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.
One year ago I was nearing the end of writing a book. I had invested 500 hours into it, and I was about to scrap the whole thing.
I took out a loan for $12,000 to self-publish. I was afraid of the debt.
I was weary after months of writing in the dark hours of the early morning.
I suffered from self-doubt. "It isn't really that good. No one will read it."
I felt naked with the choice to be transparent in my story-telling.
I had writer's block near the end. I couldn't find an effective conclusion.
It was like standing at the end of a dock on a lake. Should I jump in? The water is so cold. I was about to hit "delete" on the whole project. But first, I went for a walk. And the words on this note card came to me.
With these words, I was possessed. I had to keep going. This line became my prayer for the remainder of the process: "Lord, I'll just keep writing and trust that you will give the words."
So I jumped. Writing became an exercise of faith. To leap without knowing where I'd land. To walk without being certain of the path.
Today, I'm approaching 5,000 copies distributed. For a little self-published book, all expectations have been exceeded.
Every week, I hear from strangers around the country. Loved & Sent is being used in small groups and book clubs. For leadership development, new member classes, and sermon series. See a list of churches and organizations here.
The book has been used to raise thousands of dollars for causes. An immigrant and refugee agency. An urban after-school ministry. Christian Camps.
A pastor in Wisconsin wrote me, “I gave gave the book to a truck driver that kept coming to me with questions. I encouraged him to read it. After the chapter on grace, he asked me about baptism. He was baptized last Saturday night.”
What's your dock? Is it time to leap? Why aren't you jumping?
"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."
"Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith's rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her great Guide." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Major props to these people for their love and encouragement.
"How are you?" they ask. "Busy," I reply.
You say it too. "My schedule is crazy!" "I'm super busy." "I've got too much to do."
In his book, The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson gives two reasons why pastors become busy. I believe they apply to all people. I reread Peterson's book annually, and these two statements continue to convict me. They are my yearly "check-up," and help me to refocus my time and energy.