Satisfaction Allows for Multiplication and Prevents Fortification

John Eldredge wrote a great book called “Way of the Wild Heart” which details stages of development and how they inter-relate one to the other. For example, young men usually require satisfaction of what Eldredge calls a “cowboy” stage. This is a time where the young man seeks adventure to know inside of himself that he is capable. Once this question is answered, he doesn’t have to wonder if he has what it takes to fight and survive when faced with a battle to fight. He is able, through experience, to walk with confidence which eliminates insecure over-reactions.

Problems arise when those questions go unanswered yet we progress in life to positions of greater responsibility. We often progress into what Eldredge calls the “king” stage where there are positions of leadership and responsibility. We’ve likely all seen the effects of a “leader” who is insecure and “leads” with fear. They are not prepared to walk in the position they have been promoted into because they did not naturally satisfy the internal questions to prepare them.

I started practicing law as a second career and had to cycle back to the beginning; went from running a company generating significant revenues to sharing an office with two desks and two paralegals. So three of us with only two desks and I knew less than they did about how most everything worked. If they were both present and busy, I had nowhere to sit.

Nice big cup full of humility to drink from did me good. I’m thankful for that time. That time was necessary as a foundation for what is and is to come. If I had tried to self-promote or refused to walk through what was before me, the foundation would not have been as solid.

Fear and control are enemies of leadership. They are also fruit of insecurity. Security comes from within; not from promotions or the accumulation of stuff. When you know who you are and Who it is that promotes and provides, the temptation to manipulate for your protection is set aside. The understanding of His faithfulness comes by the experience of His provision in the risk of trusting Him. Life lived dependent on Him and not you allows for the questions to be settled from within.

Leaders promote others because they aren’t promoting themselves. Insecurity will prevent or limit the freedom necessary for the release of others as the temptation will be to fortify more than multiply. Insecure kings build and adorn their castles while secure kings release and multiply the Kingdom of the King through others.

Next Level Leadership Needs No Insignia

The first leadership position that I remember was in the Boy Scouts. I remember organizing, planning, delegating and communicating to get a couple of dozen other young men from one place to the other. Those places included Italy, Austria and all over Germany (we lived in Germany for a few years when I was growing up).

At 18, I was promoted into a supervisor’s position as an assistant warehouse manager ahead of 30-somethings and candidates that had been to college. Later, I went to college and became the president of my fraternity, cadet commander of the school’s ROTC detachment, and a Resident Assistant. From there, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and led soldiers as a tank platoon leader, eventually as a company commander. Along the way, I became a corporate manager with responsibility for subordinate supervisors and teams of employees.

There were other leadership experiences that have led me to where I am today. Almost 50, I have believed that I am well positioned to hit my stride. I have felt equipped, called and suited to lead in the places where I currently have responsibility. What I am finding as I hit the half-century mark is different from I had expected. Hitting stride is different from I thought.

The tactics, impact and ability to get things done as a leader shift. The shift is from control to influence. The direct cause and effect of my effort is no longer the plan. The shift I am being invited into, I believe, is into the next level of leadership. It’s what Jim Collins calls “Level 5” leadership. Level 5 leadership is described as a “paradoxical blend of humility and willpower.”

The “x” factor is in the humility. While I have battled pride over the years, the Lord has done a work. I am not the man who I was, by His grace. Yet, there is more. There is a depth of humility that calls out to my soul which holds the unlocking of the power of maximized leadership.

I don’t know exactly what it is or what it means, just yet. I am interested, but still a bit ignorant. The best picture I have so far is a picture of a military officer. A military officer is adorned with rank that is worn on their collar. I see the invitation being encapsulated in the taking off of the rank and laying it on the table. It doesn’t change the leader; it reflects their lack of a need for any adornment.

The best picture I have of who that person of authority looks like is Jesus.

Honest Interaction Equips the Ones that Do the Work

A simple, yet unique and amazing, thing happened the other night. I was speaking and a man politely interrupted with a clarifying question. He asked me what I meant by something I had just said and I clarified the point for him as well as for everyone else who might have not been clear. The man’s question initially seemed to come from a place of objection, depending on how I answered.

It was particularly unique and amazing in that I was preaching at our church. Right in the middle of the sermon came this potential objection. That was a greater level of conflict than you see in most sermons as the pastor typically goes unchallenged except at lunch behind his back or via email to inform him of his error. This was actual relationship. This was healthy.

I read a book by Patrick Lencioni over the weekend called “Death by Meeting.” In this excellent book he describes as a business fable, he makes the point that, business meetings are boring and non-productive because they don’t have any conflict. Everyone is saying all the right things except in the meetings after the meetings where the objections are raised with no way for collaborative problem solving.

Isn’t this true in church? Haven’t we resigned to the mundane predictability of three up songs, two down songs, announcements, offering, message and altar call or something similar? Haven’t we completely resigned ourselves to the passive consumer sitting politely as a critic of the show?

The only thing that’s likely to occur from our current patterns is either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. We are left to judge the excellence, or lack thereof, of the quality of the music, the content, humor and delivery of the speaker and opinions regarding the lighting, smoke, child care and parking. Too many thumbs down and we take our tithe to the show down the street.

I’ll submit that the early church, the model we were given, was a community of dialogue and even disagreement. Conflict affords the working out that is necessary for the equipping. We don’t mature passively, we grow experientially.

Why are we so afraid of the participation of the ones that are being equipped for the work of the ministry? If they don’t get equipped in the gathering, then where? A class? A program? How’s that working?

It’s time for the church goer to be the church doer. The only way that will happen is that the working out of faith and belief is given a voice and a safe place to figure it out. That safe place of working it out won’t be at work. It’s either in the gathering or the gathering may need some re-engineering. Engineering back to the blueprint.

 

If You’re Feeling Salty

I took some hits recently. In places and in ways that I was not accustomed to getting criticized, I was picked apart. It was behind my back and to my face in front of others. It hurt and it made me angry, but I didn’t respond. That hurt, too. It hurt to die to myself and my desire to defend or even attack. I’ve taught on grace and written about grace and believe in grace and now grace is getting further engrained into my soul. I’m seeing a fresh glimpse of an ancient truth.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6).

Salt is used to describe graceful conversation. Graceful talk is salty. Salt = grace.

Salt is a mineral, not a seasoning. Pure salt doesn’t lose its flavor. It can get contaminated and the flavor can get lost in the contaminants or it can get diluted to appear to lose its flavor, but salt is salty forever. Grace never changes or fades away.

Now consider this passage from Mark 9: “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

We get grace embedded in our soul by trials (fire). Grace actually requires flaws to be put on display. The imperfections of relationship are what affords us the imprint of grace. Remembering that grace doesn’t lose it’s flavor, there is no end to the limits we are called to allow for the flaws in others.

Matthew 5:13 says that we are to be the salt of the earth and it goes on to say that salt that loses its flavor is not good for anything except to be trampled by men. The world will accept our proclamations of Jesus only for so long as our flavor is His grace. Once we decide we have to defend ourselves or attack others, even among ourselves as the world is watching, they have no use for our hollow declarations lacking the flavor of grace.

Only the pain of sin and offense can flavor you with grace. Where there is a temptation or even a right to fight back, the invitation is into grace. It will hurt; dying always does. It will taste good to those that need to taste Jesus, however.

 

 

 

Every Offense Doesn’t Require a Verdict

When I was practicing criminal defense law, the contention of the adversarial system would wear on me. I would have to take a break and get away from time to time to clear my lens. My lens would get cloudy from a residue of accusation, explanation, lies born of self-preservation, consequences and other aspects of the situation. I would get a bit jaded in my view of humanity and I wasn’t the only one. The criminal law bar generally could be a bit cynical and sarcastic with salty language and vices to lube the friction.

All too often, I have chosen to play the part of judge, prosecutor of defense attorney where there is no court of law. In life’s everyday interactions, there are disappointments and disagreements that draw a reaction which is born out of an illusion. The illusion comes when we think we need to get to a verdict regarding right or wrong. Where the verdict is “wrong,” and it often is based on our flawed human condition, we think there needs to be an assessment of blame. But there doesn’t.

There is no freedom in the assessment of justice. Freedom is grace based. It has to be, or the busyness of blame will overcome any of the potential peace of freedom.

Freedom starts and ends with identity. When we realize who we are and why, we are at ground zero of peace. That identity is not earned and doesn’t have to be defended. We don’t have to prove anything because we didn’t do anything in the first place. Jesus died to make us righteous by His sacrifice. Where we are willing to agree with Him, we enjoy the benefit of His victory.

When our identity is based in His perfection and sacrifice, we can stop. We can stop defending ourselves and we can stop prosecuting others to elevate ourselves by comparison. Every mistake does not require a verdict. Every shortcoming doesn’t call for an explanation. Every flaw doesn’t need assignment of a cause.

I don’t have marriage perfected, but I have seen that when I can avoid the traps of judgment, prosecution or defense, the grace that breathes in the void gives us life. It’s not easy because it is often only given room in the wake of a decision to die to myself. I turn fifty in a few months and I’m starting to see it more clearly than ever. Less is more.

Today things are going to happen. Grocery clerks, co-workers, kids and others are going to mess up. So are you. It’s OK. Those mistakes don’t demand a verdict. Rest in the peace of grace. Rest in Jesus.

 

 

Giving Up to Gain and Gaining Abundantly

A friend of mine is a missionary in Guatemala for the past twenty years. He has been instrumental in the development and transformation of a remote area that otherwise would remain primitive. With multiple projects going at any given time including assisting with medical, educational, hygiene and other basic needs, he has helped the locals start a viable chile/salsa business. They export their product as a source of income as well as purpose.

He and I were talking recently and his conviction is that there is nothing of any significance in Guatemala or anywhere else that he has ever been able to accomplish. The conditions and challenges they have been presented with leave him completely dependent on God. The more they are called to, the greater the challenge and the greater the challenge, the smaller he gets. He has discovered with great certainty that God’s favor comes where it is the only hope for success, if not survival.

The more that he gives way, the more clearly the way that is made becomes visible. Striving, worrying or controlling produce nothing but frustration while prayer, release and faith allow for multiplication. Their conditions demand respect of the harshness of an environment that is literally life threatening and the life that is given as a result is deep and rich, even when difficult.

If everything in our lives is under control and manageable, we likely are missing the potential and capacity for life to the fullest. Jesus came to restore everything that was lost with the promise of abundant life (John 10:10). The abundance of life is in the depth of dependence. Where we will allow, He will multiply within us and transform our capacity to recognize, appreciate and further depend on Him for multiplication around us.

The Kingdom of God contains the greatest adventures life has to offer. Vacations, excursions, expeditions or other attempts to simulate the adventures of a life given over to the King pale in significance to the depth that is available in Him. There is nothing mundane, domestic, religious or safe about heaven colliding with earth. If your taste or perception of Christianity lacks the flavor of the Kingdom, the possibility is that you’ve accepted an incomplete or inaccurate version of the Gospel.

Where you are willing to risk the benefits of control for the depth of living, the exchange will be intimidating, exciting, fun and terrifying all at the same time. Where you will give up, He will increase in every way; starting within.