The Key Attitude of Salespeople That Prosper

In the book Boundaries For Leaders, Henry Cloud shares a fascinating story about a study that was done on two different camps of insurance salespeople. More than a thousand insurance agents were given a simple aptitude test to separate each camp on how smart they were.

They pitted the smart agents against the one who flunked the test. Next, they looked to see which agents sold more insurance. The results were surprising.

The agents that flunked the aptitude test outsold the smart agents that passed the aptitude test!

Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, originally carried out this study. Positive Psychology looks at the reasons why people thrive or flourish and seeks ways to replicate these outcomes. As opposed to studying the sick, which is the traditional focus of psychology.

What was the contributing factor of the outperforming salespeople?

Optimism Leads to Higher Production

The study found that the smarter agents didn’t have a “can-do” like the agents that flunked the aptitude test.

Salespeople that have a positive mindset are outperformers.

In my last post, I talked about some of the dangers of positivity. The propensity of putting a positive spin on everything can lead you further from reality. Brutal honesty is the key here. It is not about ignoring reality. It is about processing negative realities in the way that I lay out later in this post.

In the Bible, this “can-do” attitude or “anything is possible” positive mindset is very much similar to faith. The best biblical narrative where this is on display is in the characters of Joshua and Caleb.

Scoping Out The Promised Land

When Moses led the Israelites out of captivity, God displayed his power and tender care for his people by delivering them at the Red Sea. Before they went into the Promised Land, Moses directed 12 men to go into the region that God was giving them to see what the land entailed. The story is documented in Numbers 13-14.

The 12 spies were scoping out the land for 40 days. 10 of the 12 spies complained about the land, saying the people were too big, the cities were fortified and Ank’s fearsome descendants were there.

But not Joshua and Caleb. They saw things differently.

Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
Numbers 13:30

All of the spies saw the same things. They got the same data and the same facts. But how Caleb and Joshua saw things, with eyes of faith, made all the difference.

The pessimistic spies continued to complain. They didn’t want to go into the Promised Land. They compared themselves to the others and said they seemed like grasshoppers in comparison. The people proposed finding another leader that would take them back to Egypt, where they were in captivity!

Then Joshua went on to say:

The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.
Numbers 14: 7-9

What is amazing here is how Joshua is not leaning on his strength. He is stating what God can do for them.

Isn’t is amazing how our outlook on life and our possibility of thinking is enhanced when we are full of faith! With God on our side, anything is possible!

That an outlook and attitude I want about life. How do we get there?

Thinking about Our Thinking

Neuroscientists have found a couple of amazing things about the human brain. We can look at our regular patterns of thinking. When we analyze the way we think about things, our perceptions, over time we can change them to ones that serve us better. This actually rewires the typical thinking patterns in our brains.

Isn’t that amaizing! We can change how we think and perceive events that life brings our way. Our typical ways of experiencing events and responding to them are not set in stone.

To start this process, we need to become aware of our thinking patterns.

The Downward Spiral of Negativity

In doing this research on optimism, Dr. Martin Seligman found that when a negative event happens, we create a narrative that descends negatively. The three deepening layers are where we “personalize” the event, see it as “prevalent” and then see it as “permanent.”

Personalize – we judge ourselves in light of the situation. We put ourselves down. This event happened because “I’m such a looser,” “I am no good at sales” or “I’m a terrible leader.”

Prevalent – the critique we made about ourselves in one area of our lives go to every area of our lives. It can sound like “I’m worthless,” “I’m good for nothing,” or “I don’t just suck at work, my marriage sucks, and I’m a terrible parent.”

Permanent – we resign ourselves to the fact that it will always be this way. We descend into hopelessness; nothing’s going to change, this new reality is here to stay.

When we descend to the bottom of this, which is called Learned Helplessness, we stop doing the things we know that will get us ahead. We stop taking action because we think its pointless. We feel paralyzed and our performance tanks.

Why take action when nothing is going to change anyway?

Bringing the Dark into the Light

When we become aware of our typical, negative thinking pattern. We need to bring it out into the open.

By giving voice to negative thoughts and helplessness, by writing in a journal, talking to a trusted friend or coach, we take back the power this thinking pattern has over us.

On a recent coaching call, my client told me about a situation where this downward spiral was occurring. He had a prospect on the phone that was very interested in his recruiting services. They had a great initial conversation, and he promised to follow up with more information about their services.

Then the prospect went cold. Would not respond to emails. Wouldn’t answer the phone and return voicemails over the next couple of weeks.

When I talked it through with him, he was disheartened and talked about the way he explained the situation. We went through each of permanent, prevalent and personalized reasons for the lack of response.

Before long my client said that maybe the guy was just busy and overwhelmed. He had a lot on his plate and was letting things fall through the cracks.

It gave him the realization that this prospect was more in need of his services than before. It gave him the resolve to keep reaching out and be pleasantly persistent. To let the sales process play itself out and continue to follow up and try different avenues to reach him.

Our Faith is in Christ

This is more than just looking at our thinking and trying some mind tricks.

The faith that Joshua and Caleb displayed was not in their abilities. Their faith was in the Lord, the one that would make a way and the one who fight on their behalf.

And likewise, our faith is in Christ. The one whose strength we can hold on to, even when we are weak.

May the God of hope fill you with
all joy and hope in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Do you want to get well?

It wasn’t until I read through each of the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John in succession, that I realized that most of Jesus’ ministry was healing people, making them well.

We talk about Jesus as an amazing teacher without noticing that many of his teachings involved or came after healing or an exorcism.

Restoring people to completeness seems to be one of his main activities. One particular interaction, The Healing at the Pool, I find striking.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
John 5:6

Jesus makes this request, that seemingly has an obvious answer, even though he knew he was suffering. “Yes! Of course, I want to be healed! You know how long I’ve been like this. You know how much I’ve tried.” Is what I would probably answer.

I think Jesus is showing his patient a lot of respect by asking this question.

God wants our participation in our transformation. He wants us to be involved and agree that a new way of life, a better way of life, is possible. Do you want to go there?

Naming the Hurt

It takes a lot of courage to tell others where we are hurting. It takes humility to acknowledge that all is not well in our lives, but we want to be well.

Putting words to what is not going well in our lives is a big deal.

Just saying to ourselves, or others, I’m fine, all’s well, I’m good, means that we miss out on so much. We miss the healing.

Much of my current growth is around realizing, coming to my senses, acknowledging the reality that all is not well and in real terms, agreeing with God about what is true. For me, this is admitting that I haven’t got life all figured out.

I think Jesus made it obvious all along, that he came to restore us:

Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

For some reason, stating the sickness, or the thing I would like to change doesn’t come easily. It is something I prefer to avoid.

The Dangers of Positivity

I have a propensity to put a positive spin on everything. I reframe the hard, difficult or negative realities in a positive light to avoid them. I do this with work situations and with issues in my marriage and family.

When I fail to acknowledge my dissatisfaction with a situation or with life in general, it distances myself from God and others that could connect with me where I am actually at.

My over desire to paint everything with a rosy picture leads me to be disconnected from reality.

The more and more I put a positive spin on reality the further, and further I get from reality. And the word for out of touch with reality is delusional.

Denial Makes You Delusional

It seems there is part of me that can never be satisfied. I am bouncing from one thing to the next, working my way out of something or trying to get to get to some place where the grass is greener.

Inability to express dissatisfaction keeps me from finding satisfaction. Constantly trying to make things different stops me from accepting or even enjoying life as it is and finding contentment.

I have this belief that reality is however you paint it. And when things don’t turn our as I have imagined, or reality is different than what I made up, it leads to loss and hurt and disappointment. But then I just dismiss it and say that it doesn’t really matter to me anyway.

I feel like I am just stealing to see what I can get away with. No one really knows what I am up to and in the end, I am just stealing from myself.

The right word here is delusional.

Acknowledging that something sucks or that I am hurt by something is hard. That would mean acknowledging that life or my life isn’t as awesome as I would make it out to be. So I end up minimizing hurt our discrediting hardships by saying it doesn’t matter, or who cares.

Complaining about what is going wrong seems more than unproductive to me. By looking for a silver lining and painting life in a positive light, it validates my competence and proves that I am capable of making life work. In a way, I am saying to God; I don’t need you to make things right in my life.

Truth Brings Freedom

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32

Allow me to paraphrase: the bullshit you spin will entangle you.

Staying distant from reality reduces my capacity to enjoy life. For a long time, I thought freedom was calling my shots and doing whatever I wanted.

Freedom isn’t being able to do whatever you want to do; it comes from doing what is right.

I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought your precepts.
Psalm 119:45

Freedom does not come from doing whatever I want to do. Whenever I do something stupid, some consequences often lead to shame and guilt, which makes things less enjoyable and more challenging, limiting freedom. Freedom comes from doing the right things.

Consequences from bad choices lead to less freedom. Poor choices lead to shame and regret. Freedom is not being weighed down by regret. Freedom is the ability to enjoy our lives.

Direct me in the paths of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Psalm 119:35

For me thought, it always seems more fun to see what you can get away with. Following the rules or doing what I’m told will flare up my nonconformist or noncompliant streak and ill do whatever I want to feel capable and avoid feeling controlled.

Things started to make a shift when I realized that BS wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go and was getting me further from where I wanted to be.

I wanted to be real and fully experience life.

The only thing that will get you there is finding people and getting into a circle where you can be open, honest, and willing to share struggles.

People can only connect with you when they know where you are at.

God will heal us and save us when we meet Jesus, name our hurt and agree with him that we want to get well.

Why are you insecure?

The question “why are you insecure?” rose up in my soul when I read Psalm 48.

It felt different than “why are you scared?” which comes with a sting of shame that said, “you’re chicken!”

God was saying to me in my spirit, “why be insecure? Look at all I have done to keep you safe!”

Walk around Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
go around her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
that this is our God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.
Psalm 48:12-14

Mount Zion, the location of the temple in Jerusalem, was the place where God made known his presence among his people. Psalm 48 calls it the city of our God. That is astonishing when you think about it, but it is God’s presence there that keeps the city safe.

For Christians, we know the expression of God’s presence is in Jesus Christ. It is the covering of Christ’s blood, which was poured out on Zion, that we are safe in God forever.

This is theological truth, but is theology any help when you are feeling insecure, shaking in your boots or up to your eyeballs in fear?

Experience The Saftey You Have in Christ

In Psalm 48, I get the sense that God is saying take a walk around the fortress. Look at how chunky the walls are! We are on a mountain and have an advantage. Check this mountain fastness!

Look at all that I have done to keep you safe from harm and spiritually safe.

See all the people I have brought into your life to ensure that you are emotionally safe.

We are being encouraged to have this experience as a reminder that we are safe and secure in God’s love and goodness.

We are safe because Christ took that blows for us. He shielded us from the bombs of sin and death.

The walls may not be physical, but we live in a spiritual fortress. Christ made it, so we don’t need the walls anymore. Perfect love drives out fear.

Remind Yourself That You are Safe

We all need to be re-minded of this. Take some time to either experience or acknowledge what Christ has done to keep you from harm. Who has he brought into your life that makes you feel safe?

Acting as if you had all you need and are safe, what action would you take?

This is not permission to be unfaithful and act as you please!

Let this truth sink in a lead to worship for the mighty fortress that is our God!

Closing Meditation

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Two Are Better Than One

At Church last week, Jeff Manion gave a wonderful message on Ecclesiastes 4:8-12, the Two Are Better than One passage.

One person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:8–12

During the message, Jeff made a compelling case for doing life together as Christians. The wisdom of building strong relationships, before the crisis comes, is valuable because we never see the crisis coming.

After the message, I was so grateful for the relationships that God has brought into my life.

The people I am invested in and they in me. We have sustained each other through difficult times. We have made it through hardships together. And made it out on the other side, stronger, closer, more joyful and with more wisdom and understanding of the value of life together.

I spent some time this week in Ecclesiastes 4. God revealed something to me on the three metaphors used in the second part of the passage: falling, warmth and protection.

How They Translate to the Emotional World

These traveling metaphors are different in our culture with cars, homes with central heating and doors that lock. Still, the metaphors of falling, warmth and protection translate to the emotional dimension of our lives.

It also appears that these three metaphors point three areas of human needs of power and control, affection and esteem, security and protection.

Falling – Power and Control

We all need a friend to pick us up when we are veering off Gods path. When we acknowledge when we have fallen, these people not show is forgiveness but also challenge and correction to walk in the right way.

I can recall one particular occasion when I did something so stupid it shocked me. I reached out to a couple of close friends to let them know what was going on. They didn’t give me condemnation, which is actually what I wanted. They gave me offers to keep connecting, have lunch and stay in the relationship. They helped me set up a strategy and system of accountability to keep my commitments.

Warmth – Affection and Esteem

Nowadays, with houses and cars that are heated, we don’t need physical warmth from each other as we once did. But the need for emotional warmth, in this seemingly arctic tundra, is needed more than ever!

We have to have people that love us for who we are. These are people who know everything about us and still love us. They give us the constant reminder that we are cared about and cared for.

Isn’t it heartwarming to know that we are valued and needed and worthwhile, just as we are!?!

Protection – Security and Survival

Deep relationships are the ones that provide emotional safety. These are the people that we can be vulnerable with and know that they are not going to use something against us. We can turn our backs and know that we won’t be harmed.

A great friend of mine swims in the deep end of the emotional pool, and I admire his emotional awareness journey. One time at Camp Paradise, his presence and support was the encouragement I needed to dive a little deeper emotionally. He helped me to know that it would be ok, I wouldn’t get stuck in it, and he could help me get back out.

We need a friend that can watch out for us and provide safety to do emotional work, as opposed to avoiding it out of fear that we will be stuck in it forever.

With Christ, This is More Than Advice

Ecclesiastes 4 was written well before Jesus walked on Earth, and it is great advice. We all can see the need to seek other people and invest in each other so that we have the support when we need it.

“But with the coming of Jesus and the cross of Jesus, makes it more than great advice.”
Jeff Manion

The forgiveness we have in Jesus, a price he paid on our behalf, is exactly what picks us up when we fall.

Jesus is the warm place where we feel accepted, a place where we belong. This makes me think about the picture of the Father running out to greet the Prodigal Son. That love and welcome made it possible for the son to acknowledge his wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness.

Lastly, it was Christ who willfully submitted and surrendered to be overpowered by the Cross. He did it so that he could be our refuge and the threats of sin and death would not overpower us.

Closing Meditation

If the Lord delights in a man’s way,
he makes his steps firm;
through he stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

Developing the Goal-Setting Muscle

In a previous post, we looked at how leaders are those that make change happen.

Before you can make change happen, you have to define which change you would like to make.

Goals Define Which Change You Want to Make

For the last 3-5 years, I have tried many different methods of looking at goals.

I go from not having any…to setting way too many.

Or just resetting goals every month when I get bored or when they get hard.

Or making them grandiose or way too easy, both methods to try and play it safe.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Goals

Because we are in the goal setting season, thinking about resolutions and the new you for the New Year, I decided to do a little reflecting on why I am weird with goals. These are a few that I came up with:

  1. I don’t really know what I really want
  2. I would rather keep my options open and just, you know, let life surprise me when it comes along.
  3. I want to avoid the pain and disappointment of not achieving the goal. For some reason, I think it would hurt more if you don’t achieve a goal if it is written down.
  4. I avoid setting goals because if I miss the goal, I can just say, meh, it didn’t matter to me anyway.

Do you relate to any of these in any way?

Regardless of our relationship with a formal goal setting process, we all aspire to do things that matter.

We all need to get to the end of the day, week, month or year and see that we have accomplished something to feel good about ourselves.

The legendary Hunter S. Thompson, in only his 20’s, had something incredible to say about goals:

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

The full letter that this was quoted from is remarkable. You can find it here.

I love how Hunter states that the goal is secondary; it’s the functioning toward the goal that is important. I could take it a step further and say that the process of moving towards the goal is more important than whether we achieve or fail.

A Rigorous Goal-Setting Process Help Us Move Towards The Life We Want to Live.

Zig Ziglar outlines a very clear and effective way to define your goals. Watch him talk about his method here:

Zig’s goal setting framework has seven steps:

  1. Write the goal down
  2. Put a date on it
  3. List the obstacles to overcome
  4. List the skills and knowledge required
  5. Who will you work with?
  6. What’s in it for me?
  7. Develop a plan of action

This framework is laid out in a Google Doc you can use, click here. Make a copy of it and save it to your Google Drive, then you will be able to edit it and define a goal for yourself.

My Goal For 2019

This year I want to be more consistent with writing and publishing ideas. The goal I am setting is to post weekly here on this Blog. That is 52 posts for the year, starting with this one!

I have fleshed out this goal using Zig’s framework. Feel free to take a look at it here.

To achieve this goal I know I will need to ask for support from people in my life. I will also be important to review the goal daily and incorporate the tasks into my productivity system.

So how about you? Where are you at with incorporating the goal-setting mindset into your daily life? Is there something specific you aspire to achieve this year?

Leave a comment!

The Value of Consistency

Recently I learned a lesson in the gym the hard way, overdoing it is not worth it.

I had been progressing with adding weight to the barbell over a few months. About four weeks ago, I was feeling frisky, so I bumped it up 15 lbs higher than the previous time I did that lift.

Big mistake. My low back hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up straight and could barely walk.

The chiropractor said it was a low back sprain. For three weeks all I could think about was how much my back hurt.

The low point is when I took a four-hour road trip for work. I made it to the hotel and couldn’t stand up after I got out of the car. I was hanging off the car door trying to pull myself up, and the valet guy had to help me out. It was brutal.

Since this happened, I keep asking myself why? Why am I do I have to try to push it too far? Does it matter if I deadlift 300lbs instead of 285lbs? Was it worth it? Especially given that the injury has affected every part of my life and I haven’t been able to do anything, let alone work out.

It was at this low point that a Joe Rogan video on How to Workout Smarter intrigued me.

You should check it out; it is worth 20 mins of your time.

This idea of consistency doesn’t just relate to working out or training for physical competitions.

There is something about showing up day in and day out and taking consistent action that will get us closer to our goals.

About ten years ago I went through the Sandler Sales Training Program. Working with my trainer, he helped me come to a daily number of 5 outbound connections to prospects per day. That comes out to be 25 contacts per week and 150 over six weeks.

Once I formed the daily habit, it had a big impact. Before that, I might call ten people one day and none the next. And it is always easy to find excuses not to call people.

Consistency also relates to other areas such a marriage, kids or finances. By making small consistent investments of time, attention or money, before long it will have a big impact.

How about you? Has there been a time where you overdid it? What is a consistent action you could commit to doing day in and day out?

Let me know in the comments section…

The Reason You Don’t Achieve Your Goals And What To Do About It

What is something you dream about accomplishing? What is something, that if it’s the only thing you accomplish in the next year, it will blow your mind!?

What is keeping you from achieving these long-term goals?

According to Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter Faster Better, our preoccupation with completing short-term objectives stifles our aspirations.

Put another way; we are not doing the one to two things we need to be doing every day to make headway.

It is not that we are lazy. Our days seemingly fill themselves up with busy work.

My coach helped me distinguish between two types of activities: Maintenance and Growth.

Maintenance activities are the ones that maintain the status quo. These are the day-to-day activities, the daily grind, that make up our to-do list. These are the things that we are on the hook to get done, and you have the internal character to get them done.

Growth activities are the things that move you beyond the status quo and towards reaching your long-term goals. These activities are the phone calls or outreach or creative work that isn’t urgent but still needs to be done to build what you want to build. These activities, no one would ever know if you didn’t do them.

Why don’t we do our growth activities?

Why don’t we do the extra activities we know we need to do to build our business or complete a dream project?

It may be that we don’t feel like doing it, or we tell ourselves that it’s not that important or we get distracted by something that grabs our attention. Nevertheless, what it comes down to comes down is the well-established physiological concept of Delayed Gratification.

By definition, long-term goals have their reward sometime in the future. Our brains are wired for instant gratification, and when we do short-term activities, we get an instant reward internally.

What can we do about it?

Are you are ready to bring out the big guns and once and for all destroy procrastination? The best way is to start doing Implementation Intentions. Do put trying these off!

Simply put, an implementation intention is not just what you are going to do (the activity) but also where (the location) and when (the time) you are going to do the growth activity.

An example for me over the last couple of weeks is 30 minutes of blog writing the first thing when I get into the home office. I was able to go from writing sporadically to putting a 38-day streak together without missing a day. I was shocked!

I have worked with clients to help them craft their implementation intentions, and it has been cool to see their early success. Get in touch if you would like to work together.

The important part is to not procrastinate on doing the implementation intentions!

You may want to take this one step further, tell someone, your manager, your coach, your productivity buddy, what, when and where you intend to do.

If you are building your productivity system, find a way to build gratification into doing you long-term growth activities.

If you would like to see how this fits into my overall production system, see my post on achieving what matters to you.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Camp J at Angola Prison

Does God use broken people?

Given our flaws, weaknesses and sin patterns can God still further his purpose through us here on earth?

I have wrestled for a long time with these questions. Reflecting on a powerful act of God I witnessed on August 11, 2016, for me they come to a resolution.

I was at Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola Prison, for the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit. It is a simulcast leadership conference that goes out to thousands of sites. There were 500 inmates in the prison chapel to take part in the seminar.

Security at the prison had a scheduling mix up and called lunch early, so we became unhooked from the rest of the Summit.

Unsure what to do, and all the inmates leaving the chapel, I asked longtime prison chaplain, Chaplain Toney.

He said “well, let’s go to lunch,” in his charming southern drawl.

So I followed him out and asked where are we going?

“Camp J,” he responds, and my heart sank, and my gut clenched tight.

I had heard horror stories about Camp J. It was the out camp that inmates were sent to for disciplinary purposes. Inmates were in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

The stories I had heard from inmates that had done time at Camp J were heartbreaking, scary and disgusting. When they described it to me that said if you treat people like animals they are going to act like animals. It was a place designed to ensure if you made it out, you wouldn’t do anything wrong to go back.

A few weeks before my visit, two inmates that had taken their own lives there. To think that they were in a place of so much hopelessness that they would take such drastic action is troubling.

Chaplain Toney had recently been stationed there after he came back from leave. He joked about being sent to do his time at Camp J.

There was going to be a baptism at noon for an inmate who had just accepted Christ. We still had some time, so we sat at a table in the small Camp J chapel and ate our shrimp salads. I scarfed mine down as quickly as possible to try to resolve the uneasy feeling.

Over the years of going to Angola, I had developed a close connection to Chaplain Toney. As we sat and ate, he shared more of his story. His openness and vulnerability in the sincere way he shared his heart were remarkable.

We continued our conversation in his office, and we talked about the hardships he had endured. He was suffering from depression and was still grieving the loss of his father. He told me about the dark places this had brought him to and the wrongful ways he tried to resolve this pain.

As a last resort, he took leave and went to a horse farm where he sought healing. The farm bred, raised and trained horses and mules. A retired Green Berets ran the farm and counseled troubled souls with unconventional methods.

The transformation he experienced was undeniable. I could see it and hear it as my friend talked. He was a new man.

We lost track of time and realized we had missed the baptism that was happening at noon.

“That’s ok,” Chaplain Toney said, “We will just head down the tier and visit with the inmate.”

This proposition pegged my fear again. I was terrified. Going down the tier wasn’t part of the deal. I tried to play it cool, but when we headed down there, and when the bars locked behind me everything inside me was yelling “GET OUT!”

As we were walking in, the inmate minister was walking out with the portable baptistery that they had just drained and broken down.

Once we were in the building, an inmate orderly was mopping the floor around the guard’s station. This inmate was from another camp and has a higher trustee status. He called Chaplain Toney over for a conversation, and I could hear much.

The inmate mopping the floor had seen the baptism and was asking the Chaplain about it. He then told the Chaplain that he wanted to get saved! She the guards, the chaplain and I gathered around him, and we prayed for him to receive Christ. It was a beautiful moment, and the inmate asked if he could be baptized.

They called over to the office to have the inmate ministers bring the baptismal back, and they told the inmate to hang tight.

While they get the baptismal over and set up, we talk to the inmate that was baptized at noon. We were in the tier, and he is in his tiny single man cell with the bars closed. The clothes he was baptized in were hanging to dry, and all he had was a small box of possessions and a few books.

As he talked to us, he was beaming and saying this was the best day of his life!

While we were talking, an inmate in another cell was hooting and hollering to get the Chaplin’s attention. They can’t look down the tier, so he if waving his arms around through the bars. The Chaplin goes down there to talk with him, and I chat with the inmate.

A couple of minutes later the Chaplin starts yelling for me to come down there. Saying “he wants Jesus!” So we chat with him for a bit and pray through some different scriptures, which he repeated back. He confessed his sins and invited Christ into his life. Now we have the third man to baptize!

Chaplain and I standing next to the portable baptismal.

We walked out of the tier to baptize the Orderly who had been mopping the floor. While the inmate ministers were filling up the pool, we are chatting with the first guard and a few other inmate ministers.

Everyone is so excited, especially the head guard. He can’t believe this is happening on his tier and was excited about the baptisms. The Chaplin starts speaking life into the guard. Saying I can see you are a man of God, God is using your life in a big way; you are a good man. The guard is beaming!

So we baptize the orderly, and by now there is quite a scene brewing outside the tier. Other guards are coming through, and one of them says something like “I’ve never seen anything like this!”

I struck up a conversation with the guard, and he asked me about my Australian accent. This guard had been to Brisbane before, and we chit chat for a bit about Australia. His name is Colin, and I told him that was my grandfather’s name.

I could see some tears forming in his eyes, so I asked him “whats going on?” He starts opening up to me about his wives struggles to get pregnant. He was saying it has been hard, and he thinks something might be wrong with him. I said let’s pray for you right now.

But he had to leave to lock a door, so he was gone.

They bring out the third man to baptize, and he is in handcuffs chained to a belt. He is an older white guy that life hasn’t been easy on him. We get him in the pool, and the inmate minister reads from scripture about what baptism is. They have a chat about what it means and what he is doing, and he is ready.

They put him under and bring him up. Everyone starts singing gospel songs! I didn’t know the words, but the rejoicing was amazing.

They take him back to his cell, and we start draining the pool.

Colin, the guard, comes back to pray. So I prayed for him and his wife. We prayed that God would breathe life into their family and give them a child.

It was like 90 degrees in the summer in Louisiana and full humidity. We were all sweating. This breeze starts blowing through the tunnel we are in, and it cools everything down.

It was like God was blowing through the prison. Resuscitating it and bringing it to life.

As we are draining the baptismal, the main guard whos tier we were on comes over. His name is Dennis. He pulls Chaplin Toney to the side, and they have a chat. I did not hear it, but the guard said to him go back down the tier there might be another man that wants to get saved.

Chaplin asked, “who is the man?”

The Guard responds “if Gods in it, you will find him.”

The guards open the doors, and we head down the tier, this time with the inmate minister, Keith, going cell to cell. Most of the inmates are sitting on the ground to stay cool; it’s sweltering in there. One inmate was standing at the bars and waving his arms around.

The Chaplin knew the man and started talking to him, saying “you’re the man!”

The inmate responded he was ready and asked: “what can I do to be saved?”

We start talking to him about what it means, and this guy is beaming in his eyes and wants to receive Christ. He is only 22 and his in the disciplinary Camp. My heart was breaking for him.

So Chaplin starts praying with him, repeat after me type prayer. I notice this guy in the cell to the left, and he is doing some weird woo-woo stuff with his arms and doing incantations. Keith, the inmate minister, puts his arms up in the air and starts praying “in the name of Jesus got out of here…in Jesus name stop it”. And he stops it! The guy sits down on his bed!

So then we start to leave to fill up the pool again for the fourth man, and the Chaplin goes over to the guy doing the weird stuff. The inmate starts saying how he is religious but Gods not helping him and none of the people will help him.

The Chaplin talks to him saying he will look into the disciplinary action that he has to work through. He is talking through this issue, he got caught with a cell phone, but he hasn’t been violent. Chaplin says he will try to help him.

So we baptize the 4th man who was incredible. This guy is so young, and here he was in chains, but now free in Christ. All the guards and ministers are around cheering. This guy was beaming.

We all encourage him and tell him good job. Chaplin Toney starts balling and talking to him. Saying I remember when we first met. You could be my son. I see so much joy in your eyes. It’s wrong that you are over here. I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to get you out of here.

It was so moving.

The guard, Dennis, that told us to go back down the tier, lead him off. They are about 10 feet from me, and I’m watching them head off. The guard tenderly pats him on the back, looks at him and nods at him like “good job kid.”

That image brought me undone. And it still does. Something about the guard whose job is keeping him physically chained but still wants his soul to be set free.

Dennis came back, and we talked to him about how God used him in a big way. He was saying that he is trying but doesn’t go to church much anymore.

We walk out of the Camp, and the Chaplin is on cloud nine. He has been at the prison sixteen years and has never seen anything like this. He is texting all the wardens, and they can’t believe it.

All this happen because of the leader God brought there, Chaplin Toney. He humbled himself and came through a breakdown. On the other side, God is using him because of his brokenness, not in spite of his brokenness.

I’m still blown away how God moved. He powerfully used the guards, and there are four new souls in the kingdom.

Later that night, back at the hotel, I cracked my bible and went to the next Psalm on my reading plan. It was Psalm 61; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. This Psalm is the guiding chapter of the High Ground leadership event that I have been involved in at Angola Prison since 2014. The timing of this confirmed God involvement and led me to recommit myself to him and praise and worship him.

When I got back home, I kept in touch with Chaplain Toney. A couple of weeks later I received this voicemail from him:

I think of that security officer, Colin, often and pray for his family.

I cherish this voicemail and still have it saved on my phone. It is the last I heard of the Chaplain as he passed away two weeks later. I still miss him so much.

When I heard the news of his passing, I was completely heartbroken and in disbelief. I was crying on the floor and didn’t know what to do. I went to my bible and went to the next Psalm on my reading plan. It was Psalm 61. As I prayed this Psalm through tears, God comforted me and reminded me that when I am on the mountain tops or in the valleys, Jesus is still the Rock.

I’ll be seeing you soon Chaplain, now that you are in glory.

Psalm 61
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.