Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

How can a dead thing live again?

March 4, 2011

I found him at a garage sale.  A gangly, sad looking plant.  He was about three feet tall, and was a two leaf wonder.

No matter how many new leaves he grew, he only had  enough life to sustain two leaves.  As soon as a new leaf started growing, the oldest leaf would die.

Then, one morning, about two inches in the middle of the plant became mushy.  Some have suggested that he might have snuck too close to the heater, attempting to end his sad existence. <grin>

I was so sad to see the destruction of my plant.  I really liked him.  So, I cut off the top of the plant and stuck it in water.  I also cut off the mushy part, and threw it away.  I left the stalk in the pot, hoping it would think about growing a new leaf.

About two weeks into this new situation, my husband came home and saw the stalk standing alone in a big pot.  In his witty humor, he dubbed my plant ‘Stubby’.  I felt so sorry for the poor stalk, I pulled him up and stuck him in the water too.

Six months later, my husband started wondering when I was going to do something about the cup of plants still sitting in my sink.  Stubby had turned into two stalks with luscious, huge leaves on them.

I replanted him, and instead of a three foot, two-leaf wonder, I had an 18 inch 8 leaf plant that was beautiful.

In order to bring the dead back to life, you have to admit the thing is dead, cut out the infection, then give it a chance to grow new roots.  Eventually, with love and care, patience and good food, it will grow again.

Trained for what?

August 3, 2010

A quick look through the bible finds that the word “train” is used most often in the context of training for war.

Trained soldiers, trained men, “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”

Wow!  In my little world, this seems pretty harsh.  However, here are some things that come to mind:

  • Without training, the uninitiated lose in battle.
  • We can choose to not engage in the battle – we live life being ineffective.  Kind of like a people under domination.
  • God wants us to free.  Jesus came so that we might have life, and life to the full.

Freedom means that we don’t live under domination.  What is dominating you?  Do you need God to train your hands for war and your fingers for battle?

Daily Routines

July 30, 2010

Jesus sat on a hillside with 5000 men plus their families all listening to his teaching.  About supper time, the disciples realized these people would be hungry.  I imagine the cranky children tipped them off.

“How are we going to feed all these people?” The disciples asked Jesus.

“You give them something to eat.” Jesus answered.

Then, Jesus directed the disciples to have the people sit down in groups.  Each of the disciples had a basket.  Jesus filled the baskets with bread and fish, then the disciples took their basket out and distributed the food.  Back and forth they traveled – giving all of their provisions, then returning to Jesus for replenishment.  Out to minister, in to gather resources.

All evening the disciples worked, giving out what Jesus gave to them.  When they were done, they discovered that five loaves and two fish had morphed into enough food for all the people with 12 basketfuls left over.  Can you imagine how tired they were at the end of the day?

Sometimes God has us in ‘training mode’.  We go through life doing the same activity over and over, feeling like things aren’t changing.  However, God is training us.  He wants us to learn to rely on Him.  He is our source.  We take what He gives us, and give it away, then we return for more.

Why I love middle and late adapters

April 29, 2010

Early adapters only need to see and hear a plan of action that coincides with the cry of their heart.  They are then willing to throw themselves into the work and help push the cause forward.  Every leader loves and needs early adapters on their team.   However, a good team is made of up a mixture of personalities.  Not everybody is so quick to jump on board

Middle adapters need to see a clear path from what is to what will be.  For this group of individuals, a clear plan of action is important.  They need to understand the problem, as well as the solution. This group is only resistant to needless change.  Therefore, it is important to spend time explaining the problem, as well as how the solution will improve results.  You need to know what it is you want to do, why it needs to be done, and how you plan to get there.  When you can show a clear plan of action, middle adapters will be on board.

Late adapters need to understand the connection from what was to what will be.  This group relates on a much different level.  To understand them with compassion, consider a railroad.  No matter what you do, your engine is going to go where the tracks go.  People who are late adapters have a very strong railway system in their heads.  In order to help them adapt to change, you have to discover where they have been and connect that to what will be.  In this way, you add a switch to their railway system and provide them with the tools and capability to move to the new track.

Let’s say you want to change the color of your sanctuary.

Early adapters will be on board the minute you mention it.

Middle adapters will need to understand how you plan to choose the new color, and make sure that you have a process in place.

With Late adapters, it might be best to lead with questions.  Ask them about the last renovation. Help them remember why they did all that hard work. Take them into the sanctuary when it’s not full of people, and let them really look at the chipped, discolored paint.  They have always wanted the sanctuary to look nice.  Then realizing that there might be a need for a new paint job, send them on a foray to the paint store to discover what colors say about a building and report back what they found.  Do certain colors help people stay awake and alert?  Are some colors more warm and inviting than others?  (Be careful about the sort of questions, making sure you make it clear that the ultimate decision is in someone else’s hands because their railroad tracks are pretty much cemented, and if they decide on a paint color, they will wrestle anyone to the ground for it.)  When your ‘research team’ is done with their project, they will not only be in full support of a color change, they will most likely have procured the funding.

True, this is perhaps a bit of an easy thing.  The fact remains that the deeper the emotional attachment is, the harder the change will be.  Just try moving a teen across the country, or similar involuntary transitions, later in life.  The key to helping people who are reluctant to change is to identify their emotional barriers, and address them.  Find ways that the new situation will address their concerns and even meet their needs.  Late adapters will be your strongest supporters if you will cultivate those relationships and take the time to respect their views.

Truthfully, middle and late adapters are a great gift.  They cause us to review our plans from every angle so that by the time we have everyone on board, we are ready to go forward, avoiding flaws and obstacles we would have missed otherwise.

Are you an early adapter?

April 28, 2010

When Baskin Robbins comes out with a new flavor, are you one of the first to try it?

Or are you like the big brothers on the Life commercial (oooh I am dating myself) – “let’s get Mikey, he likes everything”, waiting to see what others think before you waste your precious coin and calorie count?

What about in life?

Do you jump on a new idea?

Do you wait to see if it has validity?

Do you wait to see if it will develop history?

Do you like your life the way it is, thank you?

This morning, I noticed that Frank Viola is coming out with a new book, this one with Leonard Sweet.  This should be remarkable.  Both are fantastic thinkers.  Both are voices that should be listened to.

It got me to thinking about my response to Viola’s book on house churches.  My heart said ‘yes! Vulnerability in the church’.  Wisdom and experience told me it needed a bit more structure.

I tend to be on the tail end of early adapters, or the first wave of middle adapters.  One of my giftings is the ability to speak multiple cultural languages (as opposed to actual languages.)  It comes from being born in 1965.  A Gen-Xer before there were any, in a world of Boomers, educated by early Boomers.

I had this conversation with my son just recently.  He is 12, and already experiencing the frustration of interacting with late adapters… actually I think he was just frustrated with middle adapters.  It was such a joy to explain this concept to him, and impart to him how to go about getting other people on board a process.

Life is changing all around us.  We can change every minute and become chameleons, we can listen to the Spirit, and jump onto what He is doing today, or, we can hold onto yesterday for dear life, hoping it will come back.

That should be a song – Yesterday is gone, my friend.

Who’s Using Your Eraser?

April 20, 2010

There are some things that you can never erase – a misspoken word…

Sometimes the things that you want to erase aren’t your own actions, but the difficult times – whether they be life’s hard times, or the actions of others.

I’ve been thinking about conflict this week.  I contended in a Facebook conversation that conflict can be positive.  I don’t think it ever feels positive, but I think that it can have a positive purpose.

Romans 5:3-4 says:  “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

1 Peter 1:5-7 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”

We can’t learn faith we are at the end of our rope.  Goodness is added next – it means modesty, virtuous action, purity.  Interesting that faith comes before good action, not after.  To good action we add knowledge (which you don’t get without first realizing your lack thereof), to knowledge we add self control.

This list is so long – I think I understand why he put faith first!  I think we have to return to faith every step of the way.  Just the act of learning self control is the beginning of learning perseverence.  As you can see, this list requires us to rest in faith and learn to master conflict.

Do you see that giant eraser I started this post with?  The trick to the eraser is that it only works in God’s hands.  When we spend our energy trying to erase our problems, we aren’t using conflict situations as opportunities to grow.  If we start in faith, we find that God uses the eraser to shape our picture, add shading, and take out the errors.

In the end, perseverence will finish its work.  We will find that God has developed us into the peopel we were each created to be.

Barriers to Helping People

April 1, 2010

There are so many things that keep us from being able to help other people.

Years ago, when I was an apartment manager, we had a couple in our complex.  She was about five months pregnant with twins, and I think they had a small child as well.  This couple was nice, paid their rent on time and never really hit my radar until the night that the woman went into premature labor.  That night was a crazy night.  One of their neighbors had too much to drink, and as this couple were in full crisis, leaving their apartment to go to the hospital, she came out of her apartment and rushed the dad with a baseball bat.

Now he was a really big guy.  He had every right to use his might and force in that moment, but he just took her bat away and told her to go home.  The neighbors that saw it, told me it was amazing to watch.

The next day, I finally caught up with the dad and got a few moments with him to see how he, his girlfriend and the babies were doing.   We leaned against a wall and talked.  They had lost their babies.  His girlfriend was stable.  Lack of sleep and grief had brought him to a crisis point.  He heaved more than sobbed, but when I tried to offer a word, his rage at life boiled over.  “You have no idea what it’s like to be a black man.  You don’t know what it’s like to be me.”  It was a cry from the heart that continues to echo in my memory.  In all my years of working with people, I have never felt so helpless.

I didn’t back down though.  I told him that he was absolutally right, but I know what its like to be a human – and at some point, we all hit the bottom and need a friend.

His statement haunts me.  How many people don’t want to listen to what I have to say because of social barriers?  Is this fixable? On the other hand, am I obsessing stupidly?  There are six billion people on the planet.  Does it need to be fixed?

When a leader disappoints

November 13, 2009

Right in the middle of this letter of confrontation, Paul describes how he confronted Peter.

Have you ever been tempted to not live up to your ideals?  Have you ever been disappointed by a leader who didn’t live out what they preached?

This passage is terrific for two reasons. First, we will see the temptations of a leader, and second, we will see the incredibly gracious way that Paul confronts Peter.

Temptation of a Leader

  • “before certain men came from James” – Sometimes get our brain on backwards and begin to perform for all of the voices in our lives instead of the ‘audience of One’ (God).  We view ourselves in light of how others ‘might’ see us.  We place others’ opinions in place of God so that we no longer see ourselves the way He sees us.
  • “he was afraid” – we act on others opinions instead of discerning the Word.
  • When you are in a position of leadership, people will follow you – no matter where you lead.  Make sure you are going where God wants people to go.

How Paul Confronted Peter

  1. He reminded Peter of his allegiance to the gospel
  2. He led with a question, comparing Peter’s actions to the gospel

It looks something like:  “You don’t eat wheat.  Why are you eating a scone?”  (yes, that was me on Tuesday.)  Direct, but not “you are such a hypocrite!  I can’t believe you could do this to me!… ”

There is definitely a difference in these two approaches.  Leaders are people and many times they disappoint us.  God give us the grace to hold them with the respect and honor we would want ourselves and confront them in a way that brings correction instead of destruction.

What to do when you may be wrong

November 12, 2009

(This is a continuation of our Galatians series.  If you missed the rest, you will find them here.)

Paul brought the gospel to the gentiles for 14 years.  He was a tent maker, so he didn’t become a great evangelist and make great money at it, wearing the latest robes, walking through the town square letting people pay tribute.  He had a pattern.  He went into a town, talked to the Jews, if they rejected the message of Christ, he went to the gentiles.

For 14 years, he went from town to town preaching the gospel.  Barnabas was his constant companion.  Along the way, Titus joined him.  We know from Acts that he made friends in many of the towns, people valued his ministry and were willing to listen to his direction as he sent them letters from other parts of the Mediterranean world.

But then an issue arose.  Probably at first, there were some detractors, but the issue became large enough that it began to interfere with Paul’s ministry.  People began saying that Paul’s approach to the gospel was wrong.  These men were very serious.  They felt that one had to follow Jewish custom in order to partake of the grace offered by Jesus.  The tension caused by this group reached such a pitch that you can hear the juices churning in Paul’s stomach as he describes them to the Galatians:

“This matter arose, because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” (2:4-5)

I think it is interesting that Paul didn’t call them “warmongers” or “tools of the enemy” or something.  He called them “ones who ostensibly know Christ but don’t have Christian knowledge or piety” (false brothers).   Paul treated them as people who were ignorant and questioned their witness, but he didn’t take their arguments lightly as we will see.

With the pressure on, and stomach juices churning, Paul finally decided to do something about it.  So today, we get to learn from his example.

What to do when people say you are wrong:

  1. Be humble.  Paul was willing to be wrong.
  2. Find the most reputable authorities that you can and get their input.  Paul went to Peter, James and John.  He presented his entire message to them and asked for their review.  Paul told the Galatians that it wasn’t because they were important, but because they knew God best.
  3. Be willing to accept the review findings.
  4. Let the end be the end.  You will always have opponents.  Don’t let them get in your head.  If you have good people walking with you, keeping you on track, AND you stay in humble acceptance of their reviews, then you need to stay focused on doing what God has called you to do.

People aren’t Looking for Hope

September 24, 2009

Do you know what people think about?  I’ve been listening, and this is what I’ve heard this week:

They think about:

  • how to keep the silence away, so they turn the radio on.
  • how to keep their kids out of trouble.
  • how to make life just a bit nicer.
  • how to keep the emotional pain at bay.
  • how to be a responsible parent.
  • how to take the next step.

The closest thing I heard to hope in the last month was someone who is changing careers and hopes that the new career path will be a better suit.

Years ago, I was on a backpacking trip, and we hiked for a long time one day.  I have no idea how far we went, but I know that we went for about an hour straight up hill about two hours into the trip.  (Mind you, times might be relative) There comes a point where your body is crying so hard for relief that all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.  I remember praying for one step downward just for a moment of relief.

When you are at the point of daily exhaustion, hope is a luxury.  Relief is a dream.  Existence is mandatory and must be tolerated.

When you want to share hope, you are sharing something that is a foreign language – something that is similar to trying to convince one of the women living in Tiajuana’s garage dumps that she needs to buy crystal and diamonds to make herself feel better.

Sharing hope doesn’t sound like Hope these days.  It sounds like someone else’s agenda.  It sounds like one more thing for the task list, one more hill to climb.  There really is no substitute for becoming part of someone’s world and being their friend.

How else can we explain that in God’s economy, adding one more thing to your life means making things less.

Matthew 11:29-30 (New International Version)

29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”