Monday, February 24, 2014

Will You Catch Me?

There's a great playground in our neighborhood. It features sturdy swings, a pretend fast food drive thru window (ummm...) and, best of all, this slide: Beckett, our toddler has recently come to love this slide. From an initial fear, he is now hurtling down headfirst. Cool. A very necessary rite of passage for a boy. But, there's a caveat. Before he slides down, he must know - he must have verbal assent - that he will be caught at the end of the slide. More than verbal assent, he must have visual confirmation. Yesterday, he slid with abandon but only after ritually asking "You catch me, Daddy?" and needing to see me look up at him from the bottom of the slide and say "You got it, buddy, I'll catch you!" He's willing to take a man-size risk as a little guy, but only if he knows he's going to be caught. This will - at least it should - never end for him. Jesus, speaking of you and me, said "My father has given them to me and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from my father's hand" (John 10:29) Same cry of the heart as my toddler. I want to know my father is powerful enough to catch me. I want to know that no matter what happens to me and those I love that he will never let me go. It's one thing for me to promise it on a suburban playground. Quite enough for the Creator of the universe, the unquenchable, all-powerful King himself to promise it. No matter how steep your slide feels, no matter the risk you think you are being called to run, no matter how fast you may feel you are falling, no matter... He will always say "Yes!" when you ask "Will you catch me?"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: The One Verse

Here's the one verse I would cling to if I had to cling to one verse as to how to live: " steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor 15:58). Wherever you are, whatever you have lost, wherever you have failed, whatever you are facing... don't give in and don't give up. If your heart is oriented towards Jesus and his Cross and Resurrection - if you still retain the capacity to be amazed and moved by those two historical events - all is well. If your heart still loves - even after you hurt and cuss and moan and groan - all is well. If your heart still melts for the hurting and the left-out and the overlooked - all is well. If your heart still finds itself siding with those who are out, not those who are in - all is well. If your heart still is soft towards those who have hurt you rather than seeking to cast them away - all is well. Every bit of energy you expend in the service of the causes that Jesus loves will result in results which richly repay your investment...they are never in vain. Anything else gets piled up on the landfill of history - silly and small and superficial.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Try Something New - Right Now

All of us have things we have to do all the time.

If you're a parent, you have to take care of kids. If you're a teacher, you have to prepare lesson plans and show up to teach. If you are a salesperson, you have to sell stuff.

You get the point.

No matter what we do, we do a lot of it over and over again. And, before we know it, we keep doing things the same way because that's what we know.

But what if we took some time in the middle of the planning and executing and dreamed up our jobs all over again? What if we did something we have always done in a way we have never thought of doing it?

Marketers still have to market. But how about selling your waterproof Mp3 player in a water bottle?

That's what Sony is doing in New Zealand. It's been out for a while - their waterproof player and headphones. But now, they're selling it across Asia from vending machines - IN a waterbottle!

School officials still have to make decisions and communicate about cancelling school for snow days.

But how about framing your same old-same old announcement as a parody rap video?

That's what these guys did in North Carolina.

Both ideas have gone viral. Both were just normal people doing what they always do, only doing it different.

What are you doing that you always do that you can do differently - because YOU are intentionally different today?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Teaching: What A Waste!

"What a waste!"

It's a phrase we use a lot.

Can't believe I spent time watching that reality TV show!

Can't believe we paid $870 for the family to go to that awful movie!

Can't believe I drove all the way out there and they didn't have the thing I wanted.

The phrase can take a serious turn too.

Can't believe I invested in that relationship.

Can't believe I told that lie - look what it cost me.

Can't believe he made those choices - look at all he has lost.

What a waste.

It's a famous story.

Jesus is at a friend's house having dinner and a woman - perhaps of ill repute, no one is really sure - comes in.

She takes a jar of fantastically expensive perfume (I mean, really expensive, not mall expensive but 401K in 2007 expensive) and pours it over his head as an act of love and devotion.

The religious people in the room are shocked. (Religious people are always being shocked, have you ever noticed that? Jesus never seemed to get shocked by anything except the foolishness of religious people).

"What a waste!", these indignant ones said. "The woman could have sold the perfume and sent the proceeds to Compassion International or World Vision or the homeless shelter!"

They did have a point.

Jesus sits there in a puddle of perfume, dripping from his hair, down his beard, onto the floor.

You can't re-bottle that stuff. It's gone, like a 401K in 2008. Gone.

Theoretically, it could have been put to better use, more responsible use, surely more logical use.

Only, Jesus tells the church leaders to hush and says "She's done a great thing. People will be talking about what she did forever".

And so we are.

So, what's the deal?

Two layers at work here.

First, no act of love, no matter how extravagant or illogical, is ever a waste.

Love loud, love boldly, love illogically, love even when the religious leaders shake their heads and say "You should have tithed your time and your money, not spent it on _____________!"

(I'm not saying don't tithe, by the way).

As the title of a great book puts it, Love Does.

Don't let hesitation, shyness, insecurity, or fear of not being good enough keep you from loving.

But there was something else at play in Jesus' words, something significant and serious.

In those days, when someone died they embalmed them with perfume, to arrest - even if only for a short time - the process of decay. They poured it over their body and it ran down into a puddle.

When Jesus died, he was embalmed this way. This woman's act prefigured and foreshadowed this.

He was a thirty-something Rabbi with incredible powers of healing and teaching. People flocked to him.

Then Jesus started saying risky and unnecessary things. And it got him killed.

What a waste, right?

Only, it wasn't a waste at all. It was the greatest investment ever, because it was a hard core, all in, reckless, crazy, illogical investment - a bet, really - in you.

That's the way God operates. And that's why when you look at something immeasurably painful in your life, thinking it's a waste and you'll never get it back and she'll never come home and all hope is lost and you'll never love or find love again Jesus says "If I have my way, nothing is ever wasted".

So, let Me have my way.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How To Work With A New Person Or Group

Whether you're a salesperson seeking to meet the needs of a potential client, a consultant looking to serve a new group, or a pastor desiring to care for a new family it's important to know how to make the right start with new folks.

I'll write as a consultant/educator so I'll use the plural, but the principles are the same whatever your role - and whether or not your role is something entirely different - teacher, coach, first name it!

1. Care far more about understanding them than making a first impression for yourself.

This is not only the right thing to do, but it increases your effectiveness exponentially. They are not a cog in your wheel, an asset for your bottom line, a notch for your ego, or a hope for your dwindling congregation.

They are a group of people with a story and your job is to learn that story well. Nothing you can say to them makes sense unless you get their story and begin to speak with them in the same language as their story.

2. Believe that whatever challenges they may be facing, the answers are in the room.

I am fortunate enough to work with a consulting firm which preaches this relentlessly and has ever since my first day of association with them thirteen years ago: "The answer is in the room".

I've seen the wisdom of this simple statement over and over again.

This means that God (in my estimation) or fate or the human spirit or life experience has given them everything they need to solve their problems. The work of leadership does not involve you telling them the answers but helping them to discover the resources they already have and then mobilizing others to solve those problems.

It also helps me get out of my own way and to avoid the pressure of having to act like I have all the answers.

3. Follow their energy, wherever that leads.

When working with new folks, I walk in - inevitably - with an agenda. That's not inherently bad, but it usually only lasts for the first five minutes of the meeting.

Whoever the group is, they have energy surrounding something. Your job is to find that and go with it. If you're a consultant, it's not 'here's my five point plan for you'; if you're in sales it's not 'please buy my service'; if you're a pastor, it's not 'please join my church, fill a slot, and contribute financially'.

If you try to impose your energy on them - oh, dear Lord - that never ends well. They will be irritated with you for reasons even they don't understand, and you'll get nowhere.

No one will follow someone else whom they believe to have an agenda that does not honor their own. Great leaders often change our agenda but they don't start there - they start by letting us know they value where we are starting.

Following the energy is not only good business practice but is a very spirit-honoring thing. In a world that treats people as commodities all too often this says "You are important and valuable and well worth considering".