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Innovation vs. Discovery (Part 2 of 2)

The Spirit of Discovery…

I am nearly breathless after trying to describe Innovation in my previous post. I want to now take a look into the spirit of discovery. So, keeping it old School…Webster says that Discovery is, “The act of finding or learning something FOR THE FIRST TIME!

Wow…my heart beats faster, just after reading that definition. You’ve read the headlines…“Her research led to a number of important discoveries. Reporters discovered that the Governor had been unfaithful to his wife. Discovered a talented musician. Voyage of discovery. It was one of the most important discoveries in the history of _____________!”

Discovery! Think of Lewis and Clark and their expedition of discovery. It required teamwork. It required admitting that they had no clue what they were going to really encounter. Discovery has a knack of showing all involved that they are not in control. Discovery forces all involved to admit this phrase; “I don’t know!” Therefore, discovery creates humility.

Here’s what is exciting to me about the key difference between innovation and discovery. I wrote earlier that Innovation breeds arrogance…meaning you have to have some arrogance to breed more arrogance. What’s thrilling about discovery is that it creates humility. Somebody can have total arrogance and they can be put in the environment of “discovery” and they will be forced to be humble. Humility is born in the middle of uncertainty and danger. Opening yourself or your organization to uncertainty and danger creates humility. Innovators have to do what they’re told and use a previous example to do it. Innovation companies rely heavily on their policy manuals. Policy and policing go hand in hand and are abundant in innovator type companies. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is a deep need for policy. The attitude behind the policy is where innovative companies are different from companies of discovery. It’s the difference between arrogance and humility. Discoverers have to rely on and trust each other. Which team would you rather work on? Don’t forget that Innovation and Discovery are both good. I just personally am bent towards discovery and that is the bias you are reading in this article. An example is from the book of “Good to Great” written by author Jim Collins. In his book Collins differentiates between Levels 1,2,3,4, and 5 leaders. Jim collins talks about how level 4 leaders and level 5 leaders can produce very similar results, but a key difference between a level 4 leader and a level 5 leader is humility or lack there of. Level 5 leaders always lead through humility. Level 5 leaders tend to lead companies with the reputation for being Discovery oriented. Now a side note for those looking for some loop holes here. There are many companies known for being a company of discovery and their leaders seem to be arrogant. Maybe a fair example would be Steve Jobs and Apple Inc. Steve Jobs has been accused of being arrogant. However I think there are some fine differences between arrogance, confidence or ego. Many times all of those traits are just written off as arrogant.

A good example of creating humility through discovery would be taking a controlling “type A” person that struggles with arrogance and put him in the front of the raft as you White Water Raft down some serious rapids. This control type person and his arrogance washes away (in this case maybe literally washes away) into humility as everybody else in the raft hears him scream like a girl child who saw a mouse run across the room. HUMILITY SERVED!

That is what I love about discovery. It is teachable.

Discovery is the mentality that focuses only on the cause…even invests fully in the cause regardless of the effect or the end result. I said earlier that I am a pastor. So if I study the life of Jesus I can see that He was a man who even knew the end result or the effect of His life. He was going to be badly beaten, and murdered. Yet he stayed with the cause. By cause, I mean the foundation, the reason, the why, the origin instead of focusing on trying to control the end result, the effect, the outcome. In the people business, like ministry, the outcome/result/effect is God’s job, not mine. My job is to focus on the cause regardless of the effect or result. In the Lewis and Clark discovery expeditions they couldn’t control any effects or results. Every step could have been their end. They had to simply live in the moment and keep discovering what was new around every corner, and river and crevice and tree. The end result for them took care of itself…they desperately needed to stay faithful to the cause and let the effect be just that…the result of their faithfulness and determination to humbly keep in discovery mode.

Innovation focuses on the outcome and effects…the end result. Discovery focuses on the cause…the behavior, while on the journey, no matter the end result. Innovation measures results. Discovery measures faithfulness to the cause. One is motivated by control and one is motivated by love for the cause. One is living for the future and one is living in the moment and letting the future be in the hands of God. It’s a scary thing to leave the results in the hands of God. I think leaving things in the hands of God is the safest risk you could ever take. In the Big Picture of life…the most important things are not at the end of the Journey, its what develops and shapes along the journey that makes champions…and…usually creates the kind of champions that ultimately produced greater results than the innovator. If a climber of Mount Everest only focuses on the end result of attaining the top of the mountain…then what happens once that result is achieved. (Many Everest Climbers have witnessed people who only focused on the end result…and forgot to focus on their next step, resulting in a fall to their death.) Also, once the climbers of Mt. Everest achieve the end result of getting to the top of the Mountain, those who were too focused on the result, many struggle with depression soon after. The Journey…the cause…that’s where great things happen. The end result…tends to be the end.

Discovery is all about the mentality of facilitating the purpose and progress of others. Discovery is fun along the way because of the thrilling unknown yet to be discovered, but it is not about you. It has to be about others. Discovery mixed with selfishness kills people. Discovery, in its purest form, is about team and trust, and reliance on the critical factor that everybody on the team has each other’s interests above their own interests, as they cut a path towards a new discovery.

Discovery admits that the questions never change…but the answers do. So a person of discovery never has the answers for tomorrow and only has his/her own same questions to keep asking.
Jesus taught that people shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, for today has enough problems of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

People with the Spirit of Discovery keep on asking…“How should I treat this person right here right now?” How should I behave as I proceed into this business meeting?” “How can I focus my attitude to deal with this next situation that will impact my company for good?” “In this current conflict, how can I respond to this person to show that I do care about them, even if our conflict results in separation?” “Should I raise my voice and demand accountability for bad behavior with this team I’m about to confront?”
Discovery lives for the cause regardless of the effects/results.

Discovery is focusing on the cause and not the effect…the journey, not the results. It is focusing on the attitude not the end result. Innovation forces an outcome and controls and measures over and over and over. Discovery trusts and cares in the moment and leaves the outcome up to God. Discovery measures, but it measures very different things when compared to an innovator. Sound like a bad business idea? Sound like a plan for the can? If you answered yes to those two questions, you just began to die and your business too. This is the future business model. This is the business model of those that are speeding past you in the success lane of your business as you still are driving in the drive lane of yesterday.

Hopefully you are thinking right now, “I want to be a leader of Discovery!”

The attitude of discovery has no silos. There is a removal of walls that separate people. Innovation creates hierarchies and power pyramids and is led by bosses that control and measure according to a predetermined end result they will strive to achieve at all costs. Bosses and leaders are very different. (Another blog- another time.) Discovery creates circles full of people that honor and trust each other’s strengths. This silo-less circle of discovery team, has a leader without a Boss mentality. Oh, don’t mistake me, the buck must stop somewhere, but the buck stops with the one who is the true leader. A true leader is one who naturally facilitates the purpose and progress of all the others in the circle.

There is no “Boss” in the circle of discovery. Why? Because when you are out discovering and the “boss” finds himself in Quick Sand and about to die, his boss mode just dissipated. He is now the beggar, and now that he is helpless and about to die…depending on how he treated his “underlings,” he might just be left to die and it all be covered up as a tragic accident! I don’t want to be a boss who has everybody kissing my “Assets” out of fear. I want to be a leader who discovers with my team while keeping other people’s best interests ahead of my own. That’s discovery. That’s a level 5 leader.

The spirit of discovery isn’t focused on the organization; its focus is on the environment within the organization. The organization is an end result of a cause that people live for. The end result/organization eventually dies if the end results are all you are pursuing. If the team keeps focus on the cause, and the organization’s environment, then the organization as an end result just grows. Focus on the cause not the effect! Focus on the cause with great purpose and the end result just happens. An end result that happens out of fear, control and force, is not an end result that gets celebrated, except for a bonus check at the end of the year. Who isn’t motivated by a bonus check? The entire next generation of leaders…that’s who.

A discovery type leader rarely, if ever, looks into its own field type for how to do it better. Innovative leaders are so narrowly focused that it rarely, if ever, discovers. However…a company that carries the spirit of discovery can also innovate because it was founded off of discovery. The instant the company of discovery quits the spirit of discovery; its success will die with its last innovation. This company knows its true competition is something out there yet to be discovered and its worst competition is purely itself. I love the slogan on Michael Jordan’s web page. “The only man who could stop Michael Jordan….Is Michael Jordan!” That is true of your company, your church, your family and your self. When a company of discovery finally feels like it has arrived and has the best idea, it has now transformed into a company of innovation and has signed its own eventual death certificate.

Think about it. A company, or in my pastoral sense, a church that begins to decline and fail has only itself to blame. In the church world, the phrase “sheep stealing” is used frequently when people leave one church to attend a different church. If you think about it, well fed sheep don’t stray and most definitely are hard to steal. If your business or your church is losing sheep, then something’s wrong with the quality of your grass. Great churches and great businesses grow great grass and hungry sheep always want to eat.

The company of discovery is full of observation towers instead of silos. It studies and learns (discovery) from its own customer but is full of interaction and actually getting in the life of others outside its own company. A company of discovery never polls its own, only interacts. You can’t poll something that is yet to be discovered and so the company of discovery is full of trial and error. It has a culture of discovery and grace. How many times did Abe Lincoln fail? How many times did Albert Einstein fail? With unknowns around every corner, discovery keeps you and the team humble. It has a great sense of humor and often laughs at itself. It has a mentality of meshing and sharing with others. It has a trust in every individual in the company to utilize and expand on their own personal expertise and strengths. Team and Trust are a must in Discovery Companies. The company of discovery has an attitude of servant-hood and adventure and considers others better than self. There is a fine line here. Its complex. Discovery companies can innovate because they didn’t have arrogance to breed from. Innovative companies rarely discover because they started with an attitude of arrogance. Please understand. I didn’t say one way one is right and one is wrong. It is obvious that I have a bias towards the discovery company and actually carry a bit of displeasure towards companies of innovation. That’s my problem, that I will have to deal with. My simple question is…which company do you want be a part of? Here’s what is awesome about companies of discovery. They never end. They continue to discover and adapt and evolve into the future. The only thing that ends is your ability to work in that company because your age just prevents you from it. Companies of innovation sooner or later celebrate among themselves how they achieved their final result…they nailed their ultimate goal! Hip Hip Hooray….Hip Hip Hooray. Then what? These are the companies people talk about when they think back at what used to be amazing. They usually last one life time. Again…not bad, not wrong. Just not where I personally want to leave a mark on history.

So which one of these two is the company you work in or lead?

Innovative? Then you have good news…you can develop your spirit of discovery and be remarkable. Its time to get your team together and go where no man has gone before. Its scary! It creates humility. Are you up to it?

Discovery? Then stand guard, for it is very easy to start coasting…which can only happen on a downward slope. The instant you think you have arrived, you have now transformed into innovation, but that is okay, because you can make up your mind to go discover some more!

I hope you will discover who you are.
I hope you will discover what could change the world and make it better.
I hope you will discover the freedom of working humbly with a team.
I hope you will discover that the greatest joy in life is helping others achieve their dreams and desires.
When you discover that, you will be living your own dream.
The journey will be unbelievable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and push backs. I by no means am an expert in this. I am simply thinking out loud. I like to think it all makes sense, but I’m sure there are gaps. I’m still discovering what really works for me and its an adventure that is quite thrilling and very humbling.

Go Discover!


Innovation vs. Discovery (Part 1 of 2)


Are you a person of INNOVATION or a person of DISCOVERY?
They are similar yet very different.

I have been in multiple meetings and have been asking some questions about people’s perceptions of me and of our whole organization. I have had much discussion in the past year of my life about perceptions. People’s perceptions are people’s reality. People’s reality tends to be their truth. People’s first impression of you might be false, but it will be their truth about you. How people perceive you is more crucial than you might like to admit. What are you doing about how people perceive you? How do people perceive you? I want to talk about two popular kinds of American leadership styles that influence how people perceive us. The two styles I want to talk about are the all too famous spirit of Innovation style and compare it to the a style I am in favor of, the spirit of Discovery style.

Please understand that innovation and discovery are strengths and each is important and good. Innovation and Discovery are strengths and attitudes that have a place in society. I am in the people influencing business (Aren’t we all in the people influencing business?”) So I am confident that the spirit of discovery creates more success than the spirit of innovation. This article is long and I hope you can journey with me through this thought process. If, I believe that Discovery is more success oriented than innovation, you must know by now that this article will take a leaning towards being a bit critical towards innovation. If you differ with me in this I would be glad to hear your comments.

In order for you to answer the question as to whether or not you are bent more for innovation or discovery you will have to understand each concept well. I am no expert on the two, but I have taken the time to thoroughly think and study these topics and I hope you can learn from my gleanings.

The Spirit of Innovation
Let’s start by going “Old School” and see what Webster says innovation is. I had to blow the dust off the top of my dictionary sitting on my dusty bookshelf. The dust reminded me to be deeply thankful for the internet. Webster says that innovation is, “to make changes, or do something in a new way.” In Non-webster terms I would say it this way. Innovation is to take something old and make it useable in a new way. Innovation is reformation. Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here
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Innovation is doing something old in a new way. Innovation is a new and improved way. So far, innovation sounds like a great style. I’m not opposed to the product that innovation creates, I’m nervous about what the spirit of innovation actually does to the innovators. When a group of people innovate something, they become very loyal to the newly innovated product. (By product I mean anything they created. It could be a philosophy, it could be a method of leadership, it could be a brand, or it could be an actual usable product.) This loyalty to the newly innovated product causes the innovator to love what they have innovated. Why? Because they innovated it. It is theirs. They understand it, they helped build it. They sat in the room as the innovation was being argued about. THEY argued about it. It makes sense to them and to the organization that innovated. To the people of the organization, this innovation doesn’t do anything wrong. What it does is the best it could do under the circumstances. Someone who knew what you know would make the very same decision, because under the same circumstances it was the only/best option. So they innovated and they love their newly innovated product.

So…of course, the world should buy from them or commit to them and their product. They innovated, which makes them think they did it better. If they think they did it better they also think they DO it better. They innovated. Innovation is good…Right? That’s a brief explanation of innovation. In short, innovation is to take something old and reform it into something, in your opinion, that is better.

There is a dire side to innovation. Once innovation actually happens, the innovator naturally thinks their innovation is exceptional. It’s human nature to think this way. The innovator loves their new innovation. Once they believe in it, as exceptional, it is almost impossible to innovate again. Why? Because innovation is making something work better. For an innovator to re-innovate is to admit that whatever they first innovated is now needing improvement. Remember, to innovate is to take something and make it better.

When an innovator has total buy-in towards their innovation and it begins to not be as successful as they wished, they will naturally say, “not fair.” No innovator ever wants to admit that their innovation is no longer working. When they believe their innovation is good they will no longer innovate because it’s too hard on the ego. No innovator wants to admit that their innovation needs innovated.

Another problem with innovation is that anything innovated is really not new. It has a façade of new. But it’s not new. Grocery Store shelves are labeled with bright new advertising screaming their message “new and improved.” However, in reality, it’s the same old product with a small tweak, but is marketed as innovated/new. Is it really new?

To innovate something is to think with an attitude of, “needs improvement.” Such an attitude is not necessarily a bad thing. Great leaders have the ability to see what’s not working and so whatever is necessary to make it work. What I’m focusing on as I compare the spirit of innovation to the spirit of discovery, is attitude and motive. An attitude of “that needs improvement” is usually preceded by an attitude of “I can do it better.” It’s very difficult to have an “I can do it better attitude” and not be perceived as arrogant.
The person who think they can do something better naturally must criticize whatever they they think should be better. It’s nearly impossible to do this without being perceived as arrogant. The innovator may not actually be arrogant, but is perceived as arrogant. Remember earlier when I said, “People’s perception is their reality and truth.” So, the reality is that the spirit of innovation breeds arrogance. Innovation doesn’t lead to arrogance. I said, breeds arrogance. To breed arrogance you need arrogance to start with. Innovation breeds arrogance. Arrogance innovates and breeds more arrogance. I can’t help but think back to the old movie “Gremlins” and how the arrogant ones just kept breeding. “Just add water!” There are some common errors that innovators make that create their own demise. The Wall Street Journal recently came up with a list of 5 commons mistakes of Innovators. I will give a brief description of the mistakes and if you want to read the full article you can go to HYPERLINK “http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/05/23/five-common-mistakes-business-leaders-make-about-innovation/?mod=google_news_blog” http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/05/23/five-common-mistakes-business-leaders-make-about-innovation/?mod=google_news_blog

The five common errors of Innovators…And I added a number 6.
1. You believe your own numbers. You insist on “seeing the numbers” too soon and all you have to base your numbers, is your past statistics. Remember that innovation is really not creating something new it is simply taking something old and making something that you think is better. Having a mentality that numbers are the most important thing creates a leadership mindset that RESULTS matter most. I said earlier that I am in the people influencing business. To be more specific, I am a Christian Pastor. Anytime in the Bible that Men/People focused on the results is when that man caused great damage. Innovation plays this dangerous game because it tends to focus too much on results instead of the more important focus of CAUSE which I will share in the discovery section.
2. The Success Trap. When a company gets financial success because it got very good at what it does, it begins to focus on the thing that made it successful. This focus on “what got us here” causes a crowding out of other options and points of view. This might bring immediate further success, but in our culture of fast change, it is only a matter of time before the innovative company gets trapped in the one thing they do so well. Getting trapped also means narrowly focusing on that one thing usually ending in all the eggs getting put in one basket. This causes success fragility. This usually happens to very large successful companies and their death is a frustratingly slow and agonizing death. I believe in our culture of fast pace and change…the slow death isn’t even reality. The company that gets stuck in the success trap has a vividly fast way of becoming obsolete. In fact, in his book “In Search of Excellence,” by Peters and Waterman, the authors tell the fate of 43 companies recently leading the world that got caught in this trap. Today only 5 of those 43 companies even exist.
3. Believe they know the competition. The innovative company makes a huge mistaken identity gaff when it comes to identifying the competition. Ask your innovative companies CEO, “Who is your competition?” They will usually reply with the company that is most like them. The problem with this is that history proves that our greatest competitors usually come from a different angle. i.e. Shipping companies suffered from the steam engine, newspapers are in trouble because of the internet, watch companies suffer because of time being displayed on mobile phones. In my opinion, Innovative companies get so caught up in the love of themselves that their greatest competitor is also their greatest enemy…themselves! Most wives know this of their husbands. A husband’s greatest enemy is usually himself.
4. Believe that because everybody had always done it this way, it is the best way of doing the next “new” thing. This is my greatest problem with innovative companies. They think they are on to something “new” but in reality the definition of innovation is making something new from something old. So it’s not really new, right? It’s just innovated and feels new. This is a huge problem for companies who are trying to innovate into uncharted territory. I have been in the leadership of a very successful church. In fact, this church has seen so much success that for them to go to new levels means they have no examples to follow in this American Culture. There is nothing to innovate on. If they think innovating is going to take them to the next level, they are never going to get to the next level. For instance, when America landed on the moon. Innovation built the rocket, the space suits, space food, etc. But innovation is not what Neil Armstrong could build off of when he put his hand on the door hatch and opened the door to outer space and took his first step onto the moon’s surface. That was sheer discovery. You can’t innovate that. It had never been done before! When your company is leading the way, and you choose to move forward through innovation, then you have just signed your contract that says you are guaranteed to no longer be in first place. Maybe even just signed your death certificate. Your company, if its leading the way, has to be in the Discovery mentality to go to the next level because there is nothing to innovate off of.
5. Asking the customers for their opinions. The innovative company is really good at answering the questions that their non-customers are NOT asking. The customers have already bought into the company. Why are we asking them what they want? It actually gets worse…Think about it, the company’s leadership team, that has innovated its idea from an old idea, is now sitting around the table making decisions based off of what has been done to try to keep going to next level. This company starts making decisions based off of keeping the already reached customers happy while there are new and unreached people waiting to be “Discovered!” This is innovation’s greatest downfall. Once you innovate something, your own human nature won’t let you innovate anymore because the team would have to admit that their innovated idea “used” to be a good innovation. Meaning its failing now. An innovative company never wants to admit that its innovated product no longer works. To not admit failure is pride and arrogance. “Pride comes before the fall.” Bottom line…Innovation works really hard to appear right, regardless of the actual results that are taking place. It is fascinating to me that innovation is all focused on results, but even when the results are headed in the downward trajectory, the innovator would rather believe the lie that things are okay instead of admit that the innovation they created no longer is working. “Every bad idea, used to be a good idea!” Innovation…it’s a vicious cycle.
6. Stop taking ultimate risks. This sixth point is my opinion. Most innovative companies are led by people who ultimately ARE NOT what could be defined as risk takers. There is a difference between risk taking and calculated risks. Innovative Leaders are “safe risk takers.” They only take calculated risks with what they understand. The problem with this lies in the fact that if you are the company in the lead…which means nobody has gone before you on this journey…you can’t calculate what to do, because their has been nothing done to calculate. There is nothing to do but risk. Companies in the lead usually end up not being in the lead anymore, because the Leader ran out of ideas to innovate from. The company that is top dog begins to focus on how much there is to lose and they begin to settle in on their success and begin to “play it safe.” Its like a Pro football game. The game is close. The winning team has the ball and its just the beginning of the 4th quarter. The offensive coordinator decides to try to protect the lead and thus changes the game plan from, ‘playing to win’ to ‘playing not to lose.’ What usually happens when that game plan is employed? Its called an upset. The team that was in the lead should not have started playing not to lose. They should have kept playing to win. A company that is leading the world in their field has nothing to innovate anymore, and pride to often prevents this leading company from innovating on itself. This company now is headed into uncharted territory and can no longer innovate. This company can only open themselves up to new learning experiences that will make them feel uncertain at best and incompetent at worst. This is hard for an innovative company to shift into, but it can be done. It usually takes the company leader becoming a total risk taker. Due to the fact that there is nothing to innovate on, the leader must now become like Neil Armstrong and go into the uncharted new! This is the mentality of DISCOVERY, and my next blog post will be about that very issue!


Trajectory – Shift Happens

One decision, one person, one integrity problem, one accident, one encounter…and your entire life trajectory can be altered for eternity. We are all just one decision from having our entire life trajectory being altered for eternity. I have never in my life imagined living in Orlando Florida. I planted a church in Phoenix Arizona and dreamed to be the Lead Pastor of that Church for 40 years and then retire and pass the baton to one of my sons and ask to have the Church broom so I could be the Church Janitor and best cheerleader the new pastor could dream of. To be perfectly honest I hate the phrase, ‘If you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans.” I hate it, but I get it.

I am completely dumbfounded, flabbergasted, blown away, that I now live in Orlando Florida. My family’s trajectory change has moments of thrill and moments of chill…yah…the bad kind of chill. One decision… has me living 2,180 miles from anything I have ever known and facing giants and obstacles that make my skin crawl, my heart ache, my blood pressure to rise, and my heart to beat faster for the thrill of the challenge. One decision led to this. One decision that I know I was supposed to make. How do I know that I was supposed to make it? Because God told me to. It was so clear that, if I had to make the decision again, knowing what I know now, I would have to make the same decision because God was that clear. Steve Jobs said that we can never connect the dots looking forward, only looking back. Others say we all have 20/20 hindsight.

So the average comfy Christian would reply to my paragraph above, “Its okay, Trent…God must have wanted you to live in Orlando Florida and have you doing what you are doing now…or… what happened wouldn’t have happened, its all God’s plan…so let go and let God.” Isn’t that convenient. I’m not a Calvanist and I think that answer is a copout. Its wrong to place all the blame or responsibility on God. Its easy to blame God for the disasters/trajectory changes going on in your life. When you blame God nobody else has to accept responsibility. The phrase, “God’s Got This” is true but that is different than saying God caused this. Want an example?

Adam and Eve. Did God plan and intend for them to break His rules of not eating of the specific trees in the Garden of Eden? Did God tell Himself before He created Adam and Eve….”Hey I’m going to create this thing called people and I am going to love them because I made them in my image to be like me…but in my plan I’ve got this little fun twist I want to play around with…I’m going to cause them to screw it all up. I am going to watch them become ashamed of each other and then I plan on watching them kill each other and then I’m going to kill my own Son to pay the price for their screw ups and how fun it will be…because I”m gonna blow them all away by raising my son from the dead after I kill Him! God leans to His right and asks His Son…”Sound Cool, Jesus?” “You up for this great plan, Son?” Jesus says, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, Dad.” God replies, “Oh, Jesus…don’t be a bad sport. You can do it! Think of the adventure!” So God proceeds with his “will” and for thousands of years orchestrates rapes, gangster murder, divorce and hate, suicide bombers, as He leans back into His memory foam love-sac and from His game room in His gated community called Heaven, xbox 360 controller in hand, intensely playing through His favorite game called Life. Press X for Jump, Y to knife, UP arrow to receive prayer, DOWN arrow for eternal punishment…

Too cynical for you? Yah…me too…I’m in a sassy mood. Its been a rough week. It all makes we want to scream from my roof top that Life was never intended to be this way. If you can read through my cynicism there’s actually a good lesson here.

Trajectory Shift. Your’s might shift tomorrow. Everything you’ve been doing for the past 13/20/60 years could be completely annihilated before your very eyes…tomorrow. If it happens you’ll be put in a trajectory change that will make you question everything you thought you knew about life, the people around you and leave you screaming, Why?!” Ask yourself… Do you trust that person you are about to make the deal with? Do you trust your spouse? Do you trust your dad? Do you trust that taxi driver as you jump in the back seat. Do you trust the engineer who just built the bridge. Do you trust the man who put the bolt in the truss hanging over your head in that giant football stadium? Do you trust the driver on the other side of the dotted yellow line? Do you trust the councelor who is meeting behind closed doors with your child? Do you trust the guy working under you as he sees the rungs of the ladder above you? Do you trust the spiritual mentor you’ve had in your life for the past 20 plus years? Do you trust your preacher and how he handles the church finances? Do you trust the man dressed up in a SWAT uniform carrying a gun across the parking lot of the movie theater? Trust and Trajectory shifts…they go hand in hand.

Its tough to walk the fine line of trusting someone, something, and at the same time making sure everybody signs the dotted line of security.

In God We Trust…everybody else pays cash and signs the agreement.
I’ve learned in the past year about trust and security and trajectory shift. God is the only one we can fully trust without thinking much about it, without worry, without stress. He always has our best interest in mind, even if it doesn’t feel good. Everybody else…you will have to choose to trust, it will require some security backup like contracts and waivers. Even then its a finicky trust. Its a trust that if all parties aren’t seeking the best interest of each other it will end up in a trajectory shift in your life that will take your breath away and you will be bothered by it the rest of your life. Shift Happens!

I chose to trust. 20/20 hindsight proves that it was a blind and naive trust. I didn’t have anybody sign the agreement that I wrote up. I didn’t get perfect clarity before I committed. I feel like a dummy. I trusted. I quietly pulled back the paperwork, folded it in half and slid it in my back pocket. Oh…I’d like that 20 seconds of time back. I believed in the idealistic dream that everybody has everybody else’s benefit in mind. You see…it takes two to make a plan work right. It takes all parties listening to God and behaving like God to make God’s plan work. Even one entity thinking only for themselves and the deal is bust. Trajectory Shift starting in 10…9…8…

I do not blame anyone, but myself. I don’t blame the other party. I most definitely do not blame God. I’m just heart broken over all the shift! Its a load of shift. I’m sick to my stomach…frequently…about it all. What does a man do now? I know the answer to that question!

You get up, shake the dust off your clothes and put your feet on the ground and start over. What else can you do? It doesn’t work to keep laying in the dirt bloodied and pathetic. It doesn’t work to listen to the voice of the critic. It doesn’t work to listen to the voice of one who is celebrating as you suffer the shift. You get up! Tomorrow arrives consistently everyday. Time keeps ticking whether I want it to stop or not. I must choose to fully grasp the shift and make the most of it. Shifts make for new beginnings, new places, new plans. Pain and trajectory shifts are twins. Pain doesn’t mean its bad, its just reality. Trajectory shifts means somebody didn’t get what they hoped for. That causes agony, but new beginnings too. My trajectory shift has landed me in another part of the country and feels like another part of the world. My trajectory shift has me realizing that everybody is the same whether you live in Arizona or in Florida…Uganda or Peru…Jerusalem or Paris.

I am truly understanding for the first time in my life what the Bible means by all Creation groans for the return of the King, Jesus Christ. I used to think only weak people groaned for the return of Jesus. I’ve realized its just the opposite. People who really haven’t faced a crushing trajectory shift in their life, who sit under the umbrella of false security and false contentment are the soft ones who don’t understand why people groan for the return of Jesus. If you aren’t groaning for the return of Jesus you have the “blessed” position of comfort and a life truly unaltered. You’ve gotten your way for too long. To this type of person, it is alarming to think of Jesus returning, for life is too good to have it all end now. Death terrifies this type of person because life is too good. What a crazy, wild, out of control world we live in…its quite thrilling if you think about it. I guess its all how you view life.

I am astonished at the patience and love that Jesus carried with Him every minute of the short time He lived here as one of us. He encountered such selfish people. On rare occasions we can see when He encountered a person that “inspired” Him. It was usually a person who had faced incredible hardship and trajectory shifts in their life. It takes my breath away when I think about how much restraint, that God the Father must have, to NOT send His Son back down here to settle the score once and for all and end the nonsense, the selfishness, the clamoring for power and privilege and position. Fighting for who answers to who. Scheming to get what they want when they want it. I want to scream…Jesus…please stop the madness! God’s patience is maddening to me and at the same time a beautiful gift to me. And you!

Its enough to make a pastor throw in the towel of ministry to go work at Home Depot. But…

No chance.
I’ll never quit.
Yes…I said it…Never.

I have been crushed. The crushing has made me smarter, harder, more aware. I’m not sure if all of those things are good or not? I assume it depends on how I use those knew weapons from this day forward.

Time tells all things. Trajectory shift changes all things.
For now…the trajectory has shifted. Shift happens. I can handle it. It just makes me weary. I must rest…for tomorrow is guaranteed to begin. The sun will rise. The Son will return. In the mean time….
I’ll try not to screw it up. If I do…that’ll change the trajectory again. Trajectory change wouldn’t be so bad if it was just me that it affected. The trajectory shift I experienced a year ago…because of one decision,…affected more than 20,000 people. Their trajectory was altered, even though multitudes of them will never know. I wish it would have just affected me. I faced an incredibly scary decision just a few nights ago that I had to make. I made it and my trajectory has shifted again. This trajectory shift has affected nearly 1000 people. In the next few days and weeks all involved with experience more trajectory shift because of the choices of a few.

I wonder if there is a viewing room in Heaven where we can someday go to see what should have been or what could have been if all parties would have just acted like Jesus. I don’t think an actual room exists, though, because the Bible says there will be no tears. Sitting in the viewing room of what should have been, would make any viewer watching their “should have been life” flash before their eyes, cry. If there was such a room, it would have a no vacancy sign on because it would be full of those who insisted that their life stay the same. It will be full of people who clawed and fought for only what they want. The video playing in that room will terrify those who refused to change, stretch, grow, give and risk. If you haven’t faced tremendous trajectory shift in your life, it will only be a matter of time. I think there are two kinds of people in the world. Those coming out of a crushing trajectory shift and those who are getting ready to enter a crushing trajectory shift.

As hard as the trajectory shift is…the shift is actually a gift from God. This wasn’t all in God’s plan. I will never know what God had planned in the plan before this trajectory shift. I will be thought provoked for the rest of my life wondering what could have been if everybody would have stayed in God’s will.
The things that happened has caused God to have to change His plan. It has caused God to pick up the ashes
What does a man do in this situation?

It makes him simply say…What now Lord? Here I am use me.

Trust God that He didn’t cause this trajectory change. Man did.
Trust God at His word that He’ll make beauty from ashes. He will.

The Shift is a Gift!

May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground.
Carry on.

Trent


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 21 (Mt. 5:41) “Two Miles”

41 “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

In the previous two posts, Jesus commands us to “turn the other cheek” and “give until you are naked.” I have presented a different way to think about these commands from Jesus, by using and understanding the Hebrew Culture that Jesus grew up with. This passage about going two miles when asked to go only one is no different from the previous two posts. I want to present an ancient Roman law that Jesus would have been familiar with that I think He is referring to in this command.

DRINK IT IN:
The ancient Roman law I am referring to is called the Law of Angaria. You can do a search via the internet and find all kinds of information about this ancient rule. The Law of Angaria was enacted as a way to keep the Roman Empire from looking uncivilized. The Roman Empire wanted to be known as a dominating force, yet civilized. So, the Roman Empire adopted a law that the Persians created. This law gave authority to any Roman official…Military or not…to require of any person or vessel, living in Roman occupied territory, to carry anything the Roman official needed carried, but only for one mile. (If we got really technical, 1000 steps) If the official was caught having the person carry something more than a mile, he could be reprimanded, demoted and in some cases potentially put to death. The Law of Angaria is what the Romans used when they forced Jesus to carry his own cross. Its fascinating to know, that the distance between the place where Jesus was put on trial and the actual crucifixion sight (Golgotha or Skull Hill), was right at one mile. There are arguably two location where Golgotha is located, and both locations are right at one mile of distance from the Trial location.

So, Jesus tells his listeners,”If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Is it possible that Jesus is being a bit ornery here? You have to agree with me that it is likely. Again, to repeat what I said in the previous two posts, Jesus does command us to be as sly as a snake and innocent as a dove. He does tell us to conquer evil by doing good.

Imagine an arrogant Roman officer demanding that you carry his pack for one mile. He has the right to do so because it is the law of the land. You, as a Christian, comply and you do exactly as the Roman officer commands you. As you traverse with the Roman officer for a mile, he would expect you to stop and return the pack. Imagine, without saying a word, you continue carrying the pack and you cross the one mile threshold. Not only are you doing an act of service and kindness to this Roman officer, that used the law of the land to take advantage of you, but you now have strategically and legally caused this Roman officer to be at your mercy. Its a double win for the Christian! Of course, as a Christian you are not going to mistreat this travel partner of yours, but you most definitely have the upper hand now. He knows he could be demoted for this situation and you now have the control. I have read about early Christians and have ventured across some stories of Christians walking the second mile with Romans and using the extra time to tell of the story of Jesus as the Son of God and the only way to Heaven.

I assure you, that after this happens once to any Roman, he would not use the Law of Angaria on a Christian again.

Be as a sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.
Conquer evil by doing good.

The early Christians had quite a reputation in the Roman Empire. A good and strong reputation. It fueled a great fire of hate within the belly of the bully. It caused unbelievable persecution upon the Christians. That very persecution, caused the message of Jesus, to spread like a wildfire out of control. Except it was controlled. God had it right where He wanted it.

SWEAT IT OUT:

Is there someone in your life who is trying to dominate you? Figure out a way to strategically and lovingly put them in their place. Do it without sinning. Our world needs more demonstrations of the strength and holiness and wisdom of Christianity. Be very careful with this. Remember that you and I are always one decision away from blowing our credibility. This also means that you and I are always one decision away from hurting the credibility of Jesus.

Romans 12:20 (NIV) says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

I think it is fascinating that the author actually writes the part about heaping burning coals upon their head. That’s ornery. That’s strategic. Its not nice. Yet, according to the Bible, its not wrong!

Somewhere along the way of life, we confused the love of Jesus with simple nice-ness.

So, you know your circumstances. You know most of the people you encounter everyday. Right?

So, as you encounter these people today and tomorrow and the next, what do they think of Jesus because of you and your actions? Are they inspired by your strength, strategy, humility, boldness, wisdom, servanthood, innocent conquering ability?

Go inspire!


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 20 (Mt 5:40) “Naked”

“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
Matthew 5:40

Did you read, Hydrate 19 yet? Its a bit long, but only because it lays the foundation for this command of Jesus’ too. If you don’t read Hydrate 19 before you read this one, it might cause a little confusion as you read this one, and the next one.

I mentioned in “Hydrate –Winning from the inside 19″ that I have traveled to the Holy Lands several times and while there I always make it a point to visit with any elderly Jewish person, that will speak with me, about some things that Jesus said. My first time to the Holy Lands I encountered an elderly Jewish woman who shared with me some ideas about Jewish history that might help some of Jesus’ commands and teachings make a bit more sense. As a reminder, Jesus was born into a very devoted Jewish family. Jewish law and tradition would have been reinforced in Jesus’ family. He would have obeyed the Jewish Old Testament laws. All 613 of them. Many times, as you read a New Testament passage and it causes confusion, the best way to make sense of it, is to sift it through Jewish Culture. Hydrate’s 19,20 and 21 are all teachings that I have sifted through Jewish Culture.

DRINK IT IN:
Jesus says in this passage, that we are devoting ourselves to today, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

I have heard many messages and teachings on this passage, and each one that I have heard, has only left me disappointed and frustrated at what seems to be a teaching on how to be a wimpy christian. The way I have heard this passage taught, leaves me thinking, that in order to be a good Christian boy, I am not allowed to stand up to anyone. I’m not allowed to push back with my words. I am not allowed to be strong and bold, but should be passive and weak. What has happened in our society, that people think to be Christian means, we must be timid and quiet? The only scene I can think about in Scripture, where Jesus MIGHT have appeared to be a “walking mat,” a push-over, or “wimpy,” is when He allowed Himself to be beaten, flogged, mocked, and humiliated during the crucifixion. While watching the Mel Gibson movie called “The Passion,” I kept wanting to stand and yell during the crucifixion scene, “Fight Back, Jesus!” But, I recognize, that Hollywood and the American revenge mentality, caused me to want to shout. That attitude has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. You and I both know that Jesus didn’t fight back, or rarely even talked back, during His nearly 18 hours of torture, before He died from asphyxiation on the Roman Cross. Why? Because Jesus knew His entire purpose, for living amongst us, was to lay down His life for us so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins. Of course He wouldn’t fight back during the crucifixion. If He did, it would have negated His entire purpose and most importantly would have been disobedient to His Father.

So, with that…
I challenge you to find me one other time in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John where Jesus didn’t push back on those who were trying to take advantage of Him. You won’t find one. In EVERY OTHER SCENARIO, Jesus always showed a strong demeanor and never allowed the “bully” to get away with pushing others around. In fact, you will find just the opposite. Read through the four gospel accounts in the Bible and you will find Jesus making a whip, knocking over tables, calling the religious leaders terrible names, exposing the religious bullies’ sins, and causing them to drop the stones they intended to throw, He even called out the sin of the Samaritan woman. You get the idea? What is amazing, is that, in those forms of strength, He remained sinless and perfect. So, why is it that we seem to have allowed His ‘submissive’ demeanor during the crucifixion…a one time scenario…to overrule the multitude of scenes where He didn’t submit, but conquered the evil around Him by doing good?

So, what the heck did Jesus mean when He said if someone takes you to court let them have everything? In Jesus’ time it was common to have two pieces of clothing that you wore every day. First, the Tunic – a long piece of plain cotton or linen cloth as an undergarment for the upper body, but sometimes reaching all the way down to the ankles. In today’s culture we would call this our underwear. I am thinking that we wouldn’t like these as underwear today. A tunic was not what we call “tighty-whities,” or “boxers.” The second piece of clothing, that was commonly worn, is the Cloak– a robe worn over all of the other items of clothing as an outer garment for warmth and appearance.

In Jesus time there were other “accessories” that people wore like, belts, sandals, prayer shawls, but the two key pieces of clothing were your Tunic and Cloak. Without the tunic or cloak one would basically be naked.

So, Jesus says, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well,” this means that Jesus is telling you to give of your tunic too, and you will be left naked. If I allowed this to happen while in court during the time period of Jesus, I would have to go home naked, or would I? This is where it gets good!

As I spoke with the elderly Jewish woman, I mentioned earlier, I asked her about this passage and told her why it frustrated me. She shared something pretty cool about the Old Testament that I had never thought about. She said there are Old Testament Scriptures that suggest it is a curse to see someone naked other than your spouse. She said that it is okay to be naked, but not to be seen naked. I asked her if she could remember any of the passages that she was referring to. She shared with me three things, two stories and one scripture verse. The first story she told me is when Adam and Eve recognized they were naked in Genesis 3 and how they used leaves to cover each other’s sexual parts because they felt ashamed. The second story she told me was of Noah and his three sons recorded in Genesis chapter 9. It is the story that happens right after Noah’s family comes off the Ark after the great flood. The Bible story is below and is found in Genesis 9:18-27.(NIV)

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded[a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s[b] territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

Q: What did Noah’s youngest son, Canaan, do to Noah that caused Canaan to be cursed?
A: He saw his father naked.

The elderly woman told me that in the Jewish culture, because of this specific Bible story, Jewish tradition says that it is a shame to see someone, other than your spouse, naked. Now, please be patient with me in this understanding. I have tried to verify this by looking in books, commentaries, ask Jewish people in America, and even Google it, and I find very little to verify it. I say, “take it or leave it.” I choose to take it, because it helps me understand this passage of having your Cloak and Tunic taken from you, as a passage of strength, not weakness. Please note the following. Whatever you believe about this specific idea, it is a non-essential Biblically. As I said in previous chapters, this entire Hydrate series is a devotional thing, not a theological thing. If I ever make it a theological issue, I will mention it, as so, specifically. So…back to the point.

Don’t forget that Jesus said things like, “Conquer evil by doing good.” Also, “Be sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.” The elderly Jewish woman helped me understand these passages when she told me about this Jewish tradition. Let’s play it out in a mock court room. Imagine that I am in court and someone has chosen to sue me for my Cloak and they win and in the process of taking my cloak, I go ahead and strip naked and give them my tunic as well! What did I just do to this person…now that they would have seen me naked? I would have caused them to be “cursed” in a very strategic and innocent way. I actually conquered them by doing something good! Jesus said, “Conquer evil by doing good!” By them seeing me naked, because I gave my cloak AND my tunic, I was innocent to do so, but sly as a snake as well as I conquered the evil they were doing to me.

I think this understanding is a way to, as we like to say, “kill people with kindness.” For my enemy to sue me for my cloak and win, but then, I give him my tunic as well, I am treating my enemy with kindness, I could pray for him, I serve him, yet I show him not to mess with me, a Christian! I treated him with kindness AND “beat him in his evil game.” I will leave an impression with my accuser that I am smart, kind, strong, and most definitely not timid. I love that! (The next blog will build on this even more.)

Now to be fully forthcoming, there is one other idea out there about this teaching of Jesus’. I mentioned the elderly Jewish woman shared with me three Old Testament scenarios about nakedness. The third passage, she shared with me, is Isaiah 58:6-8(NIV), it reads,

“6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Verse 8 says, “when you see the naked, clothe them.” If you think with me back to the courtroom scene, it is obvious this passage would be a way to conquer evil by doing good as well. If you gave your cloak and your tunic to your accuser, your accuser would see you naked and would then be in a moral dilemma as to whether or not he wanted to break the old testament commandment of Isaiah 58:7. When the accuser saw you naked He would then be forced, by His own conscience, to give you your tunic back, which would show that He now was defeated by you! Or, he could ignore the Old Testament command in Isaiah and deal with his own sin and guilty conscience. Either way, you stood up to your accuser without doing anything wrong. You conquered evil by doing good! Does this understanding give you clarity on how to be a christian without being a wimp? I hope so.

SWEAT IT OUT:

How do we make this relevant today? I think that each of us must think of our current lives and our current enemies and figure out ways to treat them with kindness, but at the same time show them they have no dominance over us at all. Its perfectly fine to stand up to people as long as we don’t have sinful behavior. The Bible is full of language about patience, taming the tongue, gentleness, respect for others, not being vengeful, etc. There is a way to be and do all those things and at the same time not be seen as a push-over or wimp. I personally think a majority of true Christians get this part, but we have fallen prey to being overly “nice” and therefore not taking a stronger stand than we should. There is also a fine line of behavior here. I think some might use this material as a way to justify their sinful behavior of standing on street corners and yelling with “boldness” at people who are living in sin. I’m asking the reader of this to use extreme common sense in how to be strategic AND innocent. I’m talking about how to take a strong stance AND be gentle and respectful. The extremes of either side are dangerous to the reputation and cause of Jesus Christ.

Other than hypocrisy and sin, there is no greater thing that can be shown by Christians to harm sharing the love of Jesus, than timidity and “wimpy-ness.” Christianity already has a stereotype of being for people who need a crutch in life. Christians must learn to take an innocent stand, a strategic stand, and be bold for Jesus without harming His cause.

In your current situation, where you may be being dominated by someone, how can you conquer their evil by doing good? How can you stand up to them with strategy and innocence? Before you decide and act on this, run it by a trusted Christian friend first.

You must start by praying for your enemy. Don’t seek revenge, leave that to God. Treat people with kindness and respect, and if they are being abusive, figure out an innocent way to demonstrate to them that Christians are a Holy force to reckon with.

But, please, by all means….Do not be a weakling. Its not how Jesus is.