Clouds of Words

Here is the word cloud from Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer’s recent speech:


Analyst’s conclusion: He “Thinks” a “Lot” About “Things” and Microsoft is a one-trick pony – WINDOWS.

Here is the word cloud for one of Apple’s Steve Jobs’ recent speeches:


Analyst’s conclusion: He’s a “People” person.

If someone did a word cloud for our sermons, what would they conclude?

Some words I would not want to see prominent (if at all) in my cloud are: I, me, my; think, perhaps, possibly; television, movie, football, basketball; politics, Republican, Democrat, President Obama; philosophy; any Latin, Greek or Hebrew words.

Some words I would hope to see in big letters are: Lord Jesus Christ; Gospel; sin, salvation; faith, repentance; hope, love; blood, sacrifice; heaven, hell; justification, righteousness; holiness, obedience; Bible, Truth, and the Word of God.

I’m stuck


How many times have you sat there staring at the screen in front of you and wondered where the next word is going to come from? The mental gas tank is empty and even the fumes have evaporated. But the sermon has to be preached tomorrow. The lecture has to be delivered this afternoon. The article’s deadline will not evaporate.

You’re stuck.

What now?

Turn to Newsweek.

It has a fascinating article on how to boost creativity. In summary:

1. Don’t try brainstorming in a group: Group brainstorming actually reduces creative output. You will generate more ideas if you work separately.

2. Get moving: Exercise for 30 minutes and boost creativity for two hours (eh…unless you are unfit, which produces the opposite effect!).

3. Take a break: You will complete more creative projects if you switch from one to another when you get stuck.

4. Reduce TV time: Television reduces creativity in kids by 11% for every hour of TV watched. For adults it may be worse.

5. Explore other cultures: A 45-minute slide show on China increased creativity scores for a week

6. Follow a passion: Kids allowed to follow a subject they were interested in were more creative than those who were involved in lots of activities.

I would add: Pray to your Creator.

Leadership tips from Tony Hayward (not)


Everyone’s favorite CEO, BP’s Tony Hayward, is being “let go” (for UK readers, that’s an American euphemism for “sacked”). At the Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kanter argues that Hayward gave us “a how-not-to-do-it guide for leadership when disaster strikes.” She says, “Mr. Hayward must have studied management in a parallel universe, where a set of anti-rules for bad leadership are taught. Here’s what I imagine are those anti-rules.

Deny and minimize problems. Drop any mention of the high-minded principles you announced at the beginning of your term, such as safety and a culture that puts people first. Sweep them under the rug as you play down the significance of the crisis. Or better yet, find someone else to blame — a supplier, a business partner, a lowly employee or two.

Emphasize your own power and importance. Keep yourself front and center all the time. Rarely bring forward the rest of the team, nor even indicate that it’s a team effort.

Make the story all about you. Talk about your heavy burdens and the costs to your life. When forced to acknowledge the true victims, pay lip service.

Never apologize, and don’t even pretend to learn from your mistakes. Brush off public disapproval, and persist in the same mindless behavior that provoked criticism in the first place.

Hang onto your job even when it’s clear you should go, in order to negotiate the highest severance package, whether you deserve it or not. Don’t even consider a deferred resignation to allow for smooth suggestion. Cling to power, and keep everyone guessing to the very end.

If you studied in the same “parallel universe” as Tony Hayward, and your world is falling apart too, Kanter points the way ahead:

Just reverse these rules, and the outcome could have been different. Good leaders must face facts, prepare for the worst case scenario, draw on the whole team, show constant concern for stakeholders, acknowledge mistakes and not make the same ones twice, and do the honorable thing if getting in the way of company progress.

And, of course, remember above all the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin.

Thankfully He will never “let us go.”

I hate the telephone

I must be honest. I hate the telephone. OK, maybe that’s too strong. But I must admit it is the one piece of technology that I wish I could do without. I know it’s irrational. And I know I could not live without it, but…

Email can sit in my inbox waiting to be answered. It’s quiet. It doesn’t interrupt me. I can choose when to answer and how much time to spend on the response. With email I don’t need to give uninterrupted attention or rely on my memory of what was just said. Email allows for silent pauses to think. Email requires minimal “smalltalk.” But the phone….

I confess that most of the time my home and office phones are on the answer-phone mode, so that I can get work done and have a family life without constant interruptions. I confess that sometimes, just sometimes, I pull the phone out of the wall so that I don’t even get messages left to respond to. I confess that I don’t have an iPhone, a Droid, or a Blackberry. In fact I have a pay-as-you-go Tracfone that costs me about $3 a month. (There you go, that’s my “technophile” image smashed forever.) I confess that most of the time it is switched off and very few people have my number.

Sometimes I feel very guilty about this and consider therapy. But it looks like I’ve found a kindred spirit at the Unclutterer. He begins his Six tips for organizing your time spent on the telephone with: “I go out of my way not to use the phone, especially at work, and I have found this to be a very effective way to stay on task.”

At the risk of offending all of my friends, here’s a summary of the six tips:

  • Create talking points. Before you make a call, jot down notes about what you need to cover in your discussion.
  • Set a timer. Whenever you call someone, you’re interrupting whatever it was the person was doing before you called. Be respectful of this and make the call as brief as possible. When someone calls you, be up front about how much time you have to be on the phone.
  • Use a headset if you’re on the phone for more than half an hour a day. From an ergonomic perspective, your neck shouldn’t be cramped for extended periods of time. Plus, your hands will be free to do mindless tasks while you’re on your call — filing papers, putting paper clips away in your drawer, etc.
  • Don’t call people and ask whether they received your e-mail. If you are worried someone didn’t receive your initial e-mail, just resend it with a note and the whole content of your previous message.
  • Use the do-not-disturb button. Just because you’re sitting at your desk doesn’t mean that you have to answer the phone. If you need to concentrate intently on work, hit the do-not-disturb button and let all calls go to voicemail for that period of time.
  • Designate a time to return calls. I like to return phone calls from twelve thirty to one in the afternoon, after lunch, when my energy level is low. I get a boost from the people I’m talking to, and it’s a time when most everyone across the U.S. is at work (twelve thirty PM East Coast time is nine thirty AM on the West Coast).

New film and study guide

We are living in the second decade of the digital revolution, a revolution that is proving even more momentous and world-changing than the Industrial Revolution. The personal computer and the Internet have transformed the way we and our children study, play, socialize, shop, learn, and even apply for jobs. If you are a parent, teacher, or pastor, you probably feel overwhelmed by the size and speed of the changes. There are many wonderful new opportunities, but also many dangers.

The newly released film, God’s Technology, presents a Christian response to the digital revolution, and does so in four parts.

Part 1: Four Biblical Principles
Part 2: Three Possible Responses
Part 3: Seven Step Training Program
Part 4: The Seven Steps Applied to Facebook.

The seven step training program lays out seven practical steps to train our children how to use the Internet in a disciplined and discerning way.

God’s Technology is ideal for families, schools, and churches that want to help their children to use God’s good gift of technology in a God-glorifying way. And although it gives parents and teachers many helpful tools, it emphasizes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate firewall for our children.

You can download the 40 minute film in high definition ($5.99) or standard definition ($4.99). The DVD should be ready soon and can be pre-ordered for $9.99. There is also a free study guide available here. Here is the trailer.