Friday, July 30, 2010

The Challenge of Listening

I was recently home on vacation. Home, where I live, is Cypress, CA. Home, where I grew up, is Ravensdale/Maple Valley, WA. I’m speaking of the latter home. While ‘home,’ I had an embarrassing gaffe that I was completely unaware of. My grandfather made it over from Eastern Washington to visit with us during our stay as well as to see the rest of the family on the west side of the Cascades.

I found out a day later that three times during our conversation in my dad’s backyard I had totally spaced out and cut off a conversation almost like he was never there. It was lame of me. I felt terrible when I found out. I wrote a note of apology and spoke with him a week or two later. Everything’s fine. Perhaps better than it was before.

But what’s more embarrassing is that I think I do this often. My brain just disconnects and I go to something else mentally. Like that dog in Up whose attention is completely shot when someone says, “Squirrel.” My poor listening skills just “are,” but seeing how they hurt someone I love and respect so much made me wonder what kind of damage I had done to others. It boils down, in my mind, to an issue of respect and honoring people. I dishonored my grandfather by not valuing him with my undivided attention. And I do the same with others all the time.

A friend recommended a book to me awhile back and my first priority upon returning ‘home’ (Cypress this time) was to read it. It’s Quick-to-Listen Leaders by Ping and Clippard. I just finished it and there are good challenges all over, but there are a couple chapters in particular that I need to nail down to do the work/training it takes to be a good listener. It might come naturally for some people, but not for me. So I’ll try to put together a couple posts soon that summarize those points where I want to see the most improvement in my life.

In the meantime, I’m working to listen better and it has been a blessing. I don’t always need to run to the next thing. Things get done just fine – even if I slow down to listen and give people my full attention. At least the same amount gets done (maybe more), but people are honored in the process. This work seems to be paying off. I hope the skills will help all the more.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The State of the Blog

It’s odd. I have tried to be really consistent in my blogging and giving content from the things I’ve been reading. It got really exhausting and the joy of writing and blogging became burdensome. I initially sought to blog for my own purposes – whether anyone read it or not. What’s funny is that as soon as I quit writing, I posted what was intended to be a humorous anecdote from St. Augustine and received more comments than I had ever received. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. It gave some substance to what was intended to be humorous regarding my aging.

Anyway, I’m reviving the blogging after taking more than a month off. It will look different this time around. More sporadic. Less ‘content’ from books I’m reading and perhaps a little more response, commentary on the significance of it (at least in my life). At least that’s what I think for now. This could all change when I get tired of this angle on blogging. Perhaps this will be a bit more refreshing than this last ‘spurt’ of blogging has been. Either way, I hope you find something helpful and it will again be a useful tool as I process things a little better in a public forum.

What to expect coming up? There will be some residual posts with “Missional Mondays” I had prepared before getting exhausted as well as a few “Hump Day Histories” with Augustine. I may end up doing more of these (for example, Tim Keller’s Ministries of Mercy makes up the upcoming “Missional Mondays,” but only for the first few chapters … I’ll keep going if I get ‘inspired!’).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

It’s been downhill for awhile for me. I turn 37 tomorrow and when I was reading Augustine’s City of God earlier this year he was grappling with the question of what our eternal bodies would be like. For instance, would a baby who died be a full-grown person, or would they be in the state of an infant for eternity. More specifically, he wonders if we’ll all be the same size as Jesus since He’s perfection. I honestly don’t remember the conclusions, but the constant refrain is that “not a hair of our head will be harmed.” God will take care of us, eternally.

The part that struck me as humorous – less so now – is when he states that it’s all downhill after 30. Behold, Augustine on age…

“For even the world’s wisest men have fixed the bloom of youth at about the age of thirty; and when this period has been passed, the man begins to decline towards the defective and duller period of old age” (p. 838-839).
It’s all downhill from here! And it has been … for years!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

… and Donald Miller, Reggie Joiner, and Moses, Jethro, and Joshua. I’m preaching on Father’s Day and I think I’m going to fill in some parts of Moses’ life that we skipped in our Exodus series on Sunday morning. I’ve been listening to this Donald Miller podcast (Episode 95) talking about fatherhood and I bought and started reading his book, Father Fiction. This challenge of fatherlessness in our nation is tremendous and as it is developing, I’m wondering how the church can solve it. Miller is working on a mentoring program. I’m not even thinking about mentoring kids in the community. I’m wondering what we do with all these single moms in our church. How do we get men into the lives of these kids? My short term solution is to invite a few of them to our small group … and get our small group rolling again.

The Bible uses family language for the church – brothers and sisters, etc… - and St. Augustine likened the family dynamic to caring for sinning brothers and sisters. I’ll end with his quote that simply adds a link to this church/family chain that I’m trying to figure out … as I raise my own kids and as I seek to lead in the church in such a way that we can go to battle against a huge issue in our world. From St. Augustine for your digestion…

“…if any member of the family interrupts the domestic peace by disobedience, he is corrected either by word or blow, or some kind of just and legitimate punishment, such as society permits, that he may himself be the better for it, and be readjusted to the family harmony from which he had dislocated himself. For as it is not benevolent to give a man help at the expense of some greater benefit he might receive, so it is not innocent to spare a man at the risk of his falling into graver sin” (p. 695).
I don’t like church discipline and I’m not innocent in keeping people from the risk of greater sin by calling them out. But if we don’t, are we making people spiritually ‘fatherless,’ in a sense (of course God is their father, but I hope you get what I mean…).

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

We have much to be thankful for. One of those things to be thankful for is those who serve our country – living and dead. May God bless them and their families today.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Services

I hope you enjoyed your Sunday services today. If you didn't make it to any or don't have a local church, be sure to get in one. Until then, here's our church podcast and here's the link to some friends up in Bellevue, WA: Eastgate Bible Fellowship.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Andy Stanley (General Session 4/23 – Closing Session)

Andy Stanley ended the conference with a helpful leadership challenge. It starts with a clear maxim: “My fully developed strengths will always be of greater value than your marginally improved weaknesses.”

It corrects the myth that good leaders are good at everything and we need to focus on our weaknesses and ‘wing’ our strengths. This is natural and necessary when we start out, but it will limit our leadership in the long run if we stay in that mode.

Stanley likes numbers. Here are the two best kept secrets in leadership.
1. The less you do, the more you accomplish.
2. The less you do, the more you enable others to accomplish.

Each year you need to think through what you need to quit doing. “Only do what you can do” – it’s unrealistic, but always keep it as a target.

Three things happen when you drift from your core competencies. (These are easy to recognize in others, not self.)
1. Their effectiveness diminishes.
2. The effectiveness of other leaders are diminished.
3. The ability of the organization to keep good leaders diminishes.

Why Leaders Miss This Principle
1. They buy into the myth of being well-rounded. (You don’t need to be well-rounded … your organization does.)
2. Leaders forget to distribute between authority and their core competencies. (Everyone has authority outside of their competencies. Make as few decisions as possible. Let others choose.)
3. Some leaders can’t distinguish between their competencies and non-competencies. (Know what you don’t know.)
4. Some leaders feel guilty delegating their weaknesses. (Don’t. It’s someone else’s joy and strength).
5. Some leaders won’t take time to train other leaders. (Let people make mistakes. Do you want to be right, or do you want to make more leaders?)

Acts 6 illustrates this issue. “It would not be right for us to … serve food.” Not right = it would be WRONG!

What’s the outcome of all this?
1. It’s easier to establish a sustainable pace. (You won’t wear out from doing things you hate.)
2. Corporately, you’ll end up with a congregation that reflects your strengths, but not your weaknesses.

How do you get started on this? Ask some ‘Discovery Questions’:
1. What’s effortless for you, but draining for others?
2. In what areas are you the ‘go-to’ person?
3. What energizes you?
4. What do you wish you could stop doing?
5. What organizational environments are you drawn to?
6. Which do you avoid?

‘Discovery Project’: Write your ideal job description. This isn’t anything you might be able to act on immediately, but make it the target, the ideal.

We can do many things, what MUST we do?