How To Simplify Any Problem

Catching a cloud

It was the early 1970’s. 8-tracks, pet rocks, and waterbeds were all the rage. The Jackson 5, Led Zeppelin, and Bread were playing on the radio. And Irish Spring from Colgate-Palmolive, with its green stripe of freshness, was top of the soap charts. Meanwhile, the marketers at Procter and Gamble were working hard trying to create a copycat product with it’s own green stripe of freshness.

Irish Spring

After several failed attempts, creative manager Min Basadur suggested that his team at Procter and Gamble weren’t asking the right questions. Instead of asking, “How can we make a better green stripe bar than Irish Spring?” he asked the question, “How might we create a more refreshing soap of our own?”

 

This led the team to explore other themes of freshness including that which comes at the seacoast. From this came the coastal blue and white striped soap named “Coast.”

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Min Basadur went on to become a consultant who has taught the concept of How Might We to companies over the past four decades. The question is key in what has become known as Design thinking, which is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions.

Here are some steps we can use to help us better understand the question of How Might We?

Step 1: Define the area you want to explore, whether it is a current problem or an anticipated problem.

Example: This meeting is going to be boring.

Step 2: Reword the statement into a “How Might We?” question.

 

  • How suggests that we do not yet have the answer. It helps us explore a variety of possibilities instead of acting on what we suppose the solution should be. It pulls us out of inactivity and helps us begin thinking.
  • Might emphasizes that our responses are only possible solutions, not the only solution. It also allows for exploration of multiple possible solutions instead of merely settling on the first that comes to mind. It allows for any idea to be brought to the table, no matter how outlandish.
  • We immediately brings in the element of a collaborative effort. It suggests that the solution lies within our collective teamwork instead of within one person’s influence and creativity. 

 

Example: This meeting is going to be boring…How might we make this meeting interesting?

Using How Might We questions helps us take a negative statement and turn it into a positive question which helps us find a solution. 

Step 3: Use brainstorming techniques to come up with as many solutions that you and your team can imagine to your How Might We question.

Examples:

  • We might make the meeting more interesting by involving the attendees in discussion?
  • We might make the meeting more interesting by utilizing visuals in the presentations?
  • We might make the meeting more interesting by limiting the length to one hour?

Step 4: Prioritize the best ideas, build on them, and work them into next steps, sometimes involving their own How Might We questions.

Example: How might we actively involve the attendees in our meeting in interesting and lively discussion?

How Might We? is a question which can help simplify and bring clarity to almost any problem. Granted, it might simply bring more questions to the table, but most often, those questions are relevant questions.

So, next time you encounter what seems to be an unsolvable problem, try developing it into several How Might We questions. If you do, you’ll suddenly be thinking from a positive viewpoint, pointing yourself towards solutions instead of dwelling on the negative problem.

* For further study on How Might We, including the full story of Coast, see The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use article by Warren Berger from Harvard Business Review.

 

My Last Drink of Alcohol

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My last drink of alcohol was New Years Eve, 2002. I was on a mission trip in Indonesia standing between a seminary professor and an international missionary in a worship service. Since I didn’t speak the language, I had no idea the church was actually using real wine for communion that evening. I was given a small piece of bread and a small glass of what I assumed was grape juice.
It wasn’t.
I realized as it was halfway down my throat.
Ironically, my last drink was also my first. That’s difficult for most people to believe, especially since I live in New Orleans. Let me explain.
As a child, I was never really around alcohol. My parents didn’t drink, so it was really a non issue for me. When I was in Middle School, we moved to a dry county in Arkansas where the closest alcohol for sale (legally) was across the Texas or Oklahoma line at, what my grandfather affectionately called, the beer joint. Even though it was popular, I never really had the desire to put forth the effort to get to one of these establishments. They were far away, I never had the money, and quite frankly, I would have rather had a Coke.
It was about that time that I began hearing about others I knew who had problems with alcohol. I even heard one of my relatives tell my dad, “I just can’t stop. It’s got a hold on me.” As a young teen, I vowed that I would never let alcohol or drugs control my life.
Then, at 16, I gave my life to Jesus and started reading the Bible seriously. I learned that the Bible actually doesn’t condemn drinking. Paul writes the following in Ephesians 5:18: Do not get drunk with wine. That leads to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. That floored me. Had I been wrong? Should I have joined the drinking crowd? I wasn’t sure.
 
This actually created a mental and moral crisis for me as a teenager. The Bible actually seemed to condone drinking in this scripture. As long as someone didn’t get drunk, what was the problem with drinking alcoholic beverages? Then, to make matters worse, Jesus changed water in wine at a party where scripture seems to share that a few of the people attending (not Jesus) might actually be a little hammered.
I wondered at the time, should my situation determine my convictions? I wasn’t sure if the right decision was found in a cultural thing or a context thing or something else completely.
Then, a friend showed me Colossians 2:16-17, where Paul writes: So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ Himself is that reality.
I told him that I understood his point, and that I would try not to condemn or criticize him if he chose to drink alcohol. However, I also to him that I didn’t think he was really concerned with this because of his relationship with Christ, but was trying to justify his life choices.
To my surprise, he agreed.
Later, I came across 1 Corinthians 10:23. In that scripture, Paul writes: You say, “I am allowed to do anything” but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is beneficial.
 
I decided once again, as an older teenager, that for me, drinking alcohol was not beneficial. I’ve held that conviction now for 30 plus years. I understand that many others, probably most people, don’t share my personal conviction. That’s fine. I still want to be friends and won’t let this issue stop us.
However, since I’ve taken my last (and first) drink of alcohol, it’s time to move on to other dilemmas which can be spoken to from 1 Corinthians 10:23. Most of them have to do with what I put into my body (junk food, soda, cake) and what I put into my mind (certain movies, books, videos). As I wrote earlier, alcohol has really always been a non-issue for me. However, I don’t have quite the same tenacity when it comes to donuts, Coca-cola, and sit-coms.
Praise the Lord for His grace and mercy.

Loss

sacrifice

I woke up this morning feeling a great sense of loss. This is something that happens at some point to everyone, I suppose. I tried to shake it off with prayer, activity, and even with strong wishing, but it’s still there.

So, I did some research on it.

Google describes loss as a noun and defines it as the fact or process of losing something or someone. That’s a pretty simple explanation. Unfortunately, dealing with loss is not quite so simple. It’s definition implies that loss ends once the object or person is gone. In my mind, that’s only the beginning of loss.

John Steinbeck, in The Winter of Our Discontent, wrote the following: It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.

I found that to be true after my wife and I lost our baby to miscarriage after ten years of marriage. A few people, while trying to comfort us, said, “This is a big blow. It must hurt so much to not have a child.”

I would often reply quietly, while screaming my lungs out inside my head, “We’re not sad because we don’t have a child. We’re sad because we once had a child and no longer do.”

So, what do I do this morning with my sense of loss? Do I squelch it? Do I try to think about something else? Or do I take the time to experience it?

C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, shared the following words: Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?

Something within in me fights against that kind of logic though. Something says, “Suck it up and be happy. You shouldn’t feel this way if you’re have Jesus as your Savior and Lord.”

But there’s a flaw in that type of thinking as well. Jesus experienced terrible loss, much greater than I will ever know. Isaiah 53:3 says He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

I think C.S. Lewis is right in what he is saying. There is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it. We can attempt to delay it or deny it, but we cannot destroy it. It’s going to find us in the end.

So, here’s my resolution for today. If I’m going to feel loss and grief today, I’m going to do it while holding the hand of the One who was acquainted with the deepest grief. He’s also the God who wants me to live life more abundantly and wants my joy to be full. He knows the way, not around, but through loss and I will follow Him.

Don’t You Dare Stop

creativity

What’s the first thing we learn about God?

When we read the first five words of the Bible, we don’t learn that God is loving or forgiving or convicting or beautiful, even though He is all those things. Instead, we read:  In the beginning, God created…

He created the heavens and the earth. He made the plants and the sky and deepest of oceans. He made the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. And then, He made us in His image, a true work of art.

If we’re made in God’s image, then we are creative.

Most of us believed this when we were children. We created joyfully. But then something happened.

Someone laughed at our creations. We saw the creative work of others and thought we could never rise to their level. People started praising the creative efforts of younger people and forgot about us. Our friends gave up on their creative pursuits and pressured us to join them. We experienced loss and decided to set it aside for a few days. Then, of course, we were distracted by bills, tv, family, work, social media, traffic…  and suddenly, we quit trying to be creative. It became easier to just exist.

 

 

Then, years later, we look back at our creative desires and chuckle, wondering why we ever pursued creativity in the first place. However, somewhere, deep inside of ourselves, we don’t laugh. We ache and long for yesteryear, because we realize we’ve lost a vital part of who God made us to be.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can be creative again. It may be different from our earlier creative pursuits, but it’s time to take our first steps. It’s time to create something. It doesn’t matter if the creation is music, clay, words, paint, furniture, string, or bacon, it’s time for us to get out there and create.

 

Then, after we start, we can’t stop. We have to keep trying, keep improving, keep living, and keep creating. We can’t dare stop.

It’s who God made us to be.

 

Simple Yet Perfect

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And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.  Luke 2:6-7

Two sentences. That’s all Luke uses to describe the birth of the Jesus. No parade, no details, no celebration. Nothing that would announce the coming of the Son of God.

However, maybe that’s the point. In this moment, God shed the His rightful power and glory, refused all claims to honor and praise, and lowered Himself to be born among us in the lowliest of circumstances. In doing so, he stepped into our lives fully so he could completely identify with us and ultimately redeem us.

So what can we learn from Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus?

We learn that the time came. This was no regular birth. This was a time when God got involved in history. The Redeemer of our world was entering our world.

We learn that she gave birth. Mary delivered Jesus in a similar fashion as all mothers give birth. The God of creation came to be with us through ordinary means.

We learn that Mary wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. While it is unbelievable to many that no one made room for this expectant mother, unfortunately similar things happen all of the time. Refugees, immigrants, and the poor are often cast out with nowhere to rest, no matter if they are hungry, sick, tired, or pregnant. Jesus was not only born like all of us, but he was born like the most vulnerable of us all.

Jesus was found not in palace in an important city but in a backwater town, not in a palace but in a stable, not sleeping on fine cloth but lying in a manger.

How simply written and how marvelous.

Lord, You came to earth as a vulnerable child, delivered in an ordinary way, but You ultimately redeemed the world. Help us to see You working, even in the most simple of ways. Amen.

What I Often Forget About The Lord

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Have you ever overcomplicated anything? I’ve done that dozens of times, especially when trying to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think this happens to Christians quite often because we forget one key component that, although simple, is essential.

Once, during a British conference on comparative religions, experts were discussing whether there was any belief that was truly unique to Christianity.  Creation, incarnation, and resurrection were quickly eliminated because of similar examples in other religions. C.S. Lewis wandered into the room and enquired as to the topic of conversation. When told about the debate, without hesitation, Lewis replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Grace is so simple that it baffles the experts. Because of it, we have the opportunity to know Jesus as Savior and Friend. Grace helps us understand the difference between happiness and joy. It allows us to conquer all of our fears. There is nothing we can do to earn grace and there is no way that we can destroy it. In Ephesian 1:5-6, the Apostle Paul wrote: He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.   

Father, please forgive us when we forget Your grace. It is both free and priceless. It is truly amazing.

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*Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com

You Are Unique. Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

photo- courtesy of Unsplash - photo by Greg Rakozy

Once when I was in college, I attended a student conference in North Carolina.  One day, as I was waiting for my friends, a senior adult lady I didn’t know approached me and asked how I was enjoying the conference. For some reason, I confided in her that I was disappointed because I hadn’t been selected to sing the solo for the evening worship service.

She replied, Do you know why I stopped to talk with you?”

“No,” I replied.

“I wanted to tell you that each night when the choir sings, I watch you.”

“What?” I asked. “I don’t understand.”

“The others sing,” she replied, “But you worship. I need to tell you something. You are unique and loved by God. He doesn’t want you comparing yourself to others. He wants you to rejoice in who He’s created you to be.”

I walked away encouraged.

That evening, I was surprised to see the same woman introduced as the keynote speaker.  She walked to the podium, looked out at 1500 college students and said once again, “You are unique and loved by God.”

I noticed a girl in the row in front of me wiping her eyes. She needed that message as much as I did.

We all spend so much time comparing ourselves with others that we forget that God loves us just as we are and made us that way on purpose.

So, before I go, let me remind you – You are unique and loved by God. He loves you very much. He created you on purpose. He doesn’t want you comparing yourself to others. He wants you to rejoice in who He’s created you to be.

Retreat Prayer Experience

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Recently, for a retreat, I revised an older prayer experience I used in college based on Psalm 97, Romans 12:1-2, and Philippians 4:8. The experience is designed to help you renew your mind, either at the beginning or the close of the day. I hope it ministers to you.

Simply read the scripture and follow the instructions below:

Read Psalm 97 below and take some time to meditate on the identity of the Lord.

1 The Lord is king!  Let the earth rejoice!  Let the farthest coastlands be glad. 2 Dark clouds surround him.  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

3 Fire spreads ahead of him and burns up all his foes. 4 His lightning flashes out across the world. The earth sees and trembles.

5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory. 7 Those who worship idols are disgraced—all who brag about their worthless gods—for every god must bow to him.

8 Jerusalem has heard and rejoiced, and all the towns of Judah are glad because of your justice, O Lord!

9 For you, O Lord, are supreme over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. 10 You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked.

11 Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. 12 May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord and praise his holy name!

Write down five words that describe the greatness of God:

Now use those five words in a brief spoken prayer to the Lord.

Read Romans 12:1-2

12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Living Sacrifice Prayer: Romans 12:1 tells us to offer our lives as “living sacrifices” to God as an act of worship. Where you are, kneel before God as a sign of surrender and worship. Pray and ask Him to show you how to be a living sacrifice to Him.

Things of the World Prayer: Romans 12:2 says to conform no longer to the patterns of the world. Make a list of ways you struggle with conforming to the world, then pray a prayer, asking God to help you no longer conform to each of the items you’ve listed. 

Read Philippians 4:8.  

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Pray and ask God to help you fix your thoughts on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable throughout this staff retreat. Ask Him to help you speak what is excellent and praiseworthy…

Finally, craft a note of thanks to the Lord for helping renew your mind. 

photo- courtesy of Unsplash - photo by Greg Rakozy

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Psalm 103 Night of Worship Outline

Opening Worship Set

Welcome

Explanation of Service and Prayer

Song – 10,000 Reasons – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM

Scripture – Psalm 103:1-5a

Let all that I am praise the Lord! With my whole heart, I will praise His holy name.

Let all that I am praise the Lord; May I never forget the good things He does for me.

He forgives all my sins and heals my diseases. He redeems me from death

And crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things.

Expounding on the Goodness of the Lord – Campus Pastor or Representative

People Sharing In Small Groups about God’s Goodness

Pastor Led Prayer –

Song – This I Believe – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-m9sRRN9MA

Scripture – Psalm 103:6, 8-12

The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.

He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve,

For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height

of the heavens above the earth.

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

Expounding on the Forgiveness of the Lord

Live Campus Specific Salvation Testimony –

Intercessory Prayer at Front –

Suggested Song – How Can It Be? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UXn_OuJkvE

Or

O Come To the Altar – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA  

Scripture – Psalm 103:13-17a

The Lord is like a Father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.

Our days on earth are like grass; Like wildflowers, we bloom and die

The wind blows, and we are gone – As though we had never been here.

But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him.

Expounding on the Love of the Lord

Pastor Led Prayer

Suggested Song – To My Knees – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZs26lTjAuM

Praising the Lord Section –

Scripture – Psalm 103:19-22

The Lord has made the heavens His throne; from there He rules over everything.

Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out His plans, listening for each of His commands. Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve Him and do His will! Praise the Lord, everything He has created, everything in all His kingdom. Let all that I am praise the Lord.

Suggested Song –

The Lion and The Lamb – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9ujBoud26k

Optional Continued Worship Set

(Campus Specific Selections)

Offering/Closing Prayer

 

 

The Pterois That Infects Us All

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. Among the victims was the owner of a waterfront exotic fish aquarium. The man loved his fish and, not wanting to see them perish, released them into Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

Sounds reasonable and humane, right?

However, among the fish he set free were six carnivorous Pterois native to Indo-Pacific waters, better known as Lionfish. These six fish multiplied at an enormous rate. As a result, there are now millions of Lionfish spread from Bermuda to North Carolina across the Caribbean and hundreds of miles up the Amazon River. These carnivorous fish are wreaking havoc on native populations of fish such as snapper and grouper, eating their young before they have the chance to mature. Unless something happens, certain Atlantic based species of fish may become extinct.

lionfish

Here are some facts about Lionfish:

  • Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
  • Adult Lionfish have 18 poisonous spines.
  • Female Lionfish produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days.
  • Lionfish are sexually mature in one year.

Who would have thought releasing six fish would have such a devastating impact on the waters surrounding two continents?

As I pondered these facts this past week, I realized that there is another Lionfish with another name in the church, in politics, and in society today. The name of this Lionfish is gossip.

Gossip is something that cannot be contained once it is released. It often does it’s damage and then continues to spread until people grow bored with it, despite the facts.

Here’s one example:

One year before Hurricane Andrew prompted the exotic fish tank owner to dump his Pterois into Biscayne Bay, a rumor surfaced that Tropical Fantasy Soda Pop was actually manufactured by the Ku-Klux-Klan and contained a unique formula which caused sterility among African-American men. Sales dropped 70%. Even though the rumor was discounted, sales never fully recovered and smaller rumors continue to this day.

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Here are some facts about gossip:

  • As long as there have been people, there has been gossip.
  • Percentage wise, men gossip almost as much as women. They just call it marketing.
  • People often begin false rumors about themselves. Oscar Wilde once said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

A pastor I know once said that spreading gossip is like cutting the paper from a notebook into tiny pieces and setting them out for the wind to blow them where they may. No matter how much you try, you’re very unlikely to regather all of the pieces.

gossip

How do we stop gossip? It’s doubtful gossip will ever fully be stopped this side of Judgement Day, but here are some steps we can take to remove it (or at least reduce it) in our own lives:

 

  • If possible, don’t be an audience for gossip.
  • Make the rumor stop with you.
  • Share positive information.
  • Pray for yourself and the victim of the gossip.

The Apostle Paul wrote the following advice in Ephesians 4:29:

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

I’ve read that the suggested way many governments are requesting fisherman to deal with Lionfish in the Atlantic is by removing them one at a time. Perhaps this is the best way to deal with rumors and gossip as well.

It’s time for us all to spread good news and speak life to those around us. The world needs our encouragement much more than it needs the Lionfish of gossip.

Dustin Lee - Unsplash 1