Who’s problem is this?

Who’s Problem is this?Image

I recently heard Colin Powell speak at a leadership conference. A story he told hit me right between the eyes. He told of a very tense time as Secretary of State when things were heating up. He went to speak with the President and they met in the White House Garden. (Now this is my recalling his story, so it may not be completely accurate, but you will get the point!)

Colin was very stressed and upset. The President said hello and began commenting on the garden. “Watch these squirrels. Aren’t they something?” Colin is wondering how in the world the President can be enjoying the garden when things were so tense. He says to the President, “President, we have a problem.” The President looks at him and says “ No, Colin, YOU have a problem. How can I help?”

A few days later in another setting things were again very serious. The President was in charge and fully engaged. “Mr. President, now YOU have a problem.”

This was a story of both boundaries and empowerment. And it sure hit home with me. I am such a problem solver by nature. And my tendency is to make every problem “my problem.” Just asking myself this simple question “Whose problem is this?” could save me a lot of duress. And other’s would probably grow more, learn more, and have more fun around me.

It’s also great to share problems. Sometimes there is an “our problem” but most of the time you actually need someone who “owns” the problem, or “our problem” can become “nobodies problem.”

As a parent of adult, married kids this is a great lesson for me. How can I be encouraging and supportive without making their problem mine? I think I would be way less annoying.

And at work, I think it’s even harder for me. It’s so hard to focus on the problems that are squarely mine, and give other’s the space and encouragement to solve their own.

And all of this makes me realize there are way too many problems out there, and if I make too many mine I will never enjoy the garden!


It’s never been about leadership? I don’t buy it.

I just finished “I am a Follower” –by Leonard Sweet.

The subtitle on this book is “It’s never been about leadership.” The “leadership obsession” in the church seems to be the underlying purpose for Sweet’s new book. He states early on “ I hope to convince you to quit defining yourself as a leader, stop your aspiring after leadership and instead set your sights on being a “Jesus follower” or “fellow follower” or “first follower.”

His discussion on the “great tragedy” of the church – the focus on leadership – was a theme that ran alongside a theme of greater importance to me. That theme was what it means to be a follower of Christ, following the way, the truth and the life. I found myself loving the follower challenges, and yet being distracted by the attack on the leadership development culture that has risen in the church in the last decades. Having personally witnessed the powerful way God has used the leadership development settings in many churches, including my own, it was hard for me to swallow some of the criticism Sweet was dishing out.

Sweet’s “first follower”, in my mind is just a semantic difference to the “servant leader” that has been talked about historically in the church. To deny that Christ cares about leadership seems overstated. Leadership is a spiritual gift. Scripture tells us to “let them lead”. His disciples certainly led a movement in the book of Acts. The overseers of the early church were leaders. God certainly chose to work through leaders in Israel’s history. Moses, David, Joseph, were all leaders.

I loved what Sweet said about “first followers” and the challenges he presented.  Absolutely leaders must be modeling true followership and submit always to the Master. He does cause one to think about where the line gets crossed of chasing after leadership skill instead of Christ Himself. But that is true for anything in life. Not just leadership. Anything we pursue can become an idol, and thus take us away from the focus of Christ.

It’s true, it’s never been about leadership, but about Christ. But this book? I wouldn’t buy it.

Madison March Madness

I hopped on my bike today and headed to the Capitol. I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks, and this was the first chance I got to go where the action is. It was a way I could at least show that I care about what it happening. And I do. It breaks my heart.

I must admit, politics annoy me. There are many things important to me. Both parties represent some of that. And both parties represent things I am absolutely not in favor of.  What really frustrates me is that the two parties are so polarized that they end up being more about the politics than the people.

Today as I approached the capitol I was quietly observing; praying, really. I looked at the faces – real people simply trying to put food on the table, do a good job, keep their lives heading in a good direction. I didn’t really sense anger. I saw spirited people coming together around something that really matters to them: Freedom. Thousands of people around one cause: the right to negotiate. It was exhilarating to sense the unity.

I actually found myself wanting to tell teachers they were great! They work so hard for little pay. Their jobs have gotten more difficult in the last decade. I’m so grateful for them.  I wanted to let nurses know how much I admire their thankless service. In my humble opinion most public servants are very dedicated, over-worked, and underpaid. I feel for them, with them. I told a police officer “thank you for serving.” Kinda cheesy, I know.

Some of the signs cracked me up. That’s Madison for you – a festive uprising. People were actually having some fun with their chants, driving their mini-floats with signs, walking on stilts. But there were also signs that made me sad. A young girl, maybe 10, was carrying a sign that spoke of hate. Somehow personifying Walker as the evil one gave me pause. He seems unwise to me, yes.  But motives are difficult to judge.

Overall, it struck me how blessed we are in this country to have the freedom to demonstrate, to cheer, to speak up, to join forces. That freedom is so often taken for granted, until a time like this. When what feels like a power play, an action without listening, a direction with no compromise, is thrust upon us it jars us. We don’t expect such boldness in the midst of an uprising. We expect to be listened to. We expect some justification, an explanation of why. In America this feels so wrong.

The divide in our community is gaping. The governor’s actions have created some huge divides: public worker against private, and furthering the liberal from conservative divide. I’ve heard of friends or family not talking. It breaks my heart to see the city I love torn apart.

But, mostly I am proud of my city. I hope and pray that at the end of the day Madison is a better place because of what is happening now. Perhaps we will care more for those without any health insurance. Maybe we will wake up to those who had no rights before the Budget Repair Bill. Maybe we will recognize that we can rally around an important issue and make a difference.

And perhaps when we find ourselves convinced we are right, ready to forge ahead, we will listen better to those around us, so that when we do take a stand it is from a place of understanding.

The Grace of God

I just completed Andy Stanley’s latest book “The Grace of God.” I am a fan of Andy Stanley’s books and have read most of them. He has a way of communicating in clear, compelling and memorable ways, especially when it comes to leadership topics.

This book is not about leadership, and I wondered as I began if I would get much from it. I love the topic of grace. It is the foundation of our faith. But I wasn’t sure how much there was to say on this topic. Was this going to be an article stretched into a book?

But true to Stanley form, this book delivers great insight, inspiration, and simple truths in a memorable way.  It follows the grace story through the Old and New Testaments with insight and power. Even the Old Testament law is presented within the framework of grace.  Andy  recounts a rich display of God’s grace taken from the Biblical narrative and translates effectively to personal challenge and inspiration for today.

This book is one that could be foundational for new believers in the same way that ‘Next Generation Leader” is foundational for leaders.  And for churches struggling to reach their communities, the chapter “Commissioned for Grace” is a must read. And for those needing to restore the joy of their salvation, it’s well worth the read. What an amazing grace!

Questions that open the door….

I’ve had the joy of spending lots of time reading. I love seeing common themes come out of what I choose to read. Every book has had great questions throughout. I decided to capture them. They have inspired me in many ways; maybe they will you too. Here’s a quote to get things rolling. Maybe you have some great questions you want to add through comments. Feel free!

Good questions work on us, we don’t work on them. They are not a project to be completed but a doorway opening onto a great depth of understanding, action that will take us into being more fully alive.- Peter Block


Where are the bright spots: successful efforts worth emulating? What’s working and how can we do more of it? Heath Bros.

What do we want to create together? Peter Block

What question, if we had the answer, would set us free? Peter Block

What is needed now for the well-being of the whole? Peter Block

What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform the community and inspire you? Peter Block

What is the price we are willing to pay? Peter Block

Whom are we here to serve? Peter Block

Which part of your equation can’t be removed? What is the epicenter? Fried and Hannson

What is the core of our business that will not change? Fried and Hannson


Imagine that in the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens, and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, how would you know? Heath Bros.

What is wrong with this situation, environment? (Rather than what is wrong with the people?) How can we make the wrong kind of behavior impossible?  How can I set up a situation that brings out the good in these people? Heath Bros.

How can we seed the tip jar? (People do things because their peers do them) Heath Bros.

Do we really need what we think we need? Fried and Hannson

What can we easily do right now that is good enough? Fried and Hannson

If you had to launch in two weeks what would you cut out? Fried and Hannson


What is the story about this community that you find your self most often telling? Peter Block

What commitments are you willing to make? At what cost to you? Peter Block

What commitments or promises are you unwilling to make? Peter Block

What have others in this community done that have touched you? Peter Block

What gratitude do you hold that is unexpressed? Peter Block


What do you spend more time on, solving problems or scaling successes? Heath Bros.

How can I set up an environment that saves me from myself? Heath Bros.

What is my contribution to the problem I am concerned with? Peter Block

If I got what I want what would it give me? Is that what I really want? Peter Block

What have you said yes to that you no longer mean? Peter Block

Why are you doing this? Is it actually useful?  Is there an easier way? What could you be doing instead? Fried and Hannson

How is your spiritual life going? Ask two questions: Am I growing more easily discouraged these days? Am I growing more easily irritated? John Ortberg

How would the person I most want to be face this situation? John Ortberg

Books I read: Rework ( Fried and Hansson), Switch (Chip and Dan Heath), Community – the structure of belonging (Peter Block), The Answer to how is Yes (Peter Block), and The Me I Want to Be (John Ortberg.)

Exponential (is that really a word?)

I just finished “Exponential” by Dave and Jon Ferguson, the brothers who founded Community Christian Church in Chicago and the New Thing Network. I visited CCC a number of years ago, when they had just begun their second campus. I loved reading their story, seeing the dream God gave them, and how they have taken seriously their call to reach Chicago through multiplying churches.

Dave and Jon make multiplication look so simple. I remember attending one of their early multi-site workshops and wondering if it could really be that simple. The simplicity seems to have served them well. Their story as told in the book  lays out practical principles that get to the heart of what it means to live out the command of Acts 1:8. I’ve turned down many pages in the book to go back to and ponder the application in my own church context.

The best chapter of the book for me, and most refreshing, was the one on missional teams. This is the first time I have heard Dave Ferguson take the multiplication principal beyond a small group model. The examples he gave in this chapter were inspirational and incredibly freeing.

I began the book thinking it would be all about Community Christian Church. By the end I was inspired to comprehend the amazing movement of God in the world today. Dave has huge vision, he sees clearly the work of God and is all about the big C church. I finished the book thankful for how it opened my eyes and instilled great hope and inspiration.

By the way, exponential is really a word (my scientist husband would be upset that I didn’t already know that!). From a google search:

If a population has a constant birth rate and is never limited by food or disease, it has what is known as exponential growth.

I’d say the one criticism I have of the book is the absence of naming the struggles of multiplication. While it is a simple concept, it sure feels messy in most of the churches I know, including my own. I’d say often our growth is “limited by food and disease.” But then maybe that’s another book.

A road trip worth taking

I just finished the book “A Multisite Church Road Trip” by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird. What began for many churches (including my own) as a way to deal with crowded spaces and keep doors open to guests, has evolved into a missional strategy for over 3000 churches in 2009.

I’ve read multiple books and articles over the years and been to conferences on this topic. I admit I have a love-hate relationship with the idea of multisite. At times I found excitement in expressions of multisite churches, and at times I have resisted drinking the multisite kool-aid. Franchising the church makes my stomach turn, but taking the church to the people and living as a Jesus community in multiple locations makes my heart beat faster.

The church I serve has just begun to move toward a second site. (Althought we had a temporary second site for a couple of years before re-locating.) “A Multisite Church Road Trip” was a timely read for me. I found it drew me into the journey of each church in a way that had me marveling at the great diversity of expression of mission in the church today. It reminded me that it’s not about the model, but the mission. It gave me hope that as we explore new ways of reaching our communities with the hope of Christ, and transforming them by living His way, we will witness incredible things. And it covered key challenges of multisite concretely to bring that reality check.

I don’t really know what our church will look like in 5 or 10 years  as we begin walking down the multisite road. I’m glad I had the chance through this book to see the many turns it might take.  I am confident it won’t look exactly like any of the churches portrayed, which makes it exciting.  God is so creative in how He leads local expression of his church. This book left a good taste in my mouth and I definitely don’t like kool-aid.