Our Sanctification Puzzle

Sanctification lives at the heart of the Grow Like Jesus message, and it’s something we do both individually and in the context of our relationships with others.

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that never stay the same but that somehow always fit together. We never know how or when our lives might provide the right fit for others or how and when someone else might provide the right fit for us. But we know we need each other to fully grow like Jesus. Our sanctification puzzle is incomplete, of course, without Jesus. His presence fills the voids and gaps, heals the wounds, and makes all things new. But He regularly uses broken human pieces during our earthly journey.

This helps me see myself and others in a different light. My sin nature often tugs at me to judge first and seek understanding later. When I remember that God might use me to somehow contribute to someone else’s sanctification puzzle, or that He might use someone else to grow me, then I become much more empathetic and far less judgmental. I want to know the other person’s pains, baggage, joys, and experiences. I want to understand who that person is and why, not focus on his outward appearance or actions. And I want him to understand who I am and how God has transformed me and is transforming me.

The Me Piece

The biggest, most complex and complicated part of my sanctification puzzle is me. My sanctification begins with my attention to my personal walk with and growth in Jesus. No one else owns it or is responsible for it. When God confronted Adam and Eve for their sins in the garden, Adam immediately blamed Eve and God. The woman you gave me – that’s the problem! (See Genesis 3:12) God, of course, knew better. Like Adam, we can’t shift responsibility for who we are and how we live. We have to own it so we can fully surrender it.

The Us Piece

The next most critical piece of my sanctification puzzle is my wife. God gave her to me, and me to her. While some pieces of our puzzle come and go, this one is ever-present. She adds to my growth, and I contribute to hers. She is my helpmate, which clearly means this: I need help! And I’m called to love her as Christ loves the church, which is no small deal – I am called to give myself up for her to make her holy, to cleanse her by the washing with water through the word, to present her as radiant, without stain or wrinkle or blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27). What an awesome privilege and responsibility when it comes to her growth!

The Others Piece

Finally, there are those pieces of my sanctification puzzle that involve “others.” Some are regular parts of my life, like my family and closest friends. Others are people I know but interact with less frequently. And others still are simply divine appointments – people God places in my life for a short period and then they’re gone. They all shape my spiritual growth, if I’m open to how God wants to use them. And I have an opportunity provided by God to fit some need of theirs, but it’s up to me to embrace that opportunity.

Every day, our puzzle pieces change. We’re reshaped by our experiences. Our needs are different. Our opportunities for growth are different. And what we have to offer others is different. Our challenge is to figure out how we all fit together for the glory of God as we strive to grow like Jesus.


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Father’s Day Forgiveness

Father’s Day is coming up, so I thought I’d share a gift idea. It’s something you can give to your dad even if your father, like mine, is no longer alive. The gift: Forgiveness.

My wife and I have a blended family with seven children, and all of them were adults when we married in 2010. I’ve never been hard to please when it comes to gifts, so I’m more than satisfied with a call or text from my four kids on Father’s Day. But a few weeks ago I sent them a photo of a gift idea, and I’ve included it in this blog.

Would you want this suit for Father’s Day?

It was a joke, of course. That suit just doesn’t … well … suit me.

But it got me to thinking about what I really want from my kids. And what I really want, if I’m to be totally vulnerable and transparent, is forgiveness. It costs nothing but it’s often really hard to give or to receive.

Forgiveness for what, you ask? Every father has experienced failure. Many of us come across as superheroes at times, especially when our kids are young, but we inevitably come up short. Sinners sin. And sins that disappoint the people we love are particularly painful.

But we don’t have to sin to need forgiveness. Fathers instinctively want to protect and take care of our children, and sometimes we simply can’t. Sometimes life is beyond our control and we have no words and can take no actions that will “make it better.” We might understand this intellectually, but we still feel like we’ve let them down. People pleasers, of which I’m often one, know that it’s possible to do nothing wrong, to feel totally “in the right,” and yet still feel guilty because we simply didn’t do enough. My identity is in Christ, of course, so I shouldn’t feel this guilt. But all too often I do.

Sometimes the guilt we feel isn’t based in reality – we think we’ve let them down, but they don’t really feel that way. And sometimes it’s totally based in reality. I know I disappointed my kids when my first marriage ended, but I think I disappointed them even more when I remarried – not because they don’t like my wife, but because it happened so soon after the divorce. They were still grieving the end of something, and I was celebrating an amazing and totally unexpected grace gift from God. I’m in no way advocating divorce. If that’s your struggle, surrender it to God, seek some qualified Biblical-based help, and don’t give up. But if you’ve already experienced divorce, God won’t walk away from you. I can tell you that my marriage is an incredible story of God’s redemptive grace. It is impossible to overstate what God has done in me through this marriage – how Audrey makes me a better husband, father, man, and follower of Jesus.

Over time (it’s been six-and-a-half years), I think all of my children have seen that. We’ve all moved onward. We have good relationships with each other. I know they love me, and they know I love them. But sometimes I feel a void I can’t explain, and I connect it back to my struggle with unforgiveness. It’s a “me” problem, not a “them” problem. I hold onto my guilt even when I’m not guilty and even when I’m guilty and I’ve been forgiven. Maybe it’s just me, but I think other dads do this, too. We find it very hard to forgive ourselves, to live in forgiveness. So while we work to display confidence and strength, there’s a part of us that longs to know that our kids are OK with the imperfections we’ve displayed and the disappointments we’ve caused. We long to experience forgiveness.

Yes, forgiveness is an experience. It often begins with words, but real forgiveness is reflected in attitudes and actions lived consistently over time. This is why forgiveness is redemptive. It makes things new and right. It’s liberating both to the one who gives and the one who receives. It is an expression of real love and true grace. I know, because I’ve experienced its most powerful form. Christ forgave me of my sins, past, present, and future. And He gave me a second chance at a godly marriage. I never feel more loved than when I look into the eyes of my wife, not just by her but by God, because I know how undeserving I am to have this marriage. That’s the power of forgiveness.

So whatever you get your dad – a tie, a good book, a loud suit, or anything else – you might also give him this: Help him experience forgiveness.

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The Face of Grief

A child doesn’t have to be born to be loved or for her premature death to be mourned. Our family experienced the joy of learning a new baby was on the way — a granddaughter for me and my wife — then the pain of learning she was very sick, the closeness to God that comes from desperately praying for a miracle, and the sadness that comes when God’s plans don’t align with our desires. She was unborn, but 27 weeks old when she left us. Don’t tell me she was anything other than a child, fully human and loved by her parents and all who are close them and to her.
I’ll never forget the courage and faith displayed through this process by my daughter and her husband — how they leaned into God and found peace in the pain, how they treasured each moment with their child. All of us, but especially the child’s parents, are left with a hole in our hearts that won’t be filled until we reach heaven.
When I learned that our granddaughter had passed away, I immediately connected to those raw psalms that cry out to God in pain and frustration. And I was thankful for a mysterious but loving God who allows us to express how we feel, even when — especially when — we are sad, angry, hurt, and confused.

The Face of Grief

By Podge, June 1 2017; For Hadley Reece White

Hello Grief, I know your face
You spit in my eyes
And claw at my joy;
That is who you are, I know,
A tormentor of souls,
Who lives to break hearts,
Leaving a tear-stain path of pain
Wherever you go.
Yes, I know your face.
You do your work well, of course.
Something in the way I’m made,
In the way we’re all made;
We can’t escape you.
Yet, we don’t give into you, either.
You play your part and have your day … or days … or longer
But that’s all it is – and then you fade
Never gone, but always smaller
Replaced by something bigger
Something more real and eternal
Yes, Grief, I know your face.
But I also know the face of God.

 

So, You Want to Write a Book? Step 1: Get real.

Advice to would-be authors

One of the ways I see writers making a living these days is by selling the dream of authorship. It works like this: Thousands upon thousands of people want to publish a book, so writers who have published books provide them with training, advice, and support – for a fee, of course. Much of my livelihood, in fact, works off this model. As a ghostwriter, I help would-be authors write and publish their messages, often in the form of books.

As with all good things, however, I’ve noticed this model has a dark side. Since the Internet-of-today is all about – jargon alert! – “scaling businesses through platform building,” some writing services are going bonkers with their mass-marketing approach to the business. Some offer great advice and services. But what some are marketing in attempt to scale their businesses is – and I know this will shock you – a distortion of the truth, aka, a lie.

Ring Lardner (famous author)

So at the risk of being labeled a fuddy-duddy, allow me to suggest that all aspiring authors of the world take a moment, pump their proverbial breaks, and evaluate a few deeper realities of writing and publishing. Before shelling out boatloads of money for help with your book project, carefully consider some of the deeper realities that reside beneath the “marketed truth.”

Marketed Truth: You can write a book in a few weeks.

Deeper Reality: Very few authors have written a good book that quickly. Writing with excellence takes time and effort. It’s not always hard. Sometimes the words flow easily and quickly. But it’s not always easy. Most of the time, in fact, the writing – and especially the rewriting – is challenging. Consider these words from a few successful writers:

  • “Easy reading is damned hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” – Thomas Mann
  • “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.” – Enrique Jardiel Poncela
  • “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

Marketed Truth: It’s easier and cheaper than ever to publish a book.

Deeper Reality: Services like Create Space make it easy, and you no longer need the help of a traditional New York-based publishing house. But … it still will cost you if you want a quality product. Even if you’re a great writer, you’ll need great editors (plural), a great designer to make it look good and great marketers to help sell it. You’ll have to spend time and money to get the attention of the book-buying public. And, ultimately, you still probably won’t sell very many books. Most likely, you will spend far, far more to write, publish and market the book than you will make on the sales from the book.

Marketed Truth: Everyone should write and publish a book.

Deeper Reality: Speaking of fuddy-duddys, anyone remember writer/contrarian Christopher Hitchens? I seldom agreed with much that he had to say, but that doesn’t mean he was never right. For instance, he’s generally credited with saying, “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Very true. And Walter Bagehot, a British essayist, once pointed out that, “The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.” Also true. So if you are a great writer who doesn’t have much to say or a poor writer with nothing to say, you certainly can write and publish a book. But please don’t inflict it on the rest of us.

OK, enough cold water. The point of all this isn’t to discourage most of you from writing and publishing a book. Really, it’s not. The point is to encourage anyone who is thinking about writing and publishing a book to do so with a clear view of reality. Measure the costs. Set a budget. Be smart about it.

When I talk to people who are thinking about writing a book, I almost always encourage them to do so. That’s because most of them feel a compelling need to write something that’s on their heart. The bigger question is this: To what end? I believe God sometimes tells us to write a book, a blog, an essay, a poem, or some other musing simply so that we can process a lesson He wants us to learn. The audience is me and God (or you and God). No one else.

Writers write because they have no choice. The message within them longs to break free and live in some form, and to suppress that message is nothing short of disobedience. So write. And if you are so called, publish what you’ve written. And, if so called, market what you’ve published. But no matter where your obedience to a message takes you, bury your expectations. As the great Flannery O’Connor put it, “When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business.”

Want Free Help? Here’s a Checklist.

Want some free tips to help you think through a potential book project? I put together this list a few years ago, and I periodically update it. Click here to read my Author’s Checklist. You don’t even have to give me your email address. All it costs you is the time it takes to click the link and read it. But, hey, if you want to sign up to receive my blog, by all means, go for it!

 

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Click here for more information on books I’ve written.  

Beating the Odds to Vegas

Our Vegas Vacation

My wife and I aren’t gamblers; at least that’s what we thought before we went to Las Vegas. Turns out, we rolled the dice the moment we booked our flight.

Red Rock Canyon

It’s interesting, perhaps revealing, that when I told people about our trip, I immediately felt (and acted on) the urge to add a qualifying statement: “We’re going to Las Vegas … (pregnant pause) … but neither of us drink nor gamble.” Part of the reason I pointed out that we don’t drink or gamble was that I didn’t want people think I was going to Sin City for the purpose of … you know … sinning. It was my pride speaking, and, frankly, it was a lie to imply I never drink or gamble. But it was accurate to say those weren’t the reasons we were going to Las Vegas. We had a great deal on a condo for a week, and someone who lives there convinced us there was plenty to do that didn’t involve drinking or gambling.

So why do I say we rolled the dice? Because our biggest gamble of the trip came when we bet on a low-fare airline. Our original Sunday afternoon flight was cancelled, so we drove two hours the next day to catch a flight in Tulsa. It, too, was cancelled. So we were re-booked on a Tuesday flight and spent Monday night in a Tulsa hotel. On Tuesday, the inbound plane from Las Vegas arrived on schedule, but a maintenance crew nixed the return flight. This time, however, the airline sent a “rescue” plane (which took three hours to get to Tulsa). We finally arrived at our condo in Vegas late Tuesday night, roughly 55 hours behind schedule. (The airline gave us vouchers for future flight, which felt a little like paying for a bad rib eye and being told the next bad steak will be free.)

Hoover Dam

Despite the delays, we squeezed in everything we had planned – except for some of the “do nothing” time. We rescheduled a couple of shows, visited Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam, and even added in a visit to Casa de Shenandoah, the estate and mansion owned by singer Wayne Newton. We saw a mentalist, acrobats, a hologram of Michael Jackson, and Elvis (or at least a decent impersonation of the King). And, as a confession, I drank one beer and we combined to wager (and lose) $15 on Wheel of Fortune Slots and Video Poker (our contributions to help pay for the fountains at the Bellagio.)

We enjoyed the food and the shows and most of the natural scenery, but we won’t go back, and not because of the airline ordeal. There’s no way to avoid the glitz and the casinos, which, despite their bright lights and bells and whistles, are nothing short of depressing. As we walked through three different casinos en route to shows or restaurants, we literally saw hundreds of people playing the games. We saw one who looked like he was having a good time gambling, and we suspect the odds caught up with him later.


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11 Things Followers Learn from Followship

Are You a Servant Leader who Serves Leaders?

Michael Brown and I partner on a few projects from time to time, and one of those projects is a training program called Followship: Servant Leaders. Serving Leaders. This week we launched a Kindle version of the participant guide, which is pretty cool, at least in our minds. You can read it on your Kindle reader and it has links to the videos and articles that are referenced. You just need to take notes in a journal or using your computer.

So, in celebration of the launch, I thought I’d share some key points that people takeaway when they go through this training. The actual training goes deeper into each of these to explain things like why they matter and how we can live differently. So these are just highlights.

I started with about 25, with the intention of cutting it down to the top 10. I settled on 11, because who says you have to use round numbers anyway?

  1. Everyone is a follower.
  2. Followers build others up, show respect, and promote collaboration.
  3. Our values drive who we are and how we behave, so we should identify what we believe and why.
  4. We each must take responsibility for our role in effective communication; it is counter-productive to blame others. Own it.
  5. Keep an open mind when listening; don’t jump to conclusions so you can respond rather than react.
  6. Bloom where you’re planted.
  7. The best organizations promote growth, but we ultimately are responsible for our personal growth, regardless of what others do or don’t do for us.
  8. You really can’t “be anything,” but you can find satisfaction in whoever you are and whatever you become.
  9. Contentment is a place within you, not a place you go.
  10. A mark of a great follower is the ability to step in and out of that role in appropriate ways at appropriate times.
  11. Happiness is a creature that feeds on emotions and lives according to the circumstances of the moment. Joy maintains a sense of peace while moving through good times and bad.

If you’re interested in the Kindle version, here’s the link.

If you’re interested in the print edition and/or the leader’s discussion guide, or if you just want more information about the program, the here’s the link you need.

 

 

 

 

One Year Later …

A letter to a 1-year-old

Happy Birthday, Grow Like Jesus!

You were years in the making, so it’s amazing to celebrate this day with you. It was one year ago today that you officially “launched,” which is book-trade jargon that means you officially became available to the public. There were pre-orders before that, of course, but it was on this day that those orders shipped and sites like Amazon.com changed your status to “available.” No more waiting.

I’ll never forget that day, especially when it comes to Amazon.com. It seems the big, bad online bookseller didn’t have much faith in the demand you would create, so it didn’t stock up. Within a few hours it indicated you were “out of stock.” I took it as a good sign, but it would have been better if Amazon had started with, say, 1,000 copies rather than … well, let’s just say it was far fewer than 1,000. Nevertheless, it felt like there was a gold rush of demand for you.

Truth is, sales have not been spectacular. That’s no surprise, frankly, because, as you know, salesmanship and marketing are not my forte. Oh, I know how to market books. I just don’t execute it very well. It’s a learning opportunity, I guess. But the truth is, I’m pretty content in the background. I don’t mind speaking to audiences, but it’s not my calling to be a sage on the stage. I’m not naturally self-promotional, and, unfortunately, it’s hard to promote you without feeling like I’m promoting me. I have friends who are great at this. They promote themselves and their books, and somehow they seldom come across as egomaniacs who are only in it for the fame and the spotlight. I’m happy for them and all, but I’m not gifted in that way. As a result, my “platform” is limited and, thus, so have been your sales.

That’s not to say sales are non-existent. People are buying you. In fact, several people bought 50 to 100 copies. You’ve been read and shared and gifted. You’ve had an impact on teenagers, as well as folks who are older in life. You’ve been there for people who are new in their faith in Christ, and there for people who are looking for new ways to experience growth.

In fact, I want to make it clear that modest book sales is not an indication of success. Indeed, my first measure of success for you is found in the reality that you actually exist. I felt called to write you and find a publisher and, albeit reluctantly at times, I followed that call. So obedience is one measure of success.

Another measure of your success is found in the feedback. Not everyone who has read your pages has provided feedback. But among those who have, only one offered what I would consider a negative review. He said the book didn’t “connect to his heart,” which, frankly, stung more than a little bit. Many others have found your pages helpful. Here’s a link to read some reviews, if you’d like a few ego biscuits. Aside from those written reviews, I’ve also heard positive feedback from several pastors and friends and business leaders.

The greatest measure of your success, however, is still unknown. Audrey (that’s my wife) and I have prayed from the beginning that you would make a difference in the lives of people who read you. We believe that’s happened, but that’s still our prayer – that God will use this book to help people who want to grow in their faith in Jesus.

Whatever happens, with sales or with impact, God gets the credit. Everything valuable in your pages, after all, came from Him. And everything that happens with you or through you will come by His hand.

So happy birthday, and here’s to many more bright days and deep influence. God willing, you will continue to make a difference in the lives of more and more people.

Oh, yeah. Sorry I didn’t bring a cake or presents. What would you do with them, anyway? You’re a book. But I love you just the same.

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Click to buy Grow Like Jesus 

Closing Down the Pet Store

Are Annoyances Ruling Your Life?

Pets are supposed to be good for us, but I’m convinced there’s at least one pet we should never adopt. In fact, we should get rid of the ones we own: The pet peeve.

We all have them, right? Those things that get under our skin and irritate the dickens out of us. Sometimes I think I have enough peeves to open a pet store.

I’ve learned, however, that these pets cause me nothing but misery. They seem harmless at first, but eventually they affect my attitude and my attitude affects my actions. So I go from mildly annoyed by something to increasingly frustrated to that guy who over-reacts, usually by saying or doing something I regret.

Ever wonder if Jesus had pet peeves? We know He got angry, like when the priests allowed the temple to become a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). And we know He spoke plainly about sin and righteousness, never backing away from God’s truth. But we also know that Jesus grew in “favor” with man (Luke 2:52), which, in part, indicates that He didn’t have unnecessary annoyances with the people around Him.

He was critical of the self-righteous, religious hypocrites. But maybe He was even more annoyed by His disciples when they showed a lack of faith or when they fell asleep when they should have been praying. And I can only imagine how frustrating it is for Him to watch over my life. Yet, I don’t get the sense that the religious hypocrites or His disciples got under His skin, and I’m confident in the grace he continues to shower on me.

It’s the word “unnecessary,” I think, that sets Jesus apart from the rest of this on this matter. Where most of us allow people and circumstances to unnecessarily push our proverbial buttons, Jesus was and is calm, patient and kind, filled with compassion and grace. When Jesus was upset, it was always with good reason. Me? Not so much. How about you?

Right now, my two prevailing pet peeves are bad drivers and poor customer service. In fact, I told a friend the other day that I believe until I learned to be more Christ-like when dealing with unhelpful customer service calls, God will continue to allow me to have more customer service issues.

Not surprisingly, when I began to focus on being a nicer customer, two things happened. One, I didn’t get as frustrated with the inept customer service reps. And, two, I found myself dealing more often with friendly and helpful customer service reps. Strange how my attitude toward others impacted their attitude toward me.

I’ve been praying lately about dealing with my pet peeves – about getting rid of the ones I own and not adopting new ones. And I’ve found two questions help me adjust my attitude when I find myself unnecessarily annoyed by life:

  1. Am I abiding in Christ? If I’m abiding in Christ, I’m connected to what matters, not what’s unnecessary. If I’m not, then I recognize the need to surrender to him, re-connect with him, and stick close to him.
  2. Am I holding on to something that belongs to God? Pet peeves are a form of worry. They represent something outside of my control, but not outside of God’s control. When I let go of them and give them to God, he invariably takes them away.

It may take some time, but I’m hoping to close down this pet store.

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Are You Equipped for Discipleship?

Do you have an equipment issue?

A friend and I once co-created a phrase that I’ve always found to hold true when facing a challenge: “It’s an equipment issue. And if you have the right equipment, you won’t have an issue.”

The thought came to us during a hot summer camping trip. We were sitting in our beat-up lawn chairs outside our hand-me-down tents, when we noticed an impressive camper pulling into a nearby site. It had bikes on the back. It had a satellite on the top. The owner soon unfurled a canopy that provided shade, and fans that produced a breeze. It had all the comforts of home. In other words, it had the right equipment, so the owners had no issues (at least when it came to comfort).

pixabay.com

I recalled this little truism again this week while hanging a new swing from a tree by our home. The first tree didn’t work out too well, so I was moving it to another that’s on the vacant, tree-covered lot next to our house. This tree was perfect, except for one thing: It had given root to a small but pretty tall tree at its base that was growing at an angle so that the top of it was directly under the limb from which I wanted to hang the swing.

So, the first order of business was to cut down this tree, which was, oh, maybe 6-8 inches in diameter. Since my chainsaw was in need of minor repairs, I was using a bow saw. It took a little effort, but down came the tree.

Next problem: That sucker was heavy and its branches were getting hung up in the brush when I tried to move it. After a few failed attempts to drag it away, I decided to cut it into smaller chunks. In the process, I broke my saw blade. After a few more failed attempts to drag it off, I used some heavy-duty loppers to cut away some branches and lightened the load enough so that I could move it.

In short, what would have taken me five minutes with a chainsaw took me about 25 minutes with equipment that wasn’t made for this particular job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re cutting a tree or climbing Mt. Everest, it pays to use the right equipment. And the same is true in discipleship.

If I want to grow like Jesus and help others grow like Jesus, then I can’t use loppers when I need a chainsaw. I have to put on the armor of God and prepare for the challenges I face. I have to read God’s Word and open my heart to revelations from God. I have to listen to godly pastors who teach truth. I have to act on the promptings of the Spirit. I have seek and heed the godly counsel my wife provides. I have to invest in the things that equip me for the life God has given me. And if I use the right equipment, there is no issue.

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Creating a Style Guide for Life

Creating a Style Guide for Life

You might not immediately make the connection between a newspaper’s new style rule and how we go about our personal development journey, but the connection is there. Trust me.

Regular readers of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the statewide newspaper in Arkansas and my former employer, might have noticed a change in recent weeks in how the paper refers to the state’s largest and best-known university. The new style guide apparently requires that at some point in the article the author refer to it as the “University of Arkansas, Fayetteville,” even in the sports section after a first reference of “the Arkansas Razorbacks.”

As a writer, editor, and former newspaper hack, I understand all too well how and why such silly policies are created. I can’t tell you the specifics of this one, but it no doubt involved many meetings and a great deal of hand-wringing. And after all that debate, the editors arrived at what is, without question, an awful result.

Why? They lost focus on what really matters.

To some, the purpose of a style guide is to create consistency in the written language. But that’s just one result, not the real purpose. The real purpose is to help readers better understand what they are reading. This policy neither creates consistency nor helps the reader. Just the opposite, in fact.

For starters, the policy creates what I call “reader roadblock.” It introduces unnecessary words that forces me-the-reader to pause and ask, “What up with that?” before moving forward without a logical or reasonable answer. So it’s a waste of space and it’s a waste of my time. Second, it doesn’t create consistency because the paper doesn’t apply the same style to other universities. For instance, it doesn’t refer to the “University of Kentucky, Lexington” or the “University of Arkansas, Little Rock” or “Arkansas State University, Jonesboro.”

One day shortly after the paper adopted this new style, I noticed a story about the “University of Arkansas, Fayetteville” defeating “IUPUI” in a softball game. I can assure you that at least 99 percent of the ADG’s readers know that the Arkansas Razorbacks represent the Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas, but almost none know what IUPUI stands for (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis).

So what’s all this have to do with personal growth, you ask? Well, we all do the same thing in our lives. We see a small issue in our life and become consumed with finding a solution that ends up creating more problems than it solves, all because we lose focus on what really matters. We stubbornly hold to some viewpoint, refusing to let go, and we find ourselves on the slippery slope toward legalism.

We all need structure, discipline and boundaries in our lives. We all need the equivalent of a “style guide” to help us order our worlds. For me, that guide is the Bible. But when I lose focus on what really matters – to love God and love others, to grow like Jesus and produce Kingdom fruit – then I soon find myself obsessing about things that ultimately don’t matter. I’m not saying there’s anything in the Bible that doesn’t matter. I’m saying that we don’t need to complicate it with guidelines that solve problems that don’t really exist.

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