Back to Blogging!

I just decided to start blogging again.  I am a bit reluctant but here what I told myself today:

  • I like to write, though I’m not that great, and will not spend time editing.
  • Sometimes I think I have an insight worth sharing. Certainly more so at 57 than I did at 27. Maybe I can encourage some thought and conversation.
  • There are a few people who care about me and might like to read it.
  •  I read a ton and think it might be good to exchange some reading time for writing time. All that input needs someplace to go!
  • I follow a few blogs of people I enjoy and enjoy that, so why not?
  • It is a good discipline to work things out to a point that you are willing to share them.

So here goes. No goals – maybe once in a blue moon.

If you are interested, feel free to follow; I likely won’t post many on Face Book. That draws more of a crowd than most of my musings deserve.

Tomorrow I’ll launch into something more thoughtful, than why I am blogging. Nothing like getting off to a boring start!

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.

GRANDFATHER’S CLOCK

Click, clock, click, clockImage

Marking time as it marches on

Stately on the wall

Speaks of Grandfather’s hands.

Making, re-making, restoring the time,

Days long past

Memories beat, moving on

Click, clock, click, clock

Marching slow but steady

Never to stop; tomorrow’s song

Becomes today

Their laughter fades and rises again

Sounds of their banter,

Frustration and tears

Turn back to giggles, then silence,

Then love; whispers of grace

All the while the steady march

Click, clock, click, clock

Never to stop; tomorrow’s song

Becomes today

Today I hear it, the sounds of time

For all else is quiet

My memory dances, with hope

For tomorrow

To quiet my soul

The time marches on

Slowly, steady, never to stop;

Click, clock, click, clock

The River

I stand in the river

Image

Waters flow, tumbling over rocks,

pooling in the deep

then spinning off

into stronger currents.

All by an unseen force

that bids me to explore,

to watch the riffles,

the rise of a hungry creature.

the smooth stones.

They tell a story of forceful currents,

rising waters and dry summers,

heat and ice, gentle and strong

a history unspoken, but seen in the ripples.

I quiet my soul, listen and watch.

Where do I step?

What do I disrupt?

I enter in quietly, reading the river

eyes to my Maker,

aware that my steps will become part of the story.

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

The power of a story

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about the power of a story lately. It is so hard to remember facts, bullets on a powerpoint, and for me especially statistics. But a story, everyone remembers, although not always accurately.

I wonder exactly why. I think it has something to do with all the the senses that engage, even through your imagination. Or maybe its because stories touch us personally. There is usually a part of any story that we relate to, we’ve experienced, or it reminds us of someone or something in our own story.

Tony Campolo has just published a book called “Stories That Feed Your Soul.”  This book is more of a resource than anything. It is full of stories and categorized loosely by topics. For anyone who speaks or writes, it’s a great resource for illustrations. He has stories of the lives of well-known people, as well as ordinary people. I’ve heard Tony speak a number of times. He is a great story teller.  He is basically offering many of his stories for all to tell. In reading it I’ve tried to learn more about how to tell a story in a powerful way.

I really want to learn to tell stories in a way that touches a soul. Stories are all around us, every day. God reveals himself in the stories of the lives of every person. I think I’m going to wake up each day for the next couple weeks and say to God “tell me a story today.” Then I’ll keep my eyes open for cool stories.

Thanks for the inspiration Tony!

Good intentions are not enough

I just finished “The Principle of the Path” by Andy Stanley. It’s his newest book. I heard a talk he gave on that very topic. It was about a 15 minute pod-cast and I thought it was really great. I was looking forward to reading the book, thinking it would expand on his talk.

He did expand, but it seemed to me he took almost 200 pages to say what he could have said in 50. It would have been an awesome 50 pages, and probably more powerful. What I love about Andy is how quickly, easily, and succinctly he gets to his main points. This book just didn’t feel that way. But, the core content – which could have been said in 50 pages – was true to the Stanley style: simple, memorable and powerful.

Andy’s main point: good intentions do not lead anywhere. They are simply intentions. Direction, not intention gets you where you want to go.  Direction takes steps…moving. We always end up where the road we choose takes us. Whatever our hopes and dreams, it doesn’t really matter unless our choices take us there.

It’s a really good point.  If I desire to have meaningful relationships, but never spend time with people, I probably won’t end up with close friends.  If I want to be healthy and have energy, but don’t eat well, get enough sleep and exercise,  I will end up without the energy I desire.  If I intend to grow in faith, but never spend time investing in things that take me down that path, my good intentions are pretty meaningless.

Andy explores what keeps us from taking the path to where we want to be. It all boils down to choosing and following through on what we decide. He brings out the importance of getting counsel, focusing our attention on the right things, owning up to our “stuff”. We don’t drift down the right path, we take it.

The most challenging chapter for me was about things that grab our attention and then serve as distractions from what we really desire. Distractions often start as small things, and then somehow grow to take tons of time. Suddenly we don’t have time to do those things that take us down the path we want to go, because we are side-lined by other things. It really made me think about what I spend time on. When I have a couple of hours do I just do whatever “grabs my attention” or do I determine what would be valuable and choose to do that? What do I spend most of my time doing? Is that taking me to the destination I desire?

If Andy re-wrote this book as one of his small, read-in-an-hour books I would recommend it to tons of people. For now I will recommend the pod cast, or borrowing my book and reading the highlights. He makes great points, even life-changing ones. He just took too long to say 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.