Casting for the future. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This week has been one of those crazy weeks. I had a meeting Tuesday morning and then traveled to Minneapolis for a meeting that was most of the day on Wednesday. The greeting of snow in Minneapolis on Wednesday made the commute back a bit more stressful. I am in the office this morning and a little this afternoon before I lead to take a group later today and this evening. The really exciting thing is that I had a wonderful experience yesterday. I wanted to share with you a few observations that I took away from yesterday.
The first is that it is great to gather with other leaders who are willing to be on the edge of life. Our group was tasked with trying to discern the future direction for an organization. Anyone that has been given such a task realizes that this is not necessarily an easy task to accomplish. What makes it even more difficult is that there exists a huge variety of opinions, aspirations, and senses of purpose. The group itself is very diverse. However, what created energy and excitement was a shared opinion that anything is possible and many of the possibilities have not even come to mind yet. This was the first truly introductory meeting of this group and so we spent a considerable amount of time hearing one another’s backgrounds. This was extremely important to help us understand one another’s perspectives. We also found connections that we had no idea existed between us. Then we spent some time working with some contemplative approaches and a beginning of opening ourselves to discover new possibilities. This leads me to my next observation from yesterday.
I tend to be a task/accomplishment-driven type of person. When I gather with others, I usually desire that we “accomplish” something and have a clear next step. However, I was forced yesterday to spend time in silence (anyone that knows me would say that is a challenge) and spend time opening my mind to thoughts that at first may seem very random. This was a huge step for me and lead to some meaningful learning. After we had time to write down some thoughts, we shared them with one another. In the sharing we discovered connections within our thoughts. We also discovered other questions that need to be explored. I would tell you that when this process was first introduced I was skeptical at least and more leaning toward resistant. After having experienced this, I would definitely encourage any group that has been given a future-looking task to use this as a launching point.
There are four more phases that we will be using to do our work together. All of them require some time of contemplation, silence, and exploration of questions. We will then use Google Hangouts to gather three more times to share and reflect together upon the thoughts that we arrive at alone. The final phase will lead to us gathering face-to-face as we prepare to present our recommendations/discoveries/thoughts with a larger body of the organization. I will keep you informed on my experiences throughout these phases.
English: Stillness Very calm late evening over Loomer Shun on Saxa Vord. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What do you hear in the stillness? There is not a lot of time in people’s lives any more when a person just is still. I find myself spending a lot of time on the go. I sometimes think that I am continually in motion. In fact, I am not even sure that I am still when I sleep. However, this morning I took some deliberate time to be still. In so doing, I heard sounds that I let go unnoticed most of the time….. the clicking of a clock’s second-hand, the rushing of air through a floor vent as the furnace runs, the running of the fan on my laptop.
This has led me to wonder what might be heard if I took more opportunities to be still. As a believer, I am aware that Scripture talks about stillness. In the Psalms, the writer of one says, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV) What does it mean to be still enough that the reality of God being God would be clear?
Another story from Scripture comes to my mind. I am thinking of the story of Elijah who was hiding in a cave for safety while Jezebel was killing all the prophets of God. This is part of that story:
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(1 Kings 19:11-13, NIV)
If Elijah had not been still, he would never have heard the gentle whisper of God. This would have led to Elijah not having the opportunity to receive direction from God.
I think that I underestimate the importance of taking time to be still. What might I be missing in all of my racing around? This is definitely an area of growth for me.
Do you take time to be still? If so, what do you hear? If not, what are you missing?
Calgón… Llévame (Photo credit: Daquella manera)
I’m back! Sorry that I did not post last week but some family needs required my time and effort last week. I made the decision to focus on those needs and the urgent needs of work. This meant something had to take a back seat and I chose to let my blog posts take that back seat. This was not due to my perception that my regular posts are not of value but instead a decision that some aspects of life had a higher priority last week.
This has led me to think about the difficulty some of us have in setting priorities. We can all agree that there is never enough time or energy to meet all the demands we have in life. Leaders know this reality all too well. In fact, most of us would agree that there are times when these demands overwhelm us. We all want to scream the phrase that was made popular in a television advertisement many years ago, “Calgon, take me away!” So setting priorities is a must for almost every individuals, whether you are a leader or not.
It has been said that you can determine what is important in a person’s life by knowing how she/he spends her/his resources of time and money. It is true that there is never going to be “enough” in most of our views but it is also true that there is definitely “enough” for what we find to be important. So how we choose our priorities should be based upon what we find important in our lives.
I think that one of the issues that we have in society is that people have not been taught the value of setting priorities. There are so many options in the world and so many opportunities. Some individuals try to do it all. The truth is that we are not able to do it all. So we have to determine what our priorities for this time in our lives are going to be. We have to keep those priorities always at the forefront of our minds. They should guide us continually. This way when we are overwhelmed with demands and opportunities, we are able to make appropriate decisions. One of my mentors continually encourage me to make sure that I am including in my priorities those things which give me energy. The reason is that there may be items in our priority list that are necessary but do not give us energy. If all of our priorities are in that category, we will not have the energy to accomplish any of them.
So, I again apologize for not posting last week. However, I do not apologize for setting what I view as proper priorities for my life at this time.
Television (Photo credit: videocrab)
This past summer, I spent time helping clean out the storage room of the basement. It was long overdue and you could barely move from one end of the room to other. In the midst of all the items that had been placed in that room were two or three old televisions. They had been replaced years ago but since you cannot just send a television to the landfill with the week’s household garbage, they were moved to the basement until other arrangements could be made. The reason that they were down there is that they just didn’t work any more.
If you have been a follower of my blog for a while, you know that I am part of many organizations that are in the midst of trying to vision what they are supposed to be. These organizations have encountered challenges as they have seen their memberships decline and the energy levels reduced. Resources are becoming limited and questions are arising all the time. My leadership involvement in these organizations has often led me to do a lot of research and even some soul-searching. The nagging questions that seem to arise are:
- How do we increase interest in our organization?
- How do we increase resources to accomplish our mission?
- How do we develop and encourage new leaders?
- How do we continue to make a difference in the lives of our members and our community?
I believe that in my search for answers, one of the things that has become abundantly clear to me is that one of our problems is that we do not easily admit that they way we have operated in the past just doesn’t work any more. This does not mean that what we have done in the past was wrong. Like the old televisions in my basement, there was nothing wrong with them when they were purchased. Those televisions were the right ones for the needs that I had when they were purchased. However, since the original purchase and over some years, they were not working as effectively and did not meet the needs I had when a new television was purchased. This can be said of some of the our modes of operation in many organizations today. One difference between my comparison of the old televisions in my home and many organizations is that instead of acknowledging that our methods and ways of being do not work any more therefore replacing them, we continue to use the same approaches. So the effectiveness and reliability dwindles.
It has become extremely clear to me that if organizations wish to continue to exist and move into the future, there needs to be deliberate examination of how we live out the purpose of our organization. Leaders and members will need to look at the structures and more importantly, the guiding principles of how our organization operates. The goal is not to abandon our past but instead to review our ways to ensure that we carry the heritage of our past into meaningful ways today. As we do this examination, we must be willing to admit that some approaches and modes of operations within our organizations just don’t work any more.
(Photo credit: Washthebowl)
This week I seem drawn to prayer more so than other weeks. As I was sitting in my office this morning, I was thinking about today’s post. There were so many topics that came to mind but the one that seemed to reoccur was my need for prayer. So I decided to share this prayer with all of you:
Lord, I pray that you give me the courage to lead. Many times I feel that the situations facing me are too overwhelming. I question how I will be able to lead the people who you have entrusted to my care. How do I help them find ways of living in meaningful and positive relationships? How do I help them work through their differences and find common ground? There seems to be so much disharmony. It appears that behaviors are antagonistic and divisive. As problems mount, relationships strain and so many view breaking relationship with one another as the solution. Words are said which are hurtful and destructive. Plots are generated. Troops are rallied. Sides are chosen.
Then Lord, you remind me that you have called and equipped me to be a leader. This is not based on any great ability that I have or any great wisdom that I possess. This is based on the fact that as a leader devoted to you, I am led by you. The situations that are being faced are not dependent on me but upon you. You have promised to give me words when I need them. You have promised to give me ideas when they will be beneficial. You have promised to help me listen better when that is the right course of action. You have promised to provide solutions that I am able to assist in implementing. So I pray that you help me do a better job of following you and in so doing I will be a much better leader.
Thank you Lord for reminding me that this is not about me but all about you! Thank you for granting me your wisdom. Thank you for giving to me your strength. Thank you for calling me back to your feet so that I may learn.
So my prayer this day, Holy One, is that I may sit at your feet, follow your path, and lead as you teach me to lead. Help me to keep my focus upon you and provide the way for others to turn their focus to you. Help me to be an example that others may choose to follow as I follow you.
In Christ’s name. Amen.
- Prayer Power (thoughtfulbeliever.wordpress.com)
Praying Hands (Dürer) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was leading a meeting yesterday that had some potentially very difficult matters to resolve. I had shared with others the concerns that I had regarding the direction the meeting might take. Many people, definitely including myself, were praying about this meeting. I can clearly state that the power of those prayers was strongly evident to me at the end of the meeting.
Here are the proofs that prayer power has an impact:
- Instead of being in discussion an hour later than I anticipated, we ended all our work about an hour early.
- The difficult decisions that had to be made were discussed civilly and decisions were made in a positive manner.
- There were wonderful, uplifting surprises that happened throughout the meeting.
- The general atmosphere of the meeting was upbeat and not divisive as I had feared.
While I am aware that many people contributed to the positive outcomes of the meeting, I am convinced that the greatest impact on the meeting was the Lord.
So let me stand as one that definitely believes in the true power of prayer.
English: Ear. Good for listening. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I continue to learn the great importance of improving the skill of listening. I think that this is a skill that almost every person needs to continue to improve upon. I find that as a leader, the importance is magnified. Either way, I am not sure that many people really make much of an effort to strengthen their ability to listen.
Let me be clear about how I understand what it means to have the skill of listening. For me, it is more than just the ability to receive sounds and through those sounds identify the words that are being communicated. Unless a person has some type of hearing impairment, this skill is one that a person obtains early in life and uses on a regular basis. However, I find the skill of listening to include much more than this simple definition. A person with strong listening skills will have the ability to hear what is being said beyond the words. Some of the ideas being shared are found in what words are not used. Listening requires a person to read the body language, the tone fluctuations, the changes in volume, the places where emphasis is added. There is a bit of “reading between the lines” which becomes necessary. This type of listening skill requires much time and practice. It is a skill that is not “just picked up.” A person must truly make an effort to develop this skill and to practice it regularly.
There is another type of listening skill that I also must work on as a follower of Christ. This skill involves using my spiritual ears. In some ways, this skill development is even more difficult than the one I described above. This skill requires spiritual growth. If I am going to hear the words of the Lord, I must be using my spiritual ears to do so. In order to have spiritual ears, I need to work at becoming mature in my faith so that my spirit can become more in tune with Christ’s Spirit. The whole thing is a process and much like the physical listening skill development, it requires time, effort, and continual practice.
So my prayer this morning is, “Lord, give me ears to hear.”