The Great Evangelical Recession

Book Review-The Great Evangelical Recession

Too many folks I know have decided that the world is going “to hell and a handbasket.” I for one am intrigued by the term and the idea that after centuries of human progress we’re suddenly plunging towards our demise as a society in what amount to the blink of an eye. Rarely does a week go by when I don’t hear about another family torn apart because they don’t eat dinner together. Perhaps it’s the growth of the Internet. Maybe people are texting too much. Maybe we’re not connecting with each other as much socially as was pointed out in the book Bowling Alone. It’s in this context that I read The Great Evangelical Recession. I don’t lead a church. I’m not an elder or a deacon. I’m just interested in the factors that influence our society. Also, I’ve been “standing close” to more than one Christian organization – close enough to see the ugliness that is there and to desire to understand it better.

The Reality of Measurement

Perhaps one of the most interesting things when you look at a book describing the growth – or shrinkage – in the church is looking at what metrics are being used and how those metrics are leading to incorrect conclusions. If big churches are growing then shouldn’t it follow that the church is growing? Not necessarily. Compelling evidence seems to suggest that while big churches are indeed growing, they’re doing so at the expense of smaller churches. The easy to capture data – from the big churches that have the resources to respond to surveys and are large enough to be found –shows growth when there is in reality shrinkage.

It’s a warning to make sure that as we’re picking our metrics that we’re picking metrics that accurately measure what we’re trying to capture. The United States isn’t – despite popular belief – a Christian nation. Evangelical Christians reportedly make up 7% to 9% of the population. More concerning is that even those in this group are in many important ways indistinguishable from their non-Christian friends.

Killing Trees

Dickerson says that trees are killed by two things:

  • Disease from within
  • Forces from without

I’ve been standing very close to different kinds of diseases inside many Christian organizations. I’ve seen fundamental attribution error (For more about fundamental attribution error see The Advantage, Switch, and Beyond Boundaries.) I’ve seen self-righteousness. I’ve seen legalism win out against love. So while I believe in the Church. I believe in the message left behind to love one another, I’ve seen many examples where this is lost on the machine that is the Christian organizations I’ve been a part of including churches and para-church organizations.

A long lost good friend of me says that churches are hospitals for the spiritually sick. Is it any wonder then that they suffer from the same kinds of challenges and lack of love that all organizations suffer from? It’s sad – but is it any wonder? Knowing that we as a Church aren’t able to heal our hurting members and that they continue to hurt others. One of the things that is said in recovery circles is that hurting people hurt people. We’re tripping all over ourselves hurting each other instead of building each other up and surrounding them with love.

The forces from the outside are important – but in my opinion – they’re not nearly as damaging or influential as we’d like to believe. I’ve read quite a bit about millennials and how they behave and how they think. The conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no conclusion. Some folks say that millennials are radically different than any other group in history. Conversely other studies show that millennials behave fundamentally similar to previous generations – at that time in their lives. So while there are factors that are impacting the church from the outside – they may not be as strong as we may want to believe they are.

Facebook Friends

When Robin Dunbar came up with a theory which equated the brain mass of mammals to their number of social connections there was more than the simple linear distribution. There’s also the idea that humans need a handful of close – intimate – connections and a larger set of important connections that would cause substantial but not catastrophic impact if they were lost. In the concentric rings around a person there are other levels as well. I believe the furthest in orbit may be the Facebook Friend – that is those people with whom you’ve initiated or accepted a Facebook Friend request. These folks have a connection with you but it’s so light that if they were to defriend you it might take months or years to notice – or perhaps you would never notice they’re gone.

We live in a more isolated world than any time in history – while at the same time being in one of the most connected times. From a communication standpoint we’ve conquered most of the challenges. I can do video calls with a friend quite literally on the other side of the world while simultaneously communicating with other colleagues as well. The Pony Express is a distant memory relegated to history books in a time when messages flow so freely and so quickly. We’ve let go of our requirements for atoms to move from one place to another to communicate we’re now moving at the speed of electrons – and for at least some distances, photons.

Despite all of this communication capability we communicate with each other less deeply than we ever have. We’re forming fewer intimate relationships. We’re building more diverse but less dense networks. The neighborhood communities discussed in Change or Die are all but gone. The bowling leagues and social clubs have given way to Facebook Friends and a much more diverse but more broadly connected set of friends.

The Amish are known for building barns together. We live in an age where getting someone to come over and help us move furniture into the barn can be difficult. If your parents would happen to die – whom of your friends – regardless of how far they live away – would come to support you in your time of loss? Isn’t that one simple way to measure the value of a friend? Isn’t the real standard how far they’re willing to go to support you in your times of need?

Attitudes of Grace

As one might expect The Great Evangelical Recession spends a great deal of time speaking about the affront that the church faces. The metrics are public opinion about traditional evangelical Christian values such as gay marriage. In some respects the book reminded me of the movie God’s Not Dead. In the movie Christianity is seen as a weakness by a philosophy professor. The book shares that professors in colleges are confronting the traditional evangelical Christian values.

However, through all of this I kept reflecting on Heroic Leadership and how the Jesuits faced their world differently. They treated their foreign hosts with grace, dignity, and respect. They focused on the essential components of the message. In the Christian context Jesus made this crystal clear – the answer is Love – Agape Love. Complete love for others. Buddhism calls this compassion – love for others. To me it’s all the same message repeated differently.

I can’t help but wonder how things would be different for the 53% of people who held unfavorable feelings toward evangelical Christians if they lived more out of love and grace than out of judgement and hate. (See The Marketing of Evil for more about hating needlessly.)

In the end, the recommendation of The Great Evangelicgal Recession is to focus on love for all others whether they agree with our beliefs or not.

A Different Kind of Church

The vision for the church is different. It’s one where we band together to ward off attackers. It’s a vision where volunteers are the core of the church rather than the paid staff and where workers who have traditionally been paid by the church get secular jobs and spend the rest of their time working on Gods mission. They’re fully committed to Christ and simultaneously living in the world. Whether it comes to pass or not, it sounds like something that Christ would approve of – he was a carpenter and many of the disciples were fishermen after all. Maybe it’s worth learning more about The Great Evangelical Recession.

The Marketing of Evil

Book Review-The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom

Rarely do I read a book that increases my level of anxiety. Rarely am I so conflicted by a message that I decide to skip the process of writing a blog post for it. You see, writing these blog posts are a part of my process for understanding and incorporating what I read into my consciousness. I purposefully broke that process in early 2013 when I didn’t write my post about The Marketing of Evil. The fundamental premise of the book is that we’re being manipulated as a culture to a different set of values. Two years after having read the book I don’t know that I’ve reached a conclusion as to whether we are or aren’t being manipulated. I also haven’t figured out whether I think those manipulations have an evil purpose as the book implies or if the manipulations are just the natural outcome of learning more about how we think.

Target #1: Gays

The book openly targets the topic of how we feel about homosexuals. They speak of the book After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ’90s and how this was a roadmap to making homosexual people more socially acceptable in America. The conflict I feel here is that the author, David Kupelian, and many of the evangelical authors of today are somehow missing the obvious point of Christianity. If Jesus said that the greatest commandment is love and America is a so-called Christian nation, why then is it necessary to write a book to conquer hatred of Gays? I have good friends who are openly gay. I have friends who are less-than-open about being Gay and the truth is, I just don’t care. I love them like I love all my brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re all called to love all people – above all of the other perceived commandments.

There’s an undercutting us-vs-them mentality that Christ fought during his life on earth. The idea is that they are trying to pervert us into thinking their ways. However, my homosexual friends don’t judge me for my heterosexual behavior – while that sounds silly consider that many folks do just the opposite to homosexual people.

Target #2: Marketing

Economics isn’t the study of money. It’s not the study of economies. It’s the study of people’s behavior when money is involved. If you want to really understand how irrational we are take a look at The Ultimatum game (or look at my review of Drive). When you look deeply into how people think, how they make decisions, and what drives them, you’ll see that our beliefs about how rational we are in our thinking breaks down pretty quickly.

In Demand, there’s the story of ZIP Cars where there’s a discontinuity in subscriptions between a five minute walk to reach a car and a ten minute walk. For those looking for personalized transportation needs inside of densely populated cities a five minute walk to a ten minute walk shouldn’t make much of a difference – but it does. Sources of Power explains that we don’t make rational decisions. We make recognition primed decisions. We recognize something about the environment and pattern our response off of that. We believe our rational rider is in control when instead it’s the unpredictable elephant that our reason is sitting on that is really in control (See Switch and The Happiness Hypothesis for the Rider-Elephant-Path metaphor and Thinking: Fast, and Slow for more about our ability to deceive ourselves.)

Marketing is then our ability to leverage what we know about the human psyche to get people to be more aware of our products and services and to encourage them to purchase. This isn’t inherently a bad thing if you believe that the service that you offer will be of value to the person that you’re marketing to – but let’s break it into the two components. First, there’s the component of making the public aware of your service. The second component is convincing them to buy.

It would seem that making someone aware of what you have to offer would be easy. You put a sign up at the edge of your neighborhood and suddenly everyone in the neighborhood would know that you’re having a garage sale. That works well for small communities (like neighborhoods) where the advertisement is novel but what if you’re trying to sell toothbrushes to a global audience? As it turns out no matter how you reach out to the public they may – or may not choose to pay attention.

The reticular activating system (RAS) is responsible for regulating your sleep and awake cycles and what you pay attention to – and what you don’t. (See Change or Die for more on the RAS). It turns out that marketers have known for some time that getting the RAS to key in on your message is difficult. It’s one of the reasons that we see so many novel – or edgy – ads. The novelty of the ad is what tells the RAS to pay attention – that’s what it’s designed to do. Guerilla Marketing quotes Thomas Smith from London and his instruction to make 20 impressions to get someone to buy – and that was in 1885. You can imagine how many impressions that it takes to get someone’s attention in the information overload age we live in. (See The Information Diet and The Paradox of Choice for more on Information Overload.)

So despite the appearances of being easy – it’s not. However, few people are concerned about the ability to help make people aware of your product – as long as you’re not paying telemarketers to call during the dinner hour (that fewer families get these days.)

Where it gets muddy is when we start speaking of encouraging people to purchase our products. In fact, some techniques for marketing have been outlawed. Subliminal advertising for instance is prohibited because of its effectiveness and the relative difficulty that people have in protecting themselves from it. The basic idea is that a film is played at 24 frames per second. If you put a message or an image on a single frame every few seconds, people won’t be able to consciously register it. They won’t know they’ve seen a message. However, their subconscious will have processed the image and the underlying “instruction” will be processed by the subconscious and it will be leaked up into the consciousness. In the case of our theater example there was a sharp rise in concession sales after inserting frames into the film encouraging folks to consume soda and popcorn. It didn’t take much of a push to get folks to indulge in these concessions.

The tricky part here is that in this case those folks who purchased but wouldn’t normally have purchased from the concession stand are unaware that they’ve been instructed. They believe they really wanted the popcorn – and at some level they did. Consider that the best techniques are those that leave the person being manipulated unaware that they’ve been manipulated. (See Social Engineering for more.)

So at some level we all agree that manipulation of us to the ends of compelling us to purchase something that we don’t want is bad. The tricky part is that done correctly, marketing makes us feel like we wanted to purchase it all along – well, our ego wants to defend itself so it will say that we wanted to buy it anyway. What if the marketing is for something like wearing a seatbelt – where the outcome is that more people are saved because they’re wearing seatbelts? Most folks would say that the ends justify the means. As I said, the waters are murky.

Target #3: Education

I’ve got my own criticisms of traditional learning. I agree with Glassier that children needs classrooms and Schools Without Failure. (Glassier’s work on Choice Theory is also an interesting read.) I don’t believe that we work high enough on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. I believe we focus too much on recognition and recall and not enough on problem solving and critical thinking skills. However, I stop short of thinking about education as a conspiracy to turn our children into mindless automatons. There has been a rise in the creative class – people who work heuristically rather than following a fixed set of steps. (See Drive for more on heuristic vs. algorithmic work.) So at the same time when we’re supposedly crushing folk’s ability to think independently we’re asking more and more people to do exactly this. I’m lousy at conspiracy theories in general but here I’m absolutely stumped how this is supposed to work

Paranoia Will Destroy ‘Ya (Or Keep you Alive)

We’ve been wired through natural selection to keep an eye out and look for things that can harm us. It’s better to mistake nothing for a lion in the bushes than the other way around. As a result we’ve got a bit of paranoia that comes to us honestly. However, at some point you have to believe that there are enough honest people that we’ll keep moving our society forward. Perhaps The Marketing of Evil exposes some places that this isn’t true – or maybe it doesn’t. It’s up to you to decide.


Embroidery and Love

It was a few months ago when my wife, Terri, made the decision about what she wanted to give our oldest son, Claude, as a wedding gift. She decided that she wanted to make him a quilted wall hanging. That is she wanted to create a wall hanging with quilting in it. The wall hanging would be the story of their courtship. Different squares would have different important moments of their love so that when their marriage got tough they could look back at the wall hanging and remember how they fell in love.

She enjoys sewing and had done quilts in the past so it was a natural fit. She had an older Singer Quantum XL-1000 sewing machine that did embroidery but she didn’t have any of the cards for it with patterns – she had the basic fonts on the machine and that was it. Her idea for the wall hanging was appliques, fabric, and the limited embroidery her machine would do.

I looked at this problem and wanted to find a way for me to enhance it. So I looked at how we could do more embroidery than what her machine supported. The first stop was to look at embroidery cards. They’re still selling the embroidery cards on eBay so that was an option – but the real problem with the cartridges that are available is that they have a fixed set of embroidery patterns that were made for the machine so the things that we wanted to do weren’t a part of the list of things that you could do. I wanted a way to get any embroidery pattern to go on to the machine. And I found a way to do that. It’s Amazing Box.

Creating Embroidery Patterns

Amazing Box is a USB interface for programming sewing machine cards. It allows you to download patterns from existing cards and write embroidery patterns to a rewritable card. In our situation I had to get an adapter and a rewritable card for the Singer. It wasn’t cheap – but it was well worth it. Once we got this we could do any embroidery pattern we wanted.

So now we’re cooking. Except that means that we’re buying embroidery patterns out of a much larger library now. We could buy the patterns that others created but we couldn’t make our own. Some of the things we wanted to do included the places of their first date and those are logos. We won’t find those in a library. We needed to be able to convert images into embroidery – The way that we found to do that was S & S Computing’s SewArt program. You give it an image and a wizard walks you through turning it into a sewable embroidery pattern. So now we can take any image and turn it into an embroidery pattern.

What I found is that some images were more suitable for conversion to embroidery than others. The smoother the lines and the less colors we were dealing with the better. I knew a way that I could smooth some line art. I’ve got Adobe Illustrator CS6. In Illustrator there’s a function called Image Trace. You put an image on the Illustrator art board and then do Image Trace to get a line and representation of the image. If you do this with an existing line art image it converts it into a vector drawing that you can scale. So I’d take in the images that I’d find for what we wanted to embroider and run them through Illustrator and image trace. I’d then export the resulting file back to a raster (PNG) image to take into SewArt.

Whew! I’ve now got a pretty long process. Find the image, run it through Illustrator Live Trace, run it through SewArt to convert to an embroidery pattern, and use the AmazingBox software to transfer it to the card that would go in the sewing machine.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t done yet. There were a few images we wanted that we just couldn’t find. We wanted to have a square of Claude and Kelly lying in bed watching TV. So I needed to draw/create that. That meant learning Illustrator to a much greater level than I have ever had to learn it. And the way I did that was Digital Tutors has an expansive library of creative training that covers PhotoShop, Illustrator, etc. So I took some courses to learn enough about Illustrator to draw the scene.

Terri took the patterns that I created and turned them from mere electrons into atoms. Here’s the result of all of our hard work – and what hard work it was.

Hard Work

What you’re looking at represents over 200 hours of total effort – we honestly don’t know how much work it really was. We know that it was easily 200 between the two of us. We also know that for the 12 squares that we got – plus the center square – it took 31 failed attempts and trial runs. We had to learn how to get the backing to stay, how to get things to line up, how to deal with threads breaking and bobbins that ran out.

There’s no way that we would do this if it weren’t a labor of love. You can’t put a price on the amount of love that went into the piece. There are so many fine details that got refined and refined again. Consider the square of their dog Chief. We tried different backgrounds and colors of thread before settling on that look. The key for their first apartment uses a metallic thread that was much more sensitive than the other threads we were using so we had to slow the machine down to its slowest setting and reset the automatic tensioner in the sewing machine.

Oh, and I also got to build another new skill –I learned how to repair sewing machines. It’s amazing how bad things can get when a thread gets wound around one of the bearings. It wasn’t really an option to send the machine out for a few weeks to have it tuned up.

In the end everyone is thrilled with the results – and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that we love Claude and Kelly and are looking forward to their marriage.

Where the Consequences Live

During a discussion with my wife, Terri, about another series of tough decisions about the kids, I struck upon a spark. A moment of fleeting moment of clarity about how good parents make decisions about what to do when the problem is tough. The clarity lasted only briefly and left me with a relatively out of focus understanding that I have finally crystallized into this understanding.

Before I explain the rare moment of insight, I have to setup the situation. Parenting is tough. Well, maybe I don’t need to set that up if you have children. Parenting teenage and adult children is really tough. Perhaps you knew that too. However, as I’ve been reflecting on parenting teenage and adult children, I’ve begun to realize that their problems are more complex than the problems when they’re younger.

When a child is young and you want to protect them, it’s really easy. You just don’t let anything get to them. Really, they’re not mobile so you just have to keep harm away from them and you’re all set. Sure they’re basically machines for converting pure mother’s milk into a substance that has the same disposal standards as used nuclear rods, but they’re fun.

Sidebar: If you don’t believe that dirty diapers have the same disposal standards as used plutonium, look around and look for the signs about not placing dirty diapers in trash receptacles. You’ll find that dirty diapers are singled out in many cases as a do-not-dispose item. They don’t talk about lead or mercury or other potentially harmful chemicals – but dirty diapers are a no go.

At some point these precious children get mobile. Slowly at first there’s rolling and everyone’s happy to see how baby’s progressing. Even the first wobbly crewing is applauded as progress until the precious child learns to move like a Ugandan runner trying to avoid a hungry lion. If you’ve ever tried to chase a child who is still only crawling you may have wondered how your long legs have such difficulty keeping up with such small legs – that are crawling.

And it goes on until they’re actually walking and you wonder how much longer the length of your legs will hold out as an advantage to keep ahead of them. However, as they’re becoming mobile you can protect them still. You can put them in their crib, a play pen, or some bounded container that prevents them from getting outside of the protective space that you’ve created. It works great. That is up until they figure out how to get out of their containment. They crawl out of the crib or playpen and start to wander around on their own.

When they get a little older and you can’t physically contain them any longer, you can distract them with shiny objects – or flat electronic screens. Whether it’s the lure of the television to the teenage daughter or the quest for domination of the fantasy universe that the sons seem to crave, you can distract them for hours and hours. Distractions work wonders to prevent them from going out and finding their own harm. But distractions are temporary for the teenager.

As they get older even these distraction techniques lose their power. For most teenagers there’s eventually a point that distractions don’t work for long enough. You want to teach them the right lessons in life but those lessons aren’t easy to teach. There’s a sense that you don’t know the right answer. Most of the things that parents have to stick their noses into aren’t simple or straight forward. They’re questions like what’s the right answer for college? Sometimes the question is more like how can I teach my children to always be respectful and loving of each other? Other times the question is how do we teach them about limited resources and managing money?

All of these problems are wicked problems in that they have no right or wrong answer, there’s no way of knowing that you’re done, and you won’t know if you’re doing good until you’ve done it. (See Dialogue Mapping and The Heretics’ Guide to Best Practices). Given these conditions it’s no wonder to me that so many parents give up. They throw their hands up and surrender saying that they’re just not going to get involved. However, I rarely run away from a challenge so Terri and I often stick our noses into the kid’s world and try to help.

The problem is that these are wicked problems. There are no right answers. There are consequences on both sides. If we show our belief that one college is better than another then we’re potentially sending a message that we don’t believe in or like or child’s judgment. Couple that with the drama of a teenage girl and you’re like to get that we hate them. (In all fairness it’s the 12 year old that’s more likely to say that we hate him than the teenage daughter.)

As we’ve come to discuss things like whether it’s appropriate to support a mission trip for one of our children despite the fact that if she goes on the trip she’s unlikely to be able to pay for the next year of college. We support going on mission trips. We sent our 17 year old to Uganda earlier in the year. The real question isn’t about the mission, it’s about prioritizing and recognizing the limits to financial resources.

Mission Impossible

The problem with the college age student and the trip is that the consequences of the mission trip are far reaching and time delayed. If we’re correct and the trip cascades into a lack of completing college at all, then there are some pretty nasty impacts of a seemingly smallish decision. There are the obvious short term consequences of the money spent but in truth none of us knows exactly how those consequences will be translated a year down the road.

However, if we have a discussion and tell our daughter that she’s not going – or that she shouldn’t go — there are also consequences. However, the consequences in this situation are to us. We have the “opportunity” to deal with a child who is quite unhappy who will think that we’re evil parents with no concern for her feelings. She’ll believe that we’re getting in the way of what she wants.

Enter our great dilemma. How do we decide whether we should express our opinions – perhaps in a forceful way – or let the natural consequences play out? Either way we expect negative consequences to come. There is no right answer to this problem.

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

So if there’s no right answer, then what is someone to do? The answer settled on us like a fog gently clearing in the morning. We pick the option that the consequences fall on us. If we have the option of taking the consequences (a grumpy child) vs. the consequences to the child (not having enough money for college) – we’ll take the consequences. If there’s the option of taking a pain and relieving it for our daughter, we want to do that.

Astute observers might have noticed that there are other options, we paid for our 17 year old to go to Uganda. We could pay for the college student to go on her trip. In a family of seven children that sets a dangerous precedent. Do we want to pay for everyone to have a mission trip? The situation with the 17 year old was different. We agreed to the mission trip to support a child we were sponsoring then decided who would go.

Terri and I were quite prepared to have the conversation that would make us the “bad parents” in the eyes of our daughter. In fact we got neck deep when she shared why she wanted to go – to validate her career choice before she invested 12 years. When she became more humble about the situation and we were able to see that it wasn’t a trip to be vain and to waste resources we relented and agreed to pay for the trip for her. Strangely the best decision here was the same – for us to take the consequences – for our daughter.

I’m not suggesting that you should intervene in natural consequences of their decisions. We’ve let another daughter feel the pain of her excessive drinking when it would have been possible for us to alleviate some of it. We’ve let the boys fix things they broken because they needed that experience. We believe deeply that natural consequences are important for children. However, when the consequences are hard to see, the decisions can be far reaching, and there’s an opportunity to discuss and work through them… we try to let consequences live with us when we can shoulder them.

Faith Hope Love

Faith, Hope, and Love

Recently many people in my life, myself included, have been struggling with burnout. Burnout isn’t – as some people assume – being tired of work. It’s not about difficult conditions either. Burnout is the belief that you’re not making a difference. It’s about not feeling like what you’re doing matters. Some of that is feeling powerless and hopeless. I was drawn to a set of scripture anchored by 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) which says, “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”

This anchor verse was a place to start studying and pondering my purpose. I wanted to take apart the ideas of faith, hope, and love – and how they’re related. Faith we need to have full trust in God’s provision. Hope, a benefit of faith. Love is – well, it’s what matters most.


What does faith mean to you? For most people we believe faith is – as the dictionaries of today define it – “a strong or unshakable believe in something, especially without proof or evidence.” (World English Dictionary) While this is certainly important, in this context it’s little more than trust. (See Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy for more on what trust is.) Not that trust is to be trifled with, but it’s not the same thing as the faith described in 1 Corinthians 13:13. The Greek word used here is pistis which according to HELPS Word studies faith – in this context – is always a gift from God.

Being that faith is a gift from God, it’s never appropriate to say that someone “just didn’t have enough faith” as if they were the ones to blame. I imagine that this is the kind of righteous attitude which the Sadducees and the Pharisees had in Jesus’ day. They believed that they had enough faith but that other people didn’t. They believed that other people just didn’t love God enough – they just didn’t trust enough. However, this is a fundamental misunderstanding that trust is an exact replacement for faith when it isn’t. Trust can be built but faith cannot.

However, there is a way to gain faith. That way is prayer. One of the Greek words translated to prayer is proseuché which again according to HELPS Word studies means “exchange of whishes; prayer.” What is it that the wishes are exchanged for? Faith. Faith is God’s gift to the redeemed that is given in response to prayer. Think about that. We have it backwards. We say that the faithful pray but in reality those who pray become faithful.


In Greek mythology, Pandora’s box (which was really a jar) contained all the evils of the world. When Pandora opened the box the evils escaped leaving one thing that lay at the bottom – hope. In this story, hope – and hope alone – was able to endure all of the evils of the world. It didn’t run from them. Hope was what could withstand them.

One of the evils that I see in this world is learned helplessness. That is the mistaken belief that you can’t make a change. (See Mindset and The Paradox of Choice for more on learned helplessness.) Hope is so precious that the most gut wrenching points in my life – the points where my body wanted to shut down – were the points where I had lost my grip on hope.

Napoleon once said, “A leader is a dealer of hope.” Hope is so powerful that it can change the course of wars. Leaders deal in hope. Hope that their company or cause will be successful. Hope that there will be a way for everyone to live the American dream.

As amazing as hope is, love is the ultimate expression of hope. If someone else loves you (especially an omniscient, omnipresent, timeless being) you can always be saved, rescued, strengthened, and empowered. (See God Loves You for more about the omniscient, omnipresent, timeless being.)


In Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT) it was asked “‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

1 John 4:18 (NLT) says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” How is it that perfect love drives out fear? (Or casts out as some translations say) In Greek the word love here is Agape – that is God’s love. If God loves you then how could you have anything to fear?

Agape love is not confined to Christians who read Greek. The Buddhists call agape love compassion. That is their love for all of the rest of the world as a part of the overall whole.

Another way to look at love is to see it as giving to others sacrificially. You know you truly love someone when you’re willing to give something up for someone. The greater the sacrifice – the greater the love. I have to offer a word of caution here because though sacrificial love is an admirable trait it is necessary to establish whether someone is worthy of your sacrificial love. Sacrificial love is sometimes used to keep people in abusive relationships with language like “If you really loved me you would…” More on appropriate boundaries can be found in the book Boundaries.

If the person that you give love to is able to accept sacrificial love with humility and reflect it back to you – it’s the most powerful thing in the world. Thanks to my wife, Terri, I finally understand that.

Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights

Book Review-Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights

It was October of 2011 when I reviewed Gary Klein’s book Sources of Power. Since I read and reviewed it, I’ve referred to it repeatedly. While preparing to see if Gary would respond to a question about knowledge management, I realized that last year he published another book – Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights – and I knew I had to read it. In fact it usurped the normal backlog of reading and got placed directly at the top. That’s what happens for me when you have an author you respect on a topic that’s intriguing.

I’ve been writing and working in the space of innovations lately. (See Diffusion of Innovations, Unleashing Innovation, Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results, and Creative Confidence) I’ve been separating ideas from innovation – because innovation is about the execution of an idea. However, what sorts a great idea from a good one? How do you know which ideas to push through execution for? Well, that takes insight. That takes the ability to see the entire environment and know which things are important and which are not. This is exactly the kind of thing that Klein spoke about in Sources of Power – he spoke of recognition primed decisions.

Blurry Vision

As it turns out there has been a reasonable amount of interest and study about insights all the way back to Graham Wallas who wrote The Art of Thought in 1926. Wallas described a four-stage model of insight:

  • Preparation
  • Incubation
  • Illumination
  • Verification

The model, according to Klein, is still them most common model for describing insight. That makes sense if it’s the model that has been around the longest. Through the course of the book Klein looks at ways that the model is useful and how there are problems with the model. He looks at examples where incubation didn’t have time to happen and examples where there wasn’t any specific preparation – only a generally prepared mind.

In the end, Klein believes in a different model that flows from three points rather than a single linear model.

Triple Path

Klein believes that insights are developed through three different paths: Contradiction, Connection, and Creative Desperation. Let’s take a look at these three paths and how they create insights.


Sources of Power talked about the mental models that the fire commanders build. They would simulate how the fire would behave and develop expectancies. They’d monitor the fire and the situation for anything they didn’t expect and that all of the things that they expected were true. These were guide posts that helped the fire commanders know when something was wrong. (You’ll also find discussions of mental models in Thinking, Fast and Slow, Compelled to Control, Dialogue Mapping, and The Fifth Discipline.)

Contradictions are at their heart this mental model engine hitting Tilt! It’s when A+B cannot equal C. It’s like someone saying they built a submarine-airplane. Airplanes are necessarily light and submarines are necessarily designed to withstand immense external pressure. Those design goals are mutually exclusive. By modeling how planes must be built and how submarines must be built it’s possible to see that it’s not possible to build a single vehicle that does both.

Mental models are built on anchors. They’re built on what we believe to be true. However, sometimes these anchors aren’t true. The anchor could be something we read, something we intuitively know, or something that someone else has told us. Contradictions form insights by removing these poor anchors and replacing them with new anchors that more accurately represent reality.


Years ago I was working with a school system and we needed a way to handle non-repudiation. That is that we wanted to ensure that teacher evaluations weren’t tampered with after their signature. Historically this is handled by having each party initial every single page of a contract. At the time I was doing some security work with hashes. A hash is a mathematical reduction of source information into a non-predictable output. A small change in the source data produces a very large change in the output of the hash. This prevents tampering of a message in transit.

However, the connection for me came that we could print the hash of the evaluation on a signature page. The signature page could be scanned into the system and would verify that the teacher had signed off on the evaluation with the same hash. They couldn’t say later that they hadn’t seen the comments that were in their review. The solution (the insight) came from the fact that I was working on different things around the same time. I was able to look for solutions to the problem which bridged outside of the normal boundaries for the solution.

The kinds of connections that you have matter. Tight bonds will bring a group together into a cohesive unit creating the concern for groupthink. Groupthink is the problem where groups will begin to think alike and thus lose the diversity needed for new insights. (See Collaborative Intelligence for more on group collaboration and groupthink.) However, tight bonds aren’t bad. Tight knit communities and connections to others at a deep level are powerful in their ability to improve our overall mood and health as was mentioned in my review of Change or Die.

However, as Everett Rodgers discovered and discussed in Diffusion of Innovations, the more cosmopolitan that someone is the more likely that they’ll adopt an innovation. Rodgers says that cosmopolitan people are more connected outside of their core sphere. They’re bridging people who bring innovations across different groups of people.

This blog is an attempt to be generally prepared for insights. I’ve mentioned part of my process of reading in my post Research in the age of electrons. That’s the mechanics of reading and capturing my notes for books. What’s missing is the process I go through after this to write the blog post. The whole process is designed from a learning perspective to ensure that I am able to internalize the concepts. In my writing I make a specific point to find the connections to other works that I’ve read, other reviews that I’ve done, and other concepts that are or at least seem to be related.

While some of the connections may be insights, I don’t expect that they are. I simply expect that by making connections frequently, by teaching my mind to look for them and explore them, that I’ll be able to find them in other areas of my life. As a side effect, readers of my blog can experience a pearl growing aspect of knowledge management. Pearl growing is the placing of links in the content to refer to other places for more information. The pearl growing technique helps adult learners find ways to have the content reach them where they’re at which is an essential part of adult learning (See The Adult Learner.)

Creative Desperation

We’ve all been in bad situations and have felt trapped at some point or another. While most of us haven’t been literally trapped, we’ve felt trapped. Words and phrases like “there is nothing I can do,” “It’s out of my hands,” and “it can’t be helped” are good examples of that feeling of being trapped. We’re trapped by our beliefs. We believe that we can’t change anything. Carol Dweck researched about this fixed mindset, this learned helplessness in her book Mindset. (See The Paradox of Choice, Who Am I?, and Bonds that Make Us Free for more about learned helplessness and Boundaries, Beyond Boundaries, Daring Greatly, Change or Die, and The Fifth Discipline on the related topic of victimhood.)

Our beliefs trap us only to the point where we’re ready to reevaluate them and decide whether or not we can continue to afford those beliefs any longer. In Boundaries and Beyond Boundaries, the authors Cloud and Townsend speak about the boundaries that we create with other people – the beliefs we have about what we will and won’t allow. They break boundaries into defining boundaries – the violation of which would change who we are – and temporary boundaries – those that we need for now but may not be necessary forever.

No matter what the boundary type, we can create situations for ourselves that trap us. To get out of that trap requires that we remain stuck or creatively get out of the problem by changing one of our beliefs. This is at the heart of creative desperation. We’re pained by being trapped to the point that we change one of our beliefs. We create a solution – an insight – because we’re left with no other options.

Creative desperation may not be as popular a way to create insight because as humans we tend to be less creative when we’re stressed. (See Drive and Creative Confidence for more on the impact of stress and creativity.) However, despite this some people overcome this by using their focused energies on the problem in creative – and sometimes radical ways. The result is a special kind of insight.

Anchors Away

The language that Klein uses for beliefs is the word anchor. That is we’re anchored to a particular way of seeing things. Insight changes the way that you see the world. Just like the curse of knowledge (See The Art of Explanation), you can’t see the world the same way that you did before the insight. The old anchor – the old belief – that you had is gone, moved, or radically changed. That’s the job of insights, to change the way that you see the world. Ideally old anchors are replaced with new ones that free us from limitations.


One of the problems with trying to study insights is that the very act of asking people to verbalize their thinking process interferes with it – as we saw in The Paradox of Choice. In this case, the research says that those who were asked to describe why they liked something (a poster) liked it less. In the space of learning we know that assessing education too quickly can disrupt the educational process. (See Efficiency in Learning.) It’s no wonder why trying to understand what causes insights is so difficult. It’s something that you have to be careful about how you measure because the measurement interferes with the process itself.

A long time ago I was in a class by Denny Faurote and as a part of the exercise he offered up to the class that someone could try to build a puzzle pyramid. Unbeknownst to me when I volunteered to try to solve the puzzle, he actually disrupted my solving it. I was close and he injected a question to disrupt my thinking at the critical moment because the illustration wouldn’t have worked if I had solved the puzzle – and he feared that I was about to. He confided in me that he had done it after the class – and I wasn’t upset. To me it was interesting to see how sometimes subtle distractions can prevent insight.

Errors and Insights

Sometimes the disruption comes from intentional or unnatural sources and sometimes the disruption for insights comes from other systems inside the organization. Many organizations are faced with trying to do more with less. Organizations, by their very nature, are designed to minimize errors and disruptions. It’s fundamental to the process of organizing to be able to predict the outcome. It’s the point of an organization to create repeatability. Many organizations have implemented programs like Lean Six Sigma (LSS), which are designed to eliminate waste (lean) and errors (Six Sigma). However, Klein cites sources that state that organizations that have implemented programs like this ultimately end up trailing other organizations in overall performance. Why?

The answer seems to be that so much effort into reducing errors inhibits the ability to generate insights. Where LSS is implemented it’s hard to do something beyond the norm. It’s difficult to get the organization to take a chance, to take a risk, or to seize a disruptive opportunity. Insights are directly opposed to the kind of predictability and status quo that reducing errors requires.

I sometimes talk about natural and unnatural conflict. Natural conflict are conflicts that are natural and predictable. For instance, developers and IT infrastructure folks are naturally setup for conflict. IT infrastructure folks are measured on reliability and up time. Developers are measured on their ability to implement new features into the systems. New features introduce change and risk. There in is the natural conflict between the two groups. For one to do their job they have to make it harder for the other to do theirs. Errors and Insights are the same thing – one disrupts the other. If you err too much on the reduction of errors you’ll inadvertently reduce the insights.


How Children Succeed calls it “grit.” Dan and Chip Heath might call it “stickiness.” (Referencing their book Made to Stick.) Perseverance is one of the key characteristics of insights. While it may not be possible to determine whether you should stick to a belief and persist or whether you should simply persist at changing your frame of references, persistence in attempting to learn is key to generating insights. Join the journey by reading Seeing What Others Don’t and start your own persistence in finding the insights that others don’t.

The Science of Trust

Book Review-The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples

John Gottman is well known and respected for his knowledge of what makes couples successful – and what will ultimately lead them towards divorce. His research uncovered ways to identify who would remain married and those who would not. When you pair my interest in how relationships work with my curiosity about how important trust is, it’s little wonder why I picked up Gottman’s book The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples. However, what was surprising to me is how much mathematics played into the book.

Rose Colored Glasses

There’s some level of naivety that comes with being an optimist. Despite the psychological and physiological benefits of being optimistic, there are some practical benefits as well. (See Emotional Intelligence; Thinking, Fast and Slow; and The Happiness Hypothesis.) The world is – to us – how we perceive it. So if you want the world to be a better place, simply view it that way.

Of course, this won’t change your actual situation, but it can change how you feel about it and that can change how you view the world and how you react to it. How Children Succeed would call it grit. Gottman focuses on what Robert Weiss formerly a professor at the University of Oregon called positive and negative “sentiment override.” In other words, the bias that someone has to interpret events based on their preconceived expectations of it. Sentiment override comes in both positive and negative form – so it’s possible to see things with rose colored glasses where the glass is half full, or negatively, as in the glass is half empty. (The scientists in the group sometimes quip that the glass is full – half of water and half of air.)

When someone has a pessimistic perspective – or negative sentiment override – it’s extremely difficult to have anyone appear to be positive around them. We’ve all heard folks retort back when we’ve said “Good Morning” with something like “Well, what’s so good about it?” They seem to find the dark cloud around every silver lining. In relationships this is life-draining, because relationships live on the ratio of positive to negative comments. Gottman’s research says that happy couples have a positive to negative ratio of greater than 5:1 – and couples headed for divorce have a ratio of 0.8:1.

On the other hand, positive sentiment override, reinforces the very lifeblood of a relationship. It creates more opportunities to be positive because there are more positive interactions that are seen. A person with a positive sentiment override might look at a traffic jam while traveling with their partner as an opportunity to finish a conversation rather than an unnecessary delay.

We All Have Problems

Gottman notes that all relationships have their problems – whether the couples are happy or unhappy. We all argue about essentially the same stuff. The difference with happy couples is that the arguments aren’t as all-consuming or as damaging. Happy couples are more apt to begin a discussion softly. They’re more likely to convey an issue in terms of what they need and what they feel – rather than by pointing out a fundamental character flaw of the other person. They’re also more likely to attempt to repair problems in the relationship – or in a disagreement – more quickly.

One concern of pre-marital counselors is how couples are fighting. They expect that even the healthiest couples are fighting at least a little. If a couple literally never fights or disagrees, it’s a sign that one or the other of the parties in the relationship aren’t expressing their needs and beliefs. However, happy couples may have trouble even deciphering that they are “fighting.” The disagreements are filled with so much respect (rather than contempt) that they just literally don’t see the “fight” as a fight. They simply see that they’re disagreeing – and reaching an agreement. It isn’t a fight because neither is getting hurt – at least not hurt in a lasting way.

Thus the distinction between an unhealthy couple – where one is capitulating – and a healthy couple – where both parties are actively building and repairing the relationship in the middle of the disagreements – is in the ability to discover that there are disagreements, but those disagreements never escalate to the point of a fight.

Gottman noted that happy couples moved to repair the relationship much sooner, and showed a much lower level of diffuse physiological arousal (DPA). In other words, happy couples were much less stressed about their interactions than unhappy couples – in part because they felt safe.

Unresolved Issues

Our brains are curious places. One curious thing is that unresolved issues – things that we don’t fully process – are given more attention and have more magnitude of thought than our resolved issues. This is called the “Zeigarnik effect”. The problem is that this can sometimes draw couples into a stream of negative conversations because all relationships have issues that cannot be resolved. Instead issues must be managed and dialogued to prevent the accidental development of gridlock.

Gridlock is that state much like a Chinese finger trap where both fingers are stuck and it’s very hard to get free. The more that you pull the fingers back – or the more entrenched you become in your position – the more challenging it becomes to break free. Couples, in gridlock, vilify one another. Instead of accepting that we’re both good people with different perspectives, fundamental attribution error creeps in and we believe the worst of our partner. (See also The Advantage, The Me I Want to Be, and Switch.)

Gottman believes that the key behind these unsolvable issues are “hidden agendas.” He believes that there is a part of the conversation that isn’t being had. I remember reading a story of a man and wife where they were shopping for a new refrigerator and objectively the best offering wasn’t a Frigidaire. However, one of the options that they had evaluated was a Frigidaire model. The wife was insisting on it. The man was confused and frustrated because it didn’t make sense. In the end, the true reason was exposed. The wife had grown up with a father who was in appliance sales. He had his own business for a while and Frigidaire loaned him inventory so that he could sell it. Somewhere the wife had picked up on this and had built a sentimental attachment with Frigidaire because of how the company had supported her father when he needed it. Ultimately the story goes that they bought the Frigidaire – however, the point is not about where they landed – it’s about how an undiscovered motivating factor (hidden agenda) could create a stressful situation and once identified the problem fades.

We can’t get rid of all of our hidden agendas because we don’t know that they’re there. There are all sorts of crazy things that all of us do and feel without any rational reason. For me, for instance, I have to have at least $20 on me all the time. Not that we use cash that often any more – but I have to have at least $20 on me or I feel anxious. I also feel a bit of stress every time I go on a trip that I might have forgotten something important. The reality is that buying a tube of toothpaste on the road or picking up a new comb won’t break the bank – however, these stresses from my early adult life are still with me – even if they aren’t rational.

Acceptance and Shame

In a gridlocked situation – and in many less immobilized circumstances – the conversation can degenerate into a conversation about the differences of opinion. However, in many cases the undercurrent of a discussion is the need for everyone to be accepted. We all have a need to be accepted for the person that we are. It’s during the hard discussions where there’s very little common ground that the masters of relationships indicate their acceptance of their partner – in the midst of problem.

You may remember from my discussion of Daring Greatly, Changes that Heal, and Compelled to Control that shame is a powerful – and negative – force in people’s lives. Shame is separate and distinct from guilt in that shame is “I am bad” whereas guilt is “I have done bad.” Shame is battled with acceptance. David Richo discusses how important acceptance is in How to Be an Adult in Relationships. When we fail to recognize the importance of the person, we shame them and make them believe that they must not be good enough to be in a relationship with us.

Bidding for Attention

Gottman talked a great deal about what he calls “Sliding Door” moments (based on the movie Sliding Doors). The idea is that during certain moments of time you have two choices to make. Each choice leads to a different outcome. In the context of Gottman’s research, the sliding door moments are bids for attention. It’s where one member of a relationship is seeking out the other. One choice, to turn away from the partner will damage the relationship. Depending upon the bid for attention the damage may be small and insignificant – or something with a long lasting impact. The other choice, to turn into the partner’s bid for attention will build the relationship. It is these moments that Gottman surmises have significant long term impact on the relationship.

The Grass Must Not Be Greener

Every relationship has its good points and its bad points. It’s got things that go well and things that don’t always go so well. That’s what happens when you take two imperfect people and bring them together. The result is an imperfect relationship. However, from a long term stability point of view, Gottman believes that the way that you see the relationship can ultimately illustrate the relationship’s longevity.

The measurement is how we view the alternative relationship prospects. That is, whether we believe that our current relationship is better – or worse – than the alternatives. If we fundamentally believe that our relationship is the best possible answer for us then we won’t seek alternatives. Conversely, if we believe that the alternative relationships are better opportunities, we’re more likely to pursue – directly or indirectly – those other relationships.

It seems quite morally absent to discu¡ss the idea of a relationship being a comparison about what is best for us – however, that’s the way many people view their relationships – not that they are a commitment, but only that they are useful for the moment.


Learning to recognize and manage our emotions is a skill that few people have. (See Emotional Intelligence for more on managing our emotions.) Learning to manage emotions isn’t something that can be made into explicit knowledge – it’s hard to write down. (For more on different kinds of knowledge see Lost Knowledge and The New Edge in Knowledge Management.) Because of this, emotional intelligence is best learned through coaching. Parents that have coached their children about how to manage their feelings are rewarded with higher math, reading, and IQ scores.

However, sometimes it’s the children who need to coach their parents in better managing their emotions, and in that context, the word coaching becomes more challenging. To combat the stigma of having a child teach a parent how to better manage their emotions, Gottman uses the word attunement. He suggests that anyone can help attune you to an emotional situation – irrespective of the power differential between the parties.

Teaching emotional intelligence – or attunement in Gottman’s language is key. Couples will be happier if they can recognize the feeling in their partner and seek to connect with them. That just doesn’t happen over time, it’s a skill that has to be learned – largely from those who are closest to us.

Authentic Trust and Love

What can happen over time as couples have spent their lives together is that their love becomes intertwined with the trust that they share. Over time partners can learn to trust that their partner will be there to nurture them and share in the moral responsibility of leading a life together. That isn’t to say that every time there was a bid for attention that the other partner understood it and turned in, however, it happens with enough regularity that it can be relied upon – it can be trusted.

As I mentioned in my review of Building Trust, there’s an authentic trust that doesn’t blindly believe in something that has no basis in fact, nor is it basic trust which is implicit and without confirmation of fact. Authentic trust understands that there are no absolutes in life and that a partner will mostly be there.

The interesting dynamic is how love and trust are related to one another and strengthen each other. There’s a special kinship that comes with having a large number of experiences together. There’s even some schools of thought that believe that experiential is a type of trust.

The Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse

Ultimately, in his research and through his experience, Gottman discovered that there were four activities which signaled the demise of the relationship. These “four horsemen” were the signals of serious problems. Here are the four horsemen: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling.


Most all of us have been critical at some point in our lives. A key distinction is that criticism here is criticizing the other partner – not criticizing the situation or the environment – it’s a direct attack on the other person. Globalization – using the words always and never – is a good indicator that criticism may be following.

An example of criticisms are rhetorical questions that are really accusations. When your partner asks “Why don’t you care about me?” they’re really making an accusation that you don’t care about them.


Defensiveness is either denying that what the partner says is true – or more commonly responding with a counter attack instead of acknowledging that we all have limitations. Chris Argyris (mentioned in the Fifth Discipline, for which the review is coming soon) talks about “defensive routines” that we all have which protect us from threat or embarrassment.

Defensiveness prevents us from really understanding what the other person is saying. The antidote to defensiveness, I believe, is an integrated self-image which I covered in my review of Changes that Heal and Beyond Boundaries.


Contempt – which is the single biggest predictor of divorce – is placing yourself on a higher moral plane than your spouse. Often contempt is about how one person doesn’t have some challenge that the partner has and therefore they are better than the partner. Weird correlations exist including a husband’s contempt predicting the wife’s infectious illness. As crazy as it seems, a husband showing contempt for his wife will increase her risk for infectious illness.


Stonewalling is building a wall around you so that your partner can’t get in. It’s withdrawing from the conversation – and the relationship – because the partner doesn’t want to or isn’t able to participate. It can be subtle in terms of body language or more overt like leaving the room.

Science, Math, and Relationships

While I didn’t cover some of the mathematical principles that Gottman discussed to arrive at some of his conclusions, I think I may have been doing you a service. While I was interested in the background on the Nash Equilibrium and the von Neumann-Morgenstern equilibrium I felt like they were an academic detail compared to the practical help for couples struggling to make their marriage work and those interested in a deeper understanding of what is going on in their relationship.

It may seem like math and science have little place in relationships – however, as I found out, there’s a lot of math needed to be able to do the right science in order to be able to predict which relationships will endure the test of time – and which ones won’t. If you are looking for a rigorous look at relationships instead of the “touchy-feely” stuff, The Science of Trust may be your answer.

God Loves You

Book Review-God Loves You: He Always Has and He Always Will

Back in February I ended my marriage of over 15 years. There were good times in the marriage but there were also times which were an absolute struggle. They were consuming me – pushing me to become better but also making me weary in the process. Through the process of the divorce I was forced to redefine who I am. I had a defining boundary that I wouldn’t get divorced. (See Beyond Boundaries for what a defining boundary is.) Despite the boundary, after five years of fighting, I ran out of strength to continue the fight.

I was angry. I was angry at my ex-wife as you might expect, but I was also angry at God. I was angry because I thought that if I were willing to work on the relationship and pray hard enough that he should make it alright. I wondered what was wrong that God didn’t love me. I thought that there must be a reason why what was happening to me seemed to contradict what the Bible said. It didn’t make sense.

I knew John 3:16 … that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. However, that was an overall statement of love for his people. It wasn’t a statement that he loved me personally. That was what seemed to be the only logical explanation – that there was something wrong and God didn’t love me personally. If he loved me personally then how could I be going through the struggles?

My search for believing that God did love me and there was a greater plan led me to David Jeremiah‘s book God Loves You: He Always Has and He Always Will. Unlike some of my other book reviews which are quite intellectually driven, there weren’t many notes for this book. I already knew that God loved me in an intellectual sense, however, I didn’t believe it emotionally and that’s where the book really helped. Somehow through the pages, between the paragraphs and under the words I found the belief that God really did love me – personally.

One of the things that was woven into the book was that we were made for something better – something better than fear and doubt. We were made to be a light showing love and compassion to the world. One of the things that I didn’t realize when I was reading these words was that God wanted to bless the faithful in their greatest needs. For me, I was to be in a wholly intimate relationship with another person. A relationship that simply wasn’t possible with my ex-wife. I’ve been blessed to have a relationship in my life which is intimate and supportive. It’s a relationship that I’ve never seen modeled and I don’t understand. I trust that it’s a gift from God. So while I’m deeply saddened that it’s something that my ex-wife won’t be able to experience, I’m quite grateful that God saw fit to bless me with it.

One of the other things that I picked up elsewhere but ties in is that God takes everyone he loves through the wilderness – through the desert. Every story in the Bible seems to have someone going through a struggle to get them someplace that was better than where they started. My struggle to honor my commitment and keep my marriage going was a struggle that was my wilderness. It was filled with exploring. Exploring who I was, what I believed and how the world worked.

Jeremiah speaks about what we’re meant to have. We’ve all heard about covetousness. Most of us believe that coveting is simply wanting something that someone else has. However, as Jeremiah points out, it is a much stronger statement than that. Coveting is literally to deprive someone else of their property. Jeremiah describes it as a kind of lust in longing for something that we aren’t meant to have – or aren’t meant to have now. Sometimes when we ask God for something and we don’t get it – it means that we’re not supposed to have it. Consider that even Paul had a thorn in the flesh that God wouldn’t take away. This wasn’t because of the sin of pride – but rather than to keep him from becoming proud.

Jeremiah also speaks of the fact that God, like a good parent, is willing to administer discipline to teach a child. The willingness to administer pain to prevent a greater harm is the mark of true love. He speaks about the fact that God loves because that is his essence. I can’t quite put into words how reading a book about something I already “knew” allowed me to feel more at peace with it – but it did.


Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy

Recently I was having a conversation where we were trying to identify important topics for a program. During that conversation the words trust, vulnerability, and intimacy were all thrown in as potential options for keywords to cover together– and while they’re all valid options individually, I instantly saw them immediately as a flow. To me, trust yields (or can yield) vulnerability and vulnerability yields (or can yield) intimacy. I should get it out of the way that I am not using intimacy as a euphemism for sex. I mean the kind of connection that two people can have when there are no barriers between them – emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Here I want to explore how once you trust someone you’ll feel safe enough to become vulnerable. Once you’ve become vulnerable, you’ve removed the barriers that prevent intimacy. Of course, some folks aren’t focused on intimacy as the goal – however, I find nothing as exhilarating as much as being able to truly know another human being. There’s plenty of research (some of which I’ll reference below) that being connected – truly connected – with other humans improves your life and your life expectancy and that all starts with trust.


I’ve written about trust before. I have done three book reviews on trust: Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace, Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships and Life, and Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma. I followed these up sometime later with a post titled “Building Trust: Make, Renegotiate, Meet” which talked about how to build trust. However, I haven’t really talked directly about the relationship between trust and vulnerability. It starts with what trust is. Trust is about “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing.” ( In other words, trust is a belief.

As I mentioned in the review for Building Trust, there are three kinds of trust: Basic (implied), Blind (disconnected from reality), and Authentic (measured). The kind of trust that I’m talking about here is authentic trust. That is trust that acknowledges the realities of the situation and provides grace to allow people to be less than perfect. It’s about knowing what you should and should not trust in other people. Though that sounds odd in the context of building safety, vulnerability, and intimacy; knowing that no one is perfect allows you to accept who they are. I don’t trust my baby sitter to do my taxes or my accountant to watch my child. Trust doesn’t need to be limitless to be valuable to you.

In Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace, we learned that there are three kinds of trust – but from a different dimension. There is contractual (based on expectations), communications (based on authentic communications), and competence (skills and talents). In other words, we can trust that someone CAN do something (competence), WILL do something (contractual) or will LET US KNOW if they can’t (communications).

Strangely, trust isn’t an indication of whether a person or thing is trustworthy. Whether someone is ultimately worthy of trust isn’t the point. Trust is a gift. Trust is a leap that you make towards opening up to another person. That is leaving yourself somewhat vulnerable – hopefully in an appropriate and measured way.

One unfortunate understanding that is essential to understanding trust is that invariably your trust of someone will be violated – betrayal is a natural part of trust. The betrayal may be accidental in nature – a slip up. It may also be a difference of opinion about the nature of the trust relationship. In other words someone might not realize that you had told them something in confidence and share it with someone else. The benefits of trust are worth the occasional betrayal. A betrayal is ultimately a disappointment. In your trust, you expected someone to behave in a certain way, and they behaved in a different way. Betrayal may seem to be a strong word, and it is somewhat. However, the natural emotion when someone violates your trust will be betrayal. It will take some processing to get past this and move towards acceptance.

On the one hand, someone breaking your trust – some sort of betrayal – is normal. However, on the other hand if your trust is broken intentionally or in an egregious way, you may need to reevaluate who you trust or refine your understanding of how to determine whether someone is trustworthy to you.


In my review of Emotional Intelligence, I mentioned the truism that in order to be vulnerable you must feel safe. I touched the topic again in my review of How Children Succeed. Vulnerability is a tricky topic because we associate vulnerability with an outside force. That is we look as if our ability to be vulnerable isn’t under our control, however, much our vulnerability – particularly emotionally – is under our control or partial control.

Considering vulnerability from a non-emotional perspective to start, a common scenario for review is someone being mugged. The question is often posed “Did I have a choice to be vulnerable or not?” Ultimately, in the moment you didn’t have control, you needed to succumb to greater force or the risk of harm. However, while you don’t have complete control, you do have influence. The starting point is you can determine whether you’re in a high-crime neighborhood or not. Being in a “good” neighborhood doesn’t prevent muggings but it makes them less likely. Managing which environments you put yourself in is a very long-range view of the influence you have towards your physical vulnerability.

A more short-term view is your awareness of your surroundings. Are you watching for the person who isn’t acting like others? Are you actively looking for someone in the shadows, or someone who seems to be loitering, waiting, and watching. Again, just because someone is loitering, doesn’t make them a mugger, however, being aware of those people who might be threats creates an opportunity to react before there is a problem. Being mindful about your surroundings is one way that you can safely reduce your vulnerability even in situations which may be prone to muggings. Failing to be mindful of your surroundings doesn’t make it your fault that you were mugged – however, it makes it more likely.

At an emotional level, you have control of what you personally disclose to others. There are some emotional circumstances that you don’t control – such as someone being told or discovering a previous misdeed. However, for the most part you get to choose what to disclose and what to hide from others. You can control your emotional vulnerability. You have the choice to be emotionally vulnerable – or emotionally invulnerable. Given those two choices it would seem that the right answer should be emotionally invulnerable but not so quick, the research doesn’t support this point of view.

Some people feel safe because they put up walls and borders which they let no one through. That sounds good, until you reflect upon research including a study reported in Science where isolation alone “is as significant to mortality rates as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of physical exercise.” Ouch. So maybe the right answer isn’t complete safety. Social isolation has been shown in study after study to increase mortality rates. So being completely safe – walled off and out of contact with other human beings may actually be less safe than interacting with other humans – even with the occasional disappointment. (See Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review.)

The idea that you have to experience problems shows up again and again. In The Me I Want to Be, Ortberg talks about Dr. Marian Diamond’s research at UC Berkeley and how our brains need challenges. How Children Succeed while warning about too many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) equally encourages the kind of challenges that encourage the development of “grit” – or perseverance. While at first glance the idea that we need challenges for our brains to be healthy and we need challenges to develop a persistence in us, may not seem like it is an encouragement to be vulnerable – I believe they’re connected. There’s a certain sense of the lack of uncertainty in a framework of expected outcomes that causes us to grow.

The subtitle of the classic Boundaries book by Cloud and Townsend is “When to Say Yes, and How to Say No.” In other words even a book dedicated to a discussion of boundaries there is a discussion of when to let people in. Consider that walls are a good analogy for boundaries. Walls and even walls – like the Great Wall of China – need gates. You have to be able to know when you should keep people outside and when you need to allow people in. Learning whether to allow someone in or to keep them outside isn’t as easy as looking at the uniform they’re wearing. However, it is a process that you can learn how to manage – particularly over time. By taking small risks with people you can observe their behaviors and decide to trust them and become more vulnerable on larger things.

Beyond Boundaries, a follow up to the Boundaries book, discusses two different kinds of boundaries. They are protective boundaries and defining boundaries. Protective boundaries are temporary barricades to prevent people from entering into places which are still hurt and are recovering, much like temporary barricades that prevent people from walking in newly planted grass or keep people from parts of the highway which are under reconstruction. Protective boundaries are designed to be temporary in nature. At some point they should be removed.

Defining boundaries are different. Defining boundaries are permanent and changing them requires that you change who you are. Consider the idea that you were forced to steal bread to feed your family. If you had a defining boundary – one for yourself – that is that you won’t steal, if you choose to steal the bread – you’ll change your defining boundary. Others see our defining boundaries as who we are. That’s why people on the news say “I would have never believed he could have done such a thing.” They inferred a defining boundary on someone they knew.

One of the strange realizations about this is that boundaries aren’t for other people – boundaries are for you. They allow you to define what you will and will not accept. Vulnerability is not defending those boundaries. For instance, let’s say that you have a defining boundary that you don’t eat meat. You don’t eat meat – but a friend slips some hamburger into some supposedly vegetarian chili. This is a violation of trust – a betrayal. You can decide whether it was intentional or unintentional and whether it is important or unimportant. You trusted your friend to honor your defining boundary and they didn’t. Your trust allowed you to be vulnerable. You didn’t provide your own food. You didn’t extensively question your friend. You didn’t take the food to a lab for analysis. You were vulnerable to the possibility that you might ingest some amount of meat.

Your boundary of not eating meat isn’t for other people to prevent them from introducing meat in the foods you eat. This is an internal defining boundary that you’ve made others aware of. They can see this as a part of your identity. Having eaten meat doesn’t change who you are. The decision to change your boundary to allow yourself to eat meat would change your defining boundary – and how others see you.

From my perspective, a boundary that you do defend, one that you have to protect yourself on is a barrier. Protective boundaries can be barriers. If you are with safe people, a protective boundary need not be a barrier – but often it is.

Emotional vulnerability awareness is like the physical vulnerability expressed above. There’s a longitudinal view. You can look at the history of what they’ve done in their past relationships. Do they have long-time friends? When someone wronged them did they cut them off? Have they done wrong to others – and not made amends? By reviewing this you get a sense for their longitudinal trustworthiness – and therefore a sense for how much you may want to trust them and be vulnerable to them. On this front no one is completely “clean,” we’ve all made mistakes when it comes to relationships – just as there’s no such thing as a completely safe neighborhood.

Coming back to the short term view of vulnerability, if you’ve trusted someone with something relatively small and they’ve honored it, then perhaps you can trust them with larger things. One of the challenges here is that sometimes authentic trust is accidentally swapped with blind trust. The pain of being betrayed makes us stop being aware of the circumstances and realizing what’s going on around us. Many spouses have “discovered” infidelity that they could have easily seen before had they simply been willing to stay aware of what is happening. I don’t want to suggest that infidelity is the other spouse’s fault (it’s not) or that it could have been prevented. I’m only suggesting that as we’re looking at how much to trust and be vulnerable with someone else, it’s important to stay aware of our “surroundings.”

In my review of Trust Me, I talked about the concept of space and how you only let people you really trust into within 18″ of you, your intimate space. We’ve got a set of borders that we let people through. The invisible walls express themselves in physical space in terms of how close we let people get to us, but they also express themselves emotionally as we create different levels of distance that people can get to us. The safest spot is to feel totally vulnerable. Paradoxically you develop the greatest intimacy through the greatest feeling of safety, through trust at the moment of greatest vulnerability.

The book Boundaries says that sharing feelings is a kind of vulnerability that is the beginning of intimacy and caring.


Before we get to intimacy – and how it’s so amazing and critical – we need to move back to trust for a moment. We have to realize that trust is reflexive. That is that the more we trust someone else the more that they will trust us. This is an essential part of being able to be intimate with another person. If you can’t trust the other person – if you can’t be vulnerable – then you’ll find that you won’t be able to be intimate.

But what is intimacy? Many of the dictionary definitions for intimacy focus around closeness. Simplifying the definition, intimacy is about a level of closeness where there are few (or no) barriers between you and the other person. You can discuss anything without being harmed by the interaction. That isn’t to say that there won’t be the occasional disagreement, difference of opinion or hurt because we’re all human. It is, however, to say that intimacy is a courage to fully experience things with another human being. It’s the trust of being vulnerable with someone because you know that they have your best interests at heart.

It’s important that above I said that there are no barriers between you and the other person. I didn’t use the word boundaries (as has been used above.) Instead I used the word barriers. A barrier is a defended boundary. A place where vulnerability doesn’t exist. It’s a place where you don’t trust the other person to observe the boundary that you’ve communicated. Because you don’t expect the other person will observe the boundary, you put things in place to mitigate – or prevent – a boundary violation.

Getting back to trust – you have to trust that someone won’t violate a boundary that you’ve communicated. You have to leave yourself vulnerable along that boundary so that it doesn’t turn into a barrier – something that comes between you and the other person. The more that you share your reality – all of your reality – with the other person the more that you can be truly intimate with them. Barriers (defended boundaries) separate you from other people.

It’s important to point out that there’s a subtlety here between eliminating barriers and maintaining boundaries. It seems like you should not have any boundaries between you and your most intimate relationships – however, to do so would deny your individual identity. The beauty of a healthy intimate relationship is the ability to see each person as an individual and to see both of the individuals together as a couple at the same time.

A challenge for intimacy is the tendency for folks to retreat into themselves and to become selfish. The response becomes, “Why should I take care of their needs and concerns because they’re not taking care of mine?” Even written you can hear the hurt, scared, two year old who’s crying out to be cared for. Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages makes a point about each of us experiencing and communicating love differently. Love in this context is our way of caring for one another, for making sure that our needs for intimacy are met. How Children Succeed speaks of how rats with additional grooming from their mothers tended to be healthier in nearly every way when compared to rats who received lower grooming from their mothers.

The Dalai Lama and Daniel Goleman (He wrote Emotional Intelligence) sat down in a discussion which led to the book titled Destructive Emotions. In the discussion they talk about whether humans are fundamentally compassionate and only pushed to selfishness out of need – or whether we are rational egoists – that is we realize that looking out for others is good for our own survival. Whether you subscribe to a view that we start out being compassionate towards others – or that we end up there – the point is the same we must have a deep connection with the experience of others.

Intimacy isn’t a one dimensional problem. It’s not like you can be completely intimate with only one individual in all things. Intimacy is faceted like trust. You may be completely physically intimate with your spouse and only partially cognitively intimate with them. In How to Be an Adult in Relationships Dan Richo suggests that we should get no more than 25% of our nurturance from one person. A need to be intimate is similarly spread across not one person but a few. The Wikipedia article on intimate relationships defines four kinds of intimacy: physical, emotional, cognitive, and experiential.

Physical intimacy includes both intimate touch and sex. Physical intimacy is generally expected to be isolated to a single other person. Emotional intimacy is sharing our most vulnerable feelings and fears with someone else. Emotionally we might be intimate with a few close friends. Intellectual intimacy is sharing a similar view of the world. We might be intellectually intimate with a broader group. Intellectual intimacy can be shared in a medium sized meeting with colleagues. In that way intellectual intimacy can be a more one-to-many type of intimacy than physical and emotional intimacy are.

The last type of intimacy – experiential intimacy — is more about a feeling of connection and safety due to shared experiences. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s a false intimacy. There are plenty of families where there are many shared experiences and yet very little intimacy. However, experiences do influence how we are intimate with others.

In opening this post I spoke about emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy. (Carefully sidestepping the physical intimacy issue.) The addition here compared to the Wikipedia article is the introduction of a spiritual component. Most people have a special place for their “god” – even in intimate emotional relationships, the topic of religion is often guarded – or off limits. So I believe that whatever your faith is, that sharing that faith with another human being is an incredibly vulnerable and intimate moment.

Ultimately creating intimacy is about sharing your reality. As I mentioned in my review of Compelled to Control, reality is at the heart of intimacy. To be truly known we have to have a common sense of reality. Sharing our reality is that vulnerability that we’ll be rejected or ridiculed. It takes courage and bravery to expose ourselves to that vulnerability. However, without this vulnerability, intimacy will be blocked.

I talked about some of the reasons for problems with intimacy – some of which are caused by poor experiences — in my reviews for Bonds that Make Us Free, Leadership and Self-Deception, and Anatomy of Peace. This trio of books speak of “boxes” that people get in that distorts their reality – a reality distortion that makes the world about themselves, instead of being with others. Dr. Wayne Dyer might called these Erroneous Zones. They are places where your way of relating to the world are in error. Sometimes experiences create a set of learned behaviors which are bad. For instance, perhaps your father was an alcoholic and so you learned that anger signaled danger. As a result you became a peacemaker – someone who keeps the peace at all costs to prevent anger and the fear you felt as a child.

The idea that you’re trying to avoid a hurt that you experienced as a child that you couldn’t defend against is common. Beyond Boundaries calls it a “soul hole.” We can’t close the gaps on those holes except through getting the experiences we missed as a child during our adulthood. We do, however, tend to avoid the very experiences that can help us fill those holes. We can’t trust enough to become vulnerable, to let others see this hole in our soul. Nor can we become intimate enough with someone else to allow these holes to be filled by someone else. This is what positive intimacy is about – it’s about filling in the soul holes from our past and becoming more of us.

John Ortberg says in The Me I Want to Be that “I can only be loved to the extent that I am known.” So if you want to be loved you should – go be known by sharing your trust, your vulnerability, and intimacy with someone who deserves it. In short, go be loved.


Rusty Shane Bogue

I and others have posted on FaceBook the news that my brother Rusty Shane Bogue was killed in a tragic airplane accident on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. There have been numerous news stories about the accident some of which are very accurate and some which are not. I want to briefly acknowledge the events that happened – as we know them – and then move on to the man Rusty was and the legacy that he left behind.

On Tuesday I got a text from my brother Casey to call him that it was an emergency. When I called him he told me that Rusty had been in an airplane accident. I packed my things for an overnight visit, grabbed the computers, and headed down to Paris, IL where Rusty lived. It’s a two hour drive to Paris from my house and having heard no further updates and no redirection to the hospital I knew that Rusty had been killed by the time that I had arrived.

Rusty had taken off on a clear day from his home airport in an aircraft that he knew better than any man. It was one of the several Cessna 421 with Riley “Rocket” modifications that Rusty loved so much. He had topped off the fuel tanks to make sure that he had every bit of fuel he might need. The takeoff was in this way as normal as getting up in the morning for him. However, we know now that at some point Rusty feathered the left propeller. That’s an indication that the left engine had failed to produce power. Based on what we know now he attempted to get the aircraft off the ground with only the right engine and ultimately was unsuccessful as he struck trees two fields away from the departure end of the runway.

It will be a year or so before the FAA and NTSB have completed their investigations and have a ruling on the causes of the accident.

So that’s the high-level story of how his life came to an end. However, there’s so much more to his life than the ending. Despite having only 33 years of life he made the most of it. He made friends, developed respected colleagues, and made an impact on the community that won’t be forgotten. WCIA Channel 3 in Champaign reported about his life in their story “Area Pilot Remembered Fondly”

Before I share a few memories and thoughts, I want to say that the observation from the visitation was overwhelming. The family made a decision to have the visitation and funeral in a church to ensure there was sufficient space. Despite this, the response was still overwhelming. The visitation was planned for four hours and ended up going over six hours and had people waiting for over two hours in line just to get a few moments to offer their condolences to the family. We heard of numerous people who weren’t able to stay in line – and many more who wanted to offer relief to the family more than they wanted to offer their condolences on that day. At some point in the near future we’ll count up the number of people who came, however, the estimate is as high as 2,000.

Consider that the community of Paris, IL is only 9,077 people as of the 2000 census – and you realize what an impact Rusty had on his community.

Prior to his death, Rusty and his wife Ann have been embroiled in a fight at the airport from which he did pilot training, pilot services (commercial/charter flight), crop dusting, and maintenance services. I won’t taint this tribute to Rusty by surfacing the hateful and illegal things that were said. You can search the Edgar County Watchdogs site for airport to see much of that protracted battle that stole some of the light from his world during the final 10 months of his life.

That’s the most amazing thing about my brother – the light that he brought to those around him. He shared so much love and so much passion. Certainly his love for flying is transparent. If it flew Rusty knew about it. He was a walking encyclopedia of airplane knowledge. He understood every aspect of flying from power plants to lift generation to parasitic drag and thousands of things that I’ll never understand. Yet if he was just the great pilot and aircraft mechanic we’re still missing so much of who he was.

The truly amazing stories that came to life at the visitation was how Rusty loved to share his passion with others. Student pilots and pilots who had completed their training with Rusty showed up – as did airline captains who had the opportunity to work with Rusty while he was training. He simply loved learning and teaching. He ignited a passion for flying into others.

Still we’re looking at such a small sliver of the man he was. Others shared what I already knew – Rusty was always ready to lend a hand when he could. It didn’t matter if it was person with a flat tire or if it was someone who wanted to be able to be in a General Lee Charger. Story after story came to life of how Rusty gave what he had in terms of time, shared what he had in terms of resources and toys to help make lives brighter.

And that’s what the public got to see. A man who was dedicated to leaving the world a better place when he was done than when he began. I got to see more. I got to see his absolute undying love for his wife Ann and his love for his daughter MJ. I had the honor of taking Rusty and Ann’s engagement photos. We took the one which was used most frequently in a Cessna 421 with Riley “Rocket” modifications much like the one he flew last. This picture captured – quite accidentally – a moment when it was just the two of them in each other’s love.

That was just one of the loving looks that I saw over the last five years – and for the years preceding it. He adored Ann. He was lost before reconnecting with her. He had numerous unfinished projects random debts and diversions. Before he proposed I saw him gain focus, loose the distractions, and prepare to provide for her – though she was quite capable of providing for herself.

Through my struggles, research, and wrestling, I’ve come to realize that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a series of actions. It’s a constant commitment to put someone else ahead of you. I saw him do things for Ann – small and large – time and time again.

When he found out Ann was pregnant with MJ, he was scared. He thought with four brothers he knew how to do boys. He was scared that he didn’t know how to be a good father to a girl. Yet, I have so much video evidence that he was an excellent father. I already knew he would be a good father because he was such a good uncle to my son, Alex. I knew that his passion for people and teaching would make him as good a father as anyone could hope for.

The very last time I saw him was only slightly more than a week before his death. We didn’t get much time to visit because I was taking engagement pictures for Casey and Karen – and because he was pressure washing a swing set for MJ. He had been up working on the business earlier in the day. He had to clear the trailer to get the pressure washer up on it. On this – like many other Saturdays – he was working to make MJ happy – to give her the things to help her develop into the wonderful woman he hoped to someday see.

Rusty will never get to meet the unborn child that Ann still carries but I know that he would have been an amazing father to this child as well.

I realize that reading this blog you probably never got the honor of knowing Rusty. I consider myself lucky for the 33 years of his life that I got to share a part of. I cherish the fact that he was able to sign off on my biannual review for flying. I wish I had spent more time with him. I wish that I had found a way to be more in his world – however, I can hold on to memories of our flying trip to Mount Rushmore. I love that we managed to get a trip to Mammoth cave together for all us boys two years ago.

I need to end this tribute with a simple request. A memorial fund has been setup in Rusty’s name for his children. Would you consider some sort of a donation – of any amount – to make the burden that Ann faces raising the children a little easier? I know the family will rally around her but I also know that being able to step away from work to raise the children for a while would be a blessing. A button for the donation appears below.