Leadership Meadership

I had a sadly disturbing conversationleadership recently.

I did much more listening than talking in this particular conversation, but that’s not what made it sad or disturbing.

I was visiting with someone considerably older than I and someone who is close to death. This person is aware that death is near, and is, for the most part, at peace with this knowledge.

So I listened to quite a few stories.  Like most of us, this person tells stories about success and accomplishment. This person has quite a history of leadership.

This person also has quite a history of brokenness.  Raised by parents, various counties, and extended family, this person fought through this adversity to, as the stories tell it, successfully raise 4 kids.

I really wanted to find a story of healthy relationship or hope, so I asked, “You’re obviously quite a leader.  Where did you learn your leadership abilities?”

It didn’t take 2 seconds before a rather sharp, strong, “Myself!” was blurted out as an answer.

Which really saddens me.

I don’t know exactly where I rank on any leadership scale, but I know the value of leadership. I’m pretty sure I’ve learned and grown a great deal in my leadership abilities since my first ministry job in 1984.

A lot of that learning and growth has been pushing and stretching and trying and failing.  Myself.

But almost everything I’ve tried and failed (or succeeded) and most everything that has pushed, pulled, or stretched me has some source outside myself.

I believe recognizing this makes me a better leader.

Whatever leadership I have gained, it has all come in knowing that I am, at the same time, following someone else.

So, while there is an “I” in leadership, there is no “me.”

I hope I find the grace to offer this the next time I have a conversation with this person.

Leadership Meadership

Meaning missing

Easter is less than three weeks away.  Let the advertising onslaught begin!

risen ChristIt seems to me like way too many of these Easter ads emphasize the wrong image, and thus miss the meaning of Easter.

And if you think I’m referring to bunnies and eggs, think again.

I refer, friends, to the cross.

The cross is not the central image or focus of Easter.

Do an image search for Easter and you’ll get a bunch of bunnies and eggs in pastels, but you’ll also get a lot of crosses.

I am not anti-cross!  I am deeply appreciative the cross and all that it represents.

Valuable – no, essential – as the cross is to Easter, the cross isn’t the main point of Easter.

Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection!  Easter tells us that death – even death on a cross – is defeated by what God has done in and through Jesus.

So, enjoy your bunnies and eggs.  Ponder and reflect on the cross and all it says and means.

But please, this Easter, remember, and celebrate, the resurrection of Jesus!

Meaning missing

Do you really want what you want?

snowroofAfter a few fleeting moments of playing in the snow this morning, the kids were inside, warm, and dry. And ready to watch something.

Hello, Netflix!

Eliza wanted to watch Annie.

Liam wanted to watch Mater’s Tale Tales. Then Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

It turns out it was Liam’s turn to choose, so two things happened:

1) we started Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and
2) Eliza threw a small fit.

It was a very small fit: actually fairly worthy of the moment, and quickly left behind.
Within minutes – no more than 10 – both of them were enjoying the movie.

This is how it often goes with our kids.  Loudly (and proudly?) claim your preference.  Get louder if someone else claims an alternative preference.

Stand your ground

Raise the stakes

Refuse to listen, negotiate, or compromise.

Throw a fit if you don’t get your way.

I realized yesterday that we don’t necessarily unlearn this pattern as we grow up.

We don’t always want what we want. Sometimes we just don’t want to let someone else have a say.

It’s hard to listen when you are shouting, “My way or the highway!”

While this is worth considering for anyone, I particularly hope my church, the United Methodist Church #UMC, will give it thought.

We’ve not been listening so well to each other lately.  On some things, we have dug in for decades and refused to actually listen.

We want what we want. Or do we?

Do you really want what you want?

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

for everyone!

I have long said that Christian are at our best when we are advocating for the rights, liberties, fair treatment of others.  I suppose I am willing to allege that this is true for everyone, not only for Christians.  But I especially want Christians to own it.

I think it represents Jesus far better than getting all whiney about our own rights, liberties, or fair treatment.

To be fair, people can advocate for their own rights, etc., without being whiney.  This is just my opinion: but US Christians seem to go whiney awfully quickly if we feel our rights, etc. threatened.

Just look at all the fuss we’ve been making over the persecution of Christians around the world lately.  I believe we would make a better case AGAINST persecution of Christians and FOR following Jesus if we opposed all religious persecution.

Speaking of which, I don’t know if you noticed, but a case of religious freedom was argued before the US Supreme Court yesterday. Samantha Elauf was 17 when she applied to work at an Abercrombie and Fitch store.  She was rated as a very good candidate.  Her rating dropped when management found out she wore a hajib – a traditional headcovering worn by some Muslims.  This dropped her rating enough that she wasn’t hired.

I don’t know how the case will come out.  The report I heard indicated that most of the Justices, in oral arguments, sounded like they leaned in her favor.

I have heard Christians lament about not being allowed to wear cross necklaces to work; shouldn’t we be just as concerned for the religious liberty of others?

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

The # 1 way we (Christians) have failed our children

A friend shared this on Facebook the other day:

“If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?” I asked the children in my Sunday School class.
“NO!” the children all answered.
“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, the answer was, “NO!”
Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?” I asked them again.
Again, they all answered, “NO!”
“Well, I continued, “then how can I get into Heaven?”
A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”

We have failed. In a world where even a 5 year old identifies heaven as something you “get” when you are dead, we have failed.

I recall at least once when Jesus said that “unless you become like a child” you won’t enter the Kingdom.

I don’t recall a single time that Jesus claimed you have to die to enter the Kingdom.

Jesus never taught heaven or eternal life as something we get when we die.


Jesus taught that eternal life was and is knowing God. (John 17:3)  He taught, variously, that the Kingdom of God is “already here,” “is among you,” will come before some of you here will taste death.

Jesus taught and lived a way of life that knows the presence, power, and love of God now – before death – so deeply that time isn’t wasted on wondering if one might have eternal life after death.

There is still time to teach our children well.

The # 1 way we (Christians) have failed our children


Listening to the radio this morning on my way to work, I heard the story of Kenny G’s brief foray into political endorsement. He tweeted a picture of himself with some of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

I knew the political leaders of China wouldn’t like this.  I had no idea Kenny G. was so popular in mainland China.  Realizing he’d put a lucrative lifestyle in jeopardy, Mr. G. soon deleted his tweet.

Yesterday I wrote about 2 of the 3 reasons I’ve been blogging less.  Kenny G’s relationship with China reminded me of the third reason.

In June of 2012, I was appointed Senior Pastor of Euless First United Methodist Church. I blogged fairly freely while at the Methodist Children’s Home.  Few, very few of the people, staff or students, there, read my blog.  I was, therefore, free to write about whatever struck me, without having to filter.

Euless would not be so.  Not only was I likely to have more readers among my congregation, I wanted to write such that they would want to read.  I understood my congregation as part of the audience for the blog, where before I perceived them as two separate, mostly distinct audiences.

I speak differently to my congregation than I do in other settings.

You might say that, like Kenny G., I am aware of the source of my support.

Let me be clear:  I don’t change my opinions or positions on matter based on my perception of my congregation’s opinions or positions.

I still believe I am right.  Most of the time. I still believe that especially in terms of things theological, I want to influence people to agree with me, to come to see things as I see them.

Since I believe I am right, of course I believe people would, as a whole, be better agreeing than disagreeing with me.

At the same time, I have become more aware of the huge variety of ways influence can be exercised, leveraged, used.  Sometimes it is wasted.  It is always less effective at the heart level when influence is forced.

Most of the influence I seek to have I would like to make a difference at the heart level.

So, I self-censor.  I speak differently with some people than with others.

A church member told me of a conversation he had had with another church member a couple of months before I arrived.  The other person (who is no longer a member here), had found an internet reference calling me “progressive.”  I was told that he said in response to that revelation that I would be “starting with 1 strike against me.”

So I blog more carefully – more thoughtfully – than I used to.  I do so because I still think you are better off agreeing with me than disagreeing, but I realize some of you will likely quit reading what I write, or listening to what I have to say, if I write and speak less thoughtfully.

I self-censor.  I bet you do, too.