Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's In Our Container?

I spent 3 hours today in an inservice to learn how to use PowerPoint in an updated application I don't have access to--either at home or at school. But I also learned about a fun website (www.wordle.net) where you can make fun montages out of words. You can view the result of today's education by clicking here.

These are the items in our Operation Christmas Child storage container right now waiting to be packed into shoeboxes at our September 24th packing party. Well, that's not precisely correct because not ALL of these items are in the container yet.

For example, even though we hauled 14 garbage bags (each full of 100 stuffed animals) to the storage container last night, there are still 27 more bags full occupying beds and floors in our bedrooms. And I'm praying God will provide another 24 or 25 bags full in the next month.

Yesterday I was blessed to take a road trip to the beautiful Kinzua Dam area here in Western Pennsylvania. I went to meet and have lunch with Patti Seth, our collection center coordinator from Warren, PA.

And my dear friend Ellen Bunnell made the two-hour round trip from Bradford to bring the Bradford Zoo--a collection of nearly 300 stuffed animals collected by the children at the Hill Memorial UM Church's VBS this year. With such great donations it's no wonder God has filled The Ark nearly to capacity.

Well, I guess the animals won't mind sleeping on our beds for the next few weeks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

GO Boxes

Look at this stack of beautiful boxes ready to be filled with gifts for needy children around the world through Operation Christmas Child. These boxes have recently been renamed GO boxes and that stands for Gospel Opportunity--that's what each of these simple boxes really is for the child who receives it.

Last night my sweet OCC Area Team member Terri Mouyard and I met at Grace Church to assemble these boxes. We hadn't really done this for 9 months and it took a few minutes to get our groove but then we started folding like the crazed OCC fanatics we are. Within 2 hours we'd assembled 200 boxes--ready to be taken by church members to be filled.

Then this morning Dianne Oschmann, our Relay Center Coordinator from Seneca, PA, drove up to Erie to pick up 7 cartons of these GO Boxes for her area. She insists that everyone who takes boxes makes sure each one is filled or returned to her and she's seeing phenomenal growth in Operation Christmas Child in her area through these boxes.

Each Area Coordinator receives a limited number of these and as they start to become more popular at churches here in Northwestern PA I'm afraid we won't be able to meet the demand.

The good news, though, is that these boxes are now available for purchase on the Samaritan's Purse website. You can order a carton of 100 boxes for $24.00 plus shipping which varies by zip code. To get them here in Erie the cost for shipping is $13.37 which I think is a great deal. You can order a minimum of 100 boxes or a maximum of 1,000 on the website. For orders over 1,000 you'll need to call to make arrangements.

Click here for more info on ordering these and make plans to pack and pray for a simple way to change lives around the world.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Erwin McManus

Getting ready for the last session "Chasing Daylight" and praying I'll be able to implement some of this awareness into our Operation Christmas Child team.

Erwin McManus--Chasing Daylight

There are moments in our lives when we're inspired to act and start looking for incremental changes when we need a total change of mindset. We need to have a different relationship with the future. Ecclesiastes 1--everything is meaningless.

One day in his living room Erwin said he was convinced Solomon was wrong in Eccles. 1. "There's nothing new under the sun." Erwin believes there is something new under the sun. Jesus said, "Behold I am doing a new thing."

Jesus says "you can't put new wine in old wineskins." God was an artisan as He created the world. Every human being is created in the life and image of God. When we live our lives alive in the creator of the universe we become God's instruments for creating the future.

Evil men do not wait for permission from God to create the future they have in mind while good people sit idly by waiting for God to create a better world. We can say God saved the world through Noah but we have a harder time saying Noah saved the human race.

After the post-modern world is whatever we choose. Why do we keep waiting for someone else to create a better future?

Where to focus to create the future God has in mind--

1) we need to become the cultivators of human talent so each person is developed to the furthest level When Moses was born he was no ordinary child and no ordinary child has been born on this planet. But most of us die painfully ordinary. The church should be the nurturer of the human spirit. What would happen if the world knew the Church as the epicenter of Christian creativity? "The moment I met Jesus Christ something came alive in me and I knew there were things still waiting to come but I was afraid to let them be expressed." There are a lot of people who are going to die with their dreams trapped inside of their souls. There is no conflict between human talent and the glory of God.

We need to become narrators of the human story. We used to be the best poets of the world. "When I came to faith I didn't know why I believed the Bible. I began doing an empirical study of the Bible to see if what it said about humans was true." We need to reclaim the truth-telling power of the gospel. (Example of Nathan telling a story to David to convict him of his sin.) We need a revival of great storytelling. Whoever tells the best story shapes the culture. Truth can be lost in a bad story and falsehood is spread in a good story.

It's not that hard to bring a person to Jesus when you tell them a story that they find themself in.

There's a future in the creative and if we nurture the wonder in every person people will be drawn to our communities. If we acknowledge that we are a mosaic that God's light shines through, we will find ourself in this new creative order because Jesus has come and He makes all things new.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Patrick Lencioni

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--another speaker to help us learn how to lead Operation Christmas Child teams.

Patrick Lencioni--his book is called "Getting Naked" about the power of vulnerability

I like to begin by making a few confessions--my personality doesn't lend itself to these types of big speeches; everything I'm going to cover you already know ("people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed")

Humility is rare and powerful. First job out of college--he was not never to admit he didn't have the right answer; never let the client seem smarter than you--

Then got a job at another company where you also had to pretend you knew everything.

Third job he was allowed to be genuine and it was liberating. Later began his own consulting group and decided to be 'naked' and honest with clients. The trust and loyalty response was amazing.

Definition of vulnerable--capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attach or damage; liable to increase penalties but entitled to increase bonuses in a game of bridge

Vulnerability runs counter to the desire in our culture to avoid discomfort at all costs.

Three fears that keep us from being vulnerable--
1) Fear of losing the business or being rejected--
how to avoid this--
enter the danger--best improv comes from walking right into the wacky conversation
speak the kind truth--sometimes there's terminal niceness in churches; people are desperate for the truth;

2) Fear of being embarrassed--when we're serving others we have to ask questions and make suggestions that may not be wise; when people know you're more interested in making them better, they invite you in; we have to celebrate our mistakes; when we acknowledge our humanity it is attractive

3) Fear of feeling inferior--The last thing we want to do is put ourselves in a lower position; we need to do the dirty work; show people you're willing to do whatever you're asking them to do; the example of Jesus washing the disciples' feet
--honor your clients' work; be more interested in what they do

vulnerability is attractive and powerful and yet it's not easy. It involves suffering and pain. Why do we do this 'vulnerability thing' even if we aren't rewarded for it? Because Jesus did it and calls us to it. In the moments when we don't get rewarded we need to say a prayer of thanksgiving and do it anyway.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--John Dickson

Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit waiting to hear more wisdom that will help me serve better with Operation Christmas Child.

John Dickson--Humilitas, A Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership

The character trait of humility has been a challenge for leaders for century. John Dickson had a defining moment at a young age when his father died in a plane crash. John is a thinker with a degree in theology and a Ph.D. in ancient history.

The fear of being the guy who talks about humility. There's a dilemma for anyone who would talk about humility in public. "I fell into the topic of humility by accident." I have developed a love/hate relationship with humility.

Humility is not humiliation or low self-esteem. Humility is the noble choice to forego your status and use your influence for the good of others before yourself. It's the humility to hold power for the good of others.

Humility makes the great greater and here are 5 reasons--

1) Humility is common sense--none of us is an expert at everything. Expertise in one area counts for very little in another. Competency extrapolation--think because you're bright in one area you'll be bright in another.

2) Humility is beautiful--we are more attracted to the great who are humble. In ancient Rome 'humility' meant servitude. Jesus created a humility revolution sparked by his crucifixion. Western culture has been profoundly transformed by the cross of Christ. Greatness and humility are now one.

3) Humility is generative--it generates new knowledge and new abilities because the humble person is open to knowledge. The scientific revolution is the result of the humility revolution. The humble place is the place of growth. Sometimes you learn something in the humble place you can't learn any other way. It's the place of flourishing. It's the criticism you know is true.

4) Humility is persuasive--Aristotle in his book "On Rhetoric" said there must be logos, pathos, and ethos. and ethos is the character of the persuader. "We believe good-hearted people to a greater extent and more quickly than we do others on all subjects in general." The most believable person in the world is the person you know has your best interests at heart.

5) Humility is inspiring--"When our ego won't let us build others up...we have stopped inspiring others to great heights." We admire those leaders who are not approachable but we don't emulate them. But those who humble themselves inspire us to be like them. We think they're like us and so feel we can be like them.

Leaders have 4 tools

Some of the most inspiring leaders in history had no authority but had much ability, character, and persuasion and people followed them. Sometimes you don't need the power or empires to make change--you need character and persuasion. You don't need the keys to the kingdom to impact the kingdom. You don't need to reclaim a Christian nation in order to win a nation back to Christ.

Humility is not just another leadership technique. At the center of everything is a cross and if that is true, the humble life is a life in touch with reality. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Dr. Henry Cloud

Getting ready to hear what Henry Cloud will say that can help me in leadership for Operation Christmas Child.

Dr. Henry Cloud--The Evil, The Foolish, The Wise

"That Guy" -- the problem person

Wherever you are, God has called you to be a steward over a vision for the specific reason of changing something in a community or a nation. Are you going to let "this guy" stop your vision?

What does a person do when the truth comes to them? That is the diagnostic question.

You make an assumption as a leader that you need to adjust whenever you receive feedback. But you cannot deal with every person you lead the same. You need to diagnose who you're talking to and deal with them appropriately so you won't lose your vision or your joy.

Three categories-- actually we all have all of these in our lives but some people make a career of one or the other

1) Wise--when the light comes to them the person adjusts themselves to match the light "Correct a wise person and he will be wiser still."
When you confront them, they thank you. David said, "A righteous man will strike me and it will be a blessing."
So talk to the wise--coach them--resource them
The challenge is to make sure they are a match for what you need.
Give them good feedback and coaching
Keep them appropriately challenged

2) Fools--when the light comes they adjust the light. They try to change the truth or shoot the messenger. They deny, minimize.
They are not happy to hear the feedback; may get angry.
Leads to hopelessness in the leader because the person being led won't own the problem.
"Do not correct a fool less you incur insults upon yourself."
Stop talking.
Talk about the pattern only "I don't know how to give you feedback in a way that changes anything. I've got to protect our vision. I've got to protect the culture of this team."
Set limits--limit your exposure "Tell me how I can talk to you and make a difference."
What will we do if I correct you and you don't change? Get specific about consequences
Fools change only when the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of changing.
Limit Exposure
Give clear consequences
Give them a choice
Follow through

3) Evil--destruction in their hearts; want to inflict pain "Reject a divisive person after a second warning"
Law Enforcement

God has called you to lead people and it's about getting the people to work the plan. Take the leadership challenge to not let someone's character problem stop the vision that God has called you to.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Michelle Rhee

Waiting to hear what the leader of education in Washington, DC has to say that will help with leading a team for Operation Christmas Child.

At the age of 37 with no superintendent experience Michelle Rhee was appointed chancellor of education in Washington, DC.

Experts have begun to believe failing neighborhoods might be the result of failing schools. Worst scores for reading--only 12% proficient. Michelle Rhee says "this district did not become this way by accident." She fired more than 30 school principals, closed 23 schools and cut 100 staff.

Michelle Rhee says the children in DC were being such a disservice and people were avoiding making decisions that needed to be made.

She says her father was always socially motivated and taught them their advantaged life was the 'luck' of their birth. In her senior year of college she had no idea what she would do and decided to work for Teach for America where she was assigned to inner-city Baltimore. Found out the hardest job is the world is being a classroom teacher. When they observed her classroom teaching they suggested she might want to make a career change. Two years later 90% of her students were proficient in reading and math!

That success was build on building a strong work ethic in the students and having longer school days and also engaging their parents. Second graders had 2 hours of homework every night. The hard work of the students paid off.

She then graduated from Harvard Business School and was asked to help schools learn to recruit and train new teachers. She founded the New Teacher Project to recruit teachers for rural and inner-city schools and retain them.

The biggest myth is that there weren't enough people willing to teach in inner-city schools but they found that was not true. The problem lay in how the schools operated and all the bureaucracy.

Fast forward to the problems in the DC school district where the school board was replaced and the mayor put in charge. Michelle said 'no' several times to the mayor's desire for her to become chancellor. Ultimately she took the job because the mayor was willing for her to do what needed to be done, no matter how hard, to turn the schools around. The mayor said he was willing to risk his entire political career.

When she started only 8^ of the 8th graders were on grade level for reading. Teachers were not paid on time. Textbooks were sitting in warehouses. They bought 6,000 computers and many of the classrooms did not even have 3 prong outlets to plug them into.

The first core problem she chose to address were organizational ones and then they invested in human capital by making sure each teacher and principal were the best possible. They closed 23 schools (15%) at the same time. Central administration office cut in half. Two-thirds of principals and 1000 educators removed.

She tried to create a different culture where each student was treated like their own. She sent her own children to DC public schools and didn't allow any policies that would be harmful to any child.

The term "snap" means you can see as soon as you go into the classroom if the teacher is being effective. They also wanted value-added teachers, meaning they would evaluate teachers on the basis of how much children were growing and improving. You measure the group at the beginning of the year and again at the end of the year to discern level of growth.

Michelle's mother said when she was young she never cared what people thought of her and now that trait is serving her well. Michelle says, though, that she'd rather deal with anger than apathy.

Asks Michelle to give advice on whether incremental change or revolution is best. Michelle says, "I'm not an incremental girl" and said they needed fast change because of the desperate need.

When the mayor was not re-elected Michelle's job came to an end. She notes that education has been driven by special interest groups and has no organized national interest group on behalf of students. So she started an organization called Students' First--a movement to reform education around the country.

Proverbs 31:8 -- speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Describes herself as an 'aspiring Christian' and says she is held back by watching other people and also because she is rational and linear and has a hard time relinquishing control and surrendering her life.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Bill Hybels #2

Bill Hybels is speaking on Tough Callings--

If we're not careful, we can believe that if we get better as leaders, then everything we lead will be successful. But what if God were to assign people to lead ministries that were important but unlikely to see any type of success. Would you be willing to lead something like that?

Think of how subtly addicted we as leaders are to growth and success. We're willing to step into leadership for success. Let's look at 3 stories of leaders who struggled.

Wess Stafford tells that Stephen Sundar was not able to get a visa to come to the US for the Summit so he will tell the story. This world is not our home--the Kingdom is upside down. The weak are strong. The servant is the leader. There will be great surprises in heaven when we discover the real heroes who were among us.

During Ethiopia people were starving and Christians were persecuted. The Church was forced underground. They had a deep hunger for the Word and were willing to talk for hours about it. They were bruised and scarred and Wess would feel like a boy among men.

Wess tells of a pastor who would not give up his faith under great persecution. His specialty was preaching at funerals, which was illegal. He was put in prison where he preached to the prisoners. They decided to electrocute him in the public square. They rigged up a crude device for this and when they threw the switch all the fuses blew and he survived. That night he preached in the prison again. The next morning they tried it again and threw the switch and again it failed. So they finally just released him. Wess met him a few hours later and the pastor was on his way to preach at a funeral. He told Wess that they pray for the suffering of those of us in the West who are so comfortable that we don't pray all day long or worship regularly. He told Wess that they tore up the only Bible they had and gave each person pages to memorize so they wouldn't be caught with it. During this oppression their church grew five-fold. Now Ethiopia is the channel for the growth of the Church in the middle east. When they are glorified in heaven, God grant that we would be somehow worthy to stand beside them.

Egypt--hot, surrounded by volatile nations, politically volatile. A group of people eke out their living by collecting garbage and recycling. Christians are shunned or persecuted by the Islamic majority. Maggie Gobran taught at the American University in Cairo and was when her aunt who served the poor passed away she was drawn to take her place.

She set up Stephen's Children to help the poorest of the poor with a holistic approach. Stephen's Children has 1400 staff members for 80 community centers. Children are fed, given health care, and a Christian education. Mama Maggie has been called the Mother Teresa of Egypt.

Maggie Gobran--
My soul magnifies the Lord for He has done great things for me. Story of a girl who she took to get shoes and the child instead chose shoes for her mother. "We don't choose where to be born but we DO choose whether to be sinners or saints--to be nobody or to be a hero. To be a hero, do what God wants you to do."

Egypt has had the highest number of martyrs in all history. Twenty-five years ago Maggie heard His call and took her step by step. First, as she read the Word she fell in love with the world. Jesus said, "My Words are spirit and life."

The second step was to sell everything. As the child of a doctor she had lived an affluent life. Later she learned to be elegant comes from inside--from love. And true love is to give and forgive--to give until it hurts.

She was teaching the brightest students in the country and God called her to the poorest of the poor. With God's grace she left everything and found Him waiting for her with a crown of love. "It's the moment when you die to yourself that you discover the beauty, the power."

The poor children are hungry for bread and for love. They are naked from lack of clothing but also lack of dignity. "When I touch the poor child, I am touching Jesus. When I listen to a poor child, I am listening to God's heart beating for all humanity." (Such a reminder of the work God calls us to in Operation Christmas Child) "We went to help them to have a better life, today they help us to be better people."

The third step is to have a pure heart and so she practiced the discipline of silence on a regular basis. In silence we discover eternity.

Secrets of silence--silence your body to listen to your words. silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts. silence your souls to listen to your heart beating. silence your heart to listen to your spirit. silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit. In silence you leave many to be with The One.

If God has chosen someone like me, believe me when I say I am the least of you here, He will do greater things in you.

Jeremiah (told by Bill Hybels)

God told Jeremiah to take His word to the godless people who had become corrupt and greedy. Jeremiah agreed and he thinks since he's doing it for God it will probably turn out well. But nothing goes well--no one will repent. One day he is beaten and tied up so people can spit at him and slap him. Jeremiah chapter 20 he gives God a piece of his mind "you deceived me. Cursed be the day I was born."

Jeremiah is torn between his calling and his ache for success. It's tearing him apart. Finally he decides to continue speaking God's words again. Now people throw him into a cistern and leave him to die. Some time later people had pity on him and get him out.

Jeremiah feels he has to give up his need for success so he goes out again to speak God's words and the people never change. One day the enemy comes to take everyone, including Jeremiah, into captivity and he then writes Lamentations. Writes out his disappointment and disillusionment but in Lamentations 3 he asserts "God's mercies were new every morning." He felt the sweetness of God's relationship underneath it all. In the end he says, "Great is Thy faithfulness."

Bill Hybels says "I had an easy calling, really. Got to lead a suburban church and people there already know how to lead. When we need a building built millions of dollars come in. My office looks like an office in any company and I drive a car like any CEO. I have had very little hardship."

If you watch on episode of news you know our world is broken. The fixes for these will take decades or lifetimes and God is looking for some strong-shouldered leaders who will be available. God is looking for someone who will take a tough calling.

Bill was on the board of World Vision and was on the selection committee to find a new president for the organization. Talked about the selection of Richard Stearns who left his job as CEO of Lenox to take this new challenge.
Bill asked him recently what the hardest thing is about leading World Vision and Rich said it's having your heart broken again and again and again.

Linda Lindhout, a reporter, who went to Somalia to report on what was happening there and while there she was kidnapped and held for 15 months. When released, God called her to go back to give humanitarian aid to the children of Somalia. She returned to serve there in Somalia.

"I stand in awe of leaders who get tough assignments." Bill gives a challenge to businesspersons and leaders to reach out and provide leadership for a tough calling of some sort in the community.

Jeremiah was asked by God to go buy a jar and then told him to gather a crowd. God told him to tell the crowd if they don't stop mistreating the poor I will smash their country and then smash the pot as an illustration of how they will be smashed. Jeremiah knew he would then probably be smashed. But Jeremiah takes a deep breath and smashes the jar and he's grabbed and beaten.

Take the piece of pottery you were given and write something on the clay to signify you're available for a tough calling.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Steven Furtick

Waiting to hear Steven Furtick talk about Audacious Leadership. Sure could use some of that for Operation Christmas Child.

God told Jeremiah he was not too young and Paul told Timothy to set an example even in his youth. The advantage to being young is you haven't lived long enough to know there are some things that can't be done. Other faculty will give you wisdom and I will give you the dumbness to believe God for anything.

Believing God for the impossible--as a high school junior he read pg. 23 in "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire" a quote about not letting life slip by without seeing God do what He can do on our behalf. Started Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC in 2006.

II Kings 3:9-20
Kings of Israel are pursuing their enemy. They shouldn't have any trouble getting victory but they ran out of water. (only God can make it rain). They hadn't inquired of God for a long time until the troubles came. Elisha asked for a harpist. (demonstrated by giving inspirational messages without music and then with stirring musical background. It's awesome when you're at a conference and the music is flowing.)

Praise God for inspiration but the real question is -- how to we get from inspiration to implementation. Elisha goes on to say, "This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain but you and your animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord."

(If your vision is not intimidating to you it probably isn't from God.)

Elisha's first ministry instruction is about digging some ditches. If you want to see the land filled with water, DIG SOME DITCHES.
Faith believes it before it sees it.

Life can beat the audacity right out of you. But some of you need the vision to know that God is not done with you yet.

Early days of their church they watched a video of mass baptisms being done at Willow Creek and used that as a "ditch digging" experience. When their church started their first baptism had 5 people.

The ambiguity "I know God can and I think He will."

They kept digging ditches and going to the next level--50 people and then 100 people. We're comparing our 'behind the scenes' to everyone else's 'highlights video'. You don't always see what God is doing while we're digging the ditches.

If you will dig the ditches, God will send the rain. And don't just dig one ditch--make the valley full of ditches.

When the vision around you doesn't look like what God has spoken to you, sometimes you just have to hold onto His Word.

Trust God and dig ditches.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Seth Godin

Waiting to hear Seth Godin (most popular blogger) and hoping to get some ideas to help advance Operation Christmas Child.

"Someone watching this today is going to change everything and do something that matters. Not because their boss told them to but because it's important."

Betty Crocker went on the radio and sold average products for average women. We grew up with the notion that we can promote an idea from a position of power. The idea of 'More'. TV industrial complex. Revlon were first TV ads for cosmetics and got more distribution and bought more ads, etc. in a circle--average products for average people.

One by one we see pillars of industry (recordings, newspapers, books) going away. Look at the variety of TV channels

Revolutions destroy the perfect and allow the impossible. We're seeing the death of the industrial age which is being replaced by an age of tribes (a group of people who share a culture).

Before the pin making machine a skilled craftsman could make 3-4 pins a day and after the machine someone off the streets could make thousands. Now anyone who has a while collar job has their hands on the world.

Art is the risky act of doing something you haven't done before for someone else. If you own the means of production there's no reason to hold back because you don't have a boss to be accountable to.

Assembly line=keep the line moving. Leadership isn't like that. Mass production leads to interchangeable people. We send people to school and teach them to fit in so we can ignore them.

Competence used to be important but is no longer a scarce commodity. It's no longer enough to be competent. The thing with the race to the bottom is you might win. If you can write it down, I can find it cheaper.

You must be distinctive. You need to learn to solve interesting problems Don't wait to be picked--pick yourself.

If failure is not an option than neither is success. You will do art and you will fail, because that's art.

The little voice in the back of your head (lizard brain) gives resistance and tells you to 'fit in'. Every revolution destroys what came before before it launches the new.

Art is giving gifts, not favors. "Knit a sweater out of that last strand of hope." Too many people are walking around holding onto something that's going to rot. We are constantly looking for a reason not to do our art--not to take the risk.

How many people want your platform, your seat, your chance to make something happen? Make art, give gifts, do work that matters, shift things, make a difference.

A 6 word invitation--we need you to lead us.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Rev.Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil

Courageous Leadership for Catalytic Times -- getting ready to hear from the next speaker at the Global Leadership Summit and hoping for some more inspiration for our Operation Christmas Child team.

time out for announcement--
Howard Schultz from Starbucks was scheduled to speak but a petition was started to boycott Starbucks if he spoke because the feeling was that Willow Creek is anti-gay. Howard decided to cancel his speaking engagement. Bill Hybels asserts that Willow is not anti-gay and is not anti-anybody. He explains that all people matter to God and anyone is welcome at Willow Creek. They let Howard out of his contract with no penalty. Write to starbucks.com and with genuine Christian love communicate to them that our churches are open to anyone and we'd love to have him back at the summit someday. Bill also recommends we read Howard's book, "Onward." Also pray for a possible meeting with the people who started the boycott petition to see if reconciliation is possible.

Courageous Leadership for Catalytic Times--

God has called us together to prophetically speak to us.

Brenda and her husband were invited by the Anglican Church to speak in Birmingham, England about the black church in America. A Jamaican woman there screamed at them and said, "Where have you been? Why didn't you come sooner?" God used that experience to humble her and to expand her world view. She started to become a global Christian.

(video of a catalytic event--Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier)

The difference between Chuck Yeager and others before him who'd only attempted it was that Chuck resisted the temptation to pull back when the shaking of the plane started and he pressed on to completion.

Young people are global by default because of Internet connections. How have you responded to that as a leader?

Acts 1:8--the initial catalytic verse that birthed the church. This clearly sets out our mission. The mandate is to take the gospel to the whole earth. Jesus seems to suggest that there's a movement outward.

First we begin in Jerusalem (our home turf--our comfort zone). This is where we have to face our bigotry. It's where we challenge the jokes being told or take the risk to start talking about the policies that are restrictive.

Judea--people look alike but have political or denominational differences. The divide that comes between the young and the old or the able-bodied and the differently-abled.

Samaria--people who are hostile to us, foreign to us, totally other. The neighborhood where you drive through and lock your doors. This is the place of sex trafficking, child labor, corporate greed, environmental injustice. This means moving outward and experiencing the outer borders. It takes a catalytic, spirit-filled leader to go to Samaria. You need the Holy Spirit to move you beyond your natural affinities.

A Catholic priest on the south side of Chicago was disturbed by products being advertised on billboards near the schools. This priest painted over the billboards.

It takes a catalytic event to move us. Without a catalyst we stay in our own homogenous communities. Acts 2 brings the catalyst. Their souls 'caught on fire' and they began speaking with such credibility in other languages and sounded so authentically inclusive. A multinational, multilingual CHURCH was being born. From the beginning the church was intended to be a global movement.

When fear comes in the church should stand up and say maybe God is using the economic crisis to bring us together. Maybe God is moving.

Are you ready to break through your 'sound barrier'. If so--
--Pray for a divine mandate--pray "God, break our hearts for what breaks Your heart"
--Name your catalytic events--stop and ask God how His spirit is moving in our community or our country
--Mobilize people to go!--so much cultural cross-pollenization available near us. Not looking for people who will go and 'help' but people who will go and learn.

Where's your Samaria? That's where Jesus is calling you. God is trying to move us out to the ends of the earth so how about we get started now.

I believe God wants to interrupt our previously scheduled programs. There's a catalytic event breaking forth right now. Holy Spirit send us forth ready to be a global community.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Mayor Cory Booker

We're getting ready to hear from Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ and looking for help in leadership for our Operation Christmas Child team.

He tells his father's story of being in school where the teacher asked anyone who thinks they're stupid to stand up. Finally, Booker's father stood up and said, "shucks, ma'am I don't think I'm stupid but I didn't want you to be the only one standing." The point is--you will face adversaries and bad things will happen but you must be willing to stand.

Before you can stand you need to understand that you are born as the result of a grand conspiracy of love. People stormed the beaches of Normandy for you. People scrubbed toilets and prayed for you. You eat lavishly from banquet tables prepared by your ancestors. Will you take your blessings and use them to move forward?

His parents introduced him to all the people who worked behind the scenes to give equality to all people and bring new freedoms.

Abraham Lincoln "each person is born an original but sadly most die copies." Don't let the world tell you who you are. Booker admits he still struggles with this.

We are the result of people who did not see the world the way others saw it. In the midst of slavery they saw freedom. In the midst of sweat shops they saw workers' rights. They had the courage to stand up and do something.

Cory walked up to the 5th floor of one of the projects in Newark as a law school student, knocked on the door, and told the woman he was there to help her. She took him into the middle of street and asked Cory, "tell me what you see around you," and he kept describing the problems of the neighborhood. The woman kept shaking her head and said, "You can't help me. You need to understand that the world outside will always be a reflection of what's inside you. If you can see hope and the face of God, then you can be someone who will help me."

Quote from Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see in the world." We have to live out what we want to see happen. The only way to make change in this world is to start with oneself. "If it is to be, it's up to me." Stand up with faith in God, in our nation's ideals.

Before you preach or teach show me in how you live and give who you are. So many things distract us from the 'right here' and the 'right now' such as materialism and 'televisionism'. Example of a man in a blighted neighborhood who used his stimulus check to buy a lawnmower and weed whacker and used them to mow and manicure an empty overgrown lawn where drug deals had been taking place. The drug dealers left and he became a hero in his community.

We are stars. If we don't live life brilliantly and dim our being we won't live luminously. We as people can bring light to the darkness and turn barriers to blessings and obstacles to opportunities.

Booker went to the funeral of a youth who was murdered who he had met and had a chance to impact. He wept afterwards and said "where were we, not for his death but for his life?" Are we evidencing our truth?

Having problems in his political life with not being able to make changes happen and he read the verses that said, "If you have the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains" and read the verses beneath that said you need to fast and pray. So he set up a tent as a place to fast and pray and he called a press conference to let people know what he was doing. Others came around and soon there were crowds. On the 10th day his political adversary, the mayor at that time, came out and Cory felt love for him and the mayor promised change. Because people stood together in humility and respect for those who preceded them, change happened.

There was strength as they stood together. The African saying "sticks in a bundle cannot be broken". "Wherever 2 or 3 are gathered together I am in the midst."

"Let us now stand up and tell our truth to a world that is yearning for it." In this world we don't always get what we pay for but we pay for what we get.

"Liberty and justice for all" must be a passion every day. If we stand like this, then we'll find a way to 'get to the roof'.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Len Schlesinger

Getting ready for the second session at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Hoping to learn something that will help our team mobilize more persons to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Len Schlesinger president of Babson College where they use the case study of Willow Creek Church in their studies of business.

Len's formula for business success
Find out who your customers are
Find out what they want
Give it to them

(We know children around the world want to know God loves them and so we're doing all we can to give them shoeboxes so they'll know that)

Getting from 'Here' to 'There'--
The problem of leading people somewhere else when they're comfortable where they are.
Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech is used as an example but no one talks about the 3-4 years it took for him to get people energized to receive the message of that speech.

You need to get people to understand the unacceptability of 'here' before they will move to 'there'.

A 'here' where people live in povery is unacceptable
A 'here' with an inadequate education system is unacceptable
A 'here' where we have too much food and can't get it to those in need is unacceptable
A 'here' where the young people can't look forward to a better future than their parents is unacceptable
(and a few more I couldn't get recorded)

What are we going to do about it?

Entrepreneurship can go a long way to providing for the future we aspire to achieve.

Successful entrepreneurs get 'writers' to write a book for them and tell their story in a more dramatic and disenfranchising way. So we get a skewed view of what entrepreneurs really are like. Most of those views are complete nonsense

Research about successful entrepreneurs shows
--low appetite for risk
--start without a sharply defined goal or vision
--distrust research that purports to predict the future
--don't usually come up with totally creative businesses
--not unusually self-confident
--are decisive but so are others
--sometimes and sometimes not egotistical

Family enterprises--the first generation creates, the second enjoys, and the third destroys

Large organizations who are unwilling to embrace entrepreneurship tend to disintegrate.

You cannot ride one business model through your life and career. You have to reinvent yourself 3-5 times in your career

We need to develop mechanisms who we can deal with challenges simultaneously instead of sequentially.

Peter Drucker says entrepreneurship is not magic; it can be learned.

Successful entrepreneurship requires you to forget everything you learned in school. History doesn't always predict the future.

1921 (someone) talked about the juxtaposition of risk and certainty. When you can't predict the future, you create it and that's what entrepreneurs do.

Think about being Indiana Jones--you fall in a hole, it's dark and you can't see. How do you get out? What do you do? What do you think about? First, look for what resources you have, take one careful step and assess, etc. Those are the rules for entrepreneurial action. In the face of unknowability what would rational action dictate?

--take small steps with what you have at hand
--limit the risk for each step
--build on what you find from taking that step
--build a team to help you

(the above steps are what it takes to pack a lot of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child!)

affordable loss--pay only what you can afford to and want to--how badly do you want to do something? You can 'enroll' people then to come alongside you.

What keeps people from doing this? Don't worry about what you're going to do--just think about what you want to do NEXT. Focus on where you are before you take the next step.

We're afraid of taking action because of fear of failure. Only over the last 100 years have we intermingled organizational failure with personal failure. Failure rate of venture capital endeavors is 61%. Failure doesn't mean 'game over' it means try again with experience.

Instead of failure, call it an exercise in learning what no one else knows.

To be an entrepreneur--
--Know what you want
--Start with the means you have
--Be alert to what you are getting
--Take steps based on your means and what you want to pay
--It's not what you're going to do but what you're going to do next.
--Bring other people with you and remain flexible in what you do and how you do it.

This will take us from 'Here' to 'There'

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Bill Hybels

Blogging my notes today from the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. I'm attending via satellite at Grace Church in Erie, PA and I'm here to try to learn how to better lead the Operation Christmas Child Northwestern Pa Area Team. The first talk was given by Bill Hybels--

Bill Hybels—5 important leadership questions for today

1) What is your current challenge level at work? appropriate (enough to do but not too much); underchallenged (not enough to keep busy); dangerously overchallenged (can’t keep up with all you have to do)

Where do you think you do your best work as a leader” (according to above scale) --research shows you do your best when a little above appropriately challenged. This is similar to the physical challenge of building muscles.
Application: For senior leaders—try to demand more of yourself if underchallenged and reduce demands if overchallenged. It’s important to replenish your leadership bucket regularly. Stress causes your performance to increase at first but then performance will fall dramatically and you can crash. At the same time you don’t perform well if underchallenged.
For colleagues—Have people identify where they are on this scale so you are informed. Underchallenged people leave their jobs. Overchallenged people can break down.
It is possible for our entire organization to fall into one of these dangerous categories of being overchallenged or underchallenged.

2) What is your plan for dealing with challenging people in your organization?
The line exercise—if we had a 50% revenue drop and we had to eliminate employees, who would you eliminate first.? List by order of those you’d eliminate from first to last. Those you’d eliminate first—investigate the reasons for that. This brings clarity to leadership questions.
Leading difficult people—
Fantastic Fred—spreading a bad attitude. How much time are you going to give him to get an attitude adjustment? (varying answers. One pastor in Ireland said “your first bad day would be your last day.” A pastor in France said, “If I didn’t tolerate people with bad attitudes I wouldn’t have anyone working for me.”_
--should investigate bad attitudes immediately to find reasons; how can we help?; needs to be resolved in 30 days (Bill Hybels’ view—find your own view)
Underperformers—“laborer not worthy of his hire”—how long do you let this go on? Talk with them as soon as identified and resolve within 3 months. Put on a performance improvement pain.
Leader no longer qualified because the organization demands more talent elasticity—can’t fulfill new duties so allow 6-12 months to resolve this.

a) If you don’t deal with the above, you demoralize all the others in your organization.
b) Challenging people are not really happy people and will often be happier when they move on.

3) Are you naming, facing, and resolving the problems that exist in your organization?—by not naming the problems you never address them or resolve them. Acts 2-4 the problem of food inequities arose. In Acts 6 the leaders addressed the problem, formed a team to solve the problem and thus built trust and experienced more church growth.

New programs accelerate and then can peak and begin decelerating. These areas need to be addressed and new ideas, programs or initiatives developed to invigorate them.

4) When is the last time you reexamined the core of what your organization is all about?— What business are we in? Can we describe our mission on a T-shirt? (The church is in the life transformation business. Only the power of the Gospel can do this. An exercise—draw a circle and in it write 5 words (no God words) that explain the central message of Chrisitanity. Willow Creek still in the process of trying to define this but Bill Hybels uses these words: love, evil, rescue, choice, restoration and he used them to present the message of the gospel.

5) Have you had your leadership bell rung recently:--Has any book or crisis rocked your leadership world? Story of a leader in Thailand who stood up in front of a group of Christian leaders and challenged them with a plan to win one million to Christ in their country in the next 5 years. We need to renew our boldness in leadership. “If you are sick enough of being stuck you would do whatever it would take to get unstuck.” Don’t make excuses instead of doing the bold work of solutions. Your job as a leader is to move an organization from ‘here’ to ‘there’ and if you don’t believe that anymore, step aside. Bill told a story of the founders of the Global Leadership Summit who got together and made a pact that their next 5 years of leadership would be their best. We can decide if we want to give God our absolute best for the next 60 months. How you finish is how you will be remembered so finish well.

A call to decision and prayer.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Faithful Church

Back in 1993 when Operation Christmas Child was just getting its start in the United States, Fellowship Baptist Church was built here in Erie County, PA. The church previously met for more than a dozen years in the local YMCA and they were thrilled when God blessed them with this beautiful building on 14 acres of wooded property.

In 1994 Fellowship Baptist was one of only two churches in Erie County to participate in OCC and they’ve continued over these years to faithfully pack gift-filled shoeboxes to minister to children around the world as one of our two longest-standing church partners.

Over the years they experienced, as many churches do, some divisions that reduced their membership greatly. Still, because of their faithfulness and sacrificial giving this small core were able to pay off the mortgage and make repairs to their building. They kept the church cleaned and maintained on their own.

And they continued their faithful service to OCC and other mission endeavors. They ran a large youth group with 40 or more students—a number often greater than their total Sunday morning attendance. In 2010 these faithful few packed 228 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child—a total larger than most churches ten times their size.

On Easter Sunday of 2011 a church of their denomination on the other side of the county called Grace McKean formed a satellite church named Grace Harborcreek and began holding services in the high school just a few miles away from Fellowship Baptist.

Because they were worshiping in a school, Grace Harborcreek struggled to find a space to begin youth ministry. So a faithful group of youth from Grace McKean began fervently praying for God to provide a space for their counterparts in Harborcreek.

During this time the folks from Fellowship Baptist were also praying for the new church in their community and the Lord began to lead members of Fellowship to donate their building and land to Grace Harborcreek.

Could this be God’s calling? That the beautiful land God gave to them and the church they sacrificed to build and maintain should now be given away?

After continued prayer for confirmation, Fellowship Baptist affirmed what they’d held to all these years—their faithfulness was to God alone. The building and land they’d stewarded so well belonged to Him and since they believed He called them to pass it on to a new church, they would be obedient. Their investment in His Kingdom would continue.

The agreement to give and receive this property with a value of $900,000 has been accepted by both churches but the transaction has not been finalized yet. The small group of Fellowship Baptist members still meets for worship on Sundays and they continue to gather items for their Operation Christmas Child packing party this fall. They’re planning to pack more than 200 boxes again this year.

In a society that values ‘bigger and better’ it’s important to remember that there’s not a special place in heaven for pastors or members of mega churches. There are, however, rewards for the faithful.

No matter the size of our church or the number of shoeboxes we pack, obedience and faithfulness are what bring joy to the Father.

Though the faithful at Fellowship Baptist have regifted the land God provided for them in 1993, He’s preparing new land for them. “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me;” Psalm 101:6a (ESV)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meeting Faithful Amaya

God blessed me in a special way today because I got to meet my sweet OCC friend Amaya and her family. Last fall my friend Sarah told me about a blog she'd read about six-year-old Amaya's desire to pack lots of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Amaya's mom (also named Sarah) could have easily squashed Amaya's vision by telling her that the family would pack boxes together or that they didn't have time for an extra project or that she should wait until she was older or....(you get the idea).

But Sarah and Chris Latello want to raise their children to pursue big dreams and help them to know that we have a big God. So they encouraged Amaya to make some homemade Christmas ornaments and launched a blog and Facebook campaign for Amaya to sell them to finance her shoeboxes.

In the end, Amaya packed 37 boxes and totally financed the $7.00 per box suggested shipping for them. Her story was told in a blog on the Samaritan's Purse website (click here to see that) and was also mentioned in the Operation Christmas Child special report that is sent to donors at the end of the season.

Today the Latellos are on their way to their vacation in Massachusetts and blessed me by stopping to meet me at the Erie Chick-fil-A where I got to hug Amaya (now age 7) and meet her parents and her sister Paige (age 6) and her brother Jaxson (age 5). I got to hear stories of God's faithfulness in their lives and how He's blessed their one-year-old auto repair business which I KNOW is really a ministry. Sarah and Chris are dedicated to helping provide financial help to families who are adopting children and are determined to use every avenue God gives them to support the ministries He brings into their lives. They have modeled faith in God by pursuing His dreams in their lives and it's reaping big rewards in the lives of their children. You can click here to read Sarah's blog "Are We There Yet?"

I've been inspired by Amaya to remember that God is bigger than we can imagine and that all He wants is our faithfulness. Our faithfulness may mean packing one shoebox to bless a child in Jesus' name or it may mean stepping out in faith to see God multiply our efforts and pack hundreds of boxes or thousands of boxes.

When we are faithful to the call of our faithful God the possibilities are endless.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Who's Counting?

My work packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes involves a lot of counting. Today is an exciting day because I met my crayon count. Since Toys R Us had an ad this week with Crayola crayons on sale at 4/$1.00 I was able to get WalMart to price match their ad. By God's grace WalMart had lots of crayons on the shelves so I only had to go to 2 stores to get the 1400 I wanted this week. This is a great answer to prayers prayed by my team and now we should have enough to put a bag of 8 crayons in each box we pack at our packing party on September 24th. Any extras we have donated will be used in case we pack more boxes than we anticipate and, guess what--this ALWAYS happens.

Last week I ordered 24,000 pens and they arrived at Grace Church on Thursday--the one day I was out of town. The staff at the church was great about unloading them from the truck and I'm excited because the quality of the pens is great. Now I only need about 5,000 more pens (yes, I AM counting).

The 1,000 pencils I got at Staples last week for a total of only $1.25 by using my teacher's card gets us half-way to the goal. I think we just need 15,000 more.

And God is filling up the Ark week by week. Last week's total was 550 and Hill Memorial United Methodist Church in Bradford, PA has a bunch that they collected at their VBS last week also. I'd say we only need about 3000 or 3500 more.

In the middle of all this counting, a friend whose daughter had brain surgery this week reminded me that God counts our tears. How amazing! My tears usually run like rivers, don't yours? Only the God of the universe could see and count each one. Every tear I cry alone is known to Him.

Every tear cried by a child in the world who is hungry or abandoned or lacking even what we consider basic necessities of life is seen and counted by our loving God. And because He loves us so much He gives us the opportunity to join Him in bringing hope and joy and turning many of the tears of those children into smiles. That's something that really makes life count.

Who's counthing? God is!