Category Archives: Lead/Create

Pastoring is a gift, not a job

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“He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” -Ephesians 4:11-13 (The Message)

This is a topic I know a little bit about.  I have 3 professional pastoral degrees . . . 3.  Undergrad in Student Ministry, Masters of Divinity and a Doctorate in Ministry; all from accredited Universities and Seminaries.  However, about 16-17 years ago, I fired myself from pastoring being my ‘paid’ vocation and I became bi-vocational.  I really dislike the term ‘bi-vocational’, it supposes some nice and clean sectioned identities where your pastoral open sign is on or off.  The apostle Paul talked about a trade he had in tent-making to support himself financially so that he would not be a burden to the people he was called to serve with his pastoral gifts.  Over the past 16-17 years, I have been a: manager, educator,  administrator, advisor, consultant, estimator, writer, speaker, coach and customer service rep.  All of those things have paid me $ to support my habit of using my gifts to lead, serve and teach the Church.

Why?  For me it has been both strategic and personal.  The majority of the context of people I serve have been hurt by the church, are skeptical of the church, have lost trust in the church or believe the connection of church and money is a conflict of interest.  If I cared about my neighbors, I needed to remove the barrier of $ and my care for them.  I didn’t want my message of care to be tied to anything else other than I genuinely care because the goodness of God flows through me.  No unnecessary barriers, just opportunity and conversation about what is real and true in life, trust could be earned again.  Secondly, I had a dream of doing church without $.  What could it look like to not have any bills or overhead so that 100% of our collected giving could go towards missional needs in the community?  In the 15 years of Ordinary Community Church, even as a small community, we have given away over $100k towards needs because we have no bills.  A church without walls, without borders and without overhead.

This is not the ideal model, it is just one of many forms the church can take in the early 21st century.  Nothing wrong with paid pastors or church overhead, just know that every choice and decision we make around $ makes an immediate statement to our ministry context and cultural identity.  Pastoring has become big business in many ways, particularly in the US.  It is not uncommon for large churches to pay tens of thousands of dollars in search consulting fees to help find the next talent to feed the sheep.  There is a church corporate ladder to climb just like in any other industry and I’m not even judging that, it’s probably a natural flow of the right people getting to the right fits.  I just get really uncomfortable when I hear pastoring being equated with a job.  A pastoral salary is not an entitlement.  Would you do it if you never got paid?

Why be a tent-maker?:

  • Longevity and sustainability, finances of church do not depend on support
  • Leaders invested in tangible community, builds trusts and adds credibility
  • Be missional – ‘Pay the price  to understand a people until they know that you understand them’
  • Pastor not seen as a CEO leader, not a consumer relationship of an exchange of goods and services
  • Eliminates divide between sacred and secular
  • Will Gen X and Millenials financially support large church structures and organizations in the future given their skepticism towards institutions and consumption patterns?  (Will the $ even be there in the future when Baby Boomers and Builders pass on?)

Pastoring is not a job, it’s a gifting to act on everywhere and with everyone.  It’s a life of service to give away, there is not entitlement in it.  Our job is to deny ourselves, serve an unseen God by loving a seen people right in front of us.

Count Leo Tolstoy said it well: “All men are to be loved equally. But since you can not do good to all, you are to pay special regard to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into close connection with you.”  You don’t have a job, you have a gift, go use it.

Nothing wrong with a safe life, it’s just Boring

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The Nordic Vikings of old had a term we Anglo-Saxons translate as “Berserk”.  ‘Bersekr’ literally means ‘bear shirt’ or one who would run into battle in a crazed confidence wearing only the animal skin as armor.  Not a safe life, but a confident one.

I’m not advocating a Viking lifestyle, generally we have evolved in our domestic and international diplomatic relations past shield walls and pillaging.  The old world of desperation and scarce resources has been replaced with modern comforts and a surplus of goods.  But I do want to speak against narratives of safety, security, small thinking and small living.  We don’t have to settle for the safe, we can step onto the field with a fierce confidence and stare an enemy in the face. Life doesn’t have to be boring, we can choose to go Bersekr’ .

We can choose the safe life that’s largely all about us and our comforts and security, that’s the mythology of the American Dream. The more as a culture we pursue this dream, the more our use of anti-depressants is rising; correlation?   Is it possible we just have all the wrong dreams?  What we thought would make us happy, content, purposeful, fulfilled are not the things we are pursuing at all?  Something deep inside us wants to armor-up and go ‘Bersekr’ but we are choosing the fool’s gold of the American dream.  There is nothing wrong with a safe life, it’s just boring.  😉

10 years ago this past March, I lost one of my best friends to colon cancer at the age of 32. I visited his grave this week and it got me thinking.  His name was Mark Palmer and he was as much my friend as he was a co-mentor in my life.  We filled that role for one another.  I walked with him as he grieved the loss of his 26 yr. old wife to stomach cancer.  I walked with him as he suffered through his own battle against cancer.  What I observed in my friend was a heart of courage that would never give up on his fierce commitment to hope for himself and the community he loved so much.  He gave up the pursuit of the American Dream of comfort in order to live in solidarity with the poverty and suffering of his neighbors.  He made it his life and calling to mentor young hearts who were filled with angst, passion, talent and pain and dreamed for a better world.   He lived his life on purpose.  He got 32 years to ‘Bersekr’ in his own giftedness and then he gracefully passed over the veil to the reality of another Kingdom in fullness.

Friends, we get one life.  ONE!  We will be buried not with any of our creature comforts and not with one of our retirement benefits, not with any piece of security.  All that the American Dream offers us, we get buried with none of it.  It’s a fool’s gold, a chasing after the wrong dreams.  We live in a broken world crying out for hope, leadership, courage, peace, goodness and the identity shaping of fierce community.  You can live a safe life, it’s just boring.  You can choose to go ‘Bersekr’ and make a difference with your one wild and precious life like no one else with your skill-set can.  Oh the stories people will tell at your funeral, it won’t be about your stuff, it will be about your amazing life and battles won for the good of all.  We get one life, choose wisely, all of life depends on it.

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“I guess what I really want to say is this: be hopeful. Don’t stop fighting. On some level this thing is bigger than all of us. It’s not about having a wife die of cancer at 26, and then 2 years later getting the same terminal illness. It’s not about me and how I fight this disease or how our little family walks through it. The bigger picture is the battle against sickness and death that we all face because we live in a broken world. But it’s even more about the Kingdom that has broken in and offers us a chance at relief from that disease. It offers health and victory where before there was none. There is hope in the midst of hopelessness. Death is not where we lose; the onset of hopelessness is the great defeater. So allow hope to rise up within you. And when it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let it rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed.

-Mark Palmer, last blog post before he passed 3/25/06

A Paycheck is Not a Big Enough Idea

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What if I told you that you’ve been lied to?   That the American Dream is a myth meant to enslave you to a life of consumption that makes you dependent on systems of control and the illusion of personal choice.   That the ‘good life’ is not good at all; not for our health, our sense of peace, our experience of joy or our personal power to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  Living the ‘good life’ was what it meant to be truly American. It is this idea that has grown like a virus in the American worldview; the American dream is now a benchmark cultural assumption about how the world works.  . . . As the narrator says in Fight Club: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”  But it doesn’t work, because getting a paycheck is not a big enough idea.

The existential questions of humanity are the same at any point in time within recorded history. They are the same in any economy, in any political system and within the context of any particular culture. The questions may vary in importance, however they typically carry the thematic structure of the following: Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose? Where do I find meaning? Is this all there is? What happens when I die?

These questions outline the longings of our human hearts; they dictate what we organize our lives around. The answers to these profound ponderings become formative attachments psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and then deeply influence the pragmatic choices of our physical lives. We organize our lives around what we believe to be true and meaningful, the cost is really high about how we answer these critical questions.

You get a paycheck to live, but what do you want to do with your life?  How do you want it defined?  You get to choose your attention and investment, what do you want out of it?  For the love of God, don’t let the stupidity of our culture and consumer markets dictate that for you.  You get to choose, so what do you want to do?  You want to earn up enough over a lifetime, save up enough so that you can stop working for the last 30 years of your life and collect shells on the beach?  Nothing wrong with that, it’s just boring.  😉

I think you were designed to count, and count quite uniquely.  You are wired to matter.  Dallas Willard said it this way:  “As water is meant to run downhill, so you were destined to count.”  A Paycheck doesn’t make you count or matter, it just helps you live.  It’s the choices of your life that help you experience meaning, purpose and  well-designed empassioned mission.   Our consumer culture is a system of control and it doesn’t satisfy; it is designed to keep you wanting more because in the end, it’s a bankrupt set of ideals.  It’s all the wrong dreams, all the wrong goals and all the wrong living.  You were meant for more giving, not getting, and it’s at your fingertips to choose and experience.  Don’t settle for anything less.  You have one life, one chance for real living, a paycheck is not a big enough idea for you.

My wife and I have re-designed our entire life and budget.   Today is the last day of my severance pay from my full-time job.  We are now embarking into the reality of purpose and life in the hands of the God who made us, designed us and calls us to live a life of purpose and great meaning.  We are no longer defined by a paycheck, we are free to work at the callings deep on our heart for justice, community, truth, love and a dangerous call of hope.  A paycheck is not a big enough idea when there is a call to love the orphan, the widow, the lonely, the oppressed, the poor, the captives etc.  We want to live life on purpose, not for a paycheck.  Income helps us live, it doesn’t define us, our life defines us. How do you want to live?

Choose to be dangerous, choose for your life to count, choose hope. You won’t be disappointed.

קַדֵּשׁ ‘Qadash’ – Preparation is No Joke

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קַדֵּשׁ – Qadash  (Imperative masculine singular) is the Hebrew term for being ‘set apart’ or to ‘consecrate’.  As mentioned in Joshua 7:13:  

13 “So get started. Purify the people. Tell them: Get ready for tomorrow by purifying yourselves. For this is what God, the God of Israel, says: There are cursed things in the camp. You won’t be able to face your enemies until you have gotten rid of these cursed things. – Joshua 7:13 (The Message)

What do you do before you begin something really challenging?  What does preparation look like for you?  How do you get ready?  What clears your focus?  What sharpens your intentions?  What readies your steps?  What prepares your heart, mind and soul?  What trains your body?  What boosts your energy?  What secures your plans?  What increases your capacity?  etc. etc.

What we know is that preparation matters, it’s no joke.   Those that just show up without preparation are usually those that leave the race early.  They start out strong, but they invested nothing in their energy and endurance bank for the long haul.   When it comes time to pull from the bank when things get hard, they are bankrupt of energy and fall to the wayside allowing others to pass.  Typically, the difference between people who ‘dream’ and people who ‘experience their dreams’ is a matter of discipline and preparation.  Thomas Edison once said it this way:  “We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”   

Every challenge before us is opportunity, opportunity to ‘qadash’.  Opportunity to not try and fit in, but opportunity to be ‘set apart’.  For spiritual leaders, often our call from God in terms of ‘qadash’ has to do with morality and character.  We claim to represent the One who created and permeates the world with goodness and joy, is this same goodness and joy in us?  If not, then Qadash.  The world is wrecked with brokenness, evil and violence, do we have a present tense response of courage and hope?  If not, then Qadash.  Jesus’ most basic teaching was about a denial of self, how do you portray yourself to others?  Do you gather power or disperse it?  Do you have a need to be needed?  Do you need to be at the center of attention?  Do you have to be on the stage/pedestal?  Is it about you or others?  If it’s not of Him, then Qadash.

This Qadash kind of preparation is no joke, it’s of biblical proportion.  It can be a desert experience, God is not afraid to push us into exile for some good old fashioned preparation.  He is not afraid of our pain, it’s for our own good.  He wants to lead us to an inheritance set before us, but we have to be prepared for it.  Recently, God ripped me out of my comfort zone for some time in Qadash and He isn’t done yet.   I’m beginning to no longer focus on the pain of the desert but on the excitement of the next assignment.  This time of preparation has a purpose,  and it’s between me and Him to journey that bad-boy out.   I’m not going into the next challenge of my life without some new armor to put on, some new tools in toolbox, some more capacity to run a strong race.  This comes from a proper Qadash.  It’s purposeful time of preparation.  Let’s get on with it.

 

Moses is Dead . . . the Transition Bridge

 

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“1 After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Get going . . . ‘ “(Joshua 1:1)

Some transitions in life are just really clear.  Historically for the people of Israel, when one of their great patriarchs Moses dies, it is a clear and distinct line in the sand that things are going to change.  It can’t be like it ‘used to be‘ because Moses is not in the land of the living and there is no evidence of a zombie apocalypse.  Moses is dead, he isn’t coming back.  His reign as a trusted leader is over, it’s not business as usual.  He’s not going to make Israel great again, so now what?  It’s unsettling, it’s confusing, it’s a time for many questions and can throw you right into a land of chaos and anxiety.  How will it turn out?  How will this end?  Where does this bridge take us?  What is the land like over there?  Is it like the old way of life?  Is it safe?  Is it good?  Do I want to go there?  What can I trust?

Time of great transition can be very, very unsettling.  I know because my family and I are in one.  I’m here to testify to the great unsettling.  I do find comfort in the fact that we aren’t the first ones to do a great life transition, it’s been done before and even studied as a psycho-emotional phenomenon.  In 1991, William Bridges, wrote a book called ‘Managing Transitions’ in which he lays out the 3 stages humans go through in great times of transition.  His focus is not on the external ‘change‘ that happens to you, but on the internal free choice to slowly and deliberately move through ‘transition‘.  We can’t always control change (i.e. Moses is dead) but we can control what choices we make to transition internally.   Focus is on transition, not change.

Bridges 3 step transition model is as follows:

  1. Ending, Losing and Letting Go – this is the human emotion area of fear, denial, anxiety, anger, sadness, frustration, loss etc.  Until acceptance happens, we stay here.
  2. The Neutral Zone – the slow process of detachment with the old.  Resentment towards change, low productivity, low morale, skepticism and anxiety about new roles.  This can be opportunity for seeing things completely differently with new lenses altogether.
  3. The New Beginning – this is where acceptance leads to new and bright energy.  Excitement over new roles, openness to new learnings and a renewed commitment to the group.  When you get here . . . take time to mark the transition and celebrate!!!

Just because there is a marked process, it doesn’t mean to hurry up and get it over with.  The process is it’s own learning, trust the process.  Don’t look to get it over with, soak up the juices for the learnings that are in there, it’s part of the marrow of life.  Take your time, take care of your emotional self, you are worth a healthy transition.  Are you in great transition like me?  Let’s cross the bridge slowly and deliberately . . . on the other end is a New Beginning and I’m believing it’s good.

“If you want to live life free
Take your time go slowly
If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly”Little Church’ (Donovan Leitch)

What’s next, Papa?

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So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” – Romans 8:12-15 (The Message)

For financial and personal reasons, I’ve just worked my last day in my present job with a wonderful company that gave me a chance to use my leadership and culture building skills in the marketplace these past 4 years.  I thought I was going to be continuing this role for quite some time but per a lot of factors, I found myself in a time of great transition.  The challenging part at 43, sole income in my home, wife and 3 kids, is that I don’t have anything financially to step into right away.  This was not the plan.   We did not come to this conclusion lightly, we walked through darkness and fear to a jumping off point that can only be categorized as ‘faith’.

So in this place of ‘faith’, we get to choose our perspective and attitude.  We get to choose what voices we want to listen to.  We can lament about the past, we can paralyze in fear of the present . . . or we can step out in ‘faith’ into our future.  There is no life in lament and fear, they breed death because they have no life.  The only source of life I’m aware of is the Author of life.  The God of the heavens and the earth, the creator/sustainer of the universe, the alpha and the omega, the One who spoke and life began, that’s the One we are following into the great unknown.  The only relevant voice to us is His.  He is our provision, He is the painter of the unknown canvas, He is the architect of our future.  God has never left us alone, so at this great transition in our life, we ask the Father: What’s next, Papa?’

I believe a part of this kicking a bird out of the nest is I confess that I have somewhat run from a primary calling on my life to use my voice to teach, write, encourage, inspire others to try things in their life that lead to hope, life and community development.  It’s what I’ve given my life to and I sense that God is now throwing me out into a future of being more direct with the formation of new communities and proclaiming an aggressive message of hope in a culture that is only celebrating destruction.  It’s not a time for being timid, it’s time for adventurous courage and a primal scream into the future a story of hope.  It’s not theory, it’s action and practice and experimenting.  It’s about local, family, community and neighborhood; where change can happen.

So, what’s next, Papa?

  1. ResurgamLife.com is where this blog will be moving to when it is ready and it’s a story-telling company I am launching next.  It is a space where hope and life is our rebellion, where that primal scream into action happens for a different future and a transformation of faith and culture in community.  It is where I will house and open-source my teaching, writing and leadership development opportunities.
  2. ResurgamCoffee.com is ready to launch in a matter of days, this is our direct-trade wholesale company that is on mission to fund hope with our friends at Lemonade International for the work with the vulnerable children of La Limonada, the most dangerous slum in Central America.  This is our family’s first company and it’s in collaboration with an amazing team of dedicated leaders who wow me in their talent and heart for the project.
  3. Online Professor of Missional Community and Organic Church Planting Specialist with MissionalUniversity.com.  It’s a global, progressive University launching in Fall of 2017 that I’m honored to be in the start-up faculty for.  It’s mission is to educate, equip, train and mobilize ordinary leaders (not clergy) to do the work of hope and God’s Kingdom building in local contexts around the world.  I will be writing curriculum for my online teaching modules for the next 9 months or so in preparation for the launch.  I will be sharing much of that material on ResurgamLife.com
  4. ????????????

What’s next, Papa?  You can follow the story here.

 

‘Crowds lie, the more people the less truth’

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Bono and U2’s rejection letter

‘. . . if it is the crowd which turns the scale – then there is untruth.’  – Soren Kierkegaard, The Point of View

Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, Galileo was put on trial for heresy, Walt Disney was fired for ‘lacking imagination’, Spielberg was rejected admittance to the USC school of cinematic arts, Einstein struggled in school due to communication and behavioral problems, J.K. Rowling was on welfare when she started writing ‘Harry Potter’ and Billy Graham was told at his Christian college ‘he’d never amount to anything’.

Conventional truth may not be truth at all.  Culturally we push for social norms for ‘normal living’ and learning for pre-determined and safe results.

You know the American script:

  • go to school, play well with others, pass your standardized tests, learn how to sit up and do something you don’t like for 8 hours a day so that later in life you can mimic that behavior in something called a ‘job’
  • go to college, extend adolescence, rack up student loans, and learn that a ‘degree’ doesn’t mean a ‘job’
  • get married, have kids, tell them it was harder when you were a kid and like it, drive a SUV to soccer practice and Kroger because you are ‘totally adventurous’
  • save up enough $ through your ‘work’ life to save up 25-30 years of something called retirement where you apparently finally ‘really live’ in freedom, but it looks like collecting shells on the beach and eating dinner at 4:00

Pardon my cynical sarcasm, I’ve just never been one to accept the norm.  I’m leery of crowds and accepted truths, they make me skeptical.  Many times I’m far more attracted to the waters others are not in.  There just has to be better answers to life’s questions than in the norm of accepted living.  Do you ever consider pushing out to deeper waters even though you don’t know where that current will take you?

It’s a risk, maybe the crowd is safe.  But maybe the crowd is wrong.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

The 3 lies I tell myself

“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”  ― George Carlin

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Self-talk is a tricky thing and we all do it.  The messages that bounce around between our ears play a huge role in the behavior that comes out of the rest of our body.  These agreements tell us how to perceive the reality of the world around us.  They can dictate if we think we are winning or losing at this thing called life.  They filter our values and point us to what we think is true.  It is in this private world that we may unknowingly deceive ourselves and thus limit who we can become.  There is a kind of beauty when the lies we once held true crash like a window-pane all around us and invite us into an opportunity to reconstruct what is our core truth and understanding of who we really are and why we are here anyways.  Here are my typical bullies of untruth:

  1. I don’t have enough –Myth of Scarcity, sounds like this, tell me if you’ve heard this song: If I just had ‘X’ then I would be happy.  If I had as much as ‘X’ then I would be as happy as they are.  Everyone else seems to have ‘X’ except for me.  The only thing between me loving my life and me not being left-out is ‘X’.  The consumer hyper-marketing messages all around us only re-establish the stronghold of this kind of falsehood.  The ‘X’ is a job, more money, a vehicle, a partner, a raise, a home, a place at a table you are presently not at, a greener pasture etc.  The lie is that I don’t have what I need to be fulfilled right now.   That with more I’d be okay, but with my present reality, the recipe just doesn’t bake the cake.
  2. I am not enough – Myth of Mattering, sounds like this, tell me if this rings true:  I am not as good as ‘X’, I’m not as smart as ‘X’, I’m not as accomplished as ‘X’, I’m not as talented as ‘X’, ‘X’ seems to get all the breaks, no one would choose me, if people knew the truth about me they wouldn’t be interested.  The lie is that I don’t matter, everyone else matters more.  What the world measures as valuable is all the things that I don’t have or embody.  If I was more like ‘X’ then I’d finally be valued and okay.
  3. This is enough – Myth of a Closed Future, sounds like this, tell me if you’ve seen this movie:  Tomorrow will be just like today, this is all there is, things will never get better, since I failed before I will always fail in the future, things just don’t work out for me, I better accept the tyranny of the present because nothing is going to change.  The future is a closed opportunity, it is only more of the same.  Accept reality, the future is closed, this is all there is.

What if I told you none of these are true?  Like you, I am on a journey of deeper discovery about who I am and what this world is all about.  For the past 15-20 years I would have labeled myself a chief cynic, a realist who coldly, and harshly just dealt with the way things were.  Pains, disappointments and perceived failed attempts convinced me that these lies were true.  What I didn’t know was that my agreements with these falsehoods actually created a system of thinking that was a self-fulfilled prophecy.  I believed them to be true so that is how I behaved, I acted, I reacted, I perceived how my world was developing.  A more careful examination tells a different story.

I am a faith guy so I start with the truth I was created and placed in a world that has always been enough to sustain and multiply a diverse creation of unbelievable beauty.  The creation feeds on itself in a unique design where life creates more life and never tires of it’s recreation.  The creation has all I ever needed, nothing leaves me in want.  When I was created, I was designed with both a certain amount of unique giftings as well as some limitations (not weaknesses).  I don’t carry all the Creator’s strengths, but I have some of them and I’m at my best when I am reflecting his identity in how he created me.  There isn’t another me, there is me in this time, in this place, in this community to matter in ways I have even yet to discover.  As Dallas Willard put it, ‘as water is meant to run downhill, so you were destined to count’.  The future is not closed, it is ripe with abundant opportunity to learn more, grow more, discover more, love more, create more, enjoy more, serve more and experience more.  If there is breath yet in me, the future is pregnant with a birthing of the next opportunity to be uniquely me.  The lies have the stench of death, the truth smells like hope.

What if I told you that you have enough, that you are enough, that the future is open with opportunity?  Would you believe me?

“18-21 That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. 

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s withinus. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”  – Romans 8:18-25 (The Message)

Leadership and the Monsters within

 

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The most notable of leaders tend to be extroverts with personalities of charisma that charm their followers towards the mission and purpose at hand.  The greater their charisma, the higher the pedestal we exalt them upon towards an idealized model of what we all want to become.  These leaders become great at performing in the outer world but perhaps also become effective at ignoring their inner life. Innocently and seemingly to our nature as humans, we set up these leaders for a long tumble off that pedestal if they in turn are not acutely aware of the danger of the stage of influence.  If the leader does not confront the monsters within, the stage of influence can become a place of delusion and self-importance where the leader is not spreading freedom to their followers but actually a thorny path of doing more harm than good.

“Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.” (Palmer, p. 80-81)

I’ve been re-reading Parker J. Palmer’s “Let your Life Speak”, and in his conclusion for vocational leaders, he proposed 5 inner monsters leaders need to be acutely self-aware of:

  1. Insecurity about identity and worth – not knowing ‘who’ we are or ultimately ‘whose’ we are as the very children of a loving God.
  2. Obsessed with competition – believing falsely that the universe is a battleground and hostile to human interests as opposed to a belief that all things are working together for good.
  3. Functional atheism – the delusion that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us.  This shadow leads to burnout and resentment, I’ve been here far too many times in my life.
  4. Fear of the natural ‘chaos’ of life – we believe that good leadership is about controlling and eliminating chaos as opposed to allowing it to lead us to greater creativity and break-through.
  5. Denial of death itself – not letting things that have run their course have a natural death, holding everyone hostage to a day gone by where there is no longer any life.  Ultimately this is fear of failure instead of seeing the new data as an opportunity for clarity for the next break through.

“A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there.  A leader shapes the ethos in which others must live, an ethos as light-filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell.  A good leader is intensely aware of the interplay of inner shadow and light, lest the act of leadership do more harm than good.” (Parker, p. 78)

I resonate with all 5 of these inner monsters and I’m learning not to avoid them but to press right in on them and not let them control my inner life and heart.  Pressing in on them, presses them down to a foundational grounding out of which we live, love and lead.  Instead of saying ‘there are no monsters’, they may in fact be real, and they are ‘us’.

Peace to you and your own monsters,

Chris +

 

 

 

The Art of Misfitting

As the playwright George Bernard Shaw once put it: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

From the time we are born, we are taught to conform and fit in.  There is a script in American culture that is already written and success is perceived as following the script.  Sit quietly in your big-box education setting where it is teacher and test oriented as opposed to centered on actual learning and experience.  Place your hope in achieving within a numerical grading system so that you can attend the college of your choice in which you hand over the raising of your offspring to a system of big university business that is designed to enslave you to debt for decades to come with no actual guarantee of gainful employment, let alone meaningful work.  Our young adults are riddled with quarter-life crises of ‘what if’s?’, ‘how did I get here?’ and ‘is this all there is?’.  We raise a generation of conformists as if our present reality is worth sustaining?

I call B.S.  Progress, reformation, change, development, evolution and the dream for a new tomorrow does not come from the center of the box.  Everything in the system is designed to sustain the system.  It is the free thinkers, the practitioners, the dreamers, the doers, the prophets, the revolutionaries, the starters, the pioneers . . . the troublemakers and misfits that push ahead into danger and then beckon others to follow.  It is the misfits that mark the trees for others to follow their road-maps for creating a new future.

You will not win an award for being a misfit or a free thinker who asks a lot of questions.  You will not get a t-shirt or a promotion.  You are more likely to be tarred, feathered and drug behind a wagon before anyone throws a parade in your honor.  Your reward has to be the wind in your hair, the taste of saltwater at the bow of the ship and the wonder of the unknown and the adventure.  Being a misfit is an art and you have to love your art for you, not for others to legitimize it for you.  If you are fortunate and blessed as I have been, you will find other misfits along your journey who will for at least a fleeting moment make you think that you are not crazy and it is in that moment that you experience genuine community.  Not the corporate buzz-word of contrived and pseudo community, I mean the actual thing.  It is a human sense of connection with others that is deeper than corporate buzz-words and t-shirt slogans, it is the cry of the heart for a kind of primal belonging that makes your soul satisfied.  The box can’t offer that.

So what is the art of misfitting?  It is staying in the game long enough to find your art, ask your questions and push out into the territories you long to explore.  If you are disappointing others who find your quest for something real to be unreasonable, well then, welcome to the island of misfit toys.  This is where true community begins.  Pull up a chair, cheers to your art of misfitting.