Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Reluctant Entertainer

The Reluctant Entertainer
by Sandy Coughlin


This is a beautiful book that is everything it promises --a true guide to simple and gracious hospitality. It is a hardcover book with glossy pages and gorgeous pictures that motivate you to get up and simply invite people in! Sandy doesn't pretend to be Martha Stewart and doesn't expect her readers to be, either. She is open and honest about her burnt piecrusts, uncooperative children, and grumpy days.

But by understanding our true motivations, laughing at our mistakes, and understanding when good enough is truly 'good enough', she shows us how to simply entertain in a way that makes others feel truly special.

Sandy goes several steps further, though, and provides amazingly simple and delicious recipes , LOTS of them, and tells us how to stock our pantries so we are always ready for drop in company. This is a book that won't be read once and then become a dust collector. I'll be using this book often as a reminder of how to simply love others, both in my home and outside of it, to show Christ's love in a hospitable way.

Real entertaining for real people.

Faced with feelings of inadequacy or unrealistic expectations, most women never experience the joy of inviting others into their homes. But no more. Speaking candidly about her entertaining highs and lows, popular blogger and author Sandy Coughlin offers apprehensive hostesses genuine encouragement and practical tips for simple yet savvy entertaining.

Hospitality is not about perfection or complicated, expensive meals. It's about connecting deeply with others--all you need is an open door and an open heart.

Sandy Coughlin writes the inspiring blog Reluctant Entertainer and is a frequent contributor to Crosswalk.com. She loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. A busy mom of three, Sandy is active in various volunteer organizations. She's married to Paul, and their family practices hospitality in their hometown of Medford, Oregon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's No Secret

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Groupfor sending me a review copy.***


Rachel Olsen is a writer, editor, and speaker on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of their online devotions, “Encouragement for Today,” with a readership of more than 375,000. She also writes for and serves on the editorial board of the P31 Woman magazine. Olsen is a national women’s speaker who enjoys interacting with audiences at women’s retreats and conferences from coast to coast.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765377
ISBN-13: 978-1434765376


Always RSVP

Revealing the Secret to Responding to God

Everyone has a story. Everyone chooses to ignore God, (re)define God, or search for God and respond to Him as He truly is. I’ve done all three.

When I was growing up, my family attended church in a brown brick building with stained-glass windows and bright red carpet. The sanctuary smelled faintly of wood. I’m surprised I remember the smell; we weren’t there often—a few times a year.

I don’t remember much about going to church other than feel­ing embarrassed by my mother’s singing. We rarely went, but each time we did Mom sat us front and center, and then she sang as loudly as she could. She sang with passion, but she couldn’t carry a tune with a U-Haul. Being from the South I’m required to follow that criticism with “bless her heart.” (So let it be noted here that I blessed my momma’s can’t-sing-a-lick heart.)26 It’s No Secret

I listened to the pastor’s sermons, but I didn’t understand much about the subject matter. From what I could gather, God was good and He didn’t do bad things. So I concluded that if I wanted God to like me I, too, needed to be good and not do anything bad. Being a proper Southern girl, I very much wanted God to like me.

I thought believing in God and trying to do the right thing was what church was all about. I didn’t realize that—because Jesus lived, died, and rose—I could have a dynamic relationship with the God of the universe and He would delight in empowering me to live well. Instead, I assumed it took willpower. Like a diet or a marathon.

Glimpses of Revelation

When I was twelve, my mother called me into her room and patted the edge of the bed. I sat down beside her. With an unsettled look on her face, she revealed she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. The room started to spin, splintering my carefree world within its centrifugal force.

She explained something about cells and masts. Then she braced me for the likelihood that the treatments would cause her hair to fall out. That did it. I ran from the room crying inconsolably. My momma, sick, without her pretty auburn hair? It was too much for a tweenager to take in. I might have been only twelve at the time, but I understood the importance of big hair to Southern women.

During the months of cancer treatments that followed we went to church more often. About this time our church employed a new minister, and I really liked him. I understood more of his sermons, perhaps because I was desperate, or maybe because I was growing Always RSVP 27

up. All I know is I sensed something stirring in a dormant chamber of my heart.

I asked Mom to buy me a Bible; she did. I sat on the floor one Saturday, sunlight streaming through my window, and read through Genesis. (OK, I might have skimmed a little bit.) Then I skipped to the middle—because I’d never read a book this long—and read through Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke. Then I skipped to Revelation to find out how the book ended.

I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in Revelation, but it isn’t exactly light reading material. Challenging concepts make it difficult to grasp, especially for a clueless tween with no decoder ring. I closed the book, remembering the stories about Jesus. He lived doing good, which reconfirmed my notion that I had to be good and do good to make heaven’s invitation list. I’d finally made a Jesus-sighting, but I was still missing His point. I didn’t hear His message of mercy.

I set out to be and do good. I unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. I invited less-popular kids to sit at my lunch table. I even said “yes ma’am,” and “no sir” to my teachers. But inevitably something would happen to throw me off my good game. Someone would insult me, something would depress me, or some boy would pass a note my way.

After a year or so of mastectomy recovery and radiation treat­ments, my mother’s cancer went into remission. Things returned to normal around our home. Sadly, the preacher I liked so well left to pastor another church, and my interest in the things of God faded as my interest in the things of my peers grew. I didn’t give God much thought during my high school years, preferring to focus on fashion, sports, boys, and music.28 It’s No Secret

Halfway through my freshman year of college, my brother called to tell me Mom had again been diagnosed with cancer. This time, it was a brain tumor. His words sank into my own brain, creating a mass of stress and fret.

One night, I lay alone in my dorm room trying to sleep when I thought I saw Jesus standing in the corner. He didn’t say anything; He just looked at me, His arms extended toward me. He looked just as He did in the statues you see in old churches—long brown hair and white flowing robe. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or hallucinat­ing, but I decided it meant that my mom was going to be OK.

Turned out, the tumor was inoperable. The doctors resorted to chemotherapy and radiation, but I could tell they didn’t think it’d work. I spent my spring semester driving the two hours back and forth between college and home. By exam week I was sick with a sinus infec­tion, probably stress-induced. I’d take an exam, drag myself back to my room and sleep, then stagger—coughing and sniffling—to the next test. At the end of the week, I lugged myself home.

Hope Deferred

That Sunday, Mother’s Day, I visited Mom at the cancer center, determined to keep a smile on my face and do my best to cheer her up. I didn’t want her worrying about me. I purchased a sweet card and wrote, “Thank you for being my mom.” When I arrived, the nurse told me I couldn’t enter her room because I was sick.

I still remember the sterile feeling of the cold, hard floor in the hall outside her room, where I sat and cried. But it’s Mother’s Day, my mind protested between sobs, but she’s dying anyway…. Even today, the memory stings my eyes with tears.Always RSVP 29

A few days later I was better, but Mom had worsened. She came home from the cancer center with hospice care. A couple days after that, she couldn’t respond to me beyond raising her eyebrows at the sound of my voice. Panic set in as I realized I was losing contact. She was sliding away, and I was powerless to stop the inevitable.

Later that evening, my dad and I went out to grab dinner, leav­ing Mom under my grandmother’s watch. As we returned, I spotted a police car parked out front—and I knew. I ran to the bedroom to find my beautiful, vibrant mom lying lifeless.

She was gone. I was seventeen.

That night my life passed before me. Not my history with my mom, but my future without her. Where my prospects once looked promisingly bright, I now saw a haze of uncertainty.

I cried on the shoulder of a family friend. Gasping for breath and wiping away tears, I questioned, “What will I do when it comes time to graduate and my mom isn’t there to pin on my cap and clap? Or when I set out on my own and I don’t have my mom to advise me? What happens when I get married, and have babies, and I don’t have a mom to help me?”

Placing her hands on my trembling shoulders, she stared into my moist eyes. “When those times come, Rachel, God will make sure you are taken care of.” She spoke the words with enough cer­tainty that I resolved to believe her.

Filing that promise away in my heart, I held on to the hope that God would somehow become a mother to me. I had nothing else to cling to. My dad and brothers argued over Mom’s will, then went their separate ways. I didn’t just lose my mom; I lost my whole family that May.30 It’s No Secret

Coming Undone

In the fall I headed back to college, where I majored in journalism. I spent weekends trying to drown my sorrows at fraternity parties. I recall stumbling home one evening and walking into my closet, where I caught sight of one of my mom’s sweaters. My knees buckled beneath me as heavy sobs ensued. I realized the party life wasn’t fixing anything; it was an insufficient distraction. But I didn’t know how else to find relief.

My junior year I met a corduroy-clad young professor with uncommon wisdom and peace. He taught two of my classes, sched­uled back-to-back. As the weather turned cool and leaves crunched underfoot, we’d walk across campus together from one class to the other. I learned he was a Christian. He felt like a safe place. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that way around anybody.

I found myself telling him about my mom, my fractured family, and my uneasiness about the future. I asked him questions about his faith. He answered convincingly, and when the semester ended, he invited me to his church.

Inside that prefab metal building I witnessed vibrancy. Those people possessed hope, joy, and peace, all of which I coveted. I learned about Jesus and how His shed blood washes away my sin and unites me with God—even though I don’t deserve such kindness.

I discovered God doesn’t just want me to be good, He wants me to be in Him—hand in hand, heart to heart. I realized it isn’t just a matter of willpower and proper performance He’s after, but a grow­ing relationship through which He’ll shoulder most of the burden to make me vibrant. Yahweh so desires that I bear His image, I learned, He will transform me into His likeness through His Spirit. He can Always RSVP 31

make the most tarnished Southern belle glorious. In fact, in Him my purpose is found and fulfilled. In coming to Him I’d become a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a bride. All in Him, and all to Him.

After attending church two Sundays, I responded to this divine truth. I walked to the front, acknowledged my need for Jesus, and handed Him the jumbled mess of my broken heart. I asked Him to forgive me, clear the haze, and untangle my knotted-up hopes and dreams.

Inside a priceless decoder ring, God inscribed my initials with an eternal beam of light. In the instant I responded to Christ’s call, I became a beloved daughter of the Most High God and a member of His Yahweh Sisterhood.

The Favor of a Reply Is Requested

You and I need a jeweler’s loupe of sorts to see the secrets Yahweh wants to reveal to us—indeed to see Yahweh Himself. Our basic eye­sight needs some spiritual amplification. We need a divine ointment to anoint our eyes for the task.

Remember that Greek word musterion, meaning a sacred secret revealed by God? Its root word is muo, which means locked up or shut, as in eyes that are closed. In Revelation 3:17–18 Jesus told the people of the church at Laodicea that, although they didn’t realize it, they were spiritually blind. Their eyes were locked shut and could not see God. They were neither seeing nor responding. Jesus counseled them, “Buy from me … salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (v. 18 ESV). Jesus affords us the ability to see, hear, understand, and respond to God. Only Jesus can provide that divine salve we need.32 It’s No Secret

In Matthew 5, we find Jesus perched on the side of a moun­tain near the ancient city of Capernaum to preach. Massive crowds gathered to watch and hear what He had to say. Some in the crowd followed Jesus; they had already opened themselves to His teach­ing. Others desperately sought a miracle or healing. A few counted themselves Jesus’ enemies. Others showed up out of curiosity. They’d heard the rumors and came to decide for themselves if Jesus was a fake, a prophet, or a Savior.

Jesus gazed across the mountainside at the congregation of people. Many eyed Him skeptically, wondering if they would see something that proved a connection to God. He told them, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8 NIV). A pure heart; an authentic heart; a humble, believing heart open to Jesus’ teaching—that’s the currency that buys the salve to allow our eyes to see God. That’s what enables us to respond to God. Lacking it, many heard Jesus’ words without understanding Him or watched His moves without realizing they were staring into the face of Yahweh.

God’s gals understand that only Jesus can open the eyes of a woman’s heart, cleansing them pure enough to see and respond to Yahweh. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Did you catch the secret Jesus reveals here? He said He’s the only way to God, the full embodiment of truth, and the only source of vibrant, lasting life. Jesus is the way we want to go, the truth we need to know, and the eternal life that we crave. You just can’t get to God without going through Jesus. Jesus is our way to God, and God’s way to us.

Jesus is who God wants us to respond to.Always RSVP 33

All religions do not lead to heaven, despite popular opin­ion (John 3:3). God is wise beyond wise and has a purpose for everything He does, and He designed salvation in such a way that believing in God is not sufficient. We must also believe in His Son, who ushers us to Yahweh and shows us how to live His way.

So our membership in the Yahweh Sisterhood—our becoming a daughter of God—happens at Christ’s invitation to follow Him. You cannot buy, earn, or bluff your way in. You must be invited—and you have been. God’s own hand addressed your invitation some two thousand years ago, at the desk of the cross, on the parchment of Christ’s body, in the ink of His blood.

Have you RSVP’d?

A year of high school French enables me to inform you RSVP stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît.” It means “please respond” … don’t put it off … don’t wait and see … say you’ll join me!

If you’ve never responded to Jesus’ invitation to come to God through Him, now is the time. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t put it off until you get your act together—RSVP right now through prayer. Receive the gift of forgiveness offered through Jesus, and ask God to take charge of your life and future. Receive your divine decoder ring. Tomorrow may be too late. Be Jesus’ guest today.

Guest List

In Jesus’ day, a person throwing a soiree sent out servants to issue invitations to the guests and gather their responses. Invitations noted the day of the gathering but not the hour. The hour depended on when everything was ready. 34 It’s No Secret

Once everything was ready on party day, servants again went out to call in the guests. Those who’d said they’d come were expected to be dressed, ready, and waiting that day. When the ser­vant knocked on their door, they were to head immediately for the banquet room.

This scenario mirrors what happens in the spiritual realm. God sent His Son and Servant Jesus to issue our invitation on the cross. Those who accept are born anew spiritually—then expected and empowered to live in such a way that they are ready for the day Jesus will return, calling us to God’s heavenly banqueting table.

Though we don’t know the day or the hour, we will be ushered to a great wedding feast, the marriage banquet for Jesus and His bride. Jesus’ bride is the church, meaning you and me—all who have RSVP’d to His invitation.

I read about this feast in the book of Revelation that day in my room. What I couldn’t grasp fully back then now sets my heart aflutter in a way that nothing else can. I am loved, chosen, adopted, prepared, and betrothed—to the King of Glory. You are too! The wildest thing about this Yahweh Sisterhood? We’re all engaged to the same Man—Jesus—yet no one seems to mind.

You and I must RSVP and ready ourselves for our heavenly wed­ding day. The rest of the divine secrets in this book will purify and prepare us to take our Groom’s hand as He replaces our decoder ring with a wedding band. I don’t want to miss it. Nor do I want to get there and find myself underdressed and unprepared.

Understanding and responding to the twelve divine secrets that follow—internalizing and enacting them—will keep us dressed Always RSVP 35

and ready for the future party. While simply responding to the cross secures our seat at the grand banqueting table, keeping these secrets assures us that our heavenly Groom will look on us with utter delight.

My fellow belles, have you saved the date? Because a wedding feast looms on the celestial calendar. It’s part of your story. And savvy Yahweh Sisters are always dressed and ready for a party!

A Garden Wedding

Twenty days after I graduated college, I had my own wedding feast. I married that young professor, Southern style, in a garden surrounded by azalea bushes in full bloom, three-hundred-year-old oaks drip­ping with Spanish moss, and swans swimming on the lake behind. It was gorgeous.

God not only adopted this lonely girl into His heavenly family, He placed me into Rick’s earthly family. He presented me with three sisters-in-law and countless Sisters-in-Christ. I learned the truthful relevance of Psalm 68; it became the story of my life:

Sing praises to God and to his name!Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.His name is the LORD—rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

God places the lonely in families;he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. (Ps. 68:4–6) 36 It’s No Secret

He’s a Father to the fatherless, and I can testify He’s a mother to the motherless as well. God has guided me, protected me, com­forted me, taught me, and provided for me. He also untangled my hopes and fears and brought me the joyful desires of my heart.

So now you’ll find me in church each week, singing praises to Yahweh and His great name. Oh, and I sing rather quietly when I praise Him in public. It’s not that I’m not extremely thankful—I am. It’s not that I don’t like to sing—I do. And it has nothing to do with embarrassing memories from my church past in that brown brick building with the red carpet.

Truth is, I sing every stinkin’ bit as off-key as my momma did.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Sisters stick together, right?

But you can go ahead and bless my heart over that vocal deficit. I need all the help I can get.


1. Check out this parable Jesus told about a man throwing a feast:

A man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this illustration: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, Always RSVP 37

he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was angry and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.’” (Luke 14:15–24)

What struck you when the people in Jesus’ story made excuses for not being prepared to attend? List the things that preoccupied them.38 It’s No Secret

What excuses do you make for not responding to Christ, or not living “dressed and ready”?

2. Read about the coming wedding feast in Revelation 19:6–10. What does it say about the bride (you) and her wedding dress?

3. Next time you throw a bash at your plantation, Jesus offers this advice for planning the guest list:

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” (Luke 14:12–14)

That’s precisely what God did when He created the Yahweh Sisterhood. He sent out invitations welcoming every one of us to His supper club. The glass slipper fits each gal here. Everyone gets the rose. The King of Glory doesn’t require Always RSVP 39

designer gowns or shiny black limos for us to dine with Him. What a relief!

In the space below, write a thank-you note to your King.

Dear Jesus,


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Leading From the Lion's Den

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Leading from the Lion’s Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible

B&H Books (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Blythe Daniel of The Blythe Daniel Agency, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


Tom Harper is president of the online church leadership community Church Central as well as Net World Alliance, a leading business-to-business media communications company. He lives with his wife and children in Louisville, Kentucky.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805444424
ISBN-13: 978-0805444421


Lionhearted Leaders

A king’s rage is like a lion’s roar;
but his favor is like dew on the grass.

—Proverbs 19:12

All successful leaders are lion tamers. Over time they learn how to calm the roaring beasts, and in those rare instances when a pride  attacks or  a big cat goes berserk, they find a way to survive.

Have you ever found yourself suddenly surrounded by carnivorous critics, competitors, or coworkers materializing from the bushes? Perhaps a snide remark in a meeting or a biting e-mail ruined your day.

This book is a leadership manual on how to deal with the lions in your life, and how to successfully lead in this unpredictable world. When people don’t say what they mean and things aren’t what they seem, we have to rely on leadership principles that never change.

In these pages, you will discover sixty-six powerful leadership concepts from every book of the Bible. The ancient Scriptures speak of conflict management, motivation, planning, psychology, persuasion, passion, relationship-building, training, and sacrifice—a myriad of skills every leader needs in his or her toolbox.

These biblical leadership techniques have worked for thousands of years—but sadly, many leaders ignore them today. Maybe that’s because they’re not quick roads to power, fame, or wealth. Instead, they lead to a life well lived, to true success. And to less pain along the way.

If you master them, you will master your lions.

Lion imagery appears everywhere in the Bible. Even the Lord says of Himself, “He will roar like a lion. When He roars, His children will come trembling from the west” (Hos. 11:10). Jesus is called the lion of the tribe of Judah. He said, “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).

As leaders, we must become like lions ourselves—roaring when necessary, feared by our followers, yet calm and gentle in the heat of the day. And when our people fall into their own lions’ dens, we need to go in and get them out.

The Gems in This Book

Over the past few years, I’ve read each book of the Bible in search of fresh lessons for leaders. This has led me to some amazing discoveries.

For example, I thought the twelve books of the Minor Prophets primarily contained prophetic messages of doom. Little did I know they held secrets to motivating people, turning our careers around, business planning, fighting superior force, and customer research.

When I got to the Gospels, I didn’t think I’d find anything new there, either. I thought everything about Jesus’ leadership tactics had been written. But fresh insights emerged: Matthew demonstrated how to connect with my people the way Jesus did. Luke taught how to discover someone’s true character with three tests. In John, I found three tactics to raise my leadership profile among my peers and followers.

I’ve sought to discover the freshest, most pertinent leadership lesson in every book. When strung together, these sixty-six concepts reveal a meta-narrative about how to lead people. While human research and wisdom are fallible and change depending on time and culture, a plethora of modern research supports the Bible’s forty authors, who themselves were separated by centuries and cultures.

I don’t pretend to have found every divine leadership principle. Many didn’t make it into my manuscript, since the goal was to choose only one from each book. Doubtless some of them won’t be new to you and others will go against the advice of well-known authors. You’ll find many more if you do your own digging.

Perhaps the most significant revelation I found was echoed by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “All of my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.”

The Conclusion of History

Throughout the millennia, non-Christian writers have offered valuable wisdom, like Sun Tzu in The Art of War, the famous sixth-century BC Chinese treatise on battlefield prowess. Many modern military institutions require their students to read it. Though it’s one of the oldest known books on military strategy, thousands of leaders have successfully applied it to the tech-accelerated marketplace of today.

The Bible, of course, is even more ancient. It has provided guidance and wisdom for countless leaders throughout history:1

Robert E. Lee—“In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.”

Theodore Roosevelt—“A thorough understanding of the Bible is better than a college education.”

Woodrow Wilson—“I am sorry for men who do not read the Bible every day. I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and pleasure.”

Abraham Lincoln—“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man.”

Napoleon Bonaparte—“The Bible is no mere book, but it’s a living creature with a power that conquers all who oppose it.”

George Washington—“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Andrew Jackson—“That Book is the rock on which our Republic rests.”

Sir Isaac Newton—“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

Charles Dickens—“The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.”

Well-known marketplace leaders like S. Truett Cathy, founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A, and David Novak, CEO of Yum! and author of The Education of an Accidental CEO (Crown Business, 2007), build their lives and work on a biblical foundation. Author Zig Ziglar credits the Bible with making him who he is today. Ditto John Maxwell, the prolific leadership guru, author of more than thirty books, and former pastor. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great (HarperCollins), found that his so-called “level 5 leader” matched the description of Jesus Christ.

Whatever your vocation, whether you teach, manage, protect, heal, serve the elderly, volunteer, pilot a plane, clean, compete, coach, preach, or parent, it is my hope that the concepts throughout this book will hone your leadership skills and help you find true success in work and life.

And the next time you find yourself in a lion’s den, may the sharpest teeth be your own.


Spark Creativity One Brain at a Time—Genesis

“Creativity is to think more efficiently.”

—Pierre Reverdy, French poet


hen I was a kid, a man who worked with my dad called him the most creative businessman he’d ever known. But Dad could barely draw a stick man. Though he never professed or demonstrated what I considered creativity, he had a knack for artfully solving business and people problems.

Most people don’t think their abilities resemble creativity, either. But I’ve seen a financial executive present bland financial data in the form of a compelling story. I’ve watched in awe as a sales exec adjusted his language to lead a prospect from arms-folded resistance to acceptance.

What does creativity mean to you? Many people think artistry. Others think innovation. Still others go a level deeper. Alberto Alessi, CEO of the Alessi product design firm, said, “We consider our core activity to be mediating between, on one side, the best possible expressions of product design from all over the world and, on the other side, the final customer’s dreams.”2 Another example of creative innovation is NineSigma.com, which connects companies with inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers, and students through an online match-making service. These ad hoc teams create groundbreaking new products and solutions. Many organizations foster creative teamwork through collaborative instant messaging, chat windows, discussion boards, and project groups.

Though online cooperation might appear to be a new kind of brainstorming, it’s actually based on an ancient model of creativity. The concept is simple: the best creative thinking is done when individuals have a chance to think before they collaborate. Not everyone thinks well in groups. Especially introverts like me. We need time to cogitate and organize our thoughts before verbalizing them.

The original act of divine creativity in Genesis was executed by one mind (notwithstanding the Trinity). God didn’t wait to ask us what we wanted. His vision was clear. Later, humans had their chance to invent and originate, but not until the Lord had completed His foundational work.

Throughout the Bible, as you will see, God and His handpicked people model different aspects of leadership. In Genesis, He also models the perfect work and rest ethic. Why shouldn’t He be our model for creativity, too?

We can infer from God’s method of creativity that teams shouldn’t necessarily be exalted over individuals. For example, when most executives are faced with significant problems, they resort to group brainstorming sessions. The problem with these, say social researchers, is brainstorming in a group setting rarely enhances the quantity or quality of ideas. One reason is the fear of peer evaluation. Plus, listening to other ideas can cause us to forget our own. Sometimes people simply don’t have enough time to think of anything.

Another reason group creativity doesn’t work is “social loafing,” when some in the group go silent because they think their contributions aren’t valued, or because they can’t compete with the bolder group members. As a result, the quieter people’s ideas go unspoken. A simple solution is to collect everyone’s thoughts before the meeting, freeing them to think without distractions, anxiety, or time constraints. The leader collects the ideas and e-mails the anonymous list to the group. After refinement, the team meets in person to expand or combine the top-voted ideas.

When you need a creative solution, remember the Genesis model. First analyze the issue without group influence. You’ll then be able to lead your team through the creative process at maximum efficiency, with all the best ideas on the table. If you rally the troops too early for collaborative thinking, too many dysfunctional dynamics and distractions will neuter the creativity, especially with larger groups.

You as the leader are the genesis of creativity in your organization. By encouraging individual thought among your people, groupthink will never have a chance to birth mediocrity.

Leadership Principle #1 (Genesis)

Creative leaders coax the best thinking out of individuals before calling a brainstorming session to combine the minds.

“In the beginning God created the heavens
and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1)