Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Let me begin by saying that this may be the most difficult review I've chosen to write.  That being we go:

To begin, I'd like to highlight my key observations...and some of the truly positive things about this book.  As a woman, I do find it beneficial to read the work of other women in a workplace setting and learn from their experiences. I have learned the following from Sandberg's book...

On earning respect in the workplace: "women have to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men do. And this is not just in our heads.  A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments." p.8

On Fear: "Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice.  Fear of drawing negative attention.  Fear of overreaching.  Fear of being judged.  Fear of failure...." p. 25

On Feeling like a Fraud (Imposter Syndrome) -  "While both men and women are susceptible to the imposter syndrome...women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it."  In a lecture to professional women, "...Dr Peggy McIntosh from the Wellesley Centers for Women, gave a talk called 'Feeling like a Fraud.'  She explained that many people, especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments.  Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made.  Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can't seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are - impostors with limited skills or abilities."  In a conversation after hearing this lecture, the author was telling a male colleague about what she learned. His response?  "Why would that [topic] be interesting?"  The author joked that the men's lecture that day might have been titled, "How to Cope in a World Where Not Everyone is as Smart As You." 

On Underestimating Ourselves: "Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their own performance as better than it actually is." p. 29  "...when women evaluate themselves in front of other people or in stereotypically male domains, their underestimations can become even more pronounced."  "Author Ken Auletta summarized this phenomenon in The New Yorker when he observed that for women, 'self-doubt becomes a form of self-defense.'  In order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others.  We put ourselves down before others can."  p. 41

On Explaining Failure:  "Men and women also differ when it comes to explaining failure.  When a man fails, he points to factors like 'didn't study enough' or 'not interested in the subject matter.'  When a woman fails, she is more likely to believe it is due to an inherent lack of ability.  And in situations where a man and a woman each receive negative feedback, the woman's self-confidence and self-esteem drop to a much greater degree. The internalization of failure and the insecurity it breeds hurt future performance, so this pattern has serious long-term consequences." p. 30

On Lack of Confidence:  "...a lack of confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy." p. 33  "Owning one's success is key to achieving more success." p.44

On Being More Cautious:  Women are more naturally cautious about things like changing roles in their career.  Men are more likely to chase a new opportunity while women made statements such as 'I'm just not sure I'd be good at that' or '...I've never done anything like that before.'" p. 34  "Women need to shift from thinking, 'I'm not ready for that' to thinking 'I want to do that - and I'll learn by doing it.'" p. 62

On Ramifications of Women Becoming Successful:  "When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women.  When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less." p. 40  Women are expected to be "nice" and when they are aggressive in any form to achieve a goal or advocate for their rights in the workplace, this has negative ramifications.  "...this is why a woman needs to combine niceness with insistence, a style that Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, calls 'relentlessly pleasant.'"  p. 47

On Withstanding Criticism:  "Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, believes that learning to withstand criticism is a necessity for women." p.49.  We can't please everyone.  When Mark Zuckerberg gave Sandberg her first evaluation, he stated that her desire to "be liked by everyone would hold [her] back. He said that when you want to change things, you can't please everyone.  If you do please everyone, you aren't making enough progress." 

My Observation and sense of the book as a whole: The thought that kept recurring again and again (to borrow from Shakespeare) is "methinks she doth protest too much." A large part of the book seemed to be Sandberg dealing with her own guilt as an extraordinarily busy mother because of the high demand of her career.  So much effort went into her research and writing in order to dismantle her guilt complex, that it made me think if its that hard to shake, maybe there is a legitimate reason for it.

Now let me state my position on working mothers: Its fine with me.  Some people are in situations that require it, and for many families in our current economic situation - it is necessary.  I highly respect families that make major sacrifices to keep Mom at home and more available to the family.  My own mother stayed at home for many years when we were small, earned income through in-home childcare, and then went back to work when we were a bit older. I guess I have seen both 'sides.'  Some friends believe that the Bible teaches that women must stay at home, but I do not see that.  It does teach that women are to submit to their husbands and to be caretakers at home. As one scholar stated, Scripture must be interpreted in a global light - many impoverished areas of our world do not allow the luxury of one person working and one at home. Our Good Father in heaven knows and understands each person's unique economic and familial situation and how we can honor Him in the midst of it.  Sandberg's book does give some practical advice and suggestions for working mothers, to figure out how to live the balancing act, including the challenge to the husband to step-up and take responsibility inside the home.

Sandberg is making heavy sacrifices.  She juggles the sacrifices - back and forth between a cost to her family and a cost to her career.  But as I kept reading, I continued to experience an uncomfortable feeling - something just didn't sit right with me.

She refers to an article in The Atlantic in June 2012, by Barnard president Debora Spar. She explores why she and so many successful women feel guilty - "She decided that it's because women 'have been subtly striving all our lives to prove that we have picked up the torch that feminism provided.  That we haven't failed the mothers and grandmothers who made our ambitions possible.  And yet, in a deep and profound way, we are failing.  Because feminism wasn't supposed to make us feel guilty, or prod us into constant competitions over who is raising children better, organizing more cooperative marriages, or getting less sleep.  It was supposed to make us free - to give us not only choices but the ability to make these choices without constantly feeling that we'd somehow gotten it wrong.'" p 167

I understand the idea of misplaced guilt and how powerful it can be.  But sometimes when I feel that deep, continual sense that I'm somehow 'getting it wrong' its because I really am getting it wrong and something, somewhere deep inside of me needs some attention.  As a Christ-follower, that feeling is often the work of the Holy Spirit.  I cannot judge Sandberg's choices, but I can state the following as standards that I want to live my life by...and even my future possible motherhood someday: 

In response to the subtle urge for women to advocate for their own advancementProverbs 27:2 "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth, a stranger, and not your own lips."  In response to aspiring to a high and powerful seat at the table, Jesus states in his parable in Luke 14, "... When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  And again, Proverbs 25:6-7 "Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, 'Come up here,' than to be put lower in the presence of a noble..."

In response to ambition for greater recognition, I choose to believe "It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory."  Proverbs 25:27  In response to the subtle idea that a successful career is a top priority: I choose to believe that it is possible to gain the whole world but lose your soul. (Mark 8:36)  Sacrificing for the sake of one's family is one of the highest honors a woman can aspire to.   In response to the idea of self-promotion and power: I choose to believe that humility in the eyes of God is of greater worth than all of the professional recognition in the world.  I desire the smile of my Almighty God.  The meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).  Psalm 149:4 "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation."

The REALITY is that in making these choices - to choose humility and meekness and possibly family over career advancement is that we as women most likely WILL be overlooked, underestimated, and undervalued.  I have been there!  But it still does not change my decision to live by these convictions because ultimately it is not where my value comes from.

Success = becoming more and more like Jesus. 

In being like Jesus:  it is good to give my life away as a sacrifice to others.  It is good to take a low place and serve in a way that is noticed only by a few.   It is good to sacrifice for one's family and for those whose lives may be made better if I give away part of myself.  And anything I 'lose' on earth in service for others pales in comparison with the glory that awaits because I have followed in the footsteps of my Savior.  Confidence in His Sovereignty and in Eternity mean that I can advance or not advance, be noticed or unnoticed, serve and sacrifice and be JOYFUL in it.

I hope and trust that Sandberg someday will find this JOY.  Reading between the lines in her book, I think she is still searching for something.

For those working mothers who read this blog - your motivation for your work is between you and God and your family, I am not giving any blanket judgments. I honor your hard work and the balancing act I know that it is each and every single day.  May God give you His peace, strength, and direction.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Emotional Intelligence & the Church by Rupert Hayles

In writing this review, I must disclose that Rupert Hayles is an instructor and soon-to-be coach in my life.  In preparing for my coaching sessions on emotional intelligence, what better way than to read my mentor's book?

That being said, I applaud Rupert's bravery.  His research is thorough, but I must say that I feel that the strength of this book lies in his self-disclosure and the story of his personal journey through emotional awareness. 

In this book, Rupert seems to have purposed to (1) explain emotional intelligence to those unfamiliar with it, (2) make the case for how emotional intelligence fits with Scripture and our Christian faith, and (3) give examples of life challenges and changes that we may resonate with, and finally (4) share what he learned in his spiritual life and in the area of his emotions, giving us hope for life change of our own.

For those unfamiliar with emotional intelligence (EQ) - here is Salovey and Mayer's definition:  "...the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional meanings, and to reflectively regulate emotions in a way that promotes emotional and intellectual growth." 

To simplify: it is how you and I understand our own emotions, how those emotions affect those around us, and how we can regulate our emotional responses so that we do not alienate others around us or hurt ourselves.
Your success in life is based largely on your EQ...not your IQ. 

I believe that the most direct Scriptural comparison might be the Fruit of the Spirit.  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  I like Pete Scazzero's idea that you cannot be spiritually mature and emotionally immature at the same time.  You must do the hard work of addressing your emotions/emotional responses in order to grow more deeply in your life with Christ. 

Thus - enter EQ 360 testing...

EQ testing shows us two things: (1) how we perceive ourselves and (2) how others perceive us.  It is a "360-degree" evaluation that reveals the GAPS between what we think of ourselves ("I am very empathetic!" and what others might see ("that guy really doesn't care how others feel!").  For many, it can be an extremely eye-opening experience.  Our self-perceptions are not so reliable as we might think.

As I mentioned -the strength of this book is Rupert's candor about his own struggle with anger, how its impact on others was revealed to him through an EQ 360 evaluation, and how that desperately painful realization moved him toward profound brokenness and change in his life.  As Rupert states, "I was a Christian who had been serving the Lord for decades; however, I did not have the tender, gentle character Christ had.  It took confrontation."

Some may wonder - why should I bother being evaluated for my emotional intelligence?  The primary goal of EQ assessment is self-awareness.  We all have blind spots, and generally speaking, the high cost of blind spots is that we hurt others without every realizing it, and run the risk of losing significant friendships or opportunities in our lives as a direct result of our lack of self-awareness.  And as believers, those blind spots may be the areas where Christ most longs to transform us into His character.

"Emotional self-awareness is the ability to recognize my feelings, to differentiate between them,  to know why I am feeling these feelings and to recognize the impact my feelings have on others around me." 

If you are already familiar with EQ - and have no concerns over its ability to mesh with Biblical teaching, I suggest you need to read only Parts I, V and VI to get the best out of this book.  For those of you who are new to this topic - settle in for a long read - but there will be several (as I say) "nuggets" and "ah-ha" moments to greet you along the way.

I am awaiting the results of my own 360-EQ evaluation.  God have mercy! :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

His Thoughts Said... His Father Said... - by Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael always has a beautiful and simple way of expressing truth - and she does it in a way that shows her readers how much she has wrestled herself.  This little booklet is a collection of thoughts: ones that might gather in the dusty places of our minds as we navigate our life and ministry - and the responding idea of what our Heavenly Father might say to us.

One example, an entry that I loved:

"The Son said, 'I think of the pain of life that is perpetual for so many who live to serve their fellows.  Is it all worthwhile?'

His Father said, 'Those who serve their generation are like the sailors that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters.  But it is these, not those who play in the shallows, who see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.  Is not that worthwhile?'"  (entry 93)

For any who might need a reminder of His truths when our thoughts war against ourselves, I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Western Christians in Global Mission - Paul Borthwick

For years, the "West" has led the way in Christian evangelistic outreach. Missionaries were predominantly sent out from places in Europe and North America.  But that is changing, and quickly.  The term, the "Global South," refers to the Southern hemisphere and the rising church numbers and missional strength that we now see in the Majority World.

No longer is the "West reaching the rest."  NOW Christian missionary endeavors are better categorized as "from everywhere to everywhere."  There are more Christians in China (numerically) than in the United States, and they are reaching out to North Koreans.  Nigeria is now sending missionaries to the USA. Our Latino brothers and sisters are effectively reaching Muslims, and Filipino believers are sacrificially serving in Abu Dhabi.  

The question is raised: do Christians in North America still have a role in the Great Commission of Matthew 28?  Should we simply give financially and then get out of the way?  Is our job over?

Paul Borthwick reminds us that ALL believers are called to obey the Great Commission of Matthew 28.  And yet - our ROLE is changing.

If I were to summarize Paul's book in one word it would be "humility." No longer are we to act the role (even subconsciously) of rescuer, leader, driver, or power-holder.  We must now live out words like servant, collaborator, coach, or trainer. Releasing our past roles and quickly passing the baton to those in the Global South must be part of the ethos of Western missions organizations and leaders.  Great humility is needed to "change hats" and become those that exist only to give our jobs away to others.  (Paul lists several specific examples and ideas in his book).

My greatest personal takeaway from this book was Paul's emphasis on suffering and sacrifice: something that the North American church is not skilled in.  We have a great deal to LEARN from our brothers and sisters in the Majority World who have suffered for their faith.  Paul paraphrased the Majority World church's question to us in this way:  "Show us your scars, and then we'll believe that you understand the same gospel that we've embraced." 

As a result of reading this took, I have a greater commitment to stay up to date on world events, to reduce my naivete by reading to understand the complex system of economics, politics, and power that my Christian Majority World brothers and sisters live in.  I have no excuse to be ill-informed.

I have also begun to read "When Helping Hurts" - a book I have heard recommended highly for its insights into helping the poor in a wise and sustainable way. 

Read this book - especially if you are a church or missions leader!

Monday, December 23, 2013

NIGHT SHIFT: God at Work in the Dark Hours of Life - by Dave Shive

It is a little unnerving, yet also strangely comforting, when you find your own story reflected in someone else’s story.   That is what happened in this book.   Dave is a personal friend and has been “shamelessly” bugging me to read his book for perhaps two or three years.  I should have read it three years ago.

The “night shift” is an analogy: workers in God’s Kingdom harvest are assigned to various shifts.  Some enjoy “daytime” shifts full of sunshine and enjoyable labor.  But some labor in the darkness, confused, discouraged, and unable to see the purpose behind their efforts.  Often there seems to be no “rhyme or reason,” or warning, as to why any particular laborer is reassigned from day to night shift – but our Master does have a purpose.

Dave describes for us his personal journey during his night shift assignment.  No spoilers here – you need to read this book – but let’s summarize and say that for 30 months Dave wrestled with the loss of his primary role and passion and wondered why God was allowing this in his life.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have just come out of my own night shift.  Three years ago today I was only 2 months away from resigning my ministry position at the time – with no clear direction for the future.  Unhappy for several years in my assignment, it seemed that I went from ‘hard’ to ‘hardest’ while I agreed to wait on and take the leap of faith that took me away from my organization and paycheck.  Leaving that role was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, and yet it was clear at the time that God was closing the door.  Disillusioned and discouraged, I entered the final stages of waiting on God and crying out to Him for deliverance.  
Dave describes the night shift in seven stages:
(1) The Pit
(2) The Wait
(3) The Cry
(4) The Answer
(5) The Deliverance
(6) The New Song
(7) The Impact

Since the names of the stages are fairly self-explanatory, I will share a few “nuggets” that most impacted me (as I usually do) from each of them:

·        “…the pit is a place of constriction or narrowness…  [it] limits your options and restricts your freedom.  …Those who enter the pit are afraid of what man can do to them, and so the pit experience is needed to rid them of that fear.  The fear of man (a mind-set to unlearn) and the fear of the Lord (an attitude to obtain) are vivid themes in Scripture.  The first is natural, the second, acquired.”  
·        “Our natural goal is comfort.  God’s goal is to make us useful for His glory.  To attain His goal, God interferes with ours.”  
·        “God characteristically does not divulge His mysterious plans to those who are in the darkness.” 

·        Psalm 40 can be translated “intense waiting” – David experienced a “grueling marathon, one that exacted an enormous toll in terms of time, emotion, resources, and energy.”   “In the darkness, no one casually says, ‘I think I’ll wait on God.’”
·        “The person assigned to the darkness is incapable of self-delivery.  This person must show up for work in the dark until the Owner changes His mind!  Waiting brings us to the point where we can say, ‘My times are in Your hands.’ (Ps 31:15)”
·        “While divine silence is undoubtedly the most frustrating and outstanding peculiarity defining the Biblical pit experience, it may also be the most potent teaching tool in God’s arsenal.”
·        “…God lovingly ignores many of our small-minded demands for release from affliction because He has better things in store for us.”
·        “Human football is child’s play compared with God’s cross-body blocks as we are weaned from self.  Lovingly blindsided under cover of darkness, we are stunned by bone-jarring, heart-crunching tackles designed to break our will and our heart.”  
·        “The length of the wait is not as significant as its intensity.”
·        “The night shift is for every believer, and God’s timetable for His children is never what we think it should be.”

·        “…the pit is the place where prayer is best learned.”
·        “On the night shift, once-smug and self-satisfied individuals see their facades of independence and self-reliance crumble.  True weaknesses and needs are uncovered.  A cry of desperation is the result of this ruthless disclosure.  This shift accomplishes its purpose when it produces serious people who, with great, urgency, cry out to God.”
·        “The darkness produces brokenness, and broken people pray fervently.”
·        “With all of my good theology, why did it take me so long to discover that the problem was me?”
·        “True achievement in ministry burgeons when failure is embraced and God is allowed to place us on the night shift of His vineyard, where we will labor in the ‘Department of Defeat.’  His grand design is to bring proud, independent disciples to a point of prayerful surrender so that they will learn to lean on Him for their strength.”

·        “How wrong of me to think that those seminary years were my ‘training.’ In reality, God chose to use most of my life to train me.  …It was on the night shift, after more than twenty years of difficult lessons, that I would receive a message from God’s Word and emerge with something to say to needy people.”
·        “As we eagerly discard our debris, our God, Great Economist that He is, comes along behind us, snatching up everything in His arms.  He sees the precious treasures we have so nonchalantly jettisoned.  Intending to display His glory, He redeems and utilizes every pain, every sorrow, every tear, every trauma, and every disappointment of our lives.” 
·        “You are a ‘preacher in process’ and your audience will be ready when you are.  …This ‘congregation’ of yours desperately needs the Word of God.  As surely as any character in Scripture was dispatched by God with a message, you, the pit survivor, have two assignments… (1) learn the Word of God under cover of darkness, and (2) give God’s Word to your audience regardless of the shift to which you are assigned.”

·        The Joseph principle – “The night shift is God’s method of sovereignly using man’s sin, Satan’s schemes, and unpleasant natural circumstances to achieve great goals in the lives of His children.”
·        “If we want to understand the delight of being rescued, we must attend Night School.”   “…the delivered are marked people.  After the night shift, the delivered are transformed.”
·        “Genuine brokenness comes to us when the adoration of God becomes more important to us than our own comfort.”
·        “If pit people are in the constricted, narrow place, those who have experienced God’s marvelous deliverance…will find themselves in the broad place.  …the broad place is a place of usefulness, the place where impact is made.  …The large place is a tribute to the mercy, wisdom, largesse, and power of a sovereign God to bring the poor, weak, and hopeless into a place of usefulness and blessing.”

·        “The sixth stage…is profoundly musical.”  “…the darkness is fertile time for songwriting.”
·        “It is patently clear that the one who is delivered from the darkness is to have a message and that each message will be fine-tuned to the individual personality and pit experience.  The diligent student who has been delivered from the night shift will go forth to proclaim that message with great enthusiasm.” 
·        The song and message is one of both AWE and OBEDIENCE.  “The wonderful lesson learned by enduring the pit and being delivered from affliction is this: Obedience is best, and the pit teaches us to relish obedience!  This is learned because the trauma and grief of the night shift breaks the child of God.  The nature of our learning styles is such that we do not truly grasp the most important lessons in life except under compulsion.  One may enter the night shift with a casual attitude toward obedience, but the instruction of the darkness will not allow such a mindset to persist.”
·        “On the night shift, the sufferer is shut up with a Holy God who proceeds to work diligently on His child.  Lessons of purity, holiness, and obedience are reinforced under cover of darkness.”

Psalm 118:5 – “From my distress I called upon the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a large place.” 
·        “As there is a cycle to the narrowness of the pit, there is also a ‘cycle of enlargement.’  When impact occurs and the delivered one is used to touch other lives, the night shift begins to make sense.”
·        “Deliverance is not for personal comfort or enjoyment.  The night shift is intended to prepare the child of God to be used for His purposes.  Since the night shift is preparatory, the ‘large place’ is the platform for ministry when the survivor of the pit is released to impact others.”
·        “Just as the pit is a place of restriction, the large place is primarily a position of expansive influence.  In the small place, movement is contained and access is limited.  The muscles atrophy and skills like dormant.  Brain processes deteriorate… Emerging from the night shift, we are wiser and better-equipped leaders.  God has a lot at stake in our deliverance.” 

 “Before God can use a man greatly, He must first hurt him deeply.” - AW Tozer

·        “Only the broken are focused on authenticity.  The night shift rids us of our pathetic, small-minded longing for glory.  The luster of earthly achievement fades after one has done time on the night shift.  Affliction enlarges our vision so that we can see God and ourselves more clearly. “
·        “No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow.  Most of the Psalms were born in a wilderness.  Most of the Epistles were written in a prison.  The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through the fire.  Take comfort, afflicted Christian!  When God is about to make preeminent use of a man, He puts him in the fire.” – George MacDonald

I have been through the night shift – where all of the above statements rang true.  I was discouraged and confused.  I lay there on the altar while all of my sin patterns and struggles were exposed by a Holy God.  I wept over my mistakes, and struggled with anger and resentment over the mistakes of others.  I learned to pray deep, heart-wrenching prayers for deliverance and clarity.  I waited…and waited…and waited.  I learned obedience.  I grew in authenticity and integrity, and I trust, in humility as well.  I began to understand what brokenness is and perhaps more importantly, what it produces in the life of a believer.

Finally – I was delivered and brought into a broad place.  I can say that now I am having “the time of my life” – with deep joy and gratitude for all that He has brought me through.  I am enjoying a season of impact that I never would have imagined before, and it is more than abundantly clear that I was trained and prepared in the night shift “for such a time as this” and for such a place and people as I am now working among. 

I once heard the statement that you know you have been truly broken if you are willing to be broken again – for the purposes of God.  I am willing – there may be more night shifts in my future, but I know, trust and love the Owner of the vineyard and look forward to His purposes being fulfilled.

Thanks Dave!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Developing the Leaders Around You - John Maxwell

Anytime I read John Maxwell books - I feel inspired...and I also feel a bit like a schmuck because I just have no idea how he does it all! :)  

This book is a gem - packed full of ideas to motivate and inspire (classic John Maxwell stuff!) toward excellence - particularly in the area of developing others around you.

The essence of the book can be captured by a quote (I cannot remember whom it is by) - that success without a successor is failure.  

One key takeaway:  figure out how to make finding and keeping the best people for my team my priority.  

Finding = recruiting the best people with the right skill sets
Keeping = being committed to focused and consistent development of my staff.  Releasing them into their gifting areas, providing encouragement and a strong foundation to succeed.

My other key takeaway: it is imperative that a leader believe in those he/she leads.  You can't fake it.  I was under a leader for a season - and I know they did not believe in me...they said the words, but the action behind it (such as delegating or entrusting me with so-called "important" tasks) was lacking.  Currently, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my boss - and his boss too - believe in me deeply.  It is freeing - I risk more, I do more, I have more confidence, and I just feel so much more joy and belonging in my work. I feel released into my gifting. This is the same feeling I want to pass along to any who work under my own leadership in the future.  

This book is worth reading - especially if you oversee staff.  Keep a notepad ready to jot down specific action steps. Just be careful it doesn't get too long... thanks to "classic John Maxwell" bursts of inspiration!!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Imitation of Christ - Thomas A Kempis

If I had to summarize this book in one word it would be "humility."  The author - a monk in the 15th century - wrote what is considered to be the best known Christian work outside of the Bible.  

I enjoyed the first section of the book the most - the "counsels on the inner life."  I am still finishing the last 1/2 of the book.

I have one point of disagreement - if I so dare to disagree with such a classic work!  A Kempis wrote from the perspective of one who was in the midst of the monastic movement - a movement used powerfully by God, but whose role was often to step away from common man rather than to live among them.  I prefer an incarnational approach to sharing my faith and life with others - to live among rather than to separate from.  

Here are some of my favorite "nuggets" -

"It is no great matter to associate with the good and gentle, for this is naturally pleasant to everyone.  All men are glad to live at peace, and prefer those who are of their own way of thinking.  But to be able to live at peace among hard, obstinate, and undisicplined people and those who oppose us, is a great grace, and a most commendable and manly achievement."  

And a whole section - I cannot help but reproduce in its entirety here:

"Do not be concerned overmuch who is with you or against you, but work and plan that God may be with you in all that you do. Keep a clean conscience, and God will mightily defend you; for whoever enjoys the protection of God cannot be harmed by the malice of man.  If you learn to suffer in silence, you may be sure of receiving God's help.  He knows the time and the way to deliver you; so trust yourself entirely to His care.  God is strong to help you, and to free you from all confusion.  It is often good for us that others know and expose our faults, for so may we be kept humble.  

When a man humbly admits his faults, he soon appeases his fellows, and is reconciled to those whom he had offended.  God protects and delivers a humble man; He loves and comforts him.  To the humble He leans down and bestows great success, raising him from abasement to honour.  To him He reveals His secrets, and lovingly calls and draws him to Himself.  Even in the midst of trouble, the humble man remains wholly at peace, for he trusts in God, and not in the world.  Do not consider yourself to have made any spiritual progress, unless you account yourself the least of all men."  

A common struggle - to allow others to expose our faults and to humbly own it and repent publicly of our sin.  Ouch.  I admit my ego still struggles under this injunction.  And yet - I have personally seen in my own life and others the absolute beauty of repentance and restoration as a result of a deep humility rooted in the Gospel-identity we have in Christ.

God...humble me more. Help me imitate Christ.