Context matters

At the top of my strategic plan for 2012 I recently added “pray without ceasing,” which is the 17th verse of the 5th chapter of Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians. Sounds like a good plan for a Christian, right?

But it’s often said that we shouldn’t lift a Bible verse from its greater context, and in this case I’ve been neglecting something equally necessary right before it: “Rejoice always.” I guess when plans go haywire & things feel out of control it’s very natural to focus on one at the expense of the other. But even in the midst of struggles and adversity there’s so much for which I should be thankful. And so in 2012 my goal is to do both equally, especially where my role as a leader is concerned.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB)

Enjoy the silence

8:16 am – This past week was a rough one. As I was lying in bed this morning, wondering how to organize my thoughts about it, I found that I couldn’t. I still can’t, it’s pure chaos.

8:49 am – Words, like violence, often break the silence & rob us of peace. Some things are better left analyzed to a point and then left alone. This could be one of those “be still and know that I am God” moments.

9:02 am – Depeche Mode’s Violator is one of the best albums of the 90s, and their songwriting is very insightful.

My Biggest Fear as a Leader

People are afraid to admit mistakes, usually out of embarrassment, fear or pride. Last week I had a long conversation with someone who made some mistakes and had all kinds of justifications & rationalizations for their actions. This person took no ownership and insisted the fault lay in our mistakes and misinterpretations.

Fear of failure is, I think, in our DNA.Thanks to reality shows & the Internet, not only do we constantly see people fail in new & spectacular ways, we see the devastating and/or hilarious consequences of failure in real time. Who wants a part of that? The truth is I have to want a part of that in order to take the next step as a leader and push through my fears. And I have to be willing to model that for my team.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul tells his beloved protégée that “…God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT) Paul is offering this truth within the context of the sharing of the Gospel, but I think it’s evident throughout the Bible that God desires for us to live boldly in all that we do, not by our strength but by His. But I can’t pretend that’s how I always approach life. Right now there’s a leaky pipe under the sink I need to fix, but I’m more afraid of making it worse than confident I can fix it, even though deep down I know I can fix it. Sounds silly, but it can be hard to break out of that mindset.

Do you have any good examples of overcoming fear and what you learned from it?

“What have you done to us?”

The best & brightest innovate, and encourage others to innovate, and reward those who try to innovate. Innovate! Innovate! INNOVATE! It’s a buzzword battle cry for the fast-paced 21st-century, not just in business but all areas of life.

What’s hard & surprising as a leader is when you want to innovate but the people around you don’t, even when it’s apparent the current way isn’t cutting it. I was recently persuaded that an existing process was good enough, when we all knew it wasn’t. It was a mistake I won’t make again. I’d rather have the doubters say “I told you so” than sit here wondering “what if?”

Change is scary. When the situation looked hopeless, the Israelites told Moses it was better to be slaves in Egypt than free people dead in the wilderness. There is a sort of safe, comfortable logic in that point of view. But we will never realize how much better things can be if we allow ourselves & others to settle for the ease and security of “good enough.”

In 2012, one of my goals is to challenge the status quo until it becomes a habit, or until people are tired of hearing me, or maybe both.

Writing is Hard

I was in a meeting yesterday which started with an icebreaker question: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Several people referenced healthier lifestyles, a couple of people wanted to be taller, one person thought all they needed was more modesty.

I said that I would want the physical act of writing to be easier. I would certainly love more creativity, but at a more basic level I get bored quickly by writing. This is the main reason why I don’t keep a journal; over the years I’ve tried to jot down my thoughts daily, but I lose interest/motivation too quickly. Also I find that I get frustrated that my hand or fingers (depending on whether or not I’m writing or typing) can’t keep up with the thoughts in my head, and then the written words don’t seem to come out exactly as I first imagined them, and then I think “why bother?”

In my job I write a lot. Sometimes it flows easily, other times I have the same message in Drafts for days or weeks because it’s not perfect. Sometimes the less I think about the topic the better, other times I have to be so deliberate it becomes an obsessive exercise in precision. Maybe I try too hard but I have too much respect for the written word not to get it right.

I read recently (in another blog) that creativity flows best in the morning, and that you shouldn’t get sucked into the routine of the day before pouring some time into your own passions. I have been blogging in the morning but was feeling a little guilty when it took away time for prayer or study, but if this desire to write, and the ability that goes with it, are gifts from God then why should I worry about when I use them? If this is a God-honoring pursuit He’s probably a lot less worried about it then I am.

Since we’re giving ourselves better attributes, can I also have the power to keep my coffee from cooling off so fast while writing?

That’s Impossible!

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14:15-16 NLT)

The Israelites were camped on the bank of the Red Sea. The Egyptian army was bearing down on them. God’s next move was so fantastic, so radical, no human could have thought of it.

Some immense, intractable barrier stands between us and progress. How many problems like that exist in our workplaces, where our assumptions have become so ingrained, and the fear of ridicule and eye-rolling so great, that we take it for granted that some obstacles can never be overcome, and so we don’t even bring it up?

God calls us to the limits of what we can do so that He can reveal to us what He is capable of doing, but that requires surrender and humility, which can be in short supply among today’s leaders.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 NLT)