Lead Like A Child – Thinking Creatively About Leadership

Yesterday, I took advantage of an opportunity to grace my family with a little violin music. The only problem was… I don’t know how to play the violin. Oh, I know how to draw the bow across the strings and make sound happen, but that’s a far cry from making music! In the company of my family, however, that didn’t stop me from making some noise. I managed to squawk out the opening melody of the Imperial Death March and a recognizable Mary Had a Little Lamb, but for the most part, it was just noise. But since I was already secure in the relationship I have with the others in the room (my kids, wife, parents, and mother-in-law), I didn’t mind sounding awful; they already love me, and I know that no level of 4 stringed skill changes that fact. So… I played. Horribly. (Which, I’m sure the violin didn’t really appreciate.)

Later in the evening, I was reading a book about the brain function involved in creativity and came across this:

The professional musician should aspire to the state of the beginner… In order to become a professional, you need to go through years of training. You get criticized by all your teachers, and you worry about all the critics. You are constantly being judged. But if you get onstage…worrying, then you will play terribly. You will be tight and it will be a bad concert. Instead, one needs to constantly remind oneself to play with the abandon of the child who is just learning… Why is that kid playing? He is playing for pleasure.

Yo-Yo Ma, quoted in Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine

I’m no professional musician, like Yo-Yo Ma the celebrated cellist (who plays with abandon like few others), but this post isn’t really about music. But I think this quote reaches well beyond the realm of musical performance.

I wonder if the process of leadership works this way, too? We go through a time (maybe many times) of critique and evaluation in order to learn to be a better leader. And we need this time of training in order to learn the art and science of leading well. But if we constantly lead with the potential criticisms in mind, worrying about what people will say and think about us, we’ll lead “tight and it will be a bad concert.” Remember when you were a kid and could just play together, caught up in each other’s imaginations? Remember when you didn’t worry about whether your idea was a good one or not? What if we could make room in our leadership lives for moments like that? Moments where we weren’t afraid to try something new, something unexpected? To take the evaluation and learn, but then to move forward freely, sharpened and honed by criticism, but not shackled by it…

A Valentine Free Reminder of How Awesome My Wife Really Is

When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things?

Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase

Aside from the birth of our first child, this last Sunday provided a moment when I was more proud of my wife than I’ve ever been. We’d stopped at the store, like we do every Sunday, to get donuts for my high school class. I left my family in the van so I could run in quickly, grab the frosted circles of goodness, and get out. I was feeling good because the place was actually pretty empty and I was making good time. Maybe I’d be early enough to play pool with a couple of my students before we needed to start class!

As I turned the corner to head to the parking lot, though, I noticed a lady struggling to control her sobbing in front of the soda machines. I’ll admit, I get a little cranky if the Mt. Dew gets stuck in the machine, but this was obviously not what was going on here. Actually, I had no idea what was wrong, or what I might be able to do to help. I knew it was none of my business, though and I had a class to teach soon. In all honesty, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have “passed by on the other side of the road.” Except… I didn’t even have a chance to make that decision. As I thin-sliced my way through the situation, quickly processing things in order to decide what to do, I noticed a second girl that seemed to be standing by trying to comfort the distraught woman. It was the girl I began to love some 20 years ago – the girl I’d left in the van with our children. And in that moment, I was reminded of one of the thousands of reasons I’m so fortunate and thankful that God has put us together:

Wild Goose Chase on Amazon (affiliate link)

He gave me a partner for life who’s not content to sit safely on the sidelines. She won’t just busy herself going to church ~ she’s been swept up by the Voice of God calling His people to be the church, and she’s willing to step into risk and discomfort to do hard things. She doesn’t just aspire to be the model church lady always saying and doing just the right, nice & polite things, but she pays attention when the Holy Spirit nudges her into awkward moments. In short, because my wife noticed someone crying in a parking lot and decided to step into whatever mess she may find, a few disciples were able to band together to offer a cup of cool water to a very thirsty soul Sunday. The hopeless caught a flicker of hope. A life abandoned to despair was given a glimpse of the healing joy that is possible when we’re adopted into the family of the King!

And a husband was reminded how awesome his wife is!

I’m grateful I got to see this group of ladies not content to be at church, but working to be the church. And I’m ecstatic that one of them decided as a 16 year old girl that she wanted to share my name for the rest of her life! It certainly wasn’t the safe and easy thing for her to do. I’m so glad God’s sent us together.

Storyline Review

A while back, I heard about something called the Storyline conference being led by Donald Miller. I’ve really enjoyed several of his books and had recently been thinking a lot about the concept of our lives as story, as he explored that idea in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In that book, he suggests thinking of our lives as a great story – essentially, that our life is about someone who wants something and is overcoming obstacles to get it.

To this point, I haven’t been able to go to the Storyline conference, but I did buy the Storyline book a while back and have been working through it slowly. I think it was originally designed as a companion to the conference, so it’s more of a workbook than Miller’s other books. You don’t just kick back and read it – it’s kind of one of those books that works you over as you think through the questions being raised. It’s well worth the work as Miller unpacks the thinking behind the ideas he writes about in Million Miles, and asks probing questions to help the reader get to the heart of who they are, what they want, what obstacles they’re facing… “finding your subplot in God’s story” as the subtitle suggests.

Personally, I’d still love to get to the Storyline conference at some point, but in the meantime, I’m being challenged by the book and looking forward to living the story into which God is drawing me. If you feel like your life’s been missing something, check it out. It may be just what you need to reframe the struggles you’re facing and be reminded of what your life’s all about in the first place.

There is also an online community shaping up at Mysubplot.com and the Storyline Blog where you can clarify and share your story and encourage others in their own.

There’s More to The Story

Maybe you saw the story the other day about a real boy who got kicked out of a real school for throwing an imaginary grenade at some imaginary bad guys. At first, I was agitated that a school would do this. Are we so sensitive now that we can’t even pretend that there is evil in the world to fight against? It sounds so ridiculous! I had all kinds of thoughts about this running through my head, but deeper than all of the reaction, a current kept running – there’s more to the story:

Loveland school district denies mom’s claim boy suspended for imaginary grenade – The Denver Post. It turns out, the kid wasn’t kicked out because of his imaginary war games, but because of ongoing discipline problems that the school cannot divulge without violating his ‘right to privacy’.

When the Manti Te’o story broke recently, I had the same feeling. Reports of an imaginary girlfriend (imagination’s really getting a bad rap lately!), accusations of conspiracy and coverup… There were suddenly lots of questions to be answered. But headline writers and ‘news’ (come on, should we really even call this news?) reporters didn’t seem to care for the unanswered questions as they rushed to condemn. Despite dropping a few ‘fake girlfriend’ jokes, I just kept thinking – there’s more to the story.

Remember Lance Armstrong? How many people looked foolish because they stood behind him and defended him for years, only to find out by his own admission, he cheated? They couldn’t bear to think of their yellow jersey-clad hero disgracing himself, so they ignored the headlines and the allegations as they stacked up higher and higher. So many ignored the growing signs that there’s more to the story.

These isolated incidents leave me thinking 3 things:

  1. Don’t take the headlines at face value. Headlines are designed to sell, not to actually inform us of actual facts. Beyond that, often the news reports themselves (no matter what your favorite news source is) are often so twisted by personal or social agendas or experiences that they barely resemble the truth. Take the ‘news’ with a grain of salt.
  2. Don’t forget, when you come across someone you want to keep at arm’s length, there’s more to their story, too. Maybe they lash out because they’ve never seen another way to keep themselves safe. Or maybe they put up walls for the same reason. Maybe they’re hurtful because they’re hurting. Maybe, if someone took the time to get to know their story, they’d find the hope and healing they need.
  3. Don’t let your past define your identity. You’ve messed up and come to the conclusion that you’ll never escape the mistakes you’ve made. But, there’s more to your story, too. It can get better. Maybe it’s time to let go of the guilt and discouragement that have been dragging you down and take hold of humanity’s hope.

What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “Follow Me”?

Ok. First off, this is a trailer for a new book from David Platt called Follow Me. A book I haven’t read, yet. I’m sort of picky about recommending books, but this trailer raises some great questions, so I wanted to share it with you. I don’t know what all of the content of the book will be like, but the clip below offers a lot of promise. Also, if it’s anything like Platt’s Radical (which I have read and do recommend), it will be full of a lot of tough to hear truth with enormous implications for the church.

Are too many of us are counting on some act or prayer or rite of passage to rescue us from Tom & Jerry’s version of Hell, at the expense of actually, biblically following Jesus.

What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus?

When Jesus said “Follow me.” what was he really inviting people into?

Whether or not you get into Platt’s book, I pray you’ll dig in to God’s Word for answers to these questions. Make sure you’re really following Jesus the way the Bible describes it, and not just settling for a casual, cultural Christianity.

Go Out and Wreak Havoc!

I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at the end of our church services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.

-Mark Batterson, Wild Goose Chase

I get this statement.

I understand the man that doesn’t want to lead His people deeper into safe, “Thank you for coming. See you next week” territory. I understand the desire to advance against the enemy, even at the risk of safety. At the heart of this blog and my ministry over the years are Jesus’ own words about building a church that would devastate the very gates of Hell… a church that the Enemy cannot stop.

“But I work with a bunch of kids…” you say.

“But I’m only a volunteer…” you say.

“But our church is really struggling…”

“But we’re not very big and have a really small budget…”

“But I’m just a kid…”

So what!

Who is your God? Who is it that is really fueling your life and your ministry and your church? Who are you really pursuing?

If you are pursuing God, know this: He has made you dangerous to the enemy. He is enough to tear down the gates of Hell that are keeping people from Him. He is enough to rescue people you love from the addictions and ego that tear them away. He is enough to keep you from the one who would destroy you. And He is enough to resuscitate the lifeless shell left when His people are afflicted with a hope-starved apathy.

Will you dare to trust Him and step into the fray?