Our daily lives fall effortlessly into a conventional set of circumstances.
The daily grind.
The predictable path.
The ordinary set of expectations.
The likely outcome.
The natural consequences.
The record of the nativity implies this as well.
Those in power win (King Herod).
Pregnant, unwed teens are abandoned (Mary).
Refugees live in fear (the Holy Family in Egypt).
But Matthew records an unconventional word that disrupts the anticipated outcome:
We've seen enough failed leadership - self-centered, corrupt, inept, greedy. Where can we see genuine leadership? Power used for others, not self?
As Christians, we are drawn to the cruciform posture of leadership. In Christ, power, authority, and influence are used in selfless ways. He exemplifies servant leadership. More than just a model for us to follow, he offers forgiveness for leaders - for all - who falter and fail.
In a follow up post from last week, here are five more of my top leadership quotes.
We are confronted daily with failed leadership. It seems that every morning, there’s a revelation of another powerful man who abused his influence and authority. (See my post on this here.) We’ve been let down by politicians and producers, presidents and prime ministers, pastors and priests.
What examples of genuine leadership do we have? Rather than stating “what I’m against,” I’m determined to focus on “what I’m for.” I look to mentors who demonstrate leadership in the positive, not the negative.
Here are my top leadership quotes. They give me focus in an era of floundering leadership. I’ll share five this week, and five next week.
Common reactions to the growing list of men accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, or abuse.
"I'm so disappointed."
"They're dropping like flies."
"I can't believe it. I would never have guessed . . ."
"Who's next? The Pope? The Rock?"
We should all be saying that such behavior is unacceptable.
We speak on behalf of the dignity of women.
We work to break systems of lewd perversion and abuse of power.
We press for a new transparency in workplace and society.
We stand for those violated and look for ways to provide healing and support.
While we certainly say all these things, I'm also looking for what no one else is saying.
A dear friend once told me, "Jesus always did the unexpected. He constantly surprised people."
People expected a moral coach. He ate with the impious.
People expected a leader of the religious establishment. He sparred with the Pharisees.
People expected a line between "good people" and "bad people." He said, "Love your enemies."
People expected an easy way of spiritual improvement. He said, "Deny yourself and follow me."
People expected a dynamic rock star. He did miracles and then told them to keep it hush-hush.
People expected tidy sermons. He spoke confounding parables.
People expected a triumphant general. He died by execution.
500 years after Martin Luther boldly reasserted "Grace!" into the Christian church's vocabulary, we still struggle with it. Let me explain.
My six-year-old daughter and I went a St. Louis Cardinals game in September. We had tickets way up in the outfield. On the sidewalk, a guy comes up to us and asks if we have tickets. “Yes,” I say abruptly. He’s probably trying to sell me something.
“Where are they?”
“Section 340,” I say reluctantly.
“I’ve got some better tickets. You want 'em?”
Before I can say "no," he hands me two tickets. The price on each says $184. Third base line behind the dugout. “How much?” I ask. “Nothing,” he says. "I’ve got four tickets, but I’m only using two."
I sat next this generous gift-giver during the game feeling like I owed him. "I have to return the favor." I offered to buy him a beer, but he refused.
"Do you want to quit this job?" the supervisor asked her young employee.
"No," replied the young man. "It's just a lot. I'm so busy. I don't have any time."
"I understand," she stated. "It is a full time job. But let me ask you, do you watch Netflix?"
"How much time a day do you spend watching Netflix?"
"I suppose 2-3 hours."
"Do you keep up on social media?"
"How much time do you spend?"
"Uh, probably two hours a day."
The supervisor paused, and then stated plainly, "No, you do have time. You just need to know where to spend it."
It's a growing list of recent tragedy. Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Mexico City. Las Vegas . . . and on top of it all, Tom Petty died on Monday. There are tragedies of all kinds, and they all cause a piercing pain.
There are times in life when the compounded effect of tragedy leaves you helpless. "What's going on? What can I do?"
We all have our ways of responding: cry, pray, give, post, advocate, etc. I've been reflecting on my own response to overwhelming tragedy. Here are some thoughts.
The San Francisco Bay Area is trendy, techie, and cool.
New York is the impressive intersection of the world - business, media, arts, culture . . .
Nashville and Austin are hot and happening cities with booming populations.
I live in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was hot at the turn of the century - the 20th century. We hosted the World's Fair in 1904 and were the fourth largest American city, the Gateway to the West. Today, we're a worn and tired city. We've lost our NFL team and a few Fortune 500 companies. We suffer from a history of racism, white flight, and social disparity.
We're anxious right now because of tension over the acquittal of a white police officer who shot and killed a black man. Over the weekend, we witnessed clashes between protesters and police that returned us to 2014 and the unrest that followed the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Twelve years ago, I resisted St. Louis residency. I did not choose to live here. It was chosen for me. Today, I claim this territory as my hometown.
What happens when God calls you to a place you don't want to be?
"Men have become tools of their tools."
In August, I'll celebrate 6 years of blogging at sixthgen.com. In that time, I've posted nearly every week. Now it's time to take a break. Today I begin a blogging sabbatical until September.
Tools, like the internet, are good things. This blog allows me to reach thousands of people around the country and world.
But as Thoreau noted, "Men have become tools of their tools." Even good things can enslave us. I'm checking my use of technology and assessing my workload. Taking a break from regular blogging is part of my re-calibration.
Fields need to lie fallow in order to be more fertile.
Calloused hands need time to soften.
Weary feet need to be lifted.
Thanks for following me. I'm grateful for the support.
This summer, find some time for rest, health, and leisure.
And if you're looking for summer reading, go here.