Tuesday, August 28, 2012

31 Days of Packing Party Blessings

31 days from right now we'll be finishing the September 28th Operation Christmas Child youth packing party and on the eve of our regular September 29th packing party.

So tonight I'm starting a countdown of 31 Packing Party Blessings that God has given to provide for these 20,000 simple gifts.

This first one may seem strange because it goes back to spring of 2011 but I'm convinced that without the 2011 Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference there may have been no 2012 packing party in my future.

I arrived at that conference discouraged and so close to quitting on OCC that it's painful to remember.  You can read my post about it here.

Though I didn't hear an audible voice, God spoke to me in clear ways in those few days and used them to encourage me and solidify my call to Operation Christmas Child.   I'm not sure I would have been looking toward this 31-day countdown to the packing party without that conference.

This leads me to the reminder of how many of us are in dry places right this minute.  For all you know, someone in your sphere of influence today might be in that place of discouragement.  You could bring the word that will keep that person going so he or she can fulfill God's plan.

Say the Word.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Prayed-For Paper

In my last post I established that angels sometimes use US mail.  Well, today I learned they also use pick-up trucks.

I've been praying for months for paper for our Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing party.  We needed 400 reams to be able to put a packet of 10 sheets of paper in each of our 20,000 boxes.

For the past month or so I still needed 180 more reams (18 cases) of paper.  And I've been praying.

About two weeks ago I got a message from a Facebook friend who said her husband's work might be willing to donate paper but he needed to get the donation approved by one more person.  Our prayer team went to work and the prayer request was sent out.

I received joyous news that the request was granted and we'd be getting "18 boxes" of paper.  I didn't really ask specifically if that meant 18 cases and I was afraid to believe that we really had all the needed paper until I actually saw it.

Well, I now believe.

We made arrangements to meet at the storage container at 9:30 this morning and Lorelei and her husband Chuck were a bit early.  "We have more than 18 cases," Chuck said.  "You might not have room for all we brought."

When he unsnapped the cover on the truck bed and I gazed on all those beautiful cases of paper my heart nearly stopped.

Chuck glanced inside the almost-full container and said, "We can take some back if you don't have room for it."

"Oh, no," I replied, "we'll find a place for it.  I'm not letting you take any of this back."  And I wasn't kidding.  We moved things around and my husband showed up just in time to help us load what turned out to be 30 cases of pristine paper into the container.

Chuck blessed us with a testimony of how he views his job as his mission field and we talked of the possibility of inviting his boss to the packing party.  Then we all gathered in the container, laid our hands on those cases of paper, and through my tears I thanked God for answering our prayers for paper and asked Him to prepare the hearts of the children who will receive it to know His love.
I prayed a blessing on Chuck's ministry at his work, too, and Lorelei and I wiped our tears and exchanged hugs before they left.

In the past week God's covered our need for pencils and given us almost twice as much paper as we needed.

Even 30 cases of paper isn't enough to record all His amazing blessings.

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Angel From Colorado

I could get used to finding cartons of gifts for our Operation Christmas Child boxes on my doorstep when I arrive home.

Today it was two cartons from the sister of my online friend in Colorado.  She sent huge boxes that included 63 pencil cases, 25 fashion pencil & eraser sets, 22 packages of pencil top erasers, 47 colorful deluxe pencil sharpeners (these always seem like such a wonderful luxury item to me because I can't afford one for each box), and 576 pencils to top it all off.

Not only that--she also sent a generous gift of cash to help with the shipping costs.  This is something I pray for constantly because Samaritan's Purse asks for a donation of $7.00 per box for shipping and the $11,000 we were able to send last year isn't close to that.

I pray for God to provide for every need of Samaritan's Purse and today's gift was one more step in that provision.

Best of all was the note she sent (pictured above) in which she dedicates her gift in honor of her granddaughter "who will never be in need of a pencil if I can help it."

Another gift from miles away that God used to speak encouragement and love into my heart today.

Beth, I think YOU are an angel.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blessings From Afar

 Look at the great packages I found today when I got home from school.  Two came from my friend Heather in Iowa and two from my friend Diane and her buddies in Colorado.

I love how God is bringing these blessings to me from across the country for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

On Monday 10 cartons arrived from Heather in Iowa.  She told me months ago that she'd love to send donations to help with our packing party if we ever found anyone coming through Iowa who could pick them up.  Well, one of our team members made a connection a week ago and last Friday sweet Heather made a two-hour drive from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids to deliver those cartons containing not only toys but 6000 more pencils and a promise of 2000 more to come.
Here are the cartons that came from Heather today with more toys and beautiful socks and tote bags.

And when I opened the cartons from Diane in Colorado, this is what I found--some pristine Beanie Babies and another 1440 pencils.

Speaking of pencils--less than a week ago I lacked 23,000 of them.  Then came Heather's 6000 and Diane's 1440 and another 1700 from Terri.  I also ordered 10,000 pencils online--the cost of half of them was covered by donations made by the children and adults of Hill Memorial United Methodist Church in Bradford, PA who made buying pencils their VBS mission project.

So now, if my count is right, I have over 36,000 of them.  And Heather has another 2000 coming my way.  And I hear there's another box with pencils coming from Colorado in my future.

In just a week God's moved us almost to that goal of 40,000 pencils.

And today my friend Ellen (who was in charge of collecting money and pencils for the VBS I mentioned above) told me she heard that each pencil can provide 35 miles of writing.

This means 40,000 pencils will give 1,400,000 miles of education and communication and joy.

These blessings from afar will go far indeed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Coming to Know

Being a volunteer Area Coordinator for the Operation Christmas Child ministry in Northwestern PA brings many leadership challenges which I find daunting.
I call this my Operation Christmas Child journey and it truly is a journey.  Sometimes I struggle with knowing the destination.  Will there come a time when my packing of boxes is over?  When will that be?  How will I know?  There are so many children waiting that it seems like there would never be a reason to stop.

And maybe that's true.  But lately I've been hungering to know that I'm definitely following His will--especially in this large endeavor of mounting a community-wide packing party to pack 20,000 gift-filled shoe boxes for needy children around the world.

Several things have come up lately that make me wonder.  Are they just obstacles to overcome or is God trying to push a door closed?  I get confused about things like this a lot, which I partially attribute to my perfectionistic nature.

So yesterday I was reading in Genesis 15 and Abram's desire to know seems to have a strong parallel with mine.

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lordhow can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old,along with a dove and a young pigeon. 
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age.

In verse 8, Abram wants to know HOW he will know.  Oh, yeah, Abram, I know just how you feel.

So God tells him to get his offering and lay it out, and I feel like that's what we do with our shoebox offerings.  We collect them and we lay them before the Lord.

Then in verse 11 the birds of prey come against that offering and Abram has to spend all his energy protecting it.  Would it be a stretch to say that the discouragements that come our way are a bit like those birds of prey?  I feel like I've been fighting off some vultures lately.

In verse 12, exhausted, Abram falls into a deep sleep and a dreadful darkness (the NAS says 'terror and great darkness fell upon him) which doesn't sound like a very restful sleep at all.  

But after all the struggle and the darkness, THEN he hears God's voice telling him, "Know for certain...." and detailing the promise that will come.  Even though it will come for his descendants after 400 years of more struggle.  Yikes!  Maybe I don't really want to know the promise for the future.  

But I do want to hear God's voice for me in this time.  So I'm going to lay out my offering and I'm going to fight to protect my offering and I'm going to wait to hear Him even out of the terror and darkness.  

Because I want to know for certain....

(To find out more about Operation Christmas Child, go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ )

Friday, August 10, 2012

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Bill Hybels--Closing Session

Last presentation at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit where I've spent the last two days trying to learn some leadership skills for leading my Operation Christmas Child team==

The local church is the hope of the world!

Your participation in this summit is the fulfillment of a 17-year-old vision.  Everyone wins when a leader gets better.  I've never looked on the Summit as a hit or miss affair.  My vision has been that every serious leader would realize we need an annual heart check.  My dream is that every leader would say the Summit is non-negotiable.  I'm going to fix what needs to be fixed so I can someday tell God I did my absolute best.

To my knowledge nothing like this has ever happened in our world.  It's within our grasp.

Matthew 16:18--Jesus said, "I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."  Jesus will not let us fail.

Google of "The local church is the hope of the world." had 251 million hits on google.  A portion of those were in disagreement.  The first 18 years of my life if I'd given a quote about the church it would have been, "hopeless."   Growing up I saw a lifeless church.  I knew I'd only at best be minimally engaged in the church for the rest of my life.   Our church was so hopeless I wanted to protect people from coming to it.

Then from age 18-35 I started feeling more hopeful.  A professor at Trinity College impacted me by talk of a community totally devoted to God who took their meals together and became open and vulnerable with each other.  Bold prayers were prayed.  Signs and wonders were happening.  Dr. B. would say, "Why can't there be such a community of faith in our culture.  In our day.  And why can't someone in this class give up their life plan and set out to building one."  For the first time in my life I was seized by a vision.  Vision propels people forward who would normally be satisfied with the status quo.  People live for vision and more often than not people die for vision.  Without vision, people die.  I got seized with the vision of what the Church could be and I wound up walking away from the script of my life and vowed I would not go to my grave without playing some kind of a role in seeing this vision happen.

I moved to help a friend build a youth group in Park Ridge, IL.  Years ago I wrote a book called "Rediscovering Church" and wrote a chapter called "The Wonder Years" because there were so many signs and wonders in 36 months.  The group grew from 25 to 1000 students.

I taught 15-year-olds how to be filled with the Holy Spirit and how to find their spiritual gifts.  I taught them about the beauty of community.  I taught them about the explosive power of the message of Christianity.

We decided to put an outreach night on the calendar and fasted for that night.  When the night came the room was packed and after the music I laid out the core message of Christianity--saving grace.  God loves you.  About 200 students responded to the message.  I had never seen the power of God transforming lives as I did in that moment.  We counseled students until well after midnight and when I locked up the church my knees buckled and I said to God, "I'll keep doing this if You keep doing that."  And God whispered back--there is so much more where that came from.  I struck my covenant with God that night and we were to see so much more.

A few years later we saw the birth of Willow Creek in a movie theater.  Then we saw the purchase of this property as people gave everything and stood in line to take out bank loans.

15 years into the development of Willow Creek I was in an airport and saw two boys about 7 and 9 years old fighting.  He had to leave them to get on the plane and God told him on the plane to think about the future of the little boy throwing the punches.  Think what he'll turn out like.  If he's using fists at age 9 will he be using knives and then guns and end up in jail and hell.  God asked him what could change the trajectory of that child.  Will government pass a law or business create a product that will transform that boy's hate-filled heart?  No.

So the thought came with clarity--the only thing will change the trajectory of that child's life is for some fired-up Christ follower to show God's love to him and chase out the hate in his heart.  A church who will embrace him and invite him into a healing community.  I came to the rock solid conviction that because the power of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can change a human heart....that means the local church is the hope of the world.

The next day I went to work different.  If the local church is the hope of the world, then we have to get Willow Creek to reach its fullest potential.  Each attender matters because they are the church.  Everyone needs to make a maximum contribution.  People need to step up and lead and teach and shepherd and we need to teach everyone to give and serve.

Over time we'll see the darkness give way to the light and love of God.  Will the local church, the hope of the world, be able to sustain itself until the end of time?  Don't answer too quickly.

The hope is Who is sustaining it and protecting it and that is none other than Jesus Himself.  Dr. B. used to say this is the only thing Jesus is doing between now and the end of the earth.

I hope you understand that one of the greatest privileges of life is when Jesus taps you on the shoulder and says, "I have a critical role for you to play and one of the reasons I redeemed you was for you to step into this critical role. I need you.  Will you join me as we build my church?"

If you've ever felt that prompting, for God's sake, how do you say "no"?

Every day we should commit ourselves to God with a "Morning Prayer" of commitment.  What if we prayed this every day and did what God whispered to us to do?

What if the 60,000 leaders who are part of the Global Summit prayed this every day?  The gates of hell would melt away and the church would prevail in ways the world has never witnessed.  I for one am aching to see this and I hope you are as well.

I thought long and hard about how to close the Summit this year and the only consistent whisper I heard from God was to call people to join in the building of the church--the hope of the world.  (Take card with printed Morning Prayer)

Group reading and commitment to The Morning Prayer as follows:

My Morning Prayer

God, this is a new day.  I freshly commit myself to the role you have invited me to play, as you are building your church in this world.  I am awestruck again today that you include me in this grand life-giving, world-transforming, endeavor.  So today I joyfully offer you:
I commit all of myself to the role you have assigned me in the building of your church so that it may thrive in this world.  And I will "bring it" today.  I will bring my best.  You deserve it.  Your church deserves it.  It is the Hope of the World.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Geoffrey Canada--Changing The Odds

Waiting to hear more about leadership that can make a difference in the world through Operation Christmas Child at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--

Q & A with Geoffrey Canada

--You often use the word contamination to describe your work in Harlem.  Could you define that?
There are many places in our nation that we have allowed to become areas of hopelessness.  Despair rules and young people who grow up there have no way of knowing right from wrong.  They are contaminated with negative values and principles.  We need to counteract this with positive in enough children to make a tipping point.

What you have to do is change the neighborhoods.  You have to go block by block with a strategy for change.  Started with one block in Harlem and then went on and by the third block people began to believe change might be possible.

--So you start with parents during pregnancy and go all the way up?
When you raise a child there is no time that you can't be a good parent.  So you need to start from birth to offer support.

--In addition to the education what else do you offer?
People in my business are okay with education but not on board with medical and other support services.  What decent person would withhold services from children if they can be provided?  This should not be thought of as exceptional.

--We've got many leaders listening around the world.  What is this tipping point?
We think in our communities a culture begins to take place that works against any positive change taking place.  The culture gives negative messages working against the positive messages in education.  The culture needs to be changed so 65-75% of the culture has the same positive values and they can be reinforced in the child.

--You've used the phrase 'against all odds' to describe your life.  What's that about?
He came from the South Bronx where the odds were against you getting out of the neighborhood alive.  Places where young people are considered extraordinary for surviving should be changed to make their odds of success the same as those for all children.

My mother was determined that I would read and be highly educated.  My grandmother decided she was gonna save my soul.  At age 6 or 7 she talked with me about God and she passed away before she knew she had saved my soul.  That woman saved my soul.

--You and your team launched this experiment in Harlem.  What success did you see right away?
Here's one of the problems.  Failure when noone knows who you are can be dealt with quietly.  But when you make a bold vision it's harder to deal with.  We invested time and money and the schools showed poor results in data.   One of the most difficult things is to work really hard and fail publicly.  What you want to do is scale down the vision and not take a chance again.  Admitting failure and promising to try twice as hard to succeed was difficult but we had to do it.

--You had to make some staffing changes. Do you regret not doing that sooner?
It was a mistake.  I wanted to give them another chance.  We sometimes forget who we're actually working for.  We think we're working for the staff instead of the kids.  The kids didn't get a second chance.  The idea I could wait and hope people would get batter was wrong and something I learned the hard way.

--Many of our listeners have faced situations with key donors.  You had donor pressure to change your school philosophy. How did you handle that?
I did not get into this business to make money.  There's a line where the money detracts but it's hard to see how getting money is going to hurt you.  When those who give the money try to assert control you have to stick to your values.  If I had begun to water down the vision it would have destroyed my program.  Sometimes not taking the money is the smartest thing to do.

--How has your leadership style changed?
My compassion has grown as I've understood how complicated this is.  I also feel a stronger sense of urgency.  I think we've lost our way and can't afford to lose another generation.  I don't think we have time to wait.  So I've become more impatient with failure and I believe you have to build an organization that can tackle the tough things and keep moving.  When we want to get something done (like put a rover on Mars) we can do it.  We need to focus on this as our core mission.

--Who will succeed you?
Corporations need to have a succession plan.  I was stuck with this idea of how the work would be carried on.  This institution belongs to the students and they need to have leaders who will have an even better opportunity for success than I.

--You've been pursuing this for a long time.  Surely there must have been times you wanted to quit. What would you say about staying the course?
Through most of my career no one knew who I was.  In those dark times I believe we are only a moment in a path toward what I expect to be victory.  I know that my family came to America as slaves and for hundreds of years they were waiting for things to get better but they kept fighting.  When I think of role models I think of those who got no credit but never gave up.  If you can use that as a way of seeing your struggle, there's something about fighting for the right cause that gives satisfaction.

--How does faith play a role in your life?
Many in his family are ordained.  I grew up in the 60s and lost faith in the church because the church wasn't making a difference in the world around him. It looked like a big con job.  My grandmother taught me a profound lesson about faith.  She said, "It's easy to have faith when everything is going great but the real test of faith is when you're faced with something where only your faith will keep you believing in God." I said I need to step back and look again at this.  I've never lost this sense that we can test it but in the end if you have faith it will pull you through anything.

--What are you last comments?
The thing I worry about it that people are watching us all the time.  This issue of our moral compass is crucial.  You need to be on top of your game.  Why do people wait until they get to be leaders and then decide to fall into moral failure?  Every time a leader falls into failure it hurts all leaders by making people lose trust.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--John Ortberg--A Leader of Unimaginable Influence

Getting ready for more leadership advice to help in my Operation Christmas Child team at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--

I want to start by giving you a leadership challenge.  Suppose you wanted to change the world so much that in 2000 years your birthday would be celebrated by the whole world.  What would you do?

Jesus' movement grows even though his leaders are leadership challenged.  Jesus' influence endures in spite of those who oppose Him and often in spite of those who claim to follow Him.

Wherever you are on your faith journey you have to ask yourself who was this man?

Most people simply have no idea of the impact Jesus has had on our world in every sphere of life.  We need to marvel at Jesus.  There are many people who don't know Him now but might become admirers of His and then maybe followers.

So let's marvel at Jesus--

It would be hard to choose a less likely candidate to rule the world.  His followers were ordinary men, yet 2000 years later it's impossible to imagine the world without Him.

--Jesus gave the world its most influential movement --imagine the world with no church or church leaders.  Col. 3:11 "Christ is all and in all."  Where before the church was there a movement that sought to include every human being to be a single transformational community?  Look at all the disparate people God can bring together.  As a matter of historical reality the Church began with an impoverished crucified carpenter.

By the 6th century a Scythian monk proposed a calendar based on the life of Jesus.  Jesus was called by his disciple John "The Lord of Lords and King of Kings".   When he had such a small group of followers this claim seemed laughable.  If you had to bet which would last longer--Jesus or the Roman Empire you would not bet on the carpenter.  Every ruler who ever reigned must be dated in reference to the life of Jesus.

Jesus changed how the world expressed compassion.  Usually good works were ways to express the rich man's greatness.  In the ancient world a child was killed for being born weak or of the 'wrong' gender--girls were often left to die. But there was this little group of followers of Jesus who began to take in abandoned children and then created orphanages.   These changes were so amazing that one book about them is entitled "When Children Became People."
Widows were taken in and cared for by the Church.  Jesus began a revolution in the rights of women that changed the world.  People began to care for the sick because Jesus cared for them and said, "Whatever you do for the least of these you do for Me."  Hospitals were created by Christ followers.  When you see organizations that care for others you see the touch of Jesus.  Who is this man?

Jesus' movement shaped education.  In the ancient world formal education was reserved for male children in elite families.  But the Church followed a man who taught everybody so they began to teach men and women--slave and free.  For many centuries monastic communities were the only ones preserving classical texts.  Many universities were started by Christians.  University of Oxford motto, "The Lord is my light."   It was people who loved Jesus who found languages that had not been committed to writing and they developed alphabets and primers.  No other book in history is translated in 1/5th of the languages as the Bible.  Who is this man?

The basis of the arts were attributed to Christ followers.  No transcendent story or vision has gripped the arts like that of Jesus.

The Jesus movement changed political fury.  "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."  Politics and government had been the province of the rich and powerful.  What if the main association people had between Christians and politics were of people who believed what their leader said, "My Kingdom is not of this world?"

Jesus brought from Israel to the rest of the world a new way of thinking about God and love.  Sooner or later human arms grow weak but Jesus said God is like a Father whose arms are filled with love for the whole world.  Gal. 3:28 "You are all one in Christ Jesus."  This is the expression of egalitarianism from human literature.

Jesus uniquely taught love of enemies.  When He died it was written that He said, "Father forgive them," and His followers remembered that and they began to die the same way.  Who was this man?

Martin Luther King was inspired by Jesus.  Who is this man?

The real question is: Who IS this man?  The reason we must marvel at this man is His work is not done yet?  This world is waiting for a fresh manifestation of this Man.  What might happen if somehow the Jesus impact on your world would be greater than ever before?

Still the call comes, "Follow me."  Will you be that man.  Will you be that woman.  Will you devote yourself to His cause?  He is the Son of God.  He is the Glory of Humankind.  He is the Hope of Nations and the Savior of theWorld and THAT;S who this man is.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Mario Vega--Leading Through the Anguish of Tough Decisions

Waiting to hear Mario Vega (in  Spanish) at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--

Today's theme is based on Scripture in I Samuel 15:34 - 16:1   This account takes us back to 1000 bc.  The age of iron was coming to an end and the people groups were building powerful monarchies.  Israel was governed by tribal chiefs that ruled over small groups.  There had been no clear leader to rally the people into one united kingdom and Israel had relief exclusively on God for protection.

The people wanted to become a monarchy and build a mighty army so Saul became the first king.  Samuel played an important role in the appointment of God as king.  Saul was humbled in his early years and Samuel was endeared to him.  Samuel was proud of Saul in his role as king but on one occasion Saul deliberately disobeyed God and was carried away by greed and stole some cattle as spoils of war.  Saul tried to hide this--saying it was an offering to God.  But God wanted obedience and not sacrifice;  to walk in integrity was more pleasing to Him than riches.  '

So God no longer viewed Saul as qualified to be king.  You may think God was too harsh in rejecting Saul for one moment of disobedience but there are defining moments that reveal a man' inward character.

Saul's lifestyle of disobedience after that first act showed that God had not been too harsh.  Saul grew violent and profane.  His abuse of power led him to the mass murder of the temple priests and in his uncontrollable ambition he tried to murder his own son and pursued David with an obsession.  Those that allow themselves the liberty of moral failure open themselves to greater failures to come.  Charisma and skills were not enough to keep Saul on the throne of Israel.  Integrity of character was far more important.

Saul had now shown the world his lack of character.  It was very painful for Samuel to accept the God had rejected Saul as king and he spent the entire night crying over Saul.  His love for Saul ran deep and he grieved over the fact that God had disqualified him.  This brought Samuel to an ethical crossroads where he would have to choose between his love for his friend Saul and to his love for God and his values.

The moral integrity of a leader will challenge the integrity of many others as well.  As leaders we are not responsible for only our own actions but for those we lead.  Samuel knew Saul would consider his actions as opposition but Samuel determined that he would remain firm in doing what was right.  This is the deep reason that Samuel never again saw Saul's face.  Their friendship was forever ruined.  Saul was now traveling down a path that Samuel could not travel down.

In 1977 I came to know a church in my country of El Salvador.  The church had been started 3 months earlier with a small group of 25 people.  The pastor and I quickly became friends and 2 years I was sent to start another church in another city.  In spite of the distance I would travel each week to spend the day with my pastor friend and we became very close friends.  My pastor's church went from 3000 to 9000 people in one year.  The pastor's ministry was impressive and was a model many followed.  The church continued to grow until we reached our first 50,000 people.  On top of this other congregations were started in and outside of the country and had grown to be a denomination in the span of 20 years.

This phenomenal growth had not affected my friendship with the pastor and our friendship continued to grow.  In mid-1995 the pastor decided to form a board to lead the denomination.  As a trusted friend he placed me on the board with other trusted pastors.  Shortly after we discovered the pastor had fallen in moral failure.  I refused to believe the allegations but the facts remained undeniable.

Ironically the first decision the board had to make was to have him resign from his pastoral duties.  In an effort to protect his image and future ministry we made the mistake of keeping his failure a secret.  We hoped he would be spiritually restored and that he would save his marriage and return to public ministry.  Unfortunately things did not go the way we anticipated.  On the contrary, his behavior became even worse.  Problems began to surface in the church and troublemakers began to rock it.  The church started to show signs of cracking.

After 2 years the pastor showed no visible signs of repentance.  In the end he submitted his resignation but behind the scenes a conflict was brewing and I was asked to step up into the position of leadership.  For 17 years I was working in another city and had started a church of 7000.  I had not interest in returning to the capital city or taking over a church that was falling apart but God had been speaking to my heart.  I had the sense this pastor was not moving toward restoration.

Accepting this position of leadership would alienate me from this pastor who considered me his close friend.  I talked with him one last time trying to get him to reflect and think but he had resolved not to return unless we accepted his immoral lifestyle.  I had to choose--would I be with God or would i be with man.

I made the decision to choose God and what I deemed was right.  17 years have gone by since that decision.  Throughout all these years I have rarely seen my former pastor.  When someone's life values and principles are different, life's road begins to pull people apart.  Many thought I had failed my pastor as a friend for stepping up to take his place but only God knows how much pain and how much death to self was wrapped up in the decision.

Would you like to know about the difficult process?  Then come with me to Samuel's dark night and discover the process the prophet had to walk through.  The first phase was denial.  Samuel's pain was so great he could not accept the truth.  He could not accept that Saul would no longer be king.  It seemed like a bad nightmare that Saul had been rejected.  He expected God to change His mind at the last moment but God's decision was final.  The sun went down and the anguish continued to oppress his heart.  He had to confront the new reality.

He entered into the second phase--depression.  The depression that triggers an understanding of his ethical duty--a difficult duty but one that leaves us with no options.  His love for Saul could not blind him to reality.  Saul was not who he thought he was.  He lacked that healthy fear of God.  There was no turning back.  Integrity lost cannot be fully restored.  This daunting reality led him to a deep, deep depression.  Samuel searched for an alternative--one that would not involve firing Saul.  But there were no other options.

At about midnight Samuel entered into the third phase--acceptance.  He had to come to terms with the fact that Saul would no longer be king.  He felt alone and desolate.  If Saul wouldn't be king, then who would be?  It would be his responsibility as prophet to anoint the new king but this would alienate him from Saul.  And hadn't he been the one to appoint Saul?  Would he have to appoint another leader?

This process would not be complete until he would hear the voice of God saying, "How long will you grieve over Saul since I have rejected him as king over Israel?  Fill your horn with oil and be on your way.  I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem."

The next phase was one of action.  It was time to appoint a new king and look toward the future.  The plans of God were still on course.  It was time to turn the page over and move into action.  The heart finds comfort with every new step of integrity so Samuel went into action.  He dried his tears and moved forward.  It was time to anoint the new king of Israel.

Leaders are defined by the ongoing decisions they make and leadership rises and falls on the decisions that are being made.

Are you facing a difficult decision?  Are you letting your personal bias affect your decision?  It's difficult when you have to decide over people's lives but these are decisions that you cannot delegate to another person.

Give yourself permission to grieve, to cry and to walk through depression.  But never give yourself permission to not do what is right and don't give yourself permission to remain in the valley of depression.  Lay your grief before God.  Find a counselor.  Lift your eyes to heaven.  Look to tomorrow.  God has more in store for you.   This is the healthiest choice for all parties involved.

Every right decision that a leader makes will strengthen his influence.  You will never regret doing what is just and walking with integrity and when the years pass by they will reveal justice and integrity in your actions.

Be courageous.  Be strong.  Live with integrity.  The Lord is with you.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Pranitha Timothy--Courage to Act

Waiting for another leadership message at Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit to help me in my Operation Christmas Child journey--

Segue--St. Patrick kidnapped at age 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland.  Escaped at age 22 and found Christ and then rather than stay in safety he returned to Ireland but brought with him the gospel--the story of a God of love, justice and grace.   God does His miracles of transformation through miraculously transformed people.
--Pranitha has been leading teams to rescue slaves in India that rescued 4,000 men, women, and children from slavery.  She has stood up in court to confront criminals and by word of her testimony justice comes.

What does it take to be a leader with that kind of courage and strength on the inside?

Pranitha Timothy--My team works every day to rescue people from slavery.  I know that the restoration of people is not easy.  At the end of my master's studies I was asking God for direction and the Scripture was read from  Isaiah 42:1-4.  I heard God's call to be a light to the nations.

Weeks later I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had lost 60% o muscle strength in shoulder and face;  lost hearing and could no longer speak.  She went back to the promise of Isaiah 42 and began working to set captives free.  After two years God gave me this voice--feeble and yet powerful in His hands.

That was 15 years ago and the physical pain has never left me.  This pain reminds me that I need God and that His strength is sufficient for me.  But this is not the greatest miracle I've seen.  The greatest miracle is that God transformed my heart.

My parents are missionaries and I swore I would never become a Christian.  I hated Christ for separating me from my parents.  I was self-destructive through my addictions.  I was cold-hearted and was eventually expelled from college for my behavior.  In my coldness I came to realize my only hope was in Jesus.  I needed His power to overcomes the darkness that had overcome my life.  God took this heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh.  This is a miracle.  I can empathize with the children and families I serve that builds instant trust.

God has transformed my heart through 3 radical truths--

--We are called to serve--God is already at work and we are called to come along beside Him.  God hears the cry of the hearts of slaves and He goes before us and makes the paths straight.  I know I cannot do anything without God.

--This life belongs to God--I have discovered the source of strength is to willfully decide that my life is God and my strength is His.  (tells story of trying to rescue a group of slaves and being led into a trap.  They stayed with the families and prayed.  In these moments we must believe that our lives are not our own.  God confused the mob so they could no longer work in unison.  After 4 hours the mob cleared the path and allowed us to leave.)  Many times my life has been in jeopardy and I've been reminded that my life is not my own.  My family is safer in God's hands than they are in mine.

--I have learned the radical truth that God is good---I could tell you only the stories that ended the way I hoped they would and there are many of these.  Slaves set free--God is good.  Children set free to go to school--God is good.  But God is still good even when what we see in the world is broken and painful. When we see the pain that humans inflict on one another we believe in a God who is good to the core.  When we grieve death and all that could have been we believe that God is good and it gives us hope--hope that allows us to rescue people even when they resist freedom.  We know your God is powerful to do anything.

Whatever the cry of your heart is today--He hears you too.  We are called to serve because our lives belong to God.  And He is a God who is good.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--William Ury--Getting to Yes: Negotiating Conflict

Waiting for a talk about negotiating conflict at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit to help with Operation Christmas Child leadership.--

Q and A--

How did you get started in conflict resolution?
--as an anthropologic I looked at history of war and the questions is how do we learn to live with each other?

Why do you think this topic is relevant for everybody?
--I see this as the basis of relationship.  Wherever you go in life you spend much time engaged with others in negotiating.  How many decisions can you make unilaterally?  Negotiation is the preeminent process for making decisions.

In your experience, what is the greatest obstacle to success in negotiation?
--It's not the difficult person, it's ourselves.  We are the biggest barrier because it's a natural human tendency to react without thinking.  "When angry you will make the best speech you'll ever regret."  The key foundation is the ability of 'going to the balcony'--someplace where you can get a larger perspective--a place of clarity.

One of the greatest powers in negotiation is the power not to react.

What are the skills we need to negotiate?
--focusing on the people and their underlying needs--we get soft on the people and get soft on the problem or we get hard on the problem and hard on the person;  successful negotiators keep them separate and go soft on the people while remaining hard on the problem.  Important to put yourself in the shoes of the other side and know where their minds are.  Most important to give basic human respect.  Trying to change the game from face-to-face to side-by-side.
--focusing on interests and not positions--address the underlying needs and probe behind the positions; Always ask "why do you want that?";
--developing multiple options--develop creative possibilities that meet the needs of both sides
--fairness--insist that the result be based on some objective standard--The ego comes in and the process begins to drag on so you want to use standards that are outside of their will;  use fairness as a guide;

BATNA--Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement -- what will you do if you cannot negotiate a solution?  Deciding this beforehand allows you to negotiate with more confidence.  You want to measure if the agreement is better than the alternative.

Do you have much hope for the Middle East?--Some conflicts are so difficult they can only be healed by a story.  For me, that's the story of Abraham.  My dream is that we revive the ancient way of making peace by walking in the footsteps of Abraham.  Abraham had the trait of hospitality and they are making paths in the Middle East for people to walk together.  (abrahampath.org)  --motto is "less talk, more walk"

Do you have any final words to help us resolve our conflicts well?-- Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War was feeling very heavy about how to bind the wounds of the nation.  He was speaking sympathetically about the south and a patriot asked him how he could speak well of his enemy.  He said, "Do I not destroy my enemy when I turn him into my friend?"

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Patrick Lencioni--The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else

Waiting here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit to hear some leadership wisdom for my Operation Christmas Child journey from Patrick Lencioni--

"People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed." (didn't catch attribution)

The things that Southwest Airlines does that make them great--so many organizations think is beneath them.

"Organizational Health is the single greatest competitive advantage in business.  It is virtually free and accessible to any leader but remains virtually untapped in many organizations."

Two requirements for success--

Smart--strategy, marketing, finance, technology
Healthy--minimal politics; minimal confusion; high morale; high productivity; low turnover

As leaders we're more comfortable in the 'smart' area than in the 'healthy' area but if we really want to change our organizations we need to make them healthier.

Very few tap into all the 'smart' resources because they are not healthy.

Southwest Airlines is a fabulous organization, not because they're smarter but because they are so healthy and use every bit of knowledge they have.

How to become healthy--

1)  Build a cohesive leadership team --

2)  Create clarity (mission statements may be a joke)--we have to answer 6 critical questions--
--Why do we exist?
--How do we behave?
--What do we do?
--How will we succeed?
--What is most important, right now?
--Who must do what?

Why do we exist?--for churches this is usually easy, ex. Southwest Airlines is about democratizing travel in America;

How do we behave?--every company has value statements but most are pretty generic; get it down to 2 or 3 core values; these are not 'aspirational values' (values we wish we had but don't);  A core value is something you're willing to get punished for;  (example of Southwest Airlines getting a complaint from a customer who was offended by their humor and they sent a reply note that said 'we'll miss you'---reminds me of the importance of not trying to please everyone but sticking to the values of our Operation Christmas Child team);  shouldn't put minimum standards like integrity into your core values;

How will we succeed?--what is strategy?--the myriad of intentional decisions you make that will give you a chance to succeed and pass your competitors

3 strategic anchors--decision making becomes a science instead of a guess;  as long as you follow those anchors you're empowered to make decisions

3)  Over-Communicate Clarity

4)  Reinforce Clarity

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Craig Groeschel--The Strongest Link

Getting ready to hear another set of leadership wisdom from the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit to help me with my leadership journey for Operation Christmas Child---

Segue--Access to Bibles is greater than ever before but mere access doesn't help us to grow.  We need to engage with the Bible and reflect on it to bring change into our lives.  A new initiative called "Uncover the Word" has been started to help believers engage with Scripture.

Segue--former Summit speaker Carly Fiorina; former CE, Hewlett-Packard--nervous about speaking of her personal faith walk.  She shared she believed as a child in a personal relationship with God but as she grew older she still prayed every day but came to view God as the CEO of a super universe.  She could not believe in the literal virgin birth or the resurrection and felt they were allegories.  Bill Hybels continued to pray for her and share with her.  On Christmas Eve she prayed for revelation and awoke with peace on Christmas morning.  She saw the miracles of creation and said why not an immaculate conception?  She saw God as a personal God who knows each of us.  She saw that because God knows us so well His care was substantiated in a physical Son to show us the right path.  A short time later her father died and Carly grieved deeply but felt peace.  She then was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and went through many treatments but the sweet peace never left her.  She no longer feared death.  A few weeks after her treatment was completed, her younger daughter died alone in her apartment.  She still had comfort and peace.  Her husband then told her he had lost his faith.  Carly prayed for his faith to be restored.  One day he was changing the oil in his car and saw a pile of boxes stored in the corner of his garage.  Lying on top of the box he opened were 4 Father's Day cards from his daughter with a long letter telling him how much she loved him.  This restored his faith that Jesus loved him and his faith was restored.  Life is not measured in time.  It is measured in love and contributions and moments of faith.  The peace of the Lord passes all understanding.  It lifts us up.  It guides our way.  It carries us in our times of sorrow.  The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.  Amen.

Craig Groeschel--Bridging the Generation Gap

I would not be speaking to you if it were not for those who have gone before me.  I wouldn't be doing anything close to this if it were not for those who believed in me.  I was a business major when I came to Christ and felt called to give myself in service to Christ but no one was calling.  One week the pastor said to bring a friend to church so I took my fraternity brothers to church.  Pastor Nick saw me and said to another pastor, "See that guy?  Find him and hire him."  Nick taught me so much.  He taught me to illustrate the Bible with the Bible, how to lead staff meetings, how to do hospital visits.

To the older generation--
My advice to you is fairly simple.  I beg you not to resent, fear, or judge the next generation.  Believe in them because they need you.

When I turned 40 a weird thing happened.  I started to ask myself if the best years of ministry were behind me.  I became insecure.  Even though some in our society don't value maturity, God values maturity.  If you have breath in you, you're not done.  Your best days are before you.  My ministry was changed by Lyle Schaller.

Lyle said, "You young guys always think too small."  He told me  when I asked if it was possible to do four services on the weekend that I should think of seven services and five campuses.  My pastor taught me the key of delegating.  Don't just delegate tasks because then you create followers, instead we delegate authority because then we create leaders.

Embrace the season that you are in.  Don't try to be something you are not.  Be yourself.  With the younger generation authenticity trumps cool every single time.  If you care, you love them, you be yourself--the younger generation will line up to learn from you.

I can be a spiritual father to those who come behind me.  You can be a coach, you can be a business mentor, you can invest in those who come behind you.  Psalm 71:18  If you are not dead, you are not done.

To those in the younger generation--

You need those who have gone before you more than you can imagine.  Asked the twenty-somethings what word do you think describes you?  They were surprised to hear that others say 'entitled'.

Because the younger generation feels entitled you will likely overestimate what you can do in the short run but will underestimate what you can do in a lifetime of faithfulness.

How do we 'lead up' to those who are older than we?  Always show respect.

Mark 6:4-6 -- Jesus could not do miracles because of a lack of honor and faith.  We've forgotten to show honor to God--He is not "the man upstairs" or your "Homeboy."  Honor builds up; dishonor tears down;  Honor values other; dishonor devalues others.  Respect is earned but honor is given.  When you ascribe honor to a person they may become more honorable.

I needed my pastor to get better and he needed me to help him get better.  For the generations to work together it has to be intentional.  Leadership naturally age; churches naturally age.

1)  Create ongoing feedback loops between those who are older and those who are much younger.  I go over my message with some from each age group before I speak.  After teaching on Saturday night I have it critiqued again by older and younger members.

2)  Create specific mentoring moments.  These will not happen by accident.  If you are not intentional they will not happen.  If you're younger, ask someone older, "Will you mentor me?"  Get together and ask questions like crazy.

3)  Create opportunities for significant leadership development.  In our organization we had a developmental weekend and chose 38 speakers and trained them to speak.

To those of you who have gone before me, I honor you with all my heart.  I honor my Mom and Dad publicly before you.  I honor the sacrifices my parents made.  I honor my pastor who took a risk on a kid who knew nothing.  When the board thought what I was doing was too risky, my pastor said, "If he goes, I go."  I'm doing what I'm doing today because my pastor took a risk on a young kid.

I honor Bill Hybels because he said, "The local Church is the hope of the world."  I drove away saying one day I'll do something for that.  Bill took bullets with integrity and never complained and faithfully proclaimed Christ.

To the younger generation--I believe in you because you are the most cause-driven generation in history.  We weren't like that.  You don't want a job; you want a calling.  You look at injustice and say, "NO, not on my watch," and because of that I honestly believe you can do way more than my generation could do if you will humble yourself and learn from the generation above you.

I want to kneel down before the One who transformed me and ask the ones who come after me to stand united with me to make His name known.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Sheryl WuDunn--Half the Sky: Leadership in the Face of Oppression

Getting ready to hear Sheryl WuDunn give wisdom about leadership to help my Operation Christmas Child journey....

Talked of being in China and meeting a 12-year-old gift who lived 2 hours from the nearest road with no electricity or running water and shared the home with a large pig.  Her parents were paying her school fees of $13 a year and they decided it was too expensive and a waste of their money so they pulled her out of school in 6th grade.  They wrote about her in the New York Times and there was an influx of donations and one was a gift of $10,000 and she and her friends were able to finish school and the school could be renovated.

They called the donor to tell him what a difference his gift made and the donor said, "I only gave $100" and they found out a bank error had been made.  They called the bank official and asked if they were planning to take the money back and take the girls out of school.  And the bank offered to make up the difference in the amount.

The girls who finished school got good jobs and sent job back to the village and they were able to build better homes and a road to the village.

The central moral challenge of this century is gender inequity.  In many countries it's not your IQ level but your chromosomes that determine how far you will go.  Women are actually in the minority worldwide with 60 million to 100 million missing females in the current population.  When there isn't enough food to go around, females may not be fed.

In India from 1-5 years of age girls have 50% higher mortality rate than boys.  Education and jobs are key to making women and girls the solution.  They are not the problem.  Three reasons educating women is an answer to issues in the world--

1) overpopulation will decrease because educated women have fewer children
2) when men control the money in the household, more is wasted
3) natural resources -- women can be an economic engine in many parts of the world

Sex trafficking--Girls as young as 9-11 are put into brothels and forced to work 7 days a week.  Met a child who was trafficked and had two abortions and had her eyes gouged out.  Meeting that girl made them realize this was worse than slavery.

About 80,000 slaves transported each year in Civil War times but now 800,000 trafficked annually in the sex trade.  Her husband paid $150 - $200 to buy two slaves.  This shows these girls are disposable because they are so cheap.  This is coming to our shores in the US.  Runaway girls may become victims of trafficking.

Infant mortality--accounts for more of the missing females.  In much of the world children are not valued. In Niger 1 in 7 women die in childbirth.  Now a woman dies once every two minutes in the world but still so much progress to be made.  There are solutions.

1)  Microfinance- Microsavings--showed picture of a woman in Burundi.  This woman couldn't leave her home without permission of her husband and she couldn't touch cash.  Her husband had to go with her to pay for what she bought when she shopped.  She sneaked out to be able to contribute to the savings program for the month and when she won the loan she decided to plant potatoes and when she sold her crop she got $7.00 and paid off her loan and then started a banana beer business.

Women often get fistulas as a result of obstructed labor and then cannot control their waste.  One girl in this situation was left in her village for the hyenas to get her.  She fought off the hyenas and crawled miles to the missionary's home in a neighboring village.  She had surgery and became a nurse in the hospital to help others.

2)  Education--Showed picture of Beatrice who was 9 years old and had never been to school.  Church in Connecticut sent a donation for goats sent to Africa.  Beatrice's parents were given a goat and they began to sell the milk and could afford to send Beatrice to school.  She rocketed to the top of her class.  In high school she scored brilliantly and got a scholarship to come to the US.  Three years ago she graduated from Connecticut College and said at her graduation, "I am the luckiest girl alive because of a goat."   Beatrice now works in the field of development and wants to return to work to develop her country.

Reality check--it is hard to help people.  Many are criticizing aid.  Our foreign aid budget (less than 1% of the budget) and many projects fail.  Parts fail and no one can repair them.  Items are stolen or broken.  We need to create sustainable models.  Some of the most effective ways of helping people are not the sexiest--like deworming for children.   If everyone contributes a little bit we can be part of a movement.

Why should I be involved?  What's in it for me?

There are very few things that can elevate your level of happiness and one of those is contributing to a cause that is larger than yourself.  Those who are happy tend to live longer.

Story of an aid worker in Darfur who saw things no human being should see.  She was strong and steadfast.  When at home in Baltimore in her grandmother's backyard she broke down in tears when she saw a bird feeder and realized that she, who had seen babies thrown into a bonfire for the color of their skin, had the opportunity to live in a country where she not only had all she needed but had the luxury of being able to feed the birds.

All of us have 'won the lottery' in life.  How do we use that to make a better world?  Join the movement, be happier, live longer, and help save the world.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Marc Kielburger--Against Apathy

Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and waiting to receive more wisdom to help me lead our Operation Christmas Child team---

Marc Kieelburger is the first Canadian to speak at the Global Leadership Summit and heads two organizations that awaken children to global needs.   (this reminds me of the child-to-child connection forged through Operation Christmas Child--www.samaritanspurse.org/occ )

Marc and his brother Craig started in social justice issues at ages 12 and 13.  His parents asked Craig to look at a newspaper article when he was 12 about a child who was sold into child labor then escaped and began to educate parents about children's rights.   Craig took the article to his 7th grade class and they all were mobilized to help.  This group of 12 twelve-year-olds called themselves "the group of 12" and began a movement called Free the Children and now 17 years later have 1.7 million members.

They work domestically and internationally to build schools and they had the problem that girls weren't attending the schools.  They found that girls had to get water for their village and couldn't go to school so they began funding water for the villages also.

Then children were getting sick so they started to provide health care but then the people were becoming dependent.  They then began giving micro-loans to allow women to start businesses.

They empower children from kindergarten and up to work for social justice. Each year they have 150,000 kids take a vow of silence in solidarity for kids who have no voice.

Someone asked Marc this question, "Marc, what type of legacy do you want to leave?"  We don't ask young people that question enough.  That was the question that changed his life.

Now have 16 offices around the world but it's so critical to do this in a way that's tangible.  "We 'sell' hope."  So they foster a culture of listening, community, meaning, gratitude, and legacy.

Why did the brothers decide to co-lead?  He says "two leaders are better than one."  How do they keep looking forward?--They have events called "We Day" to use peer pressure in a positive way to mobilize more youth.  You have to earn a ticket through service that involves 20,000 students per stadium event.

School students are mobilized to continue the movement.  Do they really believe children can make a difference?  Yes--we need to help young people know they are gifted and help them find an issue they care about.

Gift + Issue = Better World

Look for young people who have empathy.  When you communicate empathy you create passion.  Show, not tell.  Show us what you're doing to change the world.  Shameless idealism needs to be translated into action.

Take young people out of their comfort zone.  Take 3,000 youth a year to help build schools and most are girls between 14-17 years old.   (showed video of students going with local women to make a walk to get water -- 2 hour walk each way)

A billion young people on the earth and 9/10 live in developed countries so this generation can end poverty if they are engaged now.

Marc talked about meeting Mother Teresa--4'8" tall and when they went to leave she grabbed their hands and looked deeply into their souls and said, "We can do no great things but we can do small things with great love."

We have a saying we want you to contemplate, "We are the generation that we've been waiting for.  Invest in them now.  Engage them now and they will be the leaders doing small things with great love."

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Jim Collins--Great By Choice

Waiting to hear what Jim Collins has to say at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.  Hoping to apply to Operation Christmas Child leadership.--

In October of 1911 two teams of explorers one led by Amundsen and one by Scott--lined up on the coast of Antarctica with the goal of reaching the south pole.  Amundsen's team arrived 34 days before the second and arrived back at base camp but Scott's team died on the way back.  Studied 9 years to find out why some organizations and leaders thrive in the most difficult circumstances while others fail to achieve greatness in those same circumstances?

"Great By Choice" is based on a rigorous study of organizations that survived in difficult times and the leadership differences parallel those teams in Antarctica.

Level 5 leaders--what separates them is not personality, the x factor is humility.  What else have we learned?  Three distinctive behaviors great leaders need--

Fanatic Discipline--
Trying to make a march across the US--one group waits for conditions to be good and the other walks 20 miles each day no matter what the conditions are.  Amundsen's team in Antarctica exemplified the second.

Fanatic discipline doesn't go too far either--don't push beyond what you can do even when you get close.  Manage yourself in good times so you can do well in bad times.

What is your 20 mile march?  Every organization would benefit from having a 20 mile march--a daily goal to reach.  Maybe a personal 20 mile march is to read 50-100 books a year or taking daily time to pray or working on relationships.

It's all about consistent consecutive performance.  Ask myself--what do I need to do today to hit my march with consistency?

Discipline is not enough--you must also create and make things work in new ways.

Empirical Creativity--
Amundsen went and lived with Eskimos to prepare for his trip while Scott depended on new sleds that hadn't been tested and didn't work.

Need the ability to marry creativity and discipline.  Creativity is natural; discipline is not.  If you breathe you are creative.  The really rare skill is to marry discipline to creativity.

Productive Paranoia--
The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive.   It's what you do before trouble comes that make a difference so you can be strong when people most need you.

These three come to life in the 'SMaC recipe' based on what actually works and why.  The greatest danger is not failure but to be successful without understanding why you were successful in the first place.

You need to preserve the core and stimulate progress.  Constitution (basic values) to preserve the core with an amendment process to stimulate progress.

Think of an event that arose--
1) you didn't cause it
2) it had a potentially significant consequence
3) it had an element of surprise

How did you handle that event?  Question is--what is the role of luck?  I realize luck might not resonate as a concept in a faith world.  

They studied and quantified luck.  Luck is not an aura.  The key is to see luck as a specific event (3 listed above).  Bill Hybels said this definition also applies to a miracle.

1)  Were the winners luckier?
2)  What did they do differently about it?

Bill Gates in 1975--was he the only lucky one?  Thousands of others could have done what he did but he sacrificed to do it.

Talked about his wife's experience with cancer and out of that they learned that life is people and time with people you love.  Every day they remember that lesson so they are getting a high return on what was undeniably a bad event.  That's what good leaders do.

Good leaders reflect the genius of the 'and'--on one hand they do the daily 20 mile march but when the unexpected event comes they make the most of it instead of squandering it.

As leaders are we responsible for our performance or are we the victims of what happens to us?  Back to Amundsen and Scott--they both faced the same conditions but had different outcomes.  We still find pairs of companies in the same conditions where one rises and one falls.  The answer cannot be circumstance.

Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance--it's a matter of conscious choice and leadership.

How do you know if you have a great organization?--
1) superior performance relative to your mission
2) makes a distinctive impact (what would be lost if we disappeared?)
3) achieves lasting endurance beyond any one leader (an organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without the leader)

Two thoughts in closing--
First, a desire to say thank you to Bill Hybels--who has always extended to me a hand of friendship and character who has always made me feel useful in your world.  Might there be no better definition of friendship than to be always here for you so you might never really be alone.  That is what great friends are.

I hope each of you will commit somewhere in your life to be part of building something enduring and great.  An enduring great family or marriage or friendship or organization.

In the end I believe it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life which is gained by doing meaningful work.  ...Gain that deepest satisfaction of knowing that your short time on this earth has been well spent and that it mattered.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Condoleezza Rice--No Higher Honor

Getting ready to listen to Condoleezza Rice to see what I can glean to help me lead better for Operation Christmas Child--

How different is it to be in government and out of government?  I can now read the newspaper and know I don't have responsibility for what is happening.

In the past 10 years three big shocks in our society--1) 9/11 --we're now in a different environment of physical insecurity  2) financial and global economic shock of 2008 -- sense of economic insecurity  3) Arab strength -- authoritarianism can never be secure.  Anger is a terrible way to make reform and that's what we're seeing in the middle east.

What we're really seeing is the universality of freedom--no one wants to live in tyranny.  Democracy is the system that is based on not only freedoms but on responsibility.

"My ancestors were, in the constitution, 3/5th of a man."  Democracy requires an understanding that it cannot mean the tyranny of the majority.  If minority rights are not protected the system will not be stable.  Nor can the strong exploit the weak.  Governments can only do so much but they cannot put into the heart of every citizen the belief that there should be no weak links because democracy is only as strong as its weakest link.  The strong have to bring the weak along to be stronger.  If the strong exploit the weak, democracy will not be stable.

Every life is worthy.  In democracy there are no kings and queens, no permanent stations in life.  If every life is worthy, every life is also capable of greatness.  And if every life is capable of greatness we have the responsibility to make sure the opportunity is there.

As Christians, we are equal not only under the law, but under God.  As children of God, no one can be more worthy.  Our Lord Jesus died for each and every one of us.  

The church when it goes out into the world understands it has a responsibility to act as if every life is worthy.  Government cannot deliver compassion.  When she traveled to visit those working with AIDS victims, she saw the compassion of legions of workers delivering compassion.  This has to be the work of people who believe every life is worthy.

It is important to deliver compassion but the best thing you can do is to give them control of their own future by giving them the chance to be educated.  John Wesley Rice Sr. (her grandfather) saved and went to a Presbyterian college.  He was told he could get a scholarship if he became a Presbyterian minister so that's what he decided to be.  And that decision to do what he needed to become educated changed his life and the lives of his family.

If you are fortunate enough to lead in challenging times, it's important to realize that there are dangers but there's so much opportunity.  The opportunity to lead carries many responsibilities and one is to help people see their own leadership potential.  We have a model of this in Christ Jesus who called ordinary people to establish His church.  Can we do any less than help others become leaders?  They must see in you the possibility of a better future.  Leaders must be persistent optimists.

How do you remain optimistic in difficult time?  Keep perspective about what hard circumstances really are.  Imagine what it was like to lead after World War II?

Out of struggle, comes victory.  That is the central message of our Christian faith--that after Friday there would be Sunday.  It's a privilege to struggle.  When you're not struggling you think it's your own hard work that will overcome.  But when you're drive to your knees because you have nowhere else to go, you come to a peace that passes understanding.

How could a man in a jail cell in South Africa have a vision for a multi-ethnic South Africa?  How could a Polish shipyard worker somehow believe that he could overthrow Communism by climbing a fence?  How could a little girl who grows up in segregated Birmingham, AL become the Secretary of State?  Somehow things that one day seemed impossible can seem inevitable.   They were not inevitable, they were the work of people who sacrificed everything for a principle.  They were people who never accepted the world as it is but worked for the world as it should be.  That is the true calling of leaders.

I am grateful for the prayers of so many and most of all I am grateful for the faith of my father and my mother that gave me a foundation to take on the challenge of leadership.

Together we make the world not as it is, but as it should be.


Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Bill Hybels--The Privilege of Leadership

Getting ready to listen to Bill Hybels and praying to get some wisdom for leading my Operation Christmas Child team.---

Bill is sharing a story about how his wife said she was not cooking turkey for Thanksgiving dinner last year so he, as a great leader, decided to take over.  First goal of a leader is to inspire vision and value so Bill told his family this would be the greatest turkey and he would cook it on the gas grill.  He persevered and hung onto the vision.

His next step was to build a team, so he invited a staff member with grilling experience to come help him.  Next he had to inspire him, which he says he did with hard, cold cash and fear.

The week before he cooked a practice turkey.  Then Thanksgiving arrived and his assistant brought the real turkey and they put it on the grill.  While it was cooking they fasted and prayed for the bird.  Fifteen minutes before it's done he sends home the assistant so Bill can march in with the turkey.

The family is impressed and they are all impressed.  Even his wife says it's the best she's ever had.  Bill basks in the praise.

At Christmas his family tried to get him to cook another turkey but Bill had a higher vision.  After Christmas vacation, a worker noted while sweeping Bill's back porch that the grill was on.  Bill had left it on since Thanksgiving which made his turkey the most expensive turkey in the history of the world and made Bill the biggest turkey of them all.  And this, he says, is why you have to follow his awesome leadership---

Starting with a parable--Luke 8--There's a guy who has a bucket of seed and is sowing it to plant a field.  Some falls on hard soil, some on rocky soil and dies, some on thorny soil that gets choked out and some on good soil that grows a beautiful tree with produce.

Jesus says despite how bountifully the seed is sown, some people are closed off to it but we shouldn't get discouraged.  The message is still true and some will fall on good soil and lives will change.

The math of this parable=a seed rejection ratio.  Seed is rejected 75% of the time but the miracle of transformation in the 25% who accept the message is amazing.  Everyone's life would be better if God was at the center of it.  Bill says "I'd love to see more trees this year than last year or previous years."

If I want to see more trees next year, then I should plant MORE seed to overcome that math.  I shouldn't waste a minute complaining about how few trees there are now.

Bill received a brochure from a new church that was well done and it made him assess how his neighborhood had changed.  Do the new neighbors even know what Willow Creek is like?  Thought about sending out a new brochure about their church.

Bill then saw a man in the church parking lot who was upset because he'd lost his cat.  Bill called his assistant and alerted the grounds department to help find the cat.  The man said, "You're a very nice man," then asked, "What is this place?"  Bill told him it was a church and the man said, "I never noticed the sign.  I thought it was a college.  Do you go to church here?"  Bill then invited him to come anytime but was convicted that a close neighbor didn't even know their church was there.  He was moved to 'sow more seed'.   Brochures were sent out to the community with a fantastic response.

Soon after that they began the Alpha Course at Willow Creek with great success.  In the first class 1/3 of the people in the class came to faith in Christ.  Shortly thereafter they instituted a program for new visitors called "getting started," and then taught the course "Just Walk Across The Room."

Now they're pioneering a strategy of small groups and the future of this could be a game changer for Willow Creek.

After all this--Bill thought--what if I hadn't read and pondered Luke 8?  What if I hadn't read the brochure from the other church?  What if I hadn't listened to the man who lost his cat?

Whether you like it or not--your organization takes its seed sowing cue from you.  If you sow the same amount of seed you'll get the same result and the morale of your culture will go down and people will get bored and sleepy.  Always be courageous and stay experimental.  Entropy will not occur on our watch.  We will fight it off with every fiber of our being.  Insist on a non-stop series of experiments that will cause learning and inevitably create more trees.

We should be persistent tinkerers who are always thinking of new ways to sow seed.  Bill told a new employee he wanted her to change her middle name to 'better' and try to become better in every way every day.  We should get better and inspire everyone we lead to get better.  Everyone wins when a leader gets better.

And let me remind you--trees are worth it.  SOW MORE SEED!

On to another topic--you need to be a 360 degree leader.  You need skills to lead those below you, those on your level and those above you.  But YOU are the most difficult person you will ever lead.

The work habits of a leader--
It's easy to see the need but not know how to order your life to make the best use of your energy.
--your greatest asset is your energy and your ability to energize others--that is what is unique about a leader
--Praying the "Leader's Prayer"--"Dear God, please HELP.  I need help desperately."  Bill wrote in his journal after praying this, "God, what would be the greatest 6 contributions I could make in the next six weeks to the Church you love.?"  It became clear to Bill that he would need to energize some people and prioritized 6 areas of need.

He took an index card and wrote  6 by 6 on it and determined to focus on those 6 things.  He felt clarity and excitement; focused in stead of overwhelmed.  Went into work the next morning and prayed over them.  He began to focus on those challenges and 5 of the 6 were accomplished and he was exhilarated at year's end.

In the new year he repeated the above exercise for the first 6 weeks of the year.  Choose 6 priorities that will most impact your organization NOT the ones you most want to do.  Again, this brought success in the first 6 weeks of the year.

He didn't change anything in his schedule to do the above but then decided to also prioritize his work schedule to reflect the focus.  He decided to put 'energy bursts' throughout his day into fulfilling these goals.  For the next several years he ate, drank, and slept this 6 by 6 concept.  One day he realized the dreams were being fulfilled.

These days all the leaders at Willow Creek work by this 6 by 6 initiatives.  They are all above and beyond the regular job responsibilities.  Always looking ahead to the next 6 weeks.

Bill's current 6 by 6 list -- by October 15th--finalize weekend series; recruit leader/teacher for next ministry; how to fund a new evangelism strategy; planned giving program; how to raise 250 million dollars for an under-resourced country  (missed one of the 6--sorry!)

God didn't make you a leader to respond to stuff all day.  He made you to move things ahead.  What is the most important contribution you can make to your organization at this time?

When you use this technique and your head hits the pillow at night you can say, "I moved some stuff ahead."

Succession Planning

Megachurch world (churches with more than 2,000 in attendance each weekend)--there are many thousands now in our world and we'll see how they pass the torch to the next generation.

Willow Creek assigned an elder to work with Bill on this planning.  One day this elder, Mike, said to Bill, "You never see yourself dying."  He then asked, "Do you see yourself being the senior pastor of Willow until the day you die?"

Over the next year Mike led Bill through this planning. Here are some phases--

1) Planning--every subject matter pertaining to transition must be addressed.  What is the time frame?  Whose responsibility?  How will the church honor the pastor at the transition?  Will the pastor have any responsibilities after the transition?

2) Finding an Internal Successor--given a time frame within which that will happen.  If no internal candidate is found, then they will look outside.

3) Actual Transition--18 months to transfer responsibilities to new replacement.

Bill says he is proud of his board and how they have handled this plan but it was still hard for him as the plan was made.  Side note to board members--please understand how deep feelings run in the hearts of senior pastors and these are delicate conversations.  Senior pastors--do the right thing for your church.   We should strive to make our churches stronger after we leave them.

Concept of Moving People from Here to There

God makes you a leader so you can move them to some preferred future that is better.  Don't paint the picture of 'there' until you build the case that you can't stay 'here'.

Along the journey from 'here' to 'there', when is the vision most vulnerable?  (beginning, middle, or nearing the end)  And the answer is----in the middle.

In the beginning there's excitement, near the end there's another burst of energy, but in the middle the vision is extremely vulnerable.  You need your best vision casting and motivation in the middle.

From a career leadership position, when are we most vulnerable?  In the middle years.  In the middle some of the mistakes catch up with us, some of the friends leave, some ministries waver and die, there are betrayals and disappointments, deaths and economic recessions that make you vulnerable.  If you are in this era, be careful.  Walk with God closely.

As Bill nears the end of his tenure as senior pastor he has the excitement of wanting the last years to be rich in ministry and getting the church out of debt and leaving it stronger than ever before he leaves.

His overarching thought about leadership is what a privilege it is to be a leader. Only a small percentage of the human race gets to lead important missions.  Have you thanked God recently for the privilege of getting to lead something?  The worst days of leadership beat the best days of being a bench sitter.