingly carry the tool that God will use to kill our sinful nature and make us more like Christ.

What the “cross” looks like is different for every person.  For some, it’s a challenging circumstance that brings them to the end of their own resources or abilities. For some, it’s something difficult and painful from their past.  For others, it’s a disability, a limitation, a weakness, a failure…  It could even be a persistent struggle with sin.  It’s whatever God uses to bring us into complete dependence upon Him.

Too often, we give Satan power to use these things to shame us, to make us suffer and to destroy us.  Instead, we should turn them over to God, who makes ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him.  God is not the author or creator of the cross, but He will use it to put to death anything that is not like His Son.

Where Satan intends shame, God develops humility.  Where Satan intends suffering, God develops dependence.  Where Satan intends death, God gives life.  Where Satan intends a warning, God provides a testimony.

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Filed under Change, character, christianity, comfort zone, Daily walk, failure, Hardship, sacrifice, sanctification, Spiritual Growth, spiritual warfare, temptation

Pakistan – Day 4

Today was the day to set up the games for tomorrow.  One of the games requires a semi-large flat surface, and the organizers of the event picked this plot of grass.

It was almost perfect, but it hadn’t been mowed in some time.  That’s why this gentleman was out there.  He was assigned the unwelcome task of mowing the lawn.

As you may notice, there is an old-fashioned lawn mower in the yard, but it didn’t work properly, so the poor man was left no choice but to mow the lawn with this:

I felt really bad for him and tried several times to communicate that it would be just fine if he just cut the really tall grass and plants.  I think I was making progress when the second mower showed up.

This mower needed a little bit of work, and then it was put into service….or….not.  It didn’t work, either.  So, after 15-20 minutes of fiddling with it, the original “lawn mower” (the man with the knife) went back to work.  I tried again to convince him that he didn’t need to cut all the grass.  This time, he understood me and just cut the highest parts.  Then, he swept up all the clippings and put them on a large tarp so that he could carry them to a place where he could dump them.

Unfortunately, by the time he got back, the third mower had arrived.

These guys were fully committed to making one of these mowers work!

The third mower was called a “Weed Eater,” but it didn’t look like any Weed Eater I had ever seen.  It worked better than the previous two mowers, but it required an incredible amount of force and momentum to get the blades to turn.  I suppose the original “lawn mower” man felt guilty watching the man push the Weed Eater around in his business suit, so he went back to work cutting with his knife.

Between the two of them, this is what the lawn looked like a few hours later (after we had laid out the rope for the game I had planned).

All-in-all, it was sooooo much more effort than I needed or expected out of these guys, but they take such pride in doing the job well, that it’s impossible to talk them out of it.

The game went really well the next day, and not a single person complained about the grass

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Filed under culture, Culture Shock, funny, humor