True Leaders Are Also Managers

August 11, 2010

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via True Leaders Are Also Managers.

Found this an interesting article from Harvard Business Review.  I have always thought that the joy of leading is the big idea but the job was managing the details.  There are few jobs in the world that are merely idea and vision casting jobs.

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A good word for Tom

July 27, 2010

I am not sure if anybody will eulogize Tom W.  He was homeless, an alcoholic, and had burnt every bridge he crossed.  He tried to burn our bridge of friendship, but I put out the flames to his amazement.  He showed up one December morning to our church and was welcomed in.  For 18 months, Tom was more faithful to his church than some of our faithful.  It was his church and he was one of us.  Tom made us better people and because of that we were blessed to have Tom amongst us.

After our worship, we have a gathering where snack food is found.  Tom helped clean up the sanctuary and afterwards  went to eat.  Tom and I were some of the last to leave the worship center.  After eating,  he cleaned tables.  He helped.  I said, “Tom, you have the gift of helps.”

“I just try to help out.”

“Thanks, that is what people do in church.”

Tom invited people to church, but they saw the church as an opportunity to take advantage of.  Tom said, “Those guys embarrass me.  I am not inviting them anymore.  They steal from the offering plate.  They steal food.” 

Tom you can invite them it is OK.

“No Reverend”

“Tom, if you think this is the way to go, then thank you for protecting your church.”  Tom was wiser than his pastor.

For forty days in 2009, Tom was in jail.  He called me in Target on December 23 as his first call out of the jail.  I told him of Christmas eve service and I wanted him desperately to be there.  It would be good for him and us.  He came to the service and many were surprised and overjoyed to see him.  He was sober on the county detox program and wanted a fresh start.  The county empties the jails at Christmas to help with staffing and folks who are marginalized arrive to enter the system when there are no exits.  The world focuses upon Christmas and my life was the same.  I was going on vacation and could not welcome him anywhere.  The church was in the same place.  He soon got back to drinking and in the crowd he had been in.

Tom and I struggled with each other.  He struggle with my materialism, our pool and house.  I struggled with his drinking.   There were times when he crossed lines and I had to call him on it.  There were times when he called me on the carpet.  That is friendship to me.  The stakes for me were tremendous it was his health and well-being and the well-being of the church.  But, we came back to the conclusion that we had great affection for each other.

He was born Juneteenth.  On his birthday, I sought him out.  A parishoner and friend of his, Hope cooked cupcakes for him.  I found him in the afternoon heat, he was already deep into the bottle.  I gave him his gift from his mother that had been sent to me.  He was focused upon the next drink and he left.  I could tell that my son’s and mine appearance to him was embarrassing.  He wanted to be better, but that day the burden of another year of being on the streets tied to the bottle sent him into a deep funk.  I had hoped to get him before the desperation set in.

Tom died on July 24 most likely.  That is my birthday and while I enjoyed my afternoon on the St. John’s river, Tom was dying.  Cancer, alcoholism, and the heat of central California were against him.  They found him at 10:30 AM on Sunday, the time church starts.  In his Bible was my business card and a note, “Concert August 4 at Pastor’s House. 7PM.”  He had planned on making the Bill Mallonee concert.  On July 18, the last day  I saw Tom, he was helping clean up after consecration dinner. He had eaten my barbecue and told me it was great.  He decided he wanted to share part of the meal with others.   So, he took some Barbecue beef to share with a homeless friend.

Today when the police detective showed up at the door, I was protecting Tom.  Who are you looking for?  I was mum, because Tom did not need problems with the police.  Then the detective hinted his body was found.  He told me where, so I went to the alley where they found him.  I pleaded with God to free Tom and prayed for the rest of the homeless.  Today, as I reflect upon my pastoral relationship with Tom…I think I did it right.  Still we failed to bring him to total wholeness.

I am left with those questions, “Is caring for a person and showing them they are loved, enough?”  Tom never left us, is that good enough?  We made him part of the family and celebrated him.  I don’t know.  Would be so much easier to furrow the brow and to push him out.  However, he came in the door.  He was served and he served Jesus here.  As we measure life, how about that?

Thank you God for Tom W.  He was a blessing.  He was a magnificent and wonderful creation of yours.  I am grateful to be his pastor and his presence made this church a better place.  God free Tom from those demons that consumed and welcome as your own.  I believe in your amazing grace and I pray that grace extends to Tom.  Please, Lord welcome him home.  He has been without a home too long.

Catholics are wrong, but are we right with clergy sexual abuse?

July 15, 2010

The Vatican issued a statement about sexual abuse.  Very frustrating for me.  The key part was the issue of punishment and the relationship with the civil authorities.  The church is not setting the agenda of how to protect children, but is conforming.  The church could force all countries to change their attitudes, but will not leverage that weight.  Frustrating.

An equal frustration is that Catholic church equates the significance of a woman’s role in the church with pedophiles and clergy who abuse. Argh!!!  Women ministers are equal in problems to abusive clergy?

Now, let’s bring it back home.  My tribe, I urge you to change the way you handle clergy sexual abuse.  Be proactive not reactive.  Do not have Cover Your Ass seminars, but be vigilant.  Gain some boldness and audacity that such behavior will not be tolerated in our tribe.  Help those clergy who are in places of vulnerability instead of saying, “we have a seminar, not you are free.”  Step up.  Who are those who feel the same?  Speak with me.

The Popcorn Theory and Compassion

July 15, 2010

Leigh Ann and Sean Touhy from the Blind Side share some thoughts on giving.  They have a viewpoint called “The Popcorn Theory.”

Heard on the run

July 14, 2010

I was running the other morning and I passed a group of women running.  When a person is front of folks, they can hear the conversation behind them.  They were talking about apps for their iphones.  They were talking about the ability to use the iphone for video conferencing.  Then it went to videoconferencing their spouses.  “Show me where you are at?”  A joke, maybe a hidden truth about their own paranoia.

Then they talked about an app that allowed them to know where there iphone was and tracking via another iphone.  So, if you were abducted…someone could locate you.  I was thinking, really paranoid.

I began wondering, am I that paranoid.  How much energy do I use to protect myself from these boogiemen times?  I don’t know but I wonder if our society is that paranoid as a whole?  Is this what we all are thinking?  If so is this healthy?

Summer of 1999 made me tough

July 13, 2010

That was an incredibly tough summer for me.

My uncle died, my grandmother died, my brother wrecked my grandfather’s car by rear ending my new car, I was counseling a camp that did not have enough staff, my dog JP had a wound that would not heal, we were in the midst of adoption.  My stress level was pegged.  I was beyond grouchy.

July 4 of that year, we stood on the side of the road looking at the two cars.  How would we recover from this?  My brother feeling the burden of a car wreck.  My anger at the whole situation.  My aunt exclaimed the greatest words of all time, “I know that they say God does not give you more than you can handle, but I sure wish we were not so damn tough!”  I chuckle at that.

A couple of days ago I was running with a friend and we were having this conversation on the run.  I cannot remember what led to my exclamation.  “I don’t need to be tough anymore.” 

He said to me, “What Rev, you are young?” 

As I was watching Lance this past weekend I saw him give up.  He could not do it.  A Eusakatel rider fell in front of him and it was in the moment that he just quit.  He had that stare of Jan Ulrich that was legendary etched in my mind, but on that slope I saw him just say, ‘It is over.’    I am not sure Lance a few years ago could have quit like that.  If he did quit, he would have quit totally.  However, with the wisdom of experience he saw that his life had hit a second stage.  He was no longer a contender, luck, bad fortune, age, the cycling gods, one too many musettes along the road had got him.  For me, the story of Lance Armstrong and the mental toughness was something to admire.  I could grit my teeth and push through things to reach the goal.  Cancer, Bicycles, work…he inspired me to be mentally tough.

It could be hours of work.  It could be a tough situation.  Anything.  I ran marathons so I knew pain.  I learned to gut it out.  I would not quit.  I would tell folks that there were few things that would kill me, so I did not have to fear much.  Maybe sometimes, we relish those tough times so we can claim our toughness.  The Monday after a marathon I did overnight on call duty at a hospital.  I walked the floors from midnight to 6AM without sleep.  Trauma, Code Blue, deaths all night.  I was tired and it was tough.  We like to tell those stories and we even like to hear them.  How good is that though?

Maybe that is wrong with Disneyland, “Kids we are going to arrive at the gate at 7AM and leave after the fireworks at 10:30PM.  And you will be happy.”  Then the day ends, kids are crying, parents are exhausted, nobody is smiling and not many are happy.  But, we handled a tough day in the happiest place on earth.  Maybe we are tough in the wrong areas of our lives?

I was not overly effective nor successful all the time being tough but there was this myth of persevering and being tough.  In the summer of 1999, I willed my way through it.  I have tried to will my way through other things as well and sometimes my will power is not enough.  Maybe if I would have given up somewhere in the middle of 1999, I would have found friends who would have been willing to help me make my way through it.  However, with a stiff upper lip I willed my way through it.

Maybe, I don’t need to grit my teeth anymore.  Willing my way through life.  I forget so often that it is not my will that saves me but God’s will.  For one thing, God’s will is more sure than my will.  Maybe what I spoke in the early hours of the  morning was this new truth that life is not just about persevering.  Does God just want you to persevere?  You work hard.  You push for somethings and some of those things you do not let go.    You need to have a few tough spots.  Maybe the goal of the summer of 2010 is to loosen up and not be so damn tough.

What is spirituality and spiritual practices?

July 12, 2010

Last night sitting around a friend’s table,  we began talking about spiritual growth.  Tim had this great insight.  “We are taught that spiritual discipline and getting to know God is through an hour of study, prayer, reflective journaling.  I love that stuff, but today my life does not have room for that.  I have these kids and they want to be part of my time.  I have seen them as a distraction, but perhaps I need to see them as avenues that in this season that God is using for me to understand him.”

 One thing about spiritual practice is that we ‘should’ on people a lot to get them to grow in faith.

You should read the Bible.  You should pray daily.  You should be part of a small group.  You should tithe.  You should…  But, perhaps people are not there.  Perhaps, a prayer in the car on the way to work is all that people have. 

There is a pastor I admire who has an integral part of his development is a quarterly three day retreat.  I love three day retreats.  However, my life with my wife does not allow it.  She starts work at 6AM.  To ask her to change her schedule for my three day retreat is an incredible burden and might even be a little selfish.  However, in the back of my mind I think… ‘I should do a three day retreat if I really want to be…”   

Part of this story of faith is that I must disciple my own kids and let them see some of the good choices I make in my life of faith is about them.  If my choices is always about others then they may resent church, Jesus, and God.  What has my life taught them?

Here is what I am trying to convey:  there is no formula on how to be a parent or how to be a person of faith.  If you try to fit yourself into somebody else’s mold…you will fail or be miserable.  People may give you advice, provide a model of their experience, but ultimately it is up to God and you to figure out.

Disciples of Christ-Visalia what are our hopes for you.

  • Know the Bible more over time.  Either daily reading.  Personal or group study.  Spend some part of your life in the word.  It could be as simple as reading the Bible stories to your kids.  Dads we need you to do this.
  • Pray regularly.  Daily prayer is best but pray as often as you can.  Those prayers need to be modeled with your kids at bedtime or at meals.
  • Find ways to spend time with your family at the table.  Turn off the TV and spend some time with each other.  TV can come on sometimes and be the center of the event.  Pizza and movie night.  LeBron’s decision party(Maybe not)
  • Quit measuring your life against others.  You are not the greatest parent in the world and you are not the worst.  However, your task is to love these kids and to pass along the faith.  Do the best you can at this given time.
  • Last thing, find people to help you.  Other parents who you can trust not to judge you but who will listen first and encourage you.  Maybe somebody who will pray for you.  Sharing with others the joy and struggles of being a parent of faith might be helpful.  To learn that a friend had a moment when they blurted out in the middle of the grocery store, “Quit acting like morons!” to their kids may give us some hope along the journey.  We are not alone.

What if that was our goal to build a spiritual practice that worked for us?

From Seth Godin’s blog

July 9, 2010

From Seth Godin’s Blog

Very interesting insight about using digital media to build community and to do business.

Eating on the go

July 8, 2010

“This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. ” Exodus 12:11

The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version

There is one part of the passover story that really captures my imagination.  The passover was not a great feast.  It was to be shared standing up.  Thanksgiving when America celebrates freedom is done sitting down.  Fourth of July maybe outside, but we pull up lawn chairs.  Freedom in our culture is sitting down, we revel in it.

Freedom in the Old Testament for the Israelites is something that is not to be relished.  The price of freedom, the death of the first-born in Egypt is not to be celebrated.  Death of innocents and not so innocents is not a joyful feast.  It is a bitter feast, not to be savored but to be eaten hurriedly.

Perhaps, our communion feast in church is too slow.  Maybe every once in a while we need to eat standing up.  Deacons and servers rushing people through the line.  The price of freedom is not to be savored, but we must eat hurriedly.  The grape juice is warm, the bread is hard…that is OK.  We are eating on the run.  We are one’s who lives are being spared and now is the time to go.  Just a reminder of the sacrifice of the incarnation and the cross.  I don’t eat standing up often, I am not a slave.  I eat leisurely most days.  However, maybe on the side of the road at a hot dog stand maybe to eat standing up, car keys on my finger, will remind me of who paid the price for my freedom.

Rich Mullins still missed.

July 8, 2010

Stumbled upon this video of Rich Mullins.  I forgot how much I appreciated Rich and how much I miss his frankness and honesty about faith.  He was a prophet and sometimes when I heard him speak I thought…”Did anyone catch just what he said?”  I love this intro about prayer.  It is pure ragamuffin gospel.