Saturday, August 29, 2015

21 Days and I'll Be Fixed

In his book "Don't Waste Your Life" John Piper tells of a couple who retired early, moved to Florida, bought a boat, and spent all their time playing softball and collecting seashells.  He calls this a tragedy--a waste of life.  I agree.

But when life gets stressful my husband and I will sometimes say to one another, "The seashells sound pretty good right now."  This is one of those times...

Look at this picture.  Doesn't our storage container look nice and neat?  We're down to the last few square feet of space left and we're still expecting another few pallets of items.

Just 21 days from now and this 2015 Community-Wide Operation Christmas Child Packing Party will be over--for better or worse.  Yes, I'm trusting God for victory.  Well, most moments I am.

Still, when darkness closes in I begin to think of all the details that need to be managed in the next three weeks.  Actually, compared to other years we're far ahead this year when it comes to preparation of items.  All the crayons and soap are bagged and we're down to probably ten more spools of rope to be made into jump ropes.  That's a first.  Of course, we still have 25,000 labels to put on boxes, but they won't come until the Monday before the packing party.

My biggest concern is getting volunteers there to pack the boxes and, more importantly, key volunteers in place to supervise the operation.  The packing party is an Operation Christmas Child area team event, but our team isn't that large and many don't participate in the packing party at all.

Our church is large by our community's standards, and they only promote official church events.  I've been able to put posters up in the rest rooms, but that's about it.  So...I need to get myself busy on social media and do some promoting.  And I need to get brave enough to make some more asks to get people on board.  When it comes to this I feel very much alone...that's probably inaccurate but it's just  the way I feel.

My husband and I spent about four hours in the car today and I leafed through a book of inspirational stories of women who've overcome obstacles--big ones.  And last night we went to see the movie "War Room" that cast a vision for the work of prayer.  That's another thing I need to get myself busy doing. 21 days it'll all be over...for better or for worse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


When I go out to yard sales on my stuffed animal safaris I tend to be pretty focused.  I breeze into a sale and scan quickly for those prized animals for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  If there aren't any, I head back to my car pronto.  This past Saturday I left a sale that had no animals and was all the way back to my car parked a half block away when I had a prompting.

I felt I should return to that sale and look for children's clothes that would meet the dress requirements for City of Erie school district--solid colored polo shirts and navy, black, or khaki dress pants or skirts.

For once, I didn't have an internal debate about this prompting.  I just went back and scrounged through piles of clothes (priced at only .25 per item) and found ten pieces of nice clothing for a young girl.

I took them home, washed them, and took them with me yesterday when I went to volunteer at a local clothing pantry.  It was raining yesterday so we let the shoppers come in early.  A harried mom with four young kids in tow hurried over to ask me, "Do you have any school clothes?"  The only ones we had, really, were the ones God prompted me to bring in, so I told her, "a few."

I was working the counter a half hour later when she came through the line with all those items of clothing.  Her eyes sparkled as she gushed, "This is SUCH a blessing.  I didn't know what I was going to do for school."

But God knew.

Meanwhile, on Monday I was discouraged, overwhelmed.  Then I got an email from an Operation Christmas Child fellow-area coordinator in Kansas.  She wrote to ask if she could have her prayer team support our upcoming packing party.  I felt a weight lift from my heavy heart and wrote to tell her how timely her email was.  She didn't know how much I needed her encouragement that day.

But God knew.

My friend said she felt a prompting to contact me.  She said she wished she obeyed all God's promptings that readily.  I wish I did, too

But God knew.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Night Watch

Why does everything seem worse in the dark of night?  I had a relaxing afternoon by myself at the beach--just resting and spending time with the Lord.  I was refueled and feeling peaceful.

But when I'm lying awake past midnight my mind gets as tangled as all these lengths of rope I've been cutting to be made into jump ropes.  Details that I blessedly ignore during the day flit like August fireflies through my foggy brain.

Despite being on detail overload, I have to admit God's been pouring out blessings in the past few days.

Look what arrived at my door on Friday--

These totes held a donated pristine Beanie Baby collection--792 of them!  And earlier that day I was blessed with another donation of 96 on top of a good yard sale haul.

Then a bit later on Friday the UPS man showed up with three large cartons--

full of the softest, cuddliest new stuffed animals--159 of them!  After I got them sorted and counted I had to let them sit around for a while just so I could look at them and hug them a bit--  These were sent from across the country by a sweet teen girl who reads this blog and, with her family, just wanted to bless the children who will receive the boxes packed at our packing party.  That family was obedient to give even though the father of the family is out of work right now.  Will you please pray with me that God will bless him with just the right job?

The total for Friday alone was 1,158 stuffed animals...

So...God has been answering prayer.  I've been "casting my cares on Him" for a few hours now so it's time to shut my brain off and let Him work out the details.

He'll be awake.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

T Minus 1 month month from right now we should be cleaning up from our September 18th Friday night youth packing party and making final preparations for our major September 19th Community-Wide Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Party.

This will be our 7th annual packing party and every year brings new challenges.  As my friend and Church Relations Director, Heather, says, "We never do the same thing twice."

I have to confess I'm getting a little tired of moving things from one place to another.  Sunday's exploits included getting hit with an avalanche of rope spools when they toppled in the storage container.

The good news is that between last week's work day and a crew of people willing to work at bagging from home, we have 25,000 bags of crayons and 25,000 bags filled with soap prepared.  It's wonderful to know we won't have to worry about that during packing party week.  Now I'm recruiting volunteers to assemble another 9,000+ jump ropes.  I'm thinking maybe if I can get 225 rope lengths pre-cut and give them out with a box of 225 sets of handles I might be more successful in getting people to do the job.

I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat waiting for an update on the stuffed animal hunt.  Well, as of yesterday we had 11,101 (give or take a few hundred) animals--not even enough for half of our boxes.  They're still coming, though.  Yesterday our local newspaper printed a letter to the editor I wrote asking for donations and I've had several calls since then offering donations.  A church preparing for a rummage sale this coming weekend allowed me to come last night and choose all I could use--150 nice ones--before their sale even begins.  I was doubly blessed to be able to leave them some Operation Christmas Child materials and encourage them to pack boxes also.

On the positive side, I have an over-abundance of major clothing items.  I've decided I can pair two of those items together for boxes for the older children since I don't have enough stuffed animals for each box.  I calculated I'd need about 5,000 more of those items to be sure each box has two and have been praying over the last week for God to provide a source for them.

Those prayers were answered early Monday morning when I found a source for where I could purchase those needed items for .20 or less each.  I'm excited about that and continue to pray that each of these boxes will bless the child who receives it.

Last year we had fewer than 4,000 extra filler items beyond the basics and this year we have more than 25,000 of them.  I prayed God would allow the quality of our boxes to improve, and I believe He's been answering in great ways. main concern is getting volunteers recruited and placed for the packing party.  We've never pre-registered shoebox packers but we have recruited key volunteers and placed them in specific jobs.  The competent volunteer who spearheaded this the past few years is not involved this year and that leaves a large hole.  We've been asking God to fill this need.  I need to start making some lists and praying over them twice (or twice times a hundred.)

Posters were ordered today.  I need to make arrangements for lunch for volunteers.

It's crazy, but over the past few weeks I've learned people are coming from Florida, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and maybe Virginia to attend this packing party.  My husband jokingly suggested we should sell tickets to make money for shipping the boxes.   It's a lot of pressure thinking people are going to make a long trip and possibly be disappointed.  But not as much pressure as realizing these boxes are going to represent the love of Jesus to kids around the world.  God, please help them to be good ambassadors.

I need to coordinate with church ministries to see when we can use the facilities for setting up for the packing party.  I need to double check on ordering the truck.  And the dumpster.

I'd better get busy making those lists... and praying some more...

Because...31 days from now we'll be on our way.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Working Out and Not Alone

The past few days have been especially stressful for a number of reasons--not all of them blog-appropriate material.  And one of the lies the 'enemy of my soul' loves to whisper in my ear in times like this is, "You're all alone."

Yesterday I ran around doing packing-party-related errands and none of them had anything to do with leadership.  And, that enemy was whispering again, "You're a failure at leading.  You don't know how to delegate.  If you were a good leader you'd have people lined up to do this work."

Today we had a work day scheduled for our upcoming packing party.  Our OCC media coordinator did a good job of publicizing the event and I'd had calls from several people in the community who said they were coming.  Still, I didn't have commitments from my team or know which of them might be coming.  I had no idea what to take to the church or how to set up for the event.

So I got there early and set up four tables and 16 chairs.  I knew a reporter and photographer from the local newspaper was coming, and I was concerned that no one would be there when they arrived.

The event was scheduled to begin at 1:30 and before 1:00 several of my team members arrived to help with preparations.  Myron, a faithful friend from our small group, came and volunteered to take over cutting the rope for jump ropes.

More and more arrived--people from the community I'd never met; five associates from our local Kohl's store who were there as part of their Associates In Action program; several families with young children; two former co-workers I hadn't seen in years.  By the time the reporter came, I had set up five more tables and counted 45 people filling them.

Folks came and went throughout the day--probably at least 60 different workers all together-- and some took supplies with them so they could complete work at home.  The Kohl's associates took items to work on in their break room.

I wish I'd been able to keep better track of exactly how much we accomplished but I'd say conservatively we assembled at least 2,500 jump ropes, bagged 20+ cases of soap with 112 bars in each case, and put together a couple thousand bags of crayons.

I was even more encouraged when eight people stayed all the way until 6:30 and helped clean off and return tables and chairs and load everything back into the storage container.

Things are working out.  And I am not alone.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit -- Craig Groeschel

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Craig Groeschel -- Expanding Your Leadership Capacity

Eph. 3:20 -- Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and forever.

Mark, inventor of the Koosh ball, dared me to hold my breath underwater for a minute.  At 40 seconds I'm rededicating my life to Jesus--at 60 seconds I exploded up out of the water.  Mark said "I'll bet you could do it twice as long if you do what I tell you.  Breathe in and out deeply four times . Your brain does not understand what your body is capable of.  Trick your brain into thinking you are about to give it oxygen."   He did 2 minutes and 45 seconds.   There was way more in me than I ever understood.  

I came to the summit this year to tell somebody there's way more inside of you than you can imagine.  Our God wants to do more than you can imagine.  You can apply this to every area of your life.  

To run a family with six kids we have to have a different mindset.  As your organization grows your mindset has to change.  If your number of volunteers grows you have to change.  Any time my organization starts to settle or struggle I always assume my leadership capacity has to expand.  Many of you are facing a leadership lid and you need to change the way you operate.  

Five "C"s to expand your leadership capacity:  I challenge you to choose one that is yours.

1.  Building your confidence
2.  Expand your connections
3.  Improve your competence
4.  Strengthen your character
5.  Increase your commitment

Building your confidence-- Too often we speak the "language of the lid"--saying "There aren't enough hours in the day.  I can't get it all done.  There's not enough of me."  Change your self-talk.  One of my early fears was public speaking.  I said, "I'm too young.  I don't know enough, etc...."  Now before I speak I take one step forward and in my mind I step out of my insecurities and into the calling and authority of God.  Someone here needs to take one step forward.  I'm not talking about being confident in yourself but confident that God will give you everything you need.  The pathway to your greatest potential is through your greatest fear.  Replace your negative self-talk with the truth of God. 

Expand your connections -- You may be one relationship away from changing the course of your destiny.  For example, after Saul's conversion he met Barnabas who believed in his conversion and vouched for him.   For me it was a guy named Lyle Schaller.   We were considering going to three services and I asked him if it was possible.  He told me I was thinking too small.  Now we have 136 services in various states.  You can learn from legendary geniuses.  Don't try to copy what they do; learn how they think.  Bill Hybels' vision gave me "the gift of disorientation."  Whenever you find yourself wanting to push back and say, "That's not true where I live," you need to expand your connections.  You need a mentor. 

Improve your competence -- You need to decide a specific area in which you need to improve.  People around you know what that area is.  Examples:  communication; listening; delegation; receiving feedback; work ethic; hiring and recruiting; firing; how you run meetings.  

Strengthen your character -- Talent can get you to the top but only character can keep you at the top.  If your character is not strengthening your future potential is weakening.  You and I need to check our lives for leaks.  Are we neglecting a spouse or time with the Lord?  Are we telling 'white lies' or allowing greed to get into our lives.  Are we living with unconfessed sin in our lives?   Why would I try to resist some temptation in the future that I can eliminate today?  (lock out computer sites, etc.)  

Increase your commitment -- There's a big difference between "I kind of want this" and "Nothing will stop me."  Some of you need to stop kinda doing something and increase your commitment.  Examples: imparting faith to youth; reaching our communities for Christ.  There is MORE in you.  Your brain does not understand what your God is capable of doing through you.  You need to step into that commitment.  What you want determines what you will do in order to get it.  

What is your one thing?  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Albert Tate

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Albert Tate--Leading With Leftovers

Today I'm gonna take on this lie about leadership.  I want to take on this lie that we're supposed to leave it all on the field and give 115%.  If I leave it all on the field I go home with nothing.  We can't give 115%  We need to learn to lead and still have something left--not living for our resumes but for our eulogies.

We need to not be held captive by the scarcity of this world but from the abundance found in Christ.  We want to see how Jesus tells us how to lead with leftovers.

The crowd of people is getting hungry and it's getting late.  So Jesus asks "Where shall we buy bread for the people to eat?"  Let's talk about the moment when Jesus asks dumb questions.  Why would Jesus ask them that?  He wanted them to do the math and see they couldn't do this in their own power.  He wanted them to do the math so that when they get on the other side of the miracle they give God glory.  Jesus wants you to do the math so you can see it's not possible in your strength.  Jesus' dumb question gives way to a dumb idea.  Andrew finds a little boy with two fish and five loaves of bread but he's not laughed out of the room.  Jesus says "Bring them to me."

We need to ask dumb questions and allow dumb ideas because a dumb idea + God's hand = life transformation.  Our culture should support dumb ideas.   Jesus specializes in using dumb ideas.

Father Boyle had an idea to have gang members learn to make puff pastries and sell them and that business is thriving today.

Jesus looks at the little boy with his loaves and fishes.  Who is this little boy?  Out of 5,000 men and families, was he the only one who brought a lunch?  This boy brought what he had and Jesus used what he brought.  What if Jesus is going to do a miracle using what you bring?  What does it mean for you to pack your lunch?  This little boy comes with a dumb idea--he packs his lunch then gives it to Jesus and gets out of the way.  We don't see him anymore.  One of the most key things we can do as leaders is to bring what we have and get out of the way.  Some of us give it to Jesus and then try to instruct Him along the way.  When he gets out of the way he can discover the awe and wonder of God's almighty hand.  He watches Jesus reach in and pull out the lunch and discovers the awe and wonder.  The awe and wonder is what happens when we give it to Jesus, get out of the way, and see what He can do.  If you've brought all you've had, now get out of the way.  When's the last time you were blown away by what God did and your neck hurt because you were in awe and wonder at the power of God?

Two fish and five loaves could be sitting right in the room but you're so busy with your spreadsheet you don't see them.

They ate until they were full.  This is the picture of abundance--of more than enough.  Then they had leftovers--twelve baskets full.  I imagine they gave those baskets to that little boy.  Can you see him walking home with twelve baskets?  I believe at the end of this miracle he had something left.  What would it mean at the end of the day to have something left?

Some of you are sitting here on empty.  That's not the sign of a great work ethic.  That's the sign of missing God's provision in your life   You need to humbly submit what you have and get out of the way so Jesus can meet the need and you have something left.  That's the picture of the gospel--the idea that we're not limited my what's in our hand.  We have the power of the almighty God.  It's not about my name being great; it's about the power of His name.

We don't have to live outside the promise of God in the scarcity of the world.  Jesus came to hang on the cross, bleed, and die and rise again to say to us, "Come on in!"  You don't have to leave it all out on the field.  You can come on in and experience the abundance of God.

Leaders, you don't have to go home empty.  You don't have to leave it all on the field because Christ left it all on the cross.  Tell Jesus, "What I have may not be much, but I give it back to you and I trust You so I can experience the awe and wonder of God."

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Sallie Krawcheck

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Sallie Krawcheck--Leadership and Ethics on Wall Street

Let's not talk about the retirement savings crisis.  There's a 14 trillion dollar savings gap, assuming Medicare and Social Security were solvent.  What if I were to tell you there's a way to make huge strides that can actually grow the economy?  What if I told you this solution can improve business results?  You might say this is impossible; but it is possible.

We need to look through a different lens and recognize the retirement savings crisis in this country is a woman's crisis.  Women live longer and have fewer resources.  The answer to this is that there's real power in intersection between women and money.

The research is overwhelming. Companies that have more female leadership achieve more.  Diverse teams outperform smarter and more capable teams.  Adding someone who sees things differently adds a lot.

What if I told you that diversity can improve ethics on Wall Street?  I worked on Wall Street for over 20 years.  I worked at Smith-Barney and then at Merrill Lynch.  I've seen a lot, but I want to go back further to my late twenties.  My first real job on Wall Street was as a research analyst on the topic of life insurance.  I wrote my first report and was advised not to publish it because it was negative.  Buy and you're right--you're an optimistic bull.  Buy and you're wrong--people like an optimist--try again. Sell and you're right--grudging respect.  Sell and you're wrong--you're fired.  But I published it.  And, by the way, I was right.

I published it for two reasons--first I'm disagreeable and second I was hired to do the best job I could for my clients even if it meant telling them something they didn't want to hear.  Research shows the number one reason women accept a job is not for money but for meaning and purpose.

Fourteen years later I was running Smith Barney in 2007-08 and I faced another career make or break.  We had at that company sold what we thought were low-risk products that we thought would only go down a few cents then the market went down a lot and people lost almost all their money.  My determination was that we were not evil, we were dumb.  I had a brand new CEO and I decided we should share some of those losses with the clients.  I went to my boss and he said, "No" and we went back and forth.  I sat at home and told my husband the best income is we are going to partially reimburse clients and I'll lose my job.  The worst is we're not going to partially reimburse clients and then I'll lose my job.  So they voted to partially reimburse the clients and a few months later I lost my job.

Was I right or wrong?  I think I was right.  Was it a question of business ethics?  I thought so.  But I was thinking about the clients and how it was hurting them.  And I was thinking about the business long term.   Research says this thinking is very female.  What matters not is whether I was right or wrong but that my voice was different.

Diverse teams don't make more efficient decisions but more effective decisions.  Why is corporate America not making more progress on diversity?  Wall Street is going backward.  Diversity is hard.  Research tells us we like powerful men but we do not like powerful women.  We all fall into a gender bias trap.

The courageous conversation is to question the gender bias.  What can we do to drive diversity:

1.  Recognize the differences and disagreements and debates
2.  Start asking a different question--instead of "Who is the best person for the job?" because that will always be someone like me.  Ask "Do we have a balanced team?"
3.  Really live your values
4.  Realize that women are tired of hair and makeup  (if a woman takes just 15 minutes more to get ready than a man that equals one full work week a year)
5.  Women receive less feedback 'because we're scared they're going to cry'

Let the research speak instead of falling back on what you think you know about diversity.  This is my 'white hot why'--so I'm now part owner of a company that invests in companies that promote diversity.  I'm spending my days and nights thinking about what we can do to help women invest their money more.

I'll be honest.  It hurt to get fired twice on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  So...the question is how do you get up when you're knocked down?   I work with issues that matter to me.  I work every day as though my children are watching me because even when I don't think they are...they are.  I am so grateful for every day and for every opportunity I've had.  I full recognize it was the luck of the draw I was born to my parents, my circumstances.  My parents chose to go into debt to provide their children the finest education they could.  All the opportunities I've been given are my chance to give back.  

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Dr. Brene Brown

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Dr. Brene Brown -- Rising Strong

I am going to tell you a story that happened a couple summers ago when we decided to rent a lake house in Austin, TX.  I spent my summers there as a child.  My husband and I decided ahead of time that we needed to set rules for this two week vacation.  We decided to cook every night and set ground rules.  The goal was to come back healthier.   We decided to swim 1000 yards every day.  My husband and I met as swimming coaches.  He still swims.  This was the first time we would be in the water together for 25 years.  The whole extended family was invited.

One morning we dive in and start swimming.  We stop about half way across the cove.  I am overwhelmed by the majesty of the moment and say to my husband, "I feel so connected to you.  I'm so glad we're doing this."  He says, "Yep, water's good," and keeps swimming.  My first thought is that he is so overwhelmed with emotion he doesn't know how to respond.   I say again, "I'm so glad we did this.  I feel so close to you."  And, again, he says, "Yep, water's good."  I am now fueled through the water by rage.  I am now playing this out to getting back to the cabin and how the 24-48 hour cold war will begin.  I will win that because I'm meaner, but it will be uncomfortable and egg shell-y.  I don't want that to happen, so I ask him to get back in the water, and I say, "What's going on?  I'm trying to connect with you and you're blowing me off."  He says, "I don't really want to have this conversation right now."  And I said, "Tough (I'm editing a lot).  What is going on?"  Then he says, "Are you being vulnerable?"  I replied, "I am but I'm right on the edge of rage."  I don't know what to do next and then I remember this sentence from my research, "I'm making up one of these two stories--you looked over at me and thought  'she's old' or 'she doesn't rock that Speedo.'    

What is the emotion we feel when we make a bid for connection and are rejected?  Shame.    My husband said, "I don't mind taking the kids across the cove all day long.  I don't know what you were saying to me because I was trying to stave off the worse panic attack.  I had a dream last night that I had all five of the kids and a speed boat came along and I was afraid it would hit us so I took the kids underwater.  So I don't know what you were saying to me while I was swimming.  I was just counting strokes and trying not to have a panic attack."  This was a perfect shame storm.  What is the number one shame trigger for women?  Appearance.  What's the number one shame trigger for men?  Appearance of weakness.    I looked at him and said, "I'm so grateful you told me the truth about this." and he said, "Bull.  You want the guy who when the boat comes, he throws the kids to shore and swims so fast he catches them on the other side."  The number one perpetrator of shame for men is women.  Have you ever been vulnerable with someone and had them use it to come back at you?

I said to him, "You and I are all we have.  The stories we are telling ourselves put our marriage in trouble.  I'm so glad we can tell each other what is really happening."

We all want more love, more intimacy, more joy.  The only path to those is more vulnerability.

The instant something difficult happens--a conflict, a failure--our brain is wired to make up a story about what is happening.  If we can give our brain a story in that second it rewards us chemically.  It rewards us whether the story is accurate or not.

The dark middle space--when it's too late to turn around but you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.  In terms of creativity and leadership, what people do in that space separates leaders from non-leaders.  What you do when you're in that space pretty much alone is where courage is formed.  You can go into it 500 times and it never changes.  Experience gives us a little bit of grace that whispers, "You've done it before."

Act 1:  called to adventure
Act 2:  the dark space , then begin to formulate plans
Act 3:  gets it done

I'm not a huge fan of Act 2.  I want to go from Act 1 to Act 3.  In this scenario, Act 2 was the swim back to the dock.  I knew it would end in self-righteous payback.  What happened on that swim back was what I learned from "Rising Strong."  The men and women who can get back on their feet after adversity go through the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution.

What do transformational leaders have in common?

1.  They do discomfort -- say the hard truth;  As leaders you can choose comfort or courage; you can't have both.  Courage is uncomfortable; that's why it's rare.
2.  They have absolute emotional awareness about themselves and people around them.  (If you want to see behavior change you have to speak to people's emotions.)  Curiosity and line of inquiry are the greatest tools for leaders.  Ask people to help you understand.

Reckoning--be willing to examine your feelings
Rumble -- be willing to rumble with emotion
Revolution -- the change

When we pretend the hard things are not happening.  You don't get to write the ending to a story you don't own.  The stories we keep making up every day are not true.

We're the brave and brokenhearted and we're rising strong.  Those who have the courage to care will always know disappointment and those who are brave enough to try will always know failure.  If you are brave enough often enough you are going to fail.  There is nothing more dangerous to the critic, the cynic, and the fear monger than those who are willing to fail because we know how to get back up.  I think the risk is worth it.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Adam Grant

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Adam Grant -- Give and Take: A New Perspective on Leadership

I'm an organizational psychologist.  I get hired after people have been fired.  Look around the room, identify the most paranoid person here and point at them.

When I started studying success, it was about hard work and luck.  Peter Benchley "There are only two kinds of people in the world.  Those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don't." need three categories.

Three styles of interactions show up over and over:  Takers, Givers, Matchers

Takers--Think of every interaction as a way to get and avoid giving back; volunteer for visible, important projects and take all the credit

Givers--People who enjoy helping others and do it with no strings attached; come early and stay late to support the people around them.  Many reserve giving for family, friends, and trusted colleagues.

Matchers--Give and take quid pro quo.  Is matching the best way to live your life?  Maybe.

Think about your own style.  What is your default.

Narcissists are one kind of taker.  Another kind is more common:  someone who used to be a giver or a matcher and got burned.  A lot of takers believe it's the most logical choice.

Which style sinks to the bottom?  Data is clear:  In every category of career studied, the givers are the worst performers--they are so busy doing their colleagues' job they don't get their own done.  One of the blind spot we have is that many of us think we are givers when we are really takers.  You have to ask other people to get a good lead on your own style.

In groups, givers thrive, yet the data say they do it on their own expense.  They fail to secure their own oxygen masks before helping others.

If givers are the worst performers, who are the best performers?  Not the takers; they rise quickly and fall quickly.  They fall at the hand of matchers.  Matchers believe in a just world and they can become the karma police.  A matcher meets a taker, then goes to everyone else and tells them not to trust him.   If you're a taker, there's usually a matcher in the wings waiting to spread the truth about you.  And, the other takers will also blow the whistle on takers.

Matchers are not the best performers.  The best results actually belong to the givers again.  Givers are represented at both extremes.  Helping others can sink your career or accelerate it.  The good news is that givers often fail in the short run but succeed in the long run.  The time they spend solving other people's problems give them valuable experience.

In your world as leaders, how can you build a culture of giving.  Here's a list:

1.  Keep the wrong people off the bus.  A taker can ruin the culture.  Even one taker on a team can make paranoia spread.  If you weed out the takers the rest are more willing to become givers.  You can shift into the giving direction by getting rid of the takers.   Agreeableness or disagreeableness is your outer veneer but giving and taking is inward motivation.  Agreeable givers and disagreeable takers are easy to spot.  Disagreeable givers may be prickly and challenge things but still help everyone.  Agreeable takers are harder to discern.  Just because someone is nice to you doesn't mean they care about you.  Best way to spot a taker is to look forward.  Ask them, "In your world, what percent of people take at least the equivalent of $10 from their employer every month?"  People who think other people are thieves are more likely to be thieves themselves.  Takers anticipate more selfish behavior from others.

2.  Pay attention to what kind of giving people do -- "If you want to be a successful giver, do five minute favors--a micro loan of your time, skill, or connection." Adam ?Beckett?  Once you hit about 100 hours a year you hit a sweet spot.  Above that you are at risk of burn-out.  One of the best things you can do as a leader is ask for help.

3.  The Reciprocity Ring--ask each person to make a request and allow others to meet needs.  This is a powerful exercise to get people to ask.  The takers become more generous because offers of help are visible.  Best effects on the matchers who realize that if you're a giver you have more contacts when you yourself do need help.

Opposite of paranoia is pronoia (fearing people are saying nice things about them and helping them.)

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Ed Catmull

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Ed Catmull--President of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Bill:  Your book "Creativity, Inc." is required reading for our leaders.  It's mind-blowing all that's discussed in this book.  (showed montage of Pixar films)  So, as a young boy you saw an animation cartoon and were drawn to that in an overwhelming way.

Ed:  When I saw the work of Walt Disney I wanted to be an animator.  But when I graduated I couldn't see the path to get there.  So when I went to college I switched to physics.  People think there's a big incongruity between art and science.  I think this is the great misconception of our time.  One of the worse things in our schools is cutting funding for arts.  Art is about learning to see.

Bill:  You wanted to do a new kind of animation.  You talk about working 60 hours on animating a hand.

Ed:  When I got to graduate school the foundations were being laid for computer graphics.  I wanted to start with something hard like the hand to force myself to think about hard problems.

Bill:  So you developed this new technology but you said in your book you don't care about the technology.  It all comes down to the power of a story.

Ed:  To met it's a very interesting process.  People think of stories as entertainment without realizing that stories are the way we communicate with one another.  We have learned that there is a form of stories that are well-told and ones that are poorly told.  The good stories connect with emotions.

Bill:  So this emotions thing.  I have an 8-year-old grandson who said you have to see "Inside Out" a movie about emotions. (movie clip)  --   You've set dazzling records at Pixar.  People think Pixar can do no wrong.  You say every great film starts as an ugly baby.

Ed:  Yeah, you see this ugly child you think will grow up to be beautiful but that's a misconception.  How do we judge the people who are working on something if it looks terrible.  Do you say the people can't do the job?  How do we help them?  How do we measure progress?  Our measure is how well the team is working together.  Is there laughter in the room?

Bill:  You have a film the team is working on and at some point you pull together a group you call the Braintrust and this group gives feedback to the artists on how the film is developing.  Tell us how that  works.

Ed:  We accidentally happened upon this.  Principles of the Braintrust-- 1)peers talking to peers;  2) there is no power structure so there is no defensive posture; 3) there is a vested interest in each other's success; 4) we give and listen to good notes  -- Do we always live up to our own principles?  Generally yes, but sometimes no.  Every once in a while magic happens and there is a loss of ego in the room and everyone focuses on the problem.  When people are not attached to their ideas we get to the goal.

Bill:  One of the premises is that these gifted artists will get lost along the way so they need the Braintrust to help them regain perspective and objectivity.

Ed:  Your peers have been through this and you have mutual respect to help you get out of this absorption with your own product.

Bill:  Would you employ the Braintrust concept if you were leading in another field.

Ed:  I believe the basic principles apply everywhere.  Creativity is about solving problems and since we have problems everywhere what is our mechanism for dealing with them.   Solving problems require working together.

Bill:  As the senior leader of Pixar you had to drive into the culture the idea of embracing failure and having candor with kindness.

Ed:  We still have problems and one of them has to do with this notion of failure.  Intellectually we learn we are better from failure.  The second meaning of failure is that you "screwed up" and someone will bludgeon you for those mistakes.  There is an aura of danger around failure.  We have deep emotional reactions to it.  We have these two meanings simultaneously inside us, and almost everyone can't separate those meanings.  It's a continual effort to make it safe to be honest.

Bill:  You've tried to build this culture of "fail early; fail fast"--that it's part of the creative process.  Are you still pushing that as much?

Ed:  To me the concept is absolutely necessary.  We will fail so we want to make it safe to fail so you can progress faster.  It's a message from us that it's okay.  We make sure people aren't punished.  If you get over the embarrassment it frees you to be more creative.

Bill:  Part of the book is you actually believe a budget is a good idea and it may push creativity levels higher instead of lower.

Ed:  All good artists know we operate within constraints.  Constraint forces you to reorder the right things to do.  You can't do everything.  If you spend too much time on something you sap the energy from it.

Bill:  What is the concept of the beautifully shaded penny?

Ed:  You don't want to waste your energy so you have to think of what will make an impact and not get lost in the details.

Bill:  You talk in the book about someone who spent so much time on something that would only be seen for three seconds.

Ed:  It comes from the passion for excellence.  They're in an environment where everyone expects them to do their best.

Bill:  You have a concept called Post-Mortems where you analyze the creative journey

Ed:  I think on a personal and organizational level you need to be introspective.  A lot of people when the finish the project want to move on.  We need to take a break and evaluate.  People don't want to do this.   People want to use this as an opportunity to tell how great their team was so we change how this is done and mix it up so we don't stop learning

Bill:  You built this culture at Pixar and then were enticed to buy Disney Animation--a traditional company.  You made the deal and the culture there was different than at Pixar.

Ed:  Well, Disney bought us.  We didn't buy them.  Disney bought us for 70 billion dollars.  They put John Lassiter and me in charge of production.  Disney animation was put under Pixar.  We went in not knowing anyone; knowing they had failed and wanting to restore their heritage.  We wondered if our principles would apply to a different group.  Most of the people at Disney thought we were spreading ourself too thin.  We laid out the principles and taught them how to have a Braintrust, how to have their own production, how to have constraints.  It took about two years for the Braintrust idea to work and about four years for them to function well.  Largely the same people were there when the company was successful as when it failed.  We could lay out the principles in four hours but it took for years for them to be ingrained in the culture.

Bill:  You were so concerned about the culture at Disney that you changed the office layout to try to help the culture.

Ed:  It was very executive driven with good offices for the top executives.  So we broke out the doors and put an open space in the center with small spaces for executives in the center.  Wanted to allow for accidental encounters.

Bill:  You have worked with some of the most creative people in the world.  How do creative people have a unique style to access their greatest potential?

Ed:  There are several components.  We don't have very many rules because if you do that you fall into the path of repeating yourself.  People naturally work on things they are passionate about.  We ask they all go outside to do research trips to find something they didn't know.  Restaurants in Paris, sewage plants, etc.  If you bring the thing you don't know into the film you take it to a new level.

Bill:  Near the end of the book you make the statement that you think it's gonna be stories that change the world.  What does that mean?

Ed:  It's how we communicate with people.  I was affected by stories as a child.  We have complex emotions and if we understand that and allow for that we are healthier people.  The goal is to have a positive impact on the world.  I believe education is basically storytelling.  You can abuse storytelling and you can use it for good.

Bill:  You do a silent retreat on a fairly regular basis.  Can you tell us about that?

Ed:  Well, the first time I did it was a little scared.  Most people find the notion of being with themselves a scary idea.  About three days in I was able to ignore that chattering voice in my head and realize it was not me.  I had a new perspective.  So I feel this is important every year.

Bill:  Usually for me it's day four before my spirit calms down and I'm more receptive to ideas God puts in my head.  Most leaders at your level don't take time to practice silence.

Ed:  My experience also is that it takes four days to settle down.  We need to take care of ourselves but sometimes we don't take care of our soul.  This silence is taking care of your soul.

Bill:  Ed, you've touched millions of souls and we thank you for your impact on us.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Jim Collins

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Jim Collins--

Today I would like to share some of my reflections and learnings from my time at West Point with the cadets there.  "The Re-education of Jim Collins" article written.  Jim Collins went to teach leadership but he was the one who got schooled.

Most than 4,000 cadets were assembled in Eisenhower Hall and I saw them going out into time and space.  If you could alter the trajectory of those journeys it was not only a mission but a responsibility.

I would like to translate for young leaders who want to grow into great leaders. (and I would like to suggest we are all young leaders)  I will organized these challenges into seven questions.  These are my personal views, not those of West Point.

1.  What cause do you serve? -- what cause do you serve with level 5 ambition.  Wendy Cox the founder of Teach For America is shy and soft-spoken.  At age 21 she was in a funk and didn't know what to do with her life.  She did her senior thesis on education--her first premise was every kid deserves a good K-12 education.  Second, we should enlist our best graduating college students to enlist for two years in public schools.  If you have a charismatic cause you do not need to be a charismatic leader.  Level 5 ambition= blend of personal humility with an indomitable will.  The essence of level 5 is the idea of service.  We are talking about ambition.   Ego-driven level 4 leaders inspire people to follow them while level 5 leaders inspire people to follow a cause.

The West Point cadets seemed more engaged than the Stanford business students because the service thread runs through the academy.  All cadets know some of them might die in service.  You might think it's easy to have this level 5 ambition in a service organization but this was originally uncovered in the business area.  This was found in all companies that were truly great.

I challenge all leaders to infuse your enterprise with some purpose that goes far beyond just making money.  Commitment to service is not a sector choice; it is a life choice.

2.  Will you settle for being a good leader or will you become a great leader? -- I believe we might be on the cusp of a 21st century shift from a society that's well-managed to a network that's well led.  We will need leadership distributed through all sectors.  Leadership is not personality; it is not position; it is not title; it is not rank; it is not power.  True leadership only exists when people follow even when they have the freedom to not follow.  Colin Powell--"In my 35 years of service I don't remember tellings anyone 'that's an order.'"  General Eisenhower, "Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done."   Eisenhower grew into being Eisenhower.  Most great leaders do not start as great leaders; they grow into great leaders.  Will you do whatever it takes to scale your leadership as the demands of your cause grows?   If your BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) are big enough, you're going to need to grow.

3.  How can you reframe failure as growth in pursuit of a BHAG? -- Question:  Does a BHAG have to be achievable?  Example of free-climbing the Dawn Wall of El Capitan.   Tommy tried to climb for four years but kept failing.  Handholds are so small they can't be see in sunlight--only by head lamp in the dark  Tommy said, "I am not failing; I'm growing.  The climb is making me stronger."  Tommy asked how the West Point cadets were on reframing failure as growth?   Finally one day Tommy stood on the top having succeeded the Dawn Wall.  After he had climbed the highest pitch he had 1,000 feet to go and his partner was stuck down below.  He had to choose whether to push to the top or go back for his partner.  Tommy went down and committed himself to getting Kevin, his partner, to the top.  They made it, and summited together as a team.

4.  How can you succeed by helping others succeed? -- I kept asking the cadets "What's hard here?" and they would say the IOCT.  Indoor Obstacle Course Test.  There's a graduation time--3:30 for men--if you don't make that time, you don't graduate.  I decided on my 55th birthday I would train and try to run the IOCT in 3:30.  One day I watched as clumps of cadets were helping other cadets so they could pass the test.  If I could put into organizations only one idea it would be that we only succeed when we help others to succeed.  This incredible idea--you are never alone.  I came away from West Point thinking about engaged cultures.  If you could build a culture that has a cause for which you are willing to sacrifice and has the idea of communal success built into the culture that is how you build meaning.  It's impossible to have a great life unless it's a meaningful life.

5.  Have you found your Hedgehog--your Personal Hedgehog? -- Top circle--you are doing what you love to be doing;  Second circle--you are doing what you were made for (this might be different than what you are good at); Third circle--You can make a living and fund your BHAGs.  When you lead out of your Hedgehog this is part of the endurance to persist.  In 1988 I met a persistent Hedgehog.  I started teaching entrepreneurship at Stanford and many of my students were smarter and more experienced.  I called Steve Jobs and asked him to be a guest lecturer.  He said to the students, "I got booted out of my last company."  Three years earlier he lost control of Apple.  His new company Next wasn't moving forward.  He was in the wilderness.  He sat and talked to the students about life and leadership and exuded nothing but passion.  This was a man in his Hedgehog; he went to work every day and had a passion for an idea.  He never lost passion for making computers small and accessible.  What if he had quit?  What if Wendy Cox had quit?  What if Tommy had quit?  What if Churchill had quit?  True creators stay in the game.  We cannot predict every hand we get in life.  If you believe life comes down to a single hand you can lose easily, but if you see every hand as part of the game and play every one it leads up to a huge compounding effect.  How many of you have been totally decked in life?  That's when you have to stay in the game.

Army General George Marshall wrote that he feared he was becoming too old to be useful.  But after that he became a five-star general, author of the Marshall Plan, and winner of the Nobel Prize.  Real creative impact accelerates, if you choose, after age fifty.  A wonderful thing to say on a 50th or 60th birthday is, "Nice start!"

6.  Will you build your Unit--your minibus--into a Pocket of Greatness?  --  Great CEOs did not focus on their career; they focused on their unit of responsibility and built it into a pocket of greatness.  Every responsibility you get you should make great.  This means above all being a leader who can make good people decisions--who should have the key seats on the bus?  You need to take care of your people; in the end, life is people.

A few decades ago a young girl sat dejected after a bad race (she ran on the boys' cross country team because there was none for girls.)  Her coach sent her a note that said, "Your time will come."  This is my wife.  When we were going through her journals I found that note.  She still carries that note.  If you ever wonder about the value of that pause to offer an expression of support and kindness--think of it--four decades.  She went on to become a world champion--winning the Ironman in 1985 by a mere 90 seconds and it did not make her happy because it was just an individual achievement.  Ten years after that she got a call from her former coach who told her they needed a boys & girls cross country coach.  She built a dynasty with four state championships with no stars.  She built a culture where teammates were running for each other.  She says she has found something that gives her meaning; changing lives.  The greatest leaders I have studied find a way to make an impact on real life people.

7.  How will you change the lives of others? -- It might be a lot of people or just a few, but how will some people's lives be better and different because you were here on this earth.  Life is people and I hope you take an advantage to be useful.

I end where I began.  I am grateful.  It has been a tremendous privilege to be back at the summit to share a little of what I have learned.

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Bill Hybels

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Bill Hybels--
Forty years ago I was canvassing neighborhoods and asking people to consider coming to a new church.  A few weeks later we sold tomatoes door-to-door to earn money to rent a movie theater to start our church.  We will celebrate 40 years as a church this summer.

We're at different places in our leadership journeys.  It's about moving people from here to there.  Leadership is not about protecting a position; leadership is moving people, a cause--from current reality to some better place.

Some of you are where I was 40 years ago--at the beginning of the journey and you're asking "Can I do this?"

Others of you are at the half-way point and you're asking, "Can I sustain this?"

A small percentage of you are near the finish line and you're asking, "Can I take this across the finish line?  Can I transition to the next leader?"

Ten percent of you are thinking seriously of quitting whatever you're leading right now.  Many others are in need of a new vision.  The highest value at the GLS is humility--each of us declaring we have so much more to learn.  Armed with enough humility we can learn from anyone.  With sufficient levels of humility the religious can learn from those who consider themselves less so and vice versa.

In the early days of the GLS, I identified 8 critical values of leadership.  I built a case that if leaders would master these 8 functions they would be successful.  Now I've watched many learn these functions and still fail.  This has led to long hours of reflection.  I thought--what if there's another list?  Who has it?  How do I get it?

"The Intangibles of Leadership" by Richard Davis written in 1910--says leaders possess intangibles that set them apart.  I devoured the book and highly recommend it.  Here are 5 aspects that get little press.

1.  Grit -- Why do people with lesser talent and IQ out-perform?  Grit=passion and perseverance over the long haul; steely determination over decades; being able to expend full energy over the finish line; gritty people expect progress to be difficult but believe they can overcome obstacles that stand in their way.  "The Little Engine That Could"-- All the big engines refuse to do the job, then along comes a small engine who is willing to take the toys to the poor children on the other side of the mountain (this SO reminds me of Operation Christmas Child.)  The little engine strains up the mountain saying, "I think I can."  As it's descending into the village it says, "I thought I could."

example of leader who lost his love, defeated in political races, but was finally elected as president--Abraham Lincoln.  He had grit.  Nelson Mandela had it; Gandhi and Martin Luther King had it.  Do you have it?  The odds of getting the toys over the mountain are higher if you do.

Grit assessment test on website and you'll get a grit score you can compare to your team mates.

Grit can be developed in anyone who wants it; the arch enemy of grit is ease.  Grit development demands difficulty.  It demands a series of mountains for you to pull the trains over which sets you up for the next mountain.  Grit grows every time you prove you can overcome an obstacle with tenacity and perseverance.  You must will yourself to grit achievement.  Elite leaders have figured out that overcoming physical challenges is one way to grow grit.  And when you grow grit in any area of your life it spills over into others.   Jack Welsh says, "When your supervisor gives you an assignment, don't just deliver--over-deliver every time."  In other words, show grit.  When senior leaders demonstrate grittiness, when they over-deliver in their contribution to the effort, teammates notice and start to push themselves and the whole organizations gets grittier and gritty organizations are unstoppable (This SO reminds me of the leadership of Operation Christmas Child.)

2.  Self-Awareness -- This sounds boring but there's a lot more to it.  First leader was raised by an abusive father who told his son he was worthless; when he was at college he became a believer and decided to become a pastor;  He led his church into a building program that was bigger than it needed and took it into debt.  The church board fired him.  He went on to do the same thing in the next two churches he led.  Just as he was being fired from church #3, he was asked why he did this.  The better question was, "Who are you trying to impress?"  His decisions were tethered to his relationship with his father.  Without self-awareness he will keep repeating this destructive behavior.

Another leader has been leading a ministry so well that half the board thinks the ministry should go international and half thinks it's premature.  Right in the middle of this decision this female CEO offers her resignation.  When she was a little girl both parents became violent alcoholics and her mission was to make peace.  Now she avoids conflict.  She is not aware of what's driving her decision to resign.

Shocking percentages of leaders every day make questionable decisions totally unaware they're being driven by things in their past.  This could derail a career.

Blind spots in the lives of leaders stem from self-awareness.  It's the CEO who thinks his monthly pep talks are firing up the troops when he is really a laughingstock.  Blind spot = something someone believes they do well while everyone on the team knows it's not true.  Everyone has 3.4 blind spots and 100% of you said, "Not me."  You're blind to your blind spots.  You really have to idea they exist.

For decades I prided myself on being cool under pressure (or so I thought.)  A few years ago I had a very stressful time and one day a female colleague said, "You don't even know you make all of us crazy when you're stressed out.  Just so you know, I'm not getting on the crazy train this time."  I was speechless.  Later, when I was licking my wounds I walked past a Willow Creek employee who was washing windows and he was whistling.  I thought if he has the energy to whistle he should be washing harder and faster--he ought to be as miserable as I am right now.  That was the moment I saw my blind spot in all of its ugliness.  How could I have not seen this?  I started confessing this to my friends and then I could move that into my weakness category but at least it was identified.

Do you have any blind spots?  How would you identify them?  Data shows your direct supervisor probably has the most insight into these followed by your peers and colleagues.  Line up your past spouses and mothers-in-law and they will tell you your blind spots.

Self-awareness is a very big deal.  Knowing how your past is messing with the decisions you make today is crucial.  How do you grow in self-awareness?  It will not grow in isolation.  It demands insight from others.  Ask for others to tell you.  This might be very hard the first time you hear it.  You will come to see these revelations as gifts and the likelihood of the toys getting over the mountain will increase.

3.  Resourcefulness -- The learning agility.  Resourceful people are quick learners.  They are collaborative and enthusiastic.  In a world that changes rapidly senior leaders are thrust into situations where they don't know what to do.  Resourceful people roll up their sleeves and find out.  The Wright brothers were not college trained or wealthy.  They studied birds for years and eventually built their airplane wings on that model.  When the engine was too heavy they learned to build one from aluminum.  Every time they came up against an unsurmountable challenge, they experimented and failed and stayed at it until they figured it out.  That's what resourceful people do.  Finally on 12/7/1903 their airplane took off in flight.  So much of their success was determined by their near addiction to learning.

Resourcefulness can be developed; the primary way it gets developed is by putting yourself in situations that are confused and then making yourself stay at it until you figure it out.  Last year I asked you to identify real problems in your organization and form teams to figure them out.  I followed my own advice and several times in the past year I put young staff in situations and found out who has learning agility.

4.  Self-Sacrificing Love -- David in the Bible is under death threats from the king so he organizes a militia.  "All his followers were in distress or in debt or discontented."  David ends up with rejects.  David trains and coaches the troops and identifies leaders and organizes the troops.  He shows concern for them.  The army develops devotion for him and for each other.  One night an enemy army sneaks up on them and cuts off their supplies.  David calls a meeting with this three senior leaders and explains the problem, then says he wishes he could drink water from the well by the Bethlehem gate.  Then they wake up David and give him the water.  What would most leaders do when presented with such a gift?  Drink it?  Share it?  David refused to drink it and instead poured it out as a drink offering to God.  What David did was an effective leadership example that could transform organizations.

David remembered how his team was in the beginning and sees how his investment has paid off.  He remembers how God has whispered to him to love his team even if they weren't the cream of the crop--God told him to love them like God loved David--to serve them, inspire them, empower them, pray for them by name.  God was teaching David that self-sacrificing love is at the very core of leadership. Vision is not the core of leadership.  Strategy is not the core.  Self-sacrificing love has always been and always will be at the very core of leadership.  Love never fails.  Love changes people.  Love builds communities that feel more like families than work groups.  David's love resulted in a supernatural transformation over time.  David reminds them that God deserves the glory for building his team, so he pours the water on the ground as an offering to God.  How did that experience impact those three men?  We live in a day of celebrity leaders.  We live in a day when leaders pit their subordinates against each other and trust in organizations is dangerously low.  At the root of this is a lack of love which must begin in the senior leader of every organization.

I stand before you as a living example of this.  Had a leader not reached out to me with love in college (a theology professor) I would not have been this kind of leader.  After class one day I knocked on that professor's door.  When he opened the door he didn't know me.  I asked if he had ten minutes to spare to talk to me about how to build one of the churches he was just talking about.  If he had waved me off or handed me off to an intern, I'm pretty sure that would have extinguished the barely flickering flame God had put in me to start a church.  The professor asked me to lunch at his house.  Love changed me that day.  Dr. B. took me to lunch at his home and at the end of it said, "I'm happy to make myself available to help you in any way."  And that's the day Willow Creek was born. For 40 years Dr. B. has invested in me, served me, guided me, admonished me, and loved me sacrificially.  I wish every single leader had someone like him in your life.

This all starts with the senior leader in every organization.  The quality of your loving will set the tone for the whole organization.

5.  Sense of Meaning -- "Start with the Why" by Simon Sinek .  Every organization has the what (what do they do) and the how (the mode of doing it) but the huge disconnect is the why?  Why do we do what we do?  Every leader's title should be 'chief meaning officer'-- why should the worker stay loyal to your organization?

I want to have a heart-to-heart with each of you to ask about your "white hot why".  What is at the absolute core of why you do what you do?   You need to decide what is most important.  What is in your top box?   I'm seeking for clarity for each of you.  Your 'why' will either fuel you to heights as a leader or reveal that you need something new in your top box.   Starbucks' leader says, "We don't sell coffee; we provide a place for people to gather."  Rich Stearns, president of World Vision, used to be the CEO of Lenox and he needed something new in his top box and God prompted him to shift his 'why' to putting food on the plates of poor people.  That's the power of having the right thing in your top box.  So I ask you again--what is in your top box?  Do you know with blinding clarity?

My "white hot why"--warning--it's a little bit religious in nature.  (story about sharing with a man on an airplane)  God is perfect.  Who is the most perfect person you know?  Man replied, "Mother Teresa" and I said Mother Teresa would say she'd disappointed God.  So where are you on the 'goodness' ladder?  If God's perfect, you have a gap.  God sees your gap and loves you anyway.  God provided His Son, Jesus Christ and transferred your sins onto Jesus Christ.  He puts us with right standing with God.  This is available to EVERYONE.  You don't have to try to clean up your act.  This is something you cannot earn.  It's a gift from God.  The information on that little napkin I drew for that man blew his mind.  This message, when I first understood it as a 17-year-old, transformed my life and as I told people it transformed their lives.  So my "white hot why" is not money or pleasure; it's transformed lives.  When I came to that conclusion I knew I needed to start a church.  And my passion is stronger now than it was 40 years ago.

Life is too short to live with no "white hot why".  You must find yours and live it out.  You'll be more motivated to find your blind spots.  Your resourcefulness will ascend because you have to figure out how to get the toys over the mountain.  Your love will build because it will take total teamwork to follow your mission.

Leadership matters so much.  It matters in every organization.  It matters in life and it matters in death.  So I'm asking you to step it up--to find your "white hot why" and pursue it; to find your blind spots; to get more resourceful; to learn to love.  If you do the toys will get over the mountain and God will receive the glory.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Keep Running...A Lesson In Perseverance

Yesterday I ran a 5k race.  I only race once or twice a year these days so I have a hard time gauging the competition.  I stood at the starting line and gazed around, trying to figure out which women, if any, were in my 60+ age bracket.  Finally, I decided I would just make it my goal to go under 30 minutes for the 3.1 mile race.  Two years ago I ran the same course in 28:30 and last year in 30:30.

The race began and I watched people stream around me, jockeying for position.  At the first mile marker I saw I had 9:16--a bit faster than I anticipated.  By the time we hit the turnaround at 1.7 miles I was feeling the pace.  People around me had started to walk.

I was tired and short of breath, but I've felt much worse in races before.  There was no reason I couldn't keep running.  But when I saw those around me start to walk, well...I thought...why not?

I checked my watch and figured I could slow down a lot and still come in under 30 minutes.

So...I stopped and walked for twenty paces, then began to run again.

Somehow, though, stopping once wasn't enough.  Now my body just wanted to keep walking.  My running resolve started to melt away.  Oh, I kept running...but resisting the urge to walk became harder and harder.

So...again I stopped and walked--30 paces this time.

As I worked down that last mile the fight to just keep running got harder and harder.  I gave in to temptation and stopped several more times to walk.  I didn't really need to.  I believe my body could have kept running.  But my mind had lost its will to persevere.

I kept an eye on my watch and walked for the last time just before the 3 mile marker.  Then, with the watching crowd in sight, I decided there would be no more walking and I forced myself to run hard for the finish line--finishing in 29:36.

I was glad to reach my goal but I wondered how the awards for my age group would come out.  I couldn't find any results posted so I waited for the awards ceremony.  I was surprised to win my age group, but the real surprise came that night when I saw the official results posted.

The woman who came in second in our age group was behind me by only 2.5 seconds.  In the picture above you can see her right behind me.   All those times I was walking--only because I'd lost the will to run--my competition was getting closer.  I came within 2.5 seconds of losing that race, and I never knew it.

Now, this was just a silly little 5k race.  The stakes weren't very high.  Losing would not have been a big deal.

But every day I run a race for an eternal prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24 says, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win."

How many days do I find myself stopping in the middle of the race, just because I'm tired of running?

The thing is--the stakes can be very high and I may not even realize it.  The phone call I didn't feel like making could have been a game-changer.  The note I neglected to write could have made a difference.  Those precious times when I could have risen earlier to pray might have been pivotal in keeping me running.

God is full of grace and He knows my weakness and is quick to forgive.  And, of course, He calls me to times of rest.  Still, He commands me to "run in such a way that you may win."

Father, keep me running.  Help me to persevere.  Let me realize you've called me to a daily race and keep me focused on the finish line.  By Your grace, and for Your glory, I want to keep running until You tell me the race is over.