Alright, if you are one of those who does not pay attention to the titles place on blog posts, go back and read the title of this one now.
Now that everyone has the title in their minds, I am sure that many of you are thinking that I might be posting on something regarding climbing a corporate ladder. While that might be applicable in this situation, that is not the direction that I am intending to take this post. Instead, the title was triggered by a quote that I read which someone had posted on Twitter this morning. Here is the quote:
“The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” – Oprah Winfrey
I found this quote to be very thought-provoking. I totally agree with the premise of what Oprah is saying here. For me it has to do with being willing to take the risk and being willing to fail (or tumble). I am the first to confess that I do not have a lot of that willingness in myself. However, as I grow older, I am finding more and more willingness. I attribute that to experience, observation, and a realization that only through some level of risk will I ever be able to grow and move toward my life goals. I am becoming more and more the spokesperson for taking risks and accept times of tumbling.
These thoughts have allowed me to do some self-examination this morning. I have thought about the times that I have chosen not to take the risk and climb the ladder to the high wire. Through this self-examination, I have discovered that the problem is in the climbing the ladder. Now I have never attempted to climb an actual ladder to an actual high wire but I am able to speculate what it might be like. I would envision that the climbing of the ladder gives opportunity to do a lot of thinking. With each rung, you realize that you are one step closer to that high wire and that once you arrive at the platform it will be expected that you step out on that high wire. For me, that is where the problem lies. I would overanalyze the situation. I would most likely rationalize myself away from actually taking the step onto the high wire. I think that is where my risk taking often becomes derailed. I think through everything and determine that it is unwise to take the risk and so I do not.
However, Oprah’s words ring true. If I am not willing to take the risk and step out on that high wire, knowing that I may tumble, I will never know what it is like to truly own the moment.
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Today is the day in the Christian calendar when we pause to take inventory of our lives. As people, we often seem to run from our mortality and often try to run from our sin. This day is a day when we acknowledge both. Throughout the world, Christians will attend a worship service where ashes are placed on their foreheads and they are reminded of both of these facts.
Some view this day as a day of sadness. I would agree that it truly could be a day of sadness if it were not for the reality of the cross. If we believed that at death everything ended and our existence was gone forever, then sadness definitely would fill us when we think of our mortality. If we believed that our sin is every with us and there is no way to have it removed, then sadness would fill us.
However, we do not believe those things. We believe that through the actions of Jesus Christ, both of these concerns are removed. First, through his death on the cross, we have been given forgiveness for any and all of our sin. Second, through his resurrection on Easter, we are given eternal life beyond the grave. So this does not need to be a day of sadness.
Instead, today is a day that reminds us of why Good Friday and Easter are so very important. We are reminded of our sin and the resulting death. Yet, we are also reminded of our forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.
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There are times that I feel I am on a never-ending quest. This quest started before I was even aware that it existed. I have a feeling that this quest will continue until the day I take my last breath. The quest of which I speak is the quest for answers. It is a quest that I know I am not on alone. I am confident that there are millions of other people on this same quest. This quest can be very energizing and yet at the same time, it can be very exhausting. This quest contains much joy but still is filled with frustration. This quest is what drives scientists, religious scholars, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, leaders, and almost every human that I know. Everyone seems to be seeking answers.
One of the amazing aspects of this search for answers is that there are so many questions. The questions are based on our perspective, our experiences, and our current circumstances. In fact, part of the search is a search for the “right” questions. It is impossible to find answers when we do not even know the question. So our quest begins with determining the question which we desire to have answered.
Another amazing reality on this quest is that there are so many sources trying to provide us with “the” answer. There are ancient writings and contemporary discoveries. There are experts from every venue to offer us input. There are books, podcasts, articles, television programs, TED Talks, and the internet. In fact, there is so much input that often it seems even more difficult to find answers because sorting through all the data just creates confusion.
I must confess, there are times I wish that someone (preferably the Lord) would just give all the answers to all the questions and I could be done with the quest. However, that is not how the world has been designed. When God created us, God chose to give to us an inquisitive mind. God placed the first question in our thoughts and much like a flower opening to the sunlight, we continue to blossom with answers and new questions.
So the search continues. I have learned that I must accept that for every answer I think I find, there will be at least three more questions that come from that discover. I have learned that this quest for answers is the force that moves life. I have accepted that there will be energy, exhaustion, joy and frustration which I will experience on the quest. I am grateful that I make this journey not alone but with other humans and, most importantly, with my Lord.
Everyone seems to have an internal craving to have a place where she/he belongs. This was made evident to me in the popularity of a television show that was extremely popular a few years back. Maybe this intro will bring back those thoughts:
What would happen if the church became a place where anyone felt they belong? We give a lot of lip service to the concept but I do not see that it is how we live in the church. We have so many barriers. We have so many rules and limitations. These are items that humans have applied. These are not given to us by the Lord.
I dream of a time when the church truly was a place to belong.
Originally posted on Ed Robinson's Blog:
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. It certainly has its ups and downs and can test anyone’s emotional fortitude. However, this is the very reason so few people can do it well. If you take every small slight and failure personally, the job will eat you alive. Whenever you assume a position of responsibility, you automatically also assume a roster of critics and malcontents who aren’t always aligned with your leadership vision. Since you can’t realistically fire everyone who disagrees with you (nor is this advisable), then you need to figure out other ways to handle the pressures and scrutiny.
I’ve found that the best leaders I work with welcome the criticism. They don’t always like it, but they accept that a key aspect of leading people is harnessing disparate points of view and feelings. I don’t care how smart you are, no one person has all the right answers. And, since we are all human, we will inevitably make mistakes. To some extent, your critics keep you on your toes. They help you maintain your ‘A game” and not take your position for granted. If you are willing to listen to and embrace their feedback, you will definitely make better decisions. Of course, there will always be points of diminishing returns, but don’t be too quick to assume you’ve reached this level of dysfunction. Getting better often involves hard work.
In my life I’ve found that if you can navigate the rocky waters of professional disagreement effectively, then you actually end up building new advocates for your point of view. Sometimes the people who were most resistant initially end up becoming your most loyal colleagues. Give me someone who is up front and honest with their opinions over someone who is more passive-aggressive any day. Healthy relationships are only ever possible if people can be authentically honest with one another. I’ve also found that much of the initial angst and tension between two people is often due to poor communication and misunderstandings.
Leadership means embracing the spotlight not withering under it. The very act of putting yourself out there and assuming others will follow is an act of unusual self-confidence. Most people are hard-wired to follow not lead. However, everyone can be a critic. So be it. As they saying goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” As a leader you will have good days and bad ones. You will make great decisions and have many others you would like to take back. You will trust people who disappoint you and lose good people to your competition. You will be forced to make decisions with imperfect information and sometimes fail as result. Many external market forces will be beyond your control to predict and/or influence. Some of your employees will make your life easier while others will require more work than you’d like. Not everyone will always think you are wonderful.
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Individuals who are contemplating starting a new business have to consider what their business is going to offer. So they may do some market research in their area and compare that to what they feel they are capable of providing before making a concrete business plan. Companies that have been in existence over a period of time often arrive at a time when they must evaluate if what they are offering to the general public is something that remains of value or if they need to adjust and offer something new.
Now I am not one that believes that the church should operate identical to a business. In fact, I see a whole variety of flaws in this type of thinking and approach. The church is not a business and using all business practices in a church setting leaves out space for the Holy Spirit. However, there are some aspects of business behavior that can shine some light on the decisions and activities of the church.
One place that I find might be helpful for the church to adopt some business-like approach is in regards to what we have to offer the general population. The easy answer to that is that we have God, as known through Jesus Christ, as the item that we have to offer. However, I am not always convince that many churches actually do offer that to people. I also think that the ones that attempt to offer God to the people need to re-evaluate their methods for doing such offering. Sometimes I feel that the church offers their human concepts and approaches much more than they ever do God’s. At other times, I find the offering of God to be according to the church’s interpretation of God and how they feel God should behave.
I am finding it more and more important to realize that God does not have to be offered by the church. I strongly believe that God does a perfectly fine job of marketing and presenting God’s self to the world. Instead, I feel the church should be offering opportunities for people to explore and discover God. Exploration means that we do not define or judge a person’s discoveries but instead, we provide support for them along the path. We cut down the branches and move the boulders so that they can safely journey toward God. Along the way, we demonstrate that love of God which provides the nourishment and encouragement necessary on what can easily become a difficult journey.
So I would have to say that I do not believe the answer to the question that headlines this post is GOD, but instead it should be a partner on the journey to discover God.
Today, as the weather switches once again and we get rain, freezing rain, and then snow, there is a song that comes to my mind:
It is very easy to get a bit down on days like this especially toward the end of winter when all we crave is warm temperatures, sunshine, and green. However, we know that these days are not permanent. We also know that there will be days of warm temperatures, sunshine, and green. So that leads me to another song:
So hang in there and know tomorrow will be another day of possibilities.
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“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
(Isaiah 43:19, NIV)
After a conversation that I was a part of yesterday, this passage has been echoing in my mind. I am working with a group which is charged with the task of determining where the future of a larger body within an organization may be going. We have had a multitude of discussions and there are some recurring trains of thought. The group is confident that the future means there needs to be a radical change from the past in the structure and the focus of the larger body. So this is why the passage from Isaiah keeps coming to my mind.
I think that there are some major points found in this one verse which speak to me today and should probably speak to many Christians. The passage begins by God declaring to a group of people who are stuck in exile that something new is taking place. God is doing something new. This is the action of God and not of some human mind. God has decided to do something new and it is going to happen. For me, this reminds me of two important truths….. I am not in charge and it is futile to resist if God is the one acting.
The second point that has caught my attention is in regards to timing. God says “NOW (my emphasis) it springs up;” this is not some future event but what is happening right now. God’s timing most often is not our own. In fact, there are many occurrences when God’s timing definitely does not align with mine. However, since God is control, God gets to determine the timing.
The third point is found in the very first word of the verse and in the second half of the second sentence. The verse begins with “See” and the second half of the sentence states, “do you not perceive it?” This led me to understand that God intends me to take notice of what God is doing. Then I am troubled by the question God asks regarding my perception. I wonder why I and others struggle to see what God is doing. I think that if we are being honest, the major reason that we do not perceive God’s actions is because we do not want to see them. If we see them, then we have to respond to them by either accepting or rejecting them. If my statement earlier that resistance is futile is correct, then the only option available to us is to accept God’s actions. If God’s actions require us to change, or to do away with past ways, or any other uncomfortable response, we try to bury our heads in the sand and ignore that God is doing something new.
The remainder of the verse tells us the reason for God’s new direction. God can easily see when we are stuck in the wilderness. God knows that we become thirsty and our lives dry up. So in these new actions of God, God is trying to provide for us relief. By doing something new, God leads us out of the wilderness by showing us the way and provides the streams that will quench our thirst. It is clear to me that many of us, and the organizations of which we are members, are definitely in the wilderness. This portion of the verse reminds me that there is hope and possibility. God has already begun something new which will get us out of the wilderness and provide a cool drink for our lives.
So the challenge to me and probably many of you is to look and see what is this new thing God is doing and calling us to take notice. Then I must trust and follow down the path that God is providing in the wilderness by this new thing.
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Today we are finally experiencing a warming trend. The increase in temperatures leads to the melting of snow and ice that have accumulated over the past few weeks. With this melting occurring, the sidewalks and roads are becoming pretty sloppy. When you talk with people, the comment on how much they appreciate the warmer temperatures but hate maneuvering through the slush and water that the melting leaves behind.
As I was thinking about the sloppiness of the roads and sidewalks right now, I realized that this is great imagery for life. Many of us (me included) tend to like life to have boundaries and everything and everyone to remain in their proper place. However, it does not take a lot of experience with life to realize that this just is not how life exists. Life exists in the sloppiness. Reality is that nothing is as cut and dry as we may try to make it be. The sloppiness of life means that we are going to get dirty at times.
This sloppiness leads me to be even more grateful that I believe in someone who is above this mess. I believe in a Lord that knows the sloppiness of life from first-hand experience. Although the Lord has experienced the sloppiness of life, he is able to rise above it and overcome it. The chaos of life is calmed by the Lord. Just as Jesus calmed the sea in the midst of a storm, the Lord can make sense of the sloppiness of my life and of your life.
So as I experience the sloppiness of the melting snow and ice, I need to recall how I responded to it as a youth. When I was a youth, days like today would bring me great joy because it meant that I could go splash in the puddles of water and slip slide in the slush. (Much to the chagrin of my dear mother who would find me coming in the house with soaking wet clothes.) Maybe this is how I should respond to the sloppiness of life. Instead of becoming frustrated and complaining, I should find the joy and the opportunity for happiness in it. Above all, I need to remember that I believe in someone who can bring this sloppiness under control and can even clean me up when I become dirtied by it.
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This morning I awoke to about two inches of snow on the ground and snow continually falling. Now that is not completely unusual for February 14 in this part of the country. However, the forecast when I went to bed last night was for one inch of snow. So I had not planned on getting up in time to clean off the sidewalks and driveway. My morning routine was significantly altered because of this snow surprise. This has led me to ponder the surprises that come my way in life.
I am not that unusual in the case of surprises of life. Most people experience surprises throughout a given week in their lives. Some of these are positive and some are negative. Some are dramatic and some are insignificant. I am a person that struggles with surprises depending on the nature of them. I have worked hard at overcome these struggle but I know that it is always present. Years have helped me develop a more flexible approach to life and so surprises have not had the same impact that they once did in my life. However, surprises can still catch me off guard and I can find myself reactive rather than accommodating.
The truth is that surprises are going to happen. They happen in our homes, in our work environment, and in life in general. The more adaptive and accommodating that we can be to surprises, the less stressful they can be.
That being said, I go on record asking for more positive surprises and less negative ones please.