Monday, February 24, 2014

Outcome vs. Output

February Webinar
By Janis Kugler

Etched on Michael Jackson's tombstone is a list of his accomplishments: songwriter, singer, producer, dancer, choreographer, humanitarian, Jackson 5 member, soloist, 13 #1 singles, 13 Grammys, 197 awards and 37 top 40 hits. A large tombstone! This epitaph looks like output to me-success as measured by activities rather than purpose and impact. While it sounds impressive because we understand all the money and power that came with Michael Jackson's career, what if we measure life by outcome and not output?

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What are we ultimately about in our personal and professional lives? And how do we know if we're successful? Is our end result about output or outcome?

Most of our day-to-day activities measure output. Output relates to "what we do" and is measured in activity and metrics. What have you done for me lately and how can we see quickly and tangibly that we're making progress? In business, we measure activity and widgets produced or if we're in ministry we measure the three "B's"-butts (attendance), bucks (financial giving), and baptisms (conversions). While these are all good things, they aren't necessarily the full measure of personal or professional success.

Outcome refers to "what difference is there" and is measured in impact, transformation and purpose. Outcome focuses on the big picture of what matters most. Feedback isn't immediate and results may take a lifetime. Take mothering for example. It is all about outcome and the long-term return on our day-to-day investment of time and energy. In ministry, outcome is defined by how people's lives are different because they have intersected with our organization.

When I think about my life and my eventual epitaph, I want my husband, daughters and grandchildren to talk about the difference I made in their lives. I want co-workers to talk about the way I challenged them to be more and to live out their God-given purpose. I want people to understand that I lived out God's purpose for my life. Like David, I want people to say that I served "God's purpose for my generation." (Acts 13:36) That sounds like an outcome. When we live a life of purpose as evidenced by outcome-or maybe even fruit-as Jesus called it, we've been
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personally successful.

Jesus was all about outcome. His earthly ministry wasn't about the number of people
he came in contact with, but rather it was how their lives were different because
they had been with him. He wasn't interested in outward appearance but o
nly what had transpired at a heart level. Jesus' outcome was a changed heart and life.

What's ours?

Janis Kugler is President of Facet Consulting Group. She consults with a variety of non-profit organizations, specializing in strategy and resource development. Prior to launching her consulting business, she served for 12 years with MOPS International in the areas of development, marketing, strategic planning and organizational research, learning and innovation. Visit for more information.

Monday, February 17, 2014


By Jennifer Nahrstadt

I have been giving serious time and mental energy attempting to discover what the next chapter of my life might look like. It's making me squirm.

Why? I'm a pragmatic woman, born and raised in the no-nonsense Midwest. I don't want open-endedness. I see no need for long, drawn out periods of consideration or processing.

I must admit that I'm not content. I've had this internal niggling that there is something more I have to offer the world, now that my only son has graduated high school and gone off (603.5 miles off, to be exact) to college. I feel the need to know what is next for me. 

With my personality profile in hand and the conviction of my life coach that the results of said profile are, indeed, accurate - that I am a born leader - now I have to figure out what to do with what I know.


I'm 47. Who will hire me when I can't even articulate effectively what I feel called to do? Who would follow that kind of leader?
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Suddenly, the story of Moses and his encounter with God at the burning bush interrupts this train {wreck} of thought. Before now, I never really identified with Moses, with his adamant reasons why he what God was inviting him to do. Now I get it - Moses was scared out of his mind at the enormity of God's call! I am too.In the midst of this process, all I see is more doubts than direction. 

That's not what God sees.

After God tells Moses to go to Egypt, Moses says, "Who am I?" God replies, "You're with Me." God doesn't even answer Moses' question because it's irrelevant. He goes on to explain that he has anticipated every possible outcome and spells out for him how he will take care of everything that concerns Moses. GOD, not Moses.
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When Moses resists seeing himself as even remotely qualified to work with God, what does God ask him? "What's in your hand?" I imagine Moses looking at his staff. God started with what Moses already had and transformed it into a tool he would use to change the future of His people.

What's in my hand?

I don't know where this process is taking me, but I know the One who is leading me through it. He will show up with work to do; by his grace, I already have tools in my hands.Will I join him in the work he is going to do or just offer excuses?  

A born and bred Midwesterner, Jennifer Nahrstadt and her husband Bob now live in Georgia. After seven years in the South, her friends say she still can't say "y'all" convincingly. She works the opening shift at Starbucks, where she gathers life lessons for the book she is writing. Although she doesn't drink coffee, she'll do almost anything for chocolate.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wired for Beauty

By Dorothy Greco

For more than fifteen years, my family lived in the midst of a claustrophobic, somewhat neglected section of Boston. We had to navigate idling buses spewing their toxic fumes and idling drunken men-often spewing toxins of another sort. Depending on what time we left the house, it could take nearly thirty minutes to travel the two miles across town. The neighborhood was the antithesis of everything my soul craved.

An arboretum within walking distance of our home served as my spiritual life-line during this season. There was a small knoll, surrounded by towering pine trees and overlooking a creek. I claimed this spot as my personal chapel. Whether I was praying, reading, or simply being, the beauty of this place became like manna which fed and sustained me.

Though not everyone is wired to find God in nature as I do, we are all designed to recognize and respond to the sacred call of beauty. Mystic Simone Weil wrote, "God uses beauty to captivate the flesh in order to obtain permission to pass right to the soul. It constitutes another way in which the divine reality behind the world invades our lives."This invasion creates a longing that can only be satisfied as we pass through beauty to the One who made us.

C. S. Lewis referred to beauty as a doorway which invites us into the presence of God. The doorway itself might be artfully carved from brightly burnished mahogany, but if we worship the door rather than walking through it, we will have missed the door's true purpose.

Similarly, if we allow beauty to satisfy our flesh but not penetrate our souls and motivate us to action, we've missed the deeper meaning. Sacred beauty unequivocally validates God's existence (Romans 1:20) and woos us like a lover, but
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it's also meant to inspire both worship and creativity. For as we respond to our lover's initiative by planting flowers, making photographs, setting a bountiful table, or raising our voices in song, we actually partner with God to reveal his glory on the earth. In a world which seems to grow increasingly harsh and desperate, I need the gift that beauty offers. I think we
all do.

The flower photograph above is one of Dorothy Littell Greco's creations. Dorothy now lives among towering pines outside of Boston. She writes, makes photographs, and walks alongside of men and women who want more in their relationship with God. You can find more of her work at or by following her on FB ( and twitter (@dorothygreco).

Monday, February 3, 2014

Still Winter?

By Dale Skram

By this time of the year I am over winter. Anyone else? I am tired of shoveling my driveway. Tired of static in my hair. Tired of cleaning the drippings of snow sludge off my floors. And I am definitely tired of being stuck inside all the time. Enough already.

This year my feelings are compounded by the fact that I am also stuck in the spiritual season of winter, that bare and lonely season of the soul. My own winter arrived with the death of my marriage, but your winter season might come through loss, crisis, burnout or illness.

Winter is a season of forced inactivity, a low period in life, a time of trial and suffering. Winter is hard. Unlike the rainbow of colors that pop and bloom in spring, life loses color in winter and becomes gray. So does my mood and my outlook on life.

And then there is the winter pruning, that barbaric practice of cutting off limbs. It is supposed to be good for trees, to shape and direct future growth. But when I undergo pruning, it hurts!

As a woman who values work and productivity, winter is particularly hard for me because there is no apparent work to be done. Winter is a season of dormancy and rest in which nothing seems to be happening. And that makes me feel useless and forgotten. It makes me wonder what Jesus' disciples
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experienced in the space of time between his crucifixion but before his resurrection. Useless and forgotten, because circumstances had taken a dark turn.

But we know the end of the story, don't we? God acted. Jesus rose. New life began.

So it is with our winters. Great things are happening under the surface of our hard stories that we cannot see yet. And sometimes things need to be cleared out to make room for these new happenings. "He cuts off every branch
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in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2

It may still be cold and dark out, but Jesus reserves the deepest intimacy for this season. And since I seem to have some extra time, I am using it to pray and journal more, to build my faith, and embrace the deeper work that God is doing in my heart and my life so that I will be ready for spring.

Dale Skram is a speaker, writer and life coach who lives in Boulder, Colorado with her four daughters, ages 10-17. Connect with her at