3 Keys to Life-changing Headlines!

Because “how-to” blogs are really popular and because I like to deviate from time to time from my norm, today I shall provide advice on how to write a great headline for blogs and online articles. Even if you don’t write blogs or online articles, you’ll no doubt find this information entertaining, if not life-changing. So read it and share it with a million of your friends.

As with my more faith-oriented blogs, I don’t claim to always practice what I preach. But when it comes to headlines, I do have some credibility. As a newspaper journalist in a former life, I sometimes wrote headlines for the print edition of the Arkansas Democrat. And, in fact, I even won an award for one.

That probably prompts at least three questions. 1.) “What’s a print edition?” 2.) “Do they really give awards for writing headlines?” And 2.) “OK, then, Mr. Smarty Pants, what won you the award?”

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1987 Wimbledon Champion Pat Cash

So a print edition is like what you read online only it comes printed on paper. Some publications still provide this option, but more frequently they’re found only in museums. The answer to No. 2. Is, “Yes.” Well, I assume they still do. But I know they once did, because I’ve got a certificate in a box somewhere to prove it. And as for my award-winning headline, it described an Associated Press story about the 1987 men’s tennis championship at Wimbledon. You no doubt recall that Pat Cash upset Ivan Lendl, the Czechoslovakian who was ranked No. 1 in the world at the time. So the headline read: “Cash better than Czech at Wimbledon.”

This leads perfectly into the first of my tips for blog/article headline writing, which, to be clear, is different from writing headlines for print editions of a newspaper.

  1. Make it clever. If that were easy, of course, we’d all do it more often, and not just in headlines. As it is, some of us try and most of us fail. But keep trying even if you keep failing. Filter your attempts through a lame-o-meter. My personal lame-o-meter isn’t very accurate, so I usually ask for a second opinion from my wife. Most headlines don’t survive a good lame-o-meter, which is why so few headlines are clever.
  2. Make a practical promise. For the most part, this involves creating a list in your blog or article and then selling that list at the start of the headline. Fast Company is great at this. I get regular emails from Fast Company that woo me into their content. One such email included headlines that promised, among other things, “Two items that …,” “Four steps to …,” “9 methods of …,” and “Three easy steps for …” But there are other ways do to this. That same Fast Company email also had headlines that included “a surprisingly simple trick for…” and the ever-popular “How to …” and “When to …”
  3. Make an aspirational promise. It’s great to promise practical advice, but it needs to take readers someplace they want to go. It has to meet their so-called “felt needs.” Again, I turn to the masters, Fast Company, for my examples. Their articles/blogs promised to help me be more productive, be happier, have more breakthrough ideas, lead more effective meetings, be a better listener, avoided a wasted day, boost my productivity, embrace uncertainty, and choose my career path. And that was just from one email!

If you can somehow combine a practical promise, an aspirational promise, and just the right dash of cleverness, well, then you have yourself a winner. It will lead to “opens” and “visits” and “clicks” for all the content you “curate.” And it will change your life!

Three Ways Jesus Displayed Grit

Few qualities of success are more vital than grit. Some social scientist, in fact, consider it the essential quality.  So it comes as no surprise that Jesus had grit. And never was the grit of Jesus more evident than during the final week of his life.

How so? Well, to answer that question, let’s start with a definition.

In Forging Grit, co-author Mike Thompson and I define grit as the passion for getting something done and the fortitude to see it through even when obstacles seem overwhelming. That book is written to a business audience, but the definition applies in all areas of life. With that in mind, here are some ways Jesus modeled grit, especially during the week that ended with His death and resurrection:

Jesus knew His core. The wisdom of Jesus was grounded in His understanding of the scriptures and in His relationship with God the Father. He wasn’t guided by self-principles, but by God-principles. He knew who He was and whose He was. (See Luke 24:27, John 8:55, John 17:25, among others.)

Jesus knew His mission. God the Father sent Jesus to earth with a purpose, and Jesus never allowed Satan to distract Him from that purpose. He knew He would have to suffer to accomplish that purpose;  but He also knew that doing so would bring glory to God. (See John 8:14 and Luke 18:31-33, among others.)

Jesus embraced His passion. Passion literally means “suffering” and “enduring.” And Jesus displayed the ultimate passion in dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The obstacles can’t get more overwhelming than that. (See Mark 8:31 and Luke 22:42, among others.)

We read and hear plenty about Jesus around Easter, of course, and it’s worth remembering that His sacrifice for you and for me came with real pain and intense suffering. We can thank God that Jesus had the grit to endure it. Otherwise, all hope would be lost. And we can model what He lived by knowing our core, knowing our mission, and embracing our passion.

Lessons from a Baptismal God Moment

Did you hate going to church as a kid? Not me. I hung out with friends in Sunday School, played hang man or connect the dots on the bulletin during “big church,” and then my family went home and ate Mom’s awesome pot roast for lunch. What wasn’t to like?

I later spent more than a decade as an agnostic, not because I didn’t like going to church but because I was avoiding God. Thankfully, God is persistent in His pursuit of His lost sheep.

My wife and I are blessed to regularly attend an amazing local church, but it’s very different from when I was a kid. We now have small groups instead of Sunday School, I actually take notes (usually on the “communication card”), and we eat out for lunch. But I love going to church more than ever, and here’s why: I love the God moments.

I’ve experienced these throughout my spiritual journey and at four great local churches. The most recent was on a recent Sunday when a family member waded into the warm hot tub waters next to the stage and a pastor dunked him in front of everyone who was attending the 11:30 service.

The baptism itself was a God moment. Jeremy, my step-son-in-law, is nearly 40 years old, comes from what anyone would describe as a dysfunctional family, and spent much of his life trapped in the addictive pleasures of the world. To watch God work in his life and create transformation that seemed so impossible has been awe-inspiring, to say the least.JeremyBaptism

This was the second family baptism for us in less than a year. One of our granddaughters, at the age of 8, gave her life to Jesus and was baptized in the swimming pool of the Boys and Girls Club that’s converted into a church each Sunday. Clearly God can reach us at any age and under any circumstances!

Jeremy’s baptism wasn’t the only God-moment of that particular service, however. Jeremy had been talking about baptism for several months, but one thing or another seemed to delay it. Was it Satan? Or was it God’s timing? I don’t know, but I know God allowed Jeremy to experience baptism on a day when much of the message was about sanctification.

Jeff Crawford did a magnificent job unpacking Philippians 2:12-18. There’s not room here to share all the lessons, but three things stood out as great messages for a new believer like Jeremy and as wonderful reminders for all of us who want to grow like Jesus.

Salvation is a journey. In Grow Like Jesus, I write that “Faith in Christ is a one-time decision that leads to a lifetime of growth.” Or, as Jeff pointed out, there’s an ongoing aspect of salvation. It happens in the past (the moment when we are saved), present (our sanctification), and future (our eventual glorification when Jesus returns). So when Paul says to “work out your salvation” (verse 12), he’s not talking about “earning” it. He’s talking about living it—growing to be more like Jesus.

Salvation is eternal. One of Jeremy’s battles centered on assurance of salvation. He was confident he would stumble. His “fear and trembling” (verse 12) was of his own abilities, but God showed him he couldn’t lose his salvation. At the same time, we should live it out with paramount respect and awe for the God of the universe.

Salvation is “work-out-able.” How do we work out our salvation? Verses 14-18 offer some tips. Don’t complain (verse 14), let God’s light shine in you and through you (verse 15), study the Bible (verse 16), serve others as an expression of your faith (verse 17), and be glad and joyful in how God works in you and others (verse 18).

I left church that Sunday thankful for the lessons I learned and in awe of a God whose timing is perfect, who, indeed, works all things for His good, and who allows us to regularly experience God moments. Take a moment and thank Him for all the God moments you’ve experienced.

 

Beyond the Obvious: 3 Tips on Finding Rest

Every now and then I notice a wave of articles about research that has proven something we’ve always known. This week contribution? Drumroll, please … Rest matters.

Human beings need sleep. Our bodies need to recharge. We need a good eight hours of sleep, we’re told. And while people who get by on six often think they’re getting enough, research proves their performance suffers.

Followers of Jesus (and others who are scholars of the Old and New Testaments) are usually aware that rest is Biblical. God rested after creating the universe (Genesis 2:2-3), not because He was tired but to set an example (Mark 2:27). Jesus rested (Mark 4:38, 6:31) and promised we can find the ultimate rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

In short, rest helps us stay fit mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, which are all important when it comes to our spiritual growth.

So we should rest. Got it. But how?

If you’re like me, knowing what’s good for you and doing what’s good for you often are two different things. Forcing sleep is particularly challenging. Thankfully, I’m married to a wonderful woman who values rest and has taught me some tricks for sleeping more soundly.

  1. Change your diet. My wife and I generally eat a healthy diet based on The Daniel Plan. I’ve not only lost weight with this approach, but I sleep much better. Research tells us (the obvious) that there’s a high correlation between sleep apnea and obesity, so dieting and exercising to promote physical health also ends up promoting better rest.
  2. Fix your routine. Left to my own desires, I’d stay up late watching television or working or playing games on the computer or ipad. But because I’m married to someone smarter than me, I go to bed relatively early and around the same time each night. I try not to drink anything within a few hours of bedtime. And we turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes before we get ready for bed. We pray together during this time. And if it’s nice enough, we walk out on our deck and stargaze for several minutes. (Note: We don’t have a television in our bedroom, something I highly recommend for anyone who wants a healthy marriage.)
  3. Talk to Jesus. Inevitably, we all have those nights when we struggle to fall asleep or when we wake up and can’t go back to sleep. Our thoughts race around from stressful topic to stressful topic. We problem solve. We pre-schedule work. Or we slip into negative scenario building where we waste time imaging the worst things that can happen. A friend of mine taught me that these are perfect opportunities to talk to Jesus. “If I’m having a hard time going to sleep,” he told me, “I figure Jesus must want to tell me something.” Tell Jesus what’s on your mind. Ask Him what He wants to tell you. Have a conversation with the Word. And you’ll be amazed at how often you soon will find rest in His peace.

Note: Here’s a link to 68 verses that touch on rest.