Posts

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When You’re Just OK at Texting

I sat on a plane recently and once it landed the beeps and clicks of cell phones and seat belts began to fill the space as passengers reconnected to the busyness of their lives.  Just in front of me, I watched as a man began to frantically respond to a text message.  I could see his screen and the feverish nature of his fingers typing away.  I couldn’t read the words (and as you’re thinking, shouldn’t have creepily spied out his conversation), but I could tell he was struggling to get the message out.

He would type a few words, notice an error, delete words, and then try again.  This went on for several minutes until finally I watched him grew frustrated, erase the entire (multiple paragraphs-long) message, and simply type two letter as a response.

“Ok.”

Here’s the point.

There are times where an explanation may help, but simplicity is better.

In every organization I’ve ever been a part of I’ve found myself and others at times bringing unnecessary complexity to situations that were much more simple than we wanted to let them be.  There were debates that didn’t need to happen.  E-mails that could have been skipped.  We all felt these things were entirely necessary at the time, but the truth is simplicity would have been much better.

I’m not saying there isn’t a need for complexity at times; there is.  But what I am asking you right now is what are you doing as leaders with complexity that would be much more effective with simplicity?

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What Do You Do When a Cat’s Falling Out of Your Car?

Okay, full disclosure.  I’m more of a dog person than a cat person.  But, that in no way makes me take the situation I’m about to describe lightly.  This was a true moment with true tension.  And, if you’re a cat lover know that the stress you’ll feel in reading this is exactly what I felt when I witnessed it.

There was this moment a few weeks ago.  I had spent the morning working from McDonald’s.  I’m not a fan of the food, but the free wifi and bottomless drinks are good for someone with a mobile office.

After a couple hours of morning productivity I packed it up and began to walk back to my truck.  As I headed toward my vehicle I saw another car (potentially a member of the Junky Car Club) slowly heading toward the exit in the parking lot.  It took me a minute to fully recognize what I was seeing, but when it hit me it was a series of realizations bubbling up like the fizz of a fine champagne:

1 – The back door of that car is open.  The back door on the passenger side of that car is swinging open.

2 – Maybe they’re hauling a push mower.  I’ve seen people do that.  Haul a push mower and leave the trunk bungee tied so it doesn’t bounce around but they can still fit the push mower in.

3 – Wait, that always happens in the trunk, not the back seat.

4 – The back passenger side door of that car is open.  And there’s something sticking out.

5 – Good Lord.  The back door of that car is open and that’s a cat carrier hanging halfway out.

6 – What in God’s name should I do?

At this point I began to jog toward the car, waving my arms and shouting at the driver to stop.  “Ma’am!  Ma’am!  Ma’am!”  All the while thinking of my next sentence… “Um, your back door is open.”  “Um, your cat is about to fall out of your car.”  “Um, are you a complete idiot?  You door is open and your cat’s going to fall out!”

Just as I was nearing the car and my brain was continuing to register how clueless this driver truly was the car pulled out onto the road and headed north.

I have no idea what happened to the cat.  And I did pray for the cat that day.
Now, the point.

Somewhere around you, right now… your church, your organization, your team, your family… somewhere under your influence has a freaking cat carrier hanging out of the car problem.  And you’re either truly oblivious or pretending it isn’t real.  And it’s time to deal with it.

You’re 3 1/2 days into a new year.  Stop ignoring what everyone else sees and go fix it before you leave a cat laying on the side of the road.

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You Should Be Cheating Part 2

So, a couple weeks ago I started a series here called You Should Be Cheating.  You can read Part 1 to catch up.  The heart of this series is simply challenging leaders to consider the fact that we have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of resources, and when we live like we have more than we actually do we end up burnt out, overcommitted, or sacrificing the people we love for the sake of productivity.

I referenced Andy Stanley’s great little book called Choosing to Cheat, and began to lay out five principles that I think pave the way for healthy rhythms and rest and an ability to “cheat” on the right things in life.

The second principle of healthy cheating is simply this:

Live like Jesus owns your time, because he does.

There’s this passage of Scripture in Luke 6.  Jesus is carrying out his ministry in a culture that deeply understands rules, rituals, and expectations for productivity.  The Jewish world has a deep awareness that God set up rules when it came to Sabbath, and these rules spelled out a whole system that had been turned into legalistic assumptions.

So it’s in this world where we find Jesus making two conscious choices on the Sabbath–to eat grain they had just picked and to heal a man with a crippled hand.

Now, in my mind there is a certain beauty to these stories.  Imagine being in a small group with Jesus, taking a walk through the fields and grabbing a handful of grain kernels to eat and continuing your journey.  Then, imagine a man whose hand has been shriveled with deformity, and all at once Jesus asks him to stand up and stretch out his hand.  And it is healed.

And Jesus is criticized, by the religious elite, for breaking the Sabbath.  He utters these simple words:

“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Now, I don’t live today with a set legalism to my periods of rest.  I don’t mind doing yard work or cleaning up the house on my days off.  But you know what I do?

I live like my time is owned by me.  I live, week in and week out, as if my productivity is dependent on my management.  I stress when there isn’t enough time and I worry that I can’t get it all done.  I pursue efficiency and avoid interruption and run myself ragged until “rest” becomes a consequence rather than a condition.

The Son of Man is still Lord of the Sabbath.

In reality, our time does not belong to us.  It is not owned by us and we do not even deserve it.  We can continue to live and function as if our way of doing things is the best way possible and the only way things will work out; and time and again we will crash, burn out, and wear out the ones around us who matter most in this life because of our constant pace.

So, in choosing to cheat we must learn to learn to live like Jesus owns our time.

Because he does.

What would it take for you to surrender your time?  What would it mean for you to lean on his rhythm rather than your own?  What would happen if you reoriented your schedule to truly enjoy a period of Sabbath each and every single week?

As I’m sitting here, there is a beckon to stop blogging and return to what I was doing.  You see, in about 3 weeks I have my comprehensive exams for the PhD program I’m pursuing.  And in this pursuit, the beckon to keep reading, keep studying, keep driving is more endless than anything I’ve ever studied.  But this choice to reflect, to read the stories of Jesus and let him remind me that he’s in control of my time, has brought a greater deal of peace than I’ve had in weeks.  So for what it’s worth… my own shriveled hands (or over-studied brain) has suddenly found a bit of healing on this somewhat quiet morning… simply because I chose to cheat.

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Flying Like the Giggling Kid

I was on a plane not too long ago.  It was a small plane flying out of West Virginia (most planes flying out of West Virginia are small).  So, on this cloudy day as we came down through the clouds prepping for landing it was quite bumpy.

I hate bumpy on a plane.

But in these bumpy moments as I was pushing away waves of nausea I heard this growing decibel of a giggle.  It slowly got louder and louder until it took over the drone of this plane’s engines and the silence of its passengers.

Giggles.

All the way down through the clouds building to a crescendo as the wheels touched down and the clicking seat belts ended the flight.

And you know what happened?

Others began to laugh.
Passengers became participants.
Strangers became community.

And we all made it through the bumps.

May we lead like the giggling kid on the plane.

When Delicious Sits Right in Front of You

There’s this moment in this wedding I performed a few weeks ago.  I’m sitting at the reception, at a dinner table with the family of the bride, waiting for one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten.  I didn’t know it was going to be an amazing steak, I just knew my duties in the wedding were over and as with most people who go solo to a wedding I was wishing my wife or kids were there, because then I’d at least have someone to sip wine or dance with in these long silent moments waiting on food.

But then this moment happened.

Truth be told I was kind of at the family table and kind of at the kids’ table.  To my left and right were each seated a four-year old.  One boy, one girl.  Both four.  Me in the middle.  Then, a couple grandparents and the bride’s mom and dad.

And this moment.

It happened to my left.  The four-year old boy.  I caught him out of the corner of my eye.  He was staring down the plastic-wrapped gourmet candy apple that the family had decorated each place setting with.  And I’m not kidding, it was gourmet.  Big and round and drizzled in three kinds of chocolate with nuts and goodness.  This kid was licking his chops like Jaws at the Golden Corral.  And he had no idea what was happening around him.

He missed the first dance.
And the clinking glasses calling for romantic kisses.
And the epic city lights sparkling down over the mountain as these friends and families shared a magical celebration in the life of this young couple.

He saw none of it.

But he saw the deliciousness right in front of him and he knew his grandma had told him he wasn’t allowed it to eat it until tomorrow and he realized the sun was no longer out and it felt later than he’d ever stayed up and the city was bright and the night was dark and so he uttered these words that no one but me heard…

“Is it tomorrow yet?”  

Is it tomorrow yet?  What a brilliant question.  This little guy with the ruffled shirt and loosened tie had had a long day and lost the concept of time as he knew it, but he never lost sight of the deliciousness in front of him.  And it kept him going.

The great tensions of leadership we all face can cause us to drift away from the deliciousness in front of us.  The wrestling against time, pressure, conflict, team struggles, burnout, balance, and more can pull our eyes off our plate and into the sweeping city of tension around us.

But the deliciousness is still there.

The vision, the momentum, the next steps… they never disappear, we just lose sight of them.

So what about you?  What’s the deliciousness you see?  Or the deliciousness you used to see?  What would it mean to forget what’s happening around you and reconnect with that big, juicy apple that’s already on your plate?

Because guess what, it’s almost tomorrow.

Country Music and the Danger of Success

I read an interview with country singer Eric Church recently.  One of the things I love about him is that he seems to be maintain a focus on writing and independence in a musical genre that has become mechanistic in churning out pop-country hits that could all be on the same record.  In the interview, Church was asked simply, “What’s the best part about success?”  His response is a lesson in tension:

“The freedom to do what I want musically. The mistake a lot of people make is the more success they have, the safer they play it. That’s wrong: I think the more success you have, the more dangerous you should play it.”

The success of leadership is no different.  I remember, almost five years ago, as my wife and I decided we would take the leap of planting our own church.  From the ground up.  Just a dream and good intentions.  I remember saying to her, “I’m terrified of failure, and I’m terrified of success.”

In a world where success for leaders is often a legendary unicorn, when we feel like we’ve achieved something good, or even great, the tendency is to back off.

But what if success is the opportunity to jump into more danger?  What if these moments where we finally feel satisfied as leaders with the performance of our team or the movement of our organization are actually moments to press harder into uncharted territory?  What if success is the fuselage of risk?  Could it be that in those moments the greatest thing we can do is leaders is say thank you to whoever or whatever got us there and then invite them to the next adventure?

I wonder, for you, where’s the danger zone you need to step into today?

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WE the People

“’The other’ need not be negatively different from us but could be a friend, one who shares our views, our life, but who is an “other” nonetheless. The other does not exist only in the opposite camp but is found within any given group be it religious (Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist) or political (conservatives, liberals, independent). THE OTHER IS AN INESCAPABLE REALITY OF LIFE.” –Theresa Okure

 
I’ve been thinking… listening this week. Clearly many are hurt, angry, fearful. Others are joyful and celebratory. Some are lashing out. Others are arrogantly reacting. It has reminded me in many ways of what I see on my children’s playground at recess. Emotions and energy run high because it is a time of day when freedom is exercised.
 
And yet these words… “We the people…”
“WE the people…”
“WE…”
 
WE are this country.
 
Some don’t feel as though they are right now. And to my friends experiencing that deep sorrow and fear right now… to the Muslim, the immigrant, the transgender, the African-American… please know that you are still WE.
 
And WE need you.
 
WE need YOU to be America.
 
To those who feel safer because Trump was elected… who feel like we will regain the glory that once was our country… who feel like things will finally be okay…
 
Please be cautious, because no man is a Savior save the One Man who defeated more than a political opponent but rather the hands of hell and death itself. Please be cautious because hope deserves to be pointed to the right things.
 
But WE need YOU too.
 
All of us experiences “the Other” every single day. We drive on our roads with people who are different than us. People who think differently, vote differently, pray differently, and even love differently. We all have “the Other”. And to others, we are “the Other.”
 
Some need to become a voice of humility in these next four years, quietly listening and learning.
 
Some need to become a voice of prophecy in these next four years, speaking out against injustice and calling the body of Christ to be hope rather than false governments.
 
But WE have to continue to be a WE.
 
Please rest.
 
To someone who is fearful, angry, or hurting… don’t explain why you’re right. Explain why you will continue to love them and why they are still part of WE.
 
To someone who is celebrating and feeling better about the direction of this country, please don’t label them as ignorant or filled with the -ism’s that divide. Instead, love them. Love them deeply and unhinge what feels like “the Other” to them.
 
Grow quiet, grow still. Give your power away. Become a hand and voice of healing.
 
And may WE become a better, more beautiful WE together.
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I Assume You’re Brilliant

You don’t know me.  So why should you trust me?  Some church planter guy in West Virginia talking about leadership.  What do I know about you and your situation?

Of course, on the other hand, your cynicism might keep you from something that could create a breakthrough in your situation.  And what if you miss out on that?

This is the tension of insight.

And it has nothing to do with me.
(And everything to do with you.)

There’s this approach we often have to the world around us.  It’s the approach of cynical skeptics who for better or worse seem to believe that their own, localized situation buried in their context and assumptions and problems and opportunities has nothing to do with anyone or anything from the broader world outside their context.

And you know what?  They might very well be right.

But sometimes they’re not.

Sometimes a voice, a story, a spark of insight… Sometimes someone far removed from our life–a business owner in Germany or a Kindergartener in Iowa–sometimes these people learn something or see something or say something that sends lightning down our spine and speaks directly to our hearts as the Truth we needed to hear.

I know this because I’ve had it happen to me.  I’ve written people, things, and places off in a flash.  I’ve assumed they have nothing to do with me or my life.  I’ve brushed them away like the dust on an old book.

And I’ve missed out because of my approach.

The tension here is that maybe, just maybe, we should always be awake.  Maybe we should always have our radars turned on and our ears tuned in.  Maybe it’s better to assume greatness and wisdom in everyone and everything around us rather than idiocy.  Maybe the arrogant boss still has something to offer.  Maybe the annoying student has brilliance inside.  Maybe the broken single mother will paint beauty all over this world.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ve got something amazing too.