This post really resonated with me from a blogger I really enjoy, Allison Vesterfelt. She centers the conversation around powerlessness and the work needed to change from that posture.
Allison specifically lived with powerlessness for many years and she discovered that there were four different byproducts from a sense of powerlessness (complaining, blaming, striving for acceptance, and disengaging or numbing). Fortunately, she learned to confront them through these tips:
I really love these steps of finding your voice and stepping into it. I highly recommend checking out her entire post: Some Things To Try When Life Feels Out of Control.
I have found that stepping into new terrain and stepping into a position of leadership has been quite the transition (to say the least). But fortunately, I am neither the first and nor the last when it comes to taking on leadership positions. Here is a prayer of Solomon’s from Psalm 72:
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
No other time in American history was the land so divided than during the Civil War. While broither was pitted against brother and imperfect liberty against tyranny, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a dedicated time of giving thanks to the Lord who provides. Even though swords were not beaten into plows (come quickly, Lord!), Lincoln found it right to offer thanks to God who still provides.
Ladies and gentlemen, Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation:
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
Much ink has been spilled over what makes a man within Christian circles. I really don’t want to dive into the debate on Biblical Manhood or Womanhood, I’ll leave that to Mark Driscoll, Rachel Held Evans, and many others to robustly argue it out. Instead,I wanted to take a different approach by using Eric Metaxas excellent book Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. In his book, Metaxas highlights (wait for it) seven men to help convey character and encourage the reader to cultivate positive traits that marked these seven. Out of those seven, I wanted to highlight three figures that stood out prominently to me. The next three weeks will center on the lives of William Wilberforce, Jackie Robinson, and Pope John Paul II.
Just to clarify, I am writing as a man (just in case you were wondering) and my appreciation of these highlighted men will come from that perspective. I also want to mention that these brief biographies will not be marked by hero-worship or overly critical treatment of these men. I believe we are in critical need of heroes, as imperfect as they might be, to help point us to being rooted in positive character. There is neither naivety nor cynicism in these posts, instead I wanted to draw some helpful good from these heroes of the faith for both men and women.
Manhood and Fatherhood
These posts came about through my own adventure into fatherhood and it made me want to read more about solid men from our past. In his introduction to the book, Metaxas pointed out that fatherhood is marked by a strong and loving heart demonstrated by sacrificing for those he loves. It’s choosing to be more than just a boy who can shave, it’s found in a love that is costly. That’s real manliness.
Strong men ought to protect the weak, whether it’s a child, other men who need help, or disadvantaged people in need. Through these principle, he can exhibit the same mind of Jesus, while having all power, courageously chose to serve others, not being a macho “tough guy.” Interestingly enough, to have courage (rooted in the Latin cor) means to have heart. It means that the man is strong and does the right thing even when all else points towards not doing it. Courage is sometimes quite costly! Having heart is like the boyfriend who shielded his girlfriend from an evil man’s gun at a movie theater in Colorado. Having heart is the father who choose to be present with his family, instead of constantly placing himself in his work at all hours of every weekend.
With these men, they were courageous by “surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept.” In short, they had heart.
Wilberforce gave up the comfortable life to stop slavery within the British Empire and the world. Robinson chose to give up fighting back in order to lead the way for minorities to become integrated in American society. John Paul II chose to give up his former life to vulnerably lead the Roman Catholic Church for decades. These and the other four had heart.
As will be seen this month, these men took their Christian faith seriously and changed the world because of it.
When you picture an ideal hero or leader, who comes to mind? For me, men like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, and William Wilberforce come to mind. Individuals who stood strongly for their beliefs and held their convictions with tenacity even in the face of great peril. Yet, these men, as strong as they might have been, were flawed. They had doubts, flaws, and weaknesses galore. With the exception of one ancient man (read: Jesus the Messiah), there will never be a perfect leader.
Have you ever met a person who does not admit their mistakes? When an error has been made, it is often placed on another person. It’s blamed on the government, their spouse, their society, or their barista. Or perhaps they trick you into siding with them through guilt, shame, or lies. The latter group are manipulative leaders, ones that frequently lead you down a path by pulling on your strings. Don’t you hate that?
I read on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog that a good sign to look for in a manipulative leader is that they have a very difficult time admitting they are wrong. I think Miller is on to something there! A manipulator will always be right, no matter the outcome.
While I understand that we should minister to the “tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners,” we also need to be careful of getting trampled on by others. If you come across people like that, steer clear from them as much as you can. Life is so much better when we pick quality people to help speak into our lives. Certainly, associate with those who might be lost and hurting, but be careful when it comes to manipulative leaders.
Be mindful of your weaknesses and admit your faults. Be a servant-leader, it is only through this posture that we can steer clear from the temptation to manipulate others for our benefit.
What else makes a solid leader?
We are physical beings and the health of our whole lives (including our spiritual growth) needs the growth of a healthy body. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that for strong health as a human being, we need to cultivate physical health. God created you a physical being and wants that aspect of you to be strong. In short, He created matter and said that it mattered. It was good in his sight. I realized several years ago that He does not want me to disregard my physical well-being, instead he wants me to thrive in it.
Granted, health nuts can be obsessive. But I also think we can ignore our health, obsessing about not obsessing. While choosing not to obsess about it, we can grow in a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Sadly, far too many well meaning people ignore their physical health while working to maintain a strong spiritual side. It’s important to care for our physical energy levels through sleeping more, eating better, and exercising.
As great as America is, it’s sad to say we get hit more by the affluenza virus than the influenza virus. Our affluence affords us the opportunity to purchase cheap food and passive entertainment. While humanity toiled in the field for millennia before modern times for sustenance, we can purchase just about anything to feed our cravings. It has been said that more people die of too much food than too little in the US. Heart disease, diabetes, and other weight-related problems don’t have to exist in such a grand scale in this country. We just need to learn to cultivate a spirit of contentment in eating habits. This has been something I have historically struggled with, so I understand this firsthand.
For me, I decided to get fit because I was tired of not being fit. I knew I had one life to live, and I realized the benefits of getting into shape outweighed the benefits of eating chips and salsa whenever I wanted. I looked at the trajectory of my life and made a decision– eat better. Then I made another choice after that– work hard in the weight room. As hokey and horrible as it sounds, I knew my body was the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I wanted it to be a kick-A one! Enough was enough, I made the choice that my long-term health outweighed the short-term craving of sugar or chips. Altering my habits through the Sonoma Diet helped me tremendously, as did starting a weight training regimen, because I discovered that eating natural foods was tasty (and did I mention natural?).
Being healthy to me is being well rounded. (Well rounded as a person, not in the size of your waist.) A leader, whether in the Church or outside of it, cannot be strong in one area and weak in another. Emotional, financial, physical, social, and spiritual all need to come together like a wheel.* If one area is off, then chances are your life as a whole is going to struggle sooner or later. Finding a lifestyle where you are being strengthened in each area is important, and hopefully the physical aspect is being worked on during long walks on the beach (with a mai-tai in hand…) or at the gym. It might take some time to get (back) into shape, but give it a shot anyways. As Hippocrates once noted, “healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes a matter of opportunity.”
How have you become more balanced as a physical being?
*For more on becoming whole as a person, I recommend Richard Swenson’s “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives”
“Who would you rather have a beer with? Candidate A or Candidate B?”
As the political season is nearing fever pitch, and we are under a couple of months away from the 2012 Presidential Election, you will hear a lot of slogans and questions aimed at your general direction. One of the questions will be like the one above. Others might be, who would you rather… carpool with, be in fantasy football with, run a dogsledding business with, and fight the inevitable zombie apocalypse with? It seems to me that we are told that we need a buddy in office, not a competent leader.
Is this what things have come to? That we choose our representatives and leaders based upon who we would rather spend a day at the zoo with. Perhaps American society might just be shifting from a formal society to something more casual. Maybe we would rather have “buddies” as our leaders instead of having a competent, authority figures to lead. Maybe we look to people we can relate to instead of people who might have a clearer vision than us and who can then perform.
At the risk of sounding like an old-curmudgeon who might be youthful in appearance, pastors, professors, presidents, and parents are called by a first name instead of a title within our society (which may or may not be a bad thing). Have you noticed that? It seems like we want to be buddies with everybody, including leaders. We create the need of approachability for our powerful leaders, for better or worse.
Yes, approachability is something that I would like my leader to have. But I would also like them to embody competence as well. They might not know who the hottest band is, but they do possess character and integrity. It might be awkward to go on a roadtrip with that person, but at least they can make the tough calls when nobody else could
As it has been said by someone in some book (I can’t recall where…) that our politicians want to be treated as rock stars and our rock stars want to be treated as politicians. Instead of seeking popularity by being a buddy, leaders should seek wisdom by being people of strong, generous character. You may or may not want to grab a beer with the president (unless you’re Baptist, then grab a milkshake with them), but at least you can rely on that person being competent. So my humble suggestion is to demand competency from our leaders and choose who would be the best leader in line with your values. Sometimes the better candidate might not be the one you would rather have a beer with.
How do you choose your leaders?
I used to make fun of people who read business leadership books and blogs. Now, I’ve found myself gravitating toward them, subscribing to blogs and podcasts that I probably wouldn’t have subscribed to a year back. I guess my affinity toward this genre started when I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. I started listening to his radio show and then was introduced to Dan Miller, Stephen Covey, and other greats through Ramsey’s show. So now, I have become what I used to make fun of and now I’m planning on living a better story.
Jon Acuff’s blog is one resource that I have been drawn to, because it helps encourages people to live with purpose. Acuff posted a picture of a sign last week, with the phrase “When presented with the choice to accept average this week, I want you to remember this photo.” The picture is of several ducks. While four are walking, one is struggling to fly. One is using the gift of flight and is working hard to soar. It might not be the prettiest thing in the world, but the duckling is getting it done and is not settling for waddling along, hoping not to get hit by a car.
It seems like daily we are faced with two options: waddling and soaring. We can waddle through the day at work and at home, or we can make it awesome by soaring. Waddling is the easy way, trudging through life slowly but surely. Waddling is going through life on the sofa, being a passive person, waiting for excitement to strike. Soaring, on the other hand, requires risks and investment. It requires flight time and falling. Soaring is getting up early to work on a dream or reconnecting with dear friends. Soaring is about taking ownership of your life and pursuing a dream. I don’t know about you, but I want to soar, no matter if it is awkward at times.
How have you overcome waddling in life?
Do you find these shocking? Or are you not surprised by them? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
Dave Ramsey says on his program frequently that leaders read. They read widely and they read deeply. I would second his point. It is very important for our own personal growth to read beyond our comfort zone and be challenged by new ideas. Old books will ground us in our tradition and historical roots, while new book will expose us to the ideas and conversations that might be circling around our society. Fiction expands our creative horizons and non-fiction challenges us to see ideas differently. I would suggest that when you read, don’t do it just to get a notch in the belt. Read it to be changed and challenged by the book. Of course, some books should be rejected after you read them, while others should make you reconsider your beliefs. As Francis Bacon once said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
What books have you been challenged by lately?