Stars and Vision

The other night Miranda and I decided to go out to eat in Pearland. Montana, one of the youth, was bored and called us so she ended up going with us. As we drove back towards Lake Jackson, Miranda said that it would be a beautiful night to look at the stars. We were pretty close to the exit for Brazos Bend State Park, which is also where the George Observatory is, so I said, “Why not? We don’t have any other big plans, so let’s go on over there.” We had always talked about checking it out, but never done it. Anyway, we got there and it all ended up being a bit more costly than I had thought, but still, a great experience. There were quite a few amateur astronomers out there with their telescopes pointed to quite a few different things and they all allowed us to look too. It was, in some ways, a pretty cool little community. I wonder how the church church would be  different if everyone shared their excitement and passions with others?

Holmes_4
Anyway, we got a really close look at the moon, the planet Neptune, a “double-double,” M15, and Holmes’ Comet. The talk of the night was Holmes’ comet. Evidently in the past few days it changed from a very dim comet to a very bright one. It orbits somewhere just inside Jupiter and takes six years to go around the sun one time. It also doesn’t have a tail like I imagined comets to have. Most theories about why it’s gotten brighter have to do with it breaking up and gaining more surface area to be seen. It can be seen with the naked eye right now. The double-double is actually four stars. Two pairs of them have somehow gotten into an orbit around each other. They look like two stars until you look a little closer and realize there are actually four. M15
M15 was pretty interesting too. It’s a globular cluster of stars that are 3500 light years away. That means that the image I was looking at was 3500 years old. They may not exist at all right now – it just took 3500 years for the light to travel that distance – it’d be another 3500 years before I could look at what it actually looks like today. Weird stuff to think about. This means that as we learn to look deeper and deeper into space we can actually see into history itself. Considering that they say they have seen stars millions of light years away, how does this fit with the whole creation story in Genesis? How old is the earth? Are faith and science at odds? I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but these kinds of experiences make me think.

OK – so if we can see into the past, is it possible to see the future? How can I be the kind of man who can lead others into the future that God desires for them? In order to find certain stars in the sky, the astronomers used other stars as reference points. Over the years I’ve learned to figure out God’s direction by looking into my past and focusing on specific reference points to draw a line into the future. I understand how that works for an individual, but what about doing that for a group? a church? a ministry? How far do you need to look into the past? How do you determine what reference points to focus on? Is this why relationship is so important? – so people will trust you with their past enough for you to discover a future? How do I find the “yellow brick road” for  a group of people? Or do I just start walking the road He has for me (like Dorthy) and get others to join me in the journey?

Prayer:
OK God. I’ve got all kinds of questions. I know You’re using this time in my life to expand my understanding and view of You, and I’m so grateful to be growing. Help me to answer these questions and lead me to ask the right questions. I truly want the future that You have for me.

Life Stories

We spent the whole time in class last night sharing our life stories with each other. Each person at the table was required to spend 20-30 minutes telling the rest of the group the ups and downs of their life. The whole idea revolves around the fact that a leader leads out of who he is. He leads out of his character. And these experiences truly make us who we are.

Anyway, it was an amazing time. We have spent an entire year with the same group of people and yet we learned so much more about each other last night. You never know as much about people as you think you do. There’s always more to what makes people act the way they do. There’s a reason someone gets angry so quickly, or why certain things just get our their nerves. There’s a reason that they have the habits they do and use the words that they use. There’s always a story. Stories make us who we are. We all have them. We all are in the midst of living out our own stories.

After our experience last night, I’m reminded of how valuable our stories really are. I can’t help but think that somehow, the church has lost the art of story telling. I mean, truly, the Scriptures we have today are ultimately a result of the verbal tradition of story telling. How much richer our lives would be today if we reclaimed this art form. We’d learn so much from one another. We could more readily understand people’s hearts. We’d learn how to listen too.  How to sympathize and love someone through their struggles. How to look beyond the present circumstances to see the bigger picture. Ultimately, we’d encounter God as He interacts and breaks into each of our life stories.

If there’s anything I’d encourage you to do, it’s this:
(1) Learn to tell your story.
(2) Tell someone, tell anyone or everyone.
(3) Give someone the gift of your time and a listening ear and ask them to tell you their story.

Painting the Future

Hiro
Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to “paint” the future? That’s exactly what Isaac Mendez does. (He’s a character  from the TV show “Heroes.”) I believe that’s what a good spiritual leader does too. They imagine (or they are told by God about) a better future and paint/interpret those ideas so that others can see them and get on board to accomplish that goal.

Check this out.
The stages of a painter’s life are: (from The Leadership Challenege, Kouzes & Posner, pg 58-62)

1. Paint the exterior landscapes. (They follow other models.)

2. Paint the interior landscapes. (They seek to know themselves.)

3. Paint themselves.  (They express themselves in their own style.)

This just makes me excited, ’cause I see myself in stage 2 of this model. I’m learning more and more about who I am and how God has gifted me. I have been through some leadership and followed other people’s models, but now those models just seem inadequate. Everything seems to be pointing to the idea that I’m right on the edge of what might be the greatest ministry time of my life. It’s my prayer, that God will continue to reveal Himself to me regarding all of this. I’m excited about the future as I travel along by His side.

Prayer:

Lord, keep me humble and walking with to You. I love being with You. AMEN!

Here’s another idea that has me thinking the same way:
Henry and Richard Blackaby (Spiritual Leadership, pg 43-46) write about the stages of leadership development put forth by Robert Clinton in his work, The Making of a Leader. Here’s how it works:

1. Sovereign Foundations – God’s activity during formative years.
2. Inner Life Growth – Development of character and spiritual life.
3. Ministry Maturing – Early attempts at spiritual leadership.
4. Life Maturing – Learning to lead in their strengths. Connect character to leadership.
5. Convergence – Maximum effectiveness where ministry and life experience converge to a specific role. This is what the spiritual leader will be most remembered for – their greatest success.
6. Afterglow or Celebration – Celebrating and building upon work of convergence. Also a time for training up new leaders.

Wow! This stuff makes me really excited ’cause I feel like I can look at my life and say that I’m in step 4 – the Life Maturing stage.  (By the way doesn’t that stage sound alot like the “paint the interior landscape” stage 2 in the other model?) That means that I’ve still got Convergence ahead of me. That also means that the dreams I have about the future are going to come around right about the same time that I hit the “maximum effectiveness” stage of development. I could never have orchestrated all of this – it’s only by God’s hand and His intervention. That also means that He is intimately involved in preparing me for a future that will go beyond my imaginations.

I couldn’t imagine a better place to be. I have a genuine hope for my future.

Adventurous Faith

Scuba07editI have always been drawn to an adventure. There are so many things I want to experience in life – all of which seem like adventures to me – I wanna bungy jump, skydive, scuba dive the great barrier reef, go spelunking, maybe even heli-skiing. I want to see lions, elephants, and kangaroos in their natural habitat. I’d love to travel to see all the wonders of the world. I want to write a book someday, and drive over 150 miles/hour on the autobahn. I want to run with the bulls, and go on a cattle drive like on City Slickers. I want to fight Darth Vader off with my light saber. (OK – maybe that one’s a stretch) I would love to be able to risk everything I have in order to be a part of something God called me to. Something like planting a church. I want to do it all. I want to get to the end of this life and feel like I had done all there was to do.

Here’s the good news for me!

J. Oswald Sanders says, “Vision leads to venture, and history is on the side of venturesome faith.” (Chapter 8, pg 57, Spiritual Leadership)

Inapit
Mark Batterson writes about this kind of risk-taking faith in His book “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” He talks about how the Biblical definition of faith and the worlds definition seem at odds. Usually when you hear  the word “faith” being used, it’s in terms like: “He is so faithful to the Word.” “She stood her ground against those guys and stayed faithful to our traditions.” It’s usually used in some sort of defensive stance, but the Bible talks about faith in very different terms. Batterson calls our attention to the parable of the talents. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” is spoken to the guys who took a risk. Faith is offensive rather than defensive. The play-it-safe guy was called wicked and lazy. Faith is actually defined as risky!! Now that makes me happy. That means the life that I’ve always dreamed of is actually what God is calling me to. I hope I get to the end of life and God says, “Well done, good and faithful (risk-taking – hyper-hopeful – crazy – what-were-you-thinking? – Jesus-believing – go-after-it-all – offensive – gutsy) servant.”

Pray that my wife can live with me.

Where the Vision Meets no Resistance

Plateau
There’s a song on a CD called “Big Times in a Small Town” (it’s on itunes) written by a guy named Chuck Pyle that reminded me of some of the “Vision” stuff we’ve been reading lately. Here are some of the lyrics in the intro to his song:

Did you ever stand on the ledges
on the brink of a great plateau,
and look from her jagged edges
on the country that lay below?
There, where the vision meets no resistance
and there’s nothing to stop the gaze,
’til the mountain peaks in the distance
stand wrapped in a purple haze.

There, where the things you thought were strongest
and the things that you thought were great,
and for which you’d striven for longest
don’t seem to carry very much weight.
When you’re lookin’ on this vision
and your outlook’s so clear and wide,
I think that might be the time and place
to stand there and decide.

‘Cause should you return to the city
and mingle again with the throng,
and your heart grow bitter from pity
or maybe just a strifen wrong.
Others might laugh in derision
or the voice of the past go dim,
Just remember that cool decision
you made that day on the rim.

Anyway, all of this just reminded me of the importance of vision. Without vision, when critics start casting doubt or questioning you, you’ve got nothing to hold on to – you’ll be tempted to just cower down to every whim of every person. Of course with vision, it’s a whole different story – you’ve got something to strive toward and nothing will be able to get in your way. Also with vision – others can get on board with you and they can feel empowered to move forward.

I just wonder – how do I get up there on that plateau? How can I be in tune with God in such a way that I can see like He wants me to?

Change

In his book "SoulTsunami" Leonard Sweet says this about change:

Body
"In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. . . . Skin replaces itself every month; the stomach lining, every five days; the liver, every six weeks; the skeleton, every three months; cheek cells, three times a day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced every year – your whole body every five years (men) or seven years (women)."

This is amazing stuff to me. It means that the church oughta be the same. If we’re not changing, we’re dying. Robert E. Quinn says the same thing, "None of us can avoid the confrontation of slow death. We all must choose the strategy of deep change." He also describes the deep change process as "walking naked into the land of uncertainty." I love that image ’cause it so clearly communicates the fears that we have going into the change process. We are vulnerable – scared – unsure of ourselves. But isn’t this where faith gets to exercise? Isn’t it when we are weak that He is strong? Isn’t this also the place where we feel fully alive? Where we are fully present in the moment? It’s frightening – but oh – it’s also exhilarating!!

A Mentor

Our study materials suggested that we find a mentor and so I asked my Father-in-Law, Mike Mathews. He and I were friends long before I even met his daughter (my beautiful bride) and he was influencing/leading me into new places spiritually from the first day I met him. We have traveled all over the world together learning about Jesus and the church. We have been to Israel, Soul Survivor in England, Brooklyn Tabernacle, and Phoenix Church of Joy together. He also sent me to Willow Creek, Saddleback, and Ginghamsburg UMC in Ohio for more training. As much as I learned from each of these places, I have probably learned more from watching him in both the way he lives and in his vocation as Pastor.  I’m excited that he has agreed to talk with me and our first meeting was great! He shared much with me about his personal “Deep Change” over this past year.

Prayer:
Thank you God for preparing the way to make this day possible. Thank you for this friendship and for the ways that You have worked in Mike’s life to bring him to this place in life where he is finding His purpose and meaning in You in new and profound ways.  Use these times that we meet together to help us encourage one another and be the “body” that You’ve called us to be. Use these times and experiences to speak into our lives and move us to maturity in You. AMEN!

Can I be a Leader?

Henri_2
Henri Nouwen says that Christian leadership is "downward mobility ending on a cross." Whoa! I’m not so sure I’m really cut out for that. I’ve always felt that it’s the call of every Christian to be a leader in the sense that they should be the influencers rather than the influenced. I believe that with the Holy Spirit this is something we are all capable of, but Nouwen’s definition is so much more intense than just being an influencer.

Lily Pad Leadership

Lily
Here’s an excerpt from “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott – She seems to have this idea that God’s leadership is pretty difficult to imitate. He can lead with such intricacy that we don’t even recognize that we’ve been led there.

“My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear.”

Lily2
I John 4:18 (NIV)
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I wonder if leading someone into discipleship could simply be the creation of "lily pads" to direct people across this swamp of doubt? How do these ideas play into the "method" we’ll be learning in class?

Wizard of Oz Leadership

Wizard
In doing some homework today, I was reminded of a seminar I went to that was talking about the difference between modern and postmodern leadership. I personally think the example they gave fits more with Biblical leadership and worldly leadership. Anyway, the main idea is that worldly leadership is like that of the Wizard and Jesus’ leadership is like Dorthy.

The Wizard’s Leadership (Similar to the World)
He hid behind the machine(organization) and commanded others what to do.
He intimidated others.
He wanted things his way.
He tried not to be a real person, but just a voice.
There was a lot of smoke and mirrors with his leadership.
In the end, he was a fraud.

Dorthy’s Leadership (Similar to Jesus)
She journeyed with her followers and led out of relationships
Her followers were also friends and she sympathized with them.
She wanted what was best for them.
She didn’t let anything keep her from moving forward.
When there were battles, she was a part of the fight.
She kept them on the right track (yellow brick road).
She was an encourager.
She was child-like and humble.
She skipped and sang a lot and had a dog.

There were alot more ideas that people had that day, but this is all I can remember and I haven’t been able to find my notes from that day. Anyway, I think you get the idea. It’s a fun way to look at leadership.