Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Moments

So...this is the Monday diary that will remind me next year of where we were on day 1 of prep week. Because we don't have storage space we couldn't have our boxes and cartons delivered until today--four days before we start packing.

The truck came bright and early this morning at 8:30 am and God answered prayer with good weather and a few strong guys to help with moving them through the church to the gym.  Four men pushed each pallet weighing 2,050 pounds on the pallet jack through the hallway.

Meanwhile five of us worked on pulling the tags off those cute fluffy bunnies.  It was a job we didn't want to do but it turned out to be providential because in the process we discovered some of the boxes containing the bunnies (thankfully wrapped in plastic) were damp and moldy.  Unfortunately, a few hundred of those bunnies had a musty smell.  We put them out to air and ultimately took them home to wash.  I'm on the 5th load right now with one more to go and Pam is washing more at her place.  I feel so blessed we found this out before Friday or Saturday.

Finally, around noon, we were able to get to the job of labeling and folding the boxes.  We weren't anticipating starting this today so I guess we're technically ahead, but we only got 6 cartons of boxes folded.  This should be 600, but for some reason we have 613 so far.  God's preparing us for "immeasurably more" I think.

So...tomorrow we are praying for more box-folders because we have 26,887 to go...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What God Can Do

You can never grow tired of seeing God do what only God can do.  It's actually a bit intoxicating.

Of course, what God is doing is not always evident to me, yet sometimes it's not only evident but fairly screams of Him.

God is meeting these packing party needs lately in extraordinary ways.  It's wonderful how God provides for each of us who pack boxes in different ways.

I have a number of friends who help host large packing parties and so often we stand in awe of how He brings those parties together in unique ways.

Several of those friends do their packing parties as an official project of their churches.  One of them even has her church print a little donor booklet that allows church members to pledge to provide the items needed for the packing party.

Our packing party, on the other hand, is not a church ministry.  Sometimes I find this frustrating, but lately I'm realizing it gives God a better chance to provide in His own way and get the glory.

Case in point: for the past few years our church has allowed us to have an announcement in the smaller traditional service to ask for donations of cookies for the packing party lunch.  This year, though, because of time constraints this couldn't happen.  We were asked to use social media to make our plea for cookies.

I wondered how that would work out.  I wondered if we'd need to just buy cookies, and one of our team members even offered to do that.  But God had other plans.

Today I got an unsolicited offer from a friend who formerly owned a cookie bakery.  She sent a text to tell me she's baking "at least 50 dozen cookies" for the packing party.  Well, okay.  Thank You, God.  We'll take that miracle.

And on another note:  Yesterday I got a text from someone else who asked "How many stuffed animals do you need?"  Of course this stuffed animal collection has been an ongoing adventure with MANY people praying each week for a goal to take us closer to being able to put an animal in each of 27,000 boxes.

Though it's hard to know exactly where we stand, after a few recent large donations and the promise of a few hundred coming in on packing party weekend, I calculated I needed probably another 500-1,000--typed the text and hit the 'send' button.

The reply quickly came back. "Done! I'll bring you 1,000 on Friday next week."

Done! After months of prayers and safari hunting God provided an amazing 27,000+ stuffed animals. And they weren't collected through a drive done by a large church.  Week by week and prayer by prayer--two by two or two hundred by two hundred...

Now I'm waiting on Him to send the volunteers we need in just that same miraculous way...

What God can do

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Working Prayers to a Good God

"Your prayers are working." For some reason, when I read or hear that I cringe a bit inside. It's well-meaning--a way to thank those who support you in prayer--but for some reason (and this is just my own opinion) it seems to take away from God's glory.

I mean I know, in a sense, our prayers ARE a form of work. It's an old turn of phrase, but we used to say we "labor in prayer."  And I know because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross we who believe in Him have the privilege and power of prayer.

But GOD is the one who is doing the work. He's the One who gets glory for anything good that comes from our praying.

Okay, since I'm on a roll...let me share another cringe-producing phrase--"God is so good." There's absolutely nothing wrong with it. It's very true and worth repeating and gives Him the glory He deserves.

The thing that bothers me most about both these phrases is they're almost always used when prayers have been answered according to our human desires or when we see God at work in ways WE think are good.  "God is so good," is not often spoken when the medical test results are disappointing or when the car repairs cost more than I expect or when death steals a loved one too soon.

Now...let me jump down from my soapbox to say that this week is a "my prayers are working" and "God is so good" kind of week.

Yesterday I picked up a donation of nearly 1,100 brand new beanie babies.  Not only that, my sweet sister-in-law went with me to pick them up and we were able to separate them into 'boy' and 'girl' bags of 50 so I didn't need to do that again when I got them home.  Not only that--at our OCC prayer team meeting last night Patti offered to take them to her home to store.  They never got into my house!

We prayed for 2,000 stuffed animals this week and in the past FOUR DAYS God has provided 2,010 of them!

Then today we got a delivery of our supply of donated jump rope handles and frisbees. We were 'blessed' (yep, another phrase I use mostly when things go my way) to have Jay drive to Baltimore to pick them up, to have Erie First Church offer us storage for the handles, and to be able to fit the frisbees in the storage container with just inches to spare.  And the rain was falling while we were delivering with the truck inside a garage and the bright sun came out when we had to deliver to the container outside. Pretty remarkable.

Oh, and I forgot we got another donation today of hundreds of pairs of cotton work gloves that will be perfect for the extra boys' fillers we were lacking.

And I found out a situation I've been praying about for months may be close to being favorably settled.

So, today makes me want to shout, "The prayers are working!" and "I'm so blessed!" and "God is SO good," And I want to rejoice.  It's fitting.  Not only with my 'blessings' but with those of others.

On the other hand, I'm asking God to give me a level of maturity and knowledge of His character that will let me say, "God is so good" when things don't work according to my plan. I want to remember I am 'blessed' (from the Greek word makarios) when I desire God and His will more than my own. I want to know that God is hearing and answering my prayers even when that answer is 'no' or 'wait'--that He is 'working' even, and maybe most especially, then.

Because He IS good ALL the time--whether it looks like it to me or not.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Three Week Stretch and Oh-Ohs

THREE WEEKS from now another victory will be in the books and our 9th Community-Wide Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Party will be over. But right now I feel kind of like this little girl looks.

There are a lot of "oh-oh" moments in my life these days. I'm spending a lot of time on menial tasks I've managed to avoid all year like sorting and bagging the generic crayons that were donated last December and will be used as extra fillers because the quality of the crayons is not the best.  Two cartons of boxes of 64 crayons (probably from the dollar store) have been sitting in a spare bedroom for eight months...but NOW I have to take care of them.

Another day this week I worked on dolls and stuffed animals I've been putting aside over the past weeks because they need extra attention--changing batteries, combing hair, removing stains.

It's time-consuming stuff and it gives me those "oh-ohs" when I think I probably should be doing something to recruit more volunteers or figuring out some new publicity angles--something besides sorting and washing stuffed animals and finishing projects.

I just did another tally and it looks like we still need 4,666 animals (well, then I found one drying on top of the washer so I guess it's 4,665 which sounds like a better number.)

Maybe I should have recruited more people to pray for volunteers instead of stuffed animals?  Still, it will be nice to have enough animals to put one in each box.  A woman called on Thursday morning and said she has a large collection of new beanie babies and is moving to a smaller home.  She is having an estate sale and wants to sell some of her collection but promised to donate "at least 1,000" to us.  I'm praying God convicts her to give us even more.  Stay tuned for the rest of that story.

Speaking of Thursday, we had our final packing party work day and finished making all the jump ropes and bagged all but 34 cases of crayons.  The remaining 34 were farmed out for volunteers to complete at home.

Another thing we're praying is for God to provide donations to ship our boxes.  We have a fundraising page through Samaritan's Purse but have only raised a bit over $1100 so far. If you'd like to donate (goes directly to Samaritan's Purse) you can click here. the next 21 days we just have to: retrieve, haul, and stage all the items; pray in 600 volunteers; fold 27,000 boxes...and then pack them.

It's a stretch, but you just watch--God will make it happen.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fed By The Brook

I remember being in a group discussion during my college days where someone said he believed there are things in our spiritual walk with the Lord that are too intimate to share.  I think about that sometimes and wonder if I'm too transparent.  On the other hand, I know God can use that transparency to encourage others and bring glory to Himself. I will let transparency reign.

I've been hungry for Him lately.  This always tends to happen as we approach that big packing party every year.  It's a risk.  We don't have preregistrations for volunteers.  We aren't guaranteed who will show up to help us fold and pack those boxes.

We don't even know exactly what will go in each box and how God will answer our prayers to bless each child who receives one.

What I do know is that only God can make this happen.  From a human standpoint we are not on track--we never are.

I believe God's called us to pack these boxes.  I believe He can make it happen.  I sometimes just need a little extra reassurance that He WILL make it happen.

This Sunday was the final sermon in a four-week series call "Fire Fall" designed to prepare our church for God to do something new in us.  I challenge you to go to and listen to those sermons from the life of Elijah.  You won't be sorry.

Today Pastor Derek brought us to the climax of Elijah's battle with the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel. What amazes me about this story in Elijah's life was how CERTAIN he was that God was going to answer with fire.  He was sure enough to sit there and taunt the prophets of Baal (see 1 Kings chapter 18) while they tried to reach their false god.  Man, I long for that kind of assurance!

As the sermon ended there was an invitation to "move" in response to God's call.  We were asked to "just stand or move into the aisle to kneel."  A few people stood and I sensed a prompting to walk down that long aisle to the front of the church and kneel.  Was it God?  Maybe that was me just wanting some attention?

Really--we were just asked to stand.  Standing would be enough, right?  I wrestled. I justified. But, finally, I just got up and walked and knelt.

I didn't see any visions but I knew--I just KNEW God was meeting me.  Just as God fed Elijah by the brook Cherith I sensed Him feeding that hunger in me.  Slowly there was a visceral response that shook me--literally--and released tears that seemed to bathe the dark smudges of fear from my soul.

It was really such a tiny step of obedience.  I mean, walking down an aisle in a free country isn't like facing a firing squad.  And possibly God would have spoken to me if I'd just been respectable and stood at my seat.  But I really don't think so.

Thank You, God, for meeting me and for that precious KNOWING that You are with me.  Thank You for feeding me.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Calling All Called

Yep, it's 1:00 am and my mind's wide awake and ready to translate the cause.  Translating the cause is one of the high impact principles we use in leadership in Operation Christmas Child.  There are no menial tasks in the Kingdom.  Everything you do for the Lord has eternal value.

And packing parties are full of tasks that might seem menial unless you look at them for the high calling they are.

I mean--what could be a higher calling than bringing God's love to kids around the world.  And how will they get to know that love unless someone tells them? And how will they tell them without a tangible way to show them? (enter those shoebox gifts) And how will they get the gifts unless we pack them?  And how will we pack them without boxes to put them in?  And how will we have boxes to put them in unless someone folds those boxes?

See this hallway filled with boxes?  Well, we're going to be folding these boxes again this year.  We won't get those 27,500 flat boxes that need to be folded until Monday, September 18th and we're praying to have at least 13,000 of them folded by Friday, September 22nd.  These boxes are sturdier than the pop-up ones we've used the last four years and will be better for the children to store the items they receive.

So...we're looking for people who are called to serve God by folding boxes.  And...we're also looking for people who are called to serve God by packing boxes.

Our volunteer numbers have fallen the past two years to about half of what we'd had previously--last year we had just 360 packers compared to 650 in 2012.  God has still allowed us to accomplish the work at the packing parties but with all this folding to do....well, I'm praying He's calling more people in our community to join us.

Will you mark your calendar and ask God to help you clear some time to make a difference for children around the world?

Check out our Facebook event by clicking here or just email me at to get more details.

You are definitely called...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Merry-Go-Round Musings

This summer's gone so fast it feels like one turn on the merry-go-round. Five weeks from right now, Lord willing, our 9th Operation Christmas Child packing party will be history and four trucks with 27,000+ boxes will be well-filled and waiting to be pulled.

Lord willing.

The details are starting to niggle away at me at night now.  It always happens--even though I know our sovereign God will make this packing party a reality again.  He always does.

But at this point it's all faith--not sight.  We don't know who the volunteers will be or how many will be there.  We know we'll have to fold boxes this year so more volunteers will be needed to accomplish that task.  Although, I just heard of a packing party this weekend that was sent the easy-open yellow boxes we've used before.  So...chalk that up to the 'who knows' category.

But as I remember past packing parties I know God's accomplished the task in even tougher situations. Most of those years I was working full-time and two of those packing parties fell within a week or two of my daughters' weddings.

We just had another successful packing party work day this Thursday and have one more scheduled in two weeks.  We're on track to have all the prep work completed before packing party week--something that's never happened before.

There are plenty of questions still waiting for answers -- when will we be able to unload the storage container?  When can we schedule work days the week of the packing party for box folding and set-up?  Will we have anyone to run sound for our opening before we begin packing on Saturday?  And, since I just found out these tags need to be will we cut them off the 2,880 bunnies that are buried in the back of the storage container.  Well...we have 34 days to figure it out.

God has been answering prayer and bringing in lots of adorable stuffed animals. Last week He provided 1,070.  I've been sorting and washing them nearly every day.  The living room carpet isn't clear for long.

I did have two offers this week to purchase new stuffed animals for .50 each--I turned them down.  I try to stay at a price point of .25 for each stuffed animal.  I added up the totals of the ones I've obtained myself in the past year and it came to 4,555 at an average cost of 14.5 cents.  Besides, though collecting them this way takes lots of prayer and travel and time, it does involve a lot more people and it also yields a diverse group of stuffed animals of different sizes that keep the boxes from being "cookie cutter" look-alikes and help fill out the space better.

I'm committed to safari expeditions--at least for the foreseeable future.  You never know what God will do next.

I did a tally last Monday of all our clothing/anchor and filler items and our core team strategized before Monday night's area team.  We decided we'll use thousands of extra clothing items that are on the small side (socks, gloves, underwear, and hats) to augment the other filler items.  By God's grace I pray our boxes will be better quality than ever.

Well, when the merry-go-round stops in five weeks we'll find out.

Friday, August 11, 2017

2017 Willow Creek GLS -- Gary Haugen -- Leaders: Do Not Be Afraid

(at the 2017 Willow Creek GLS to learn more about leading for Operation Christmas Child)

Gary Haugen – CEO of International Justice Mission

I have a sense of tremendous drama in this last moment and I hope you will stay here 100% with me.  As we prepare to leave there is a force that has a power to render everything you’ve learned completely useless.

I think Jesus had a similar feeling on his last night with His disciples.  Jesus knows there is one thing that stands between all they’ve learned and what they will actually do and that one thing is fear. 

All the finest leadership training in the world can be rendered useless by fear and Jesus gets this which is why on His last night He says to them, “Do not be afraid.”  This is the most common command in the gospels because He knows it stands between them doing what they are prepared to do. 

Why is fear the fundamental challenge?  Fear is the silent destroyer of dreams.  All great leadership flows from great dreams.  The most iconic scene in our history is the “I Have A Dream” speech where MLK spoke as the last speaker at the end of a long day of speeches.  He had been up since 4:30 in the morning trying to get the speech right.  When he got up to deliver the speech there was not a mention of a dream in his speech.  As he began to speak someone yelled out, “Tell him about the dream,” and he set his text aside and leaned into the moment and rolled out his dream without a note and history has never been the same.  Leadership begins with a dream. 

You can have an 8-point plan to lead your dream but it will be the lurking fear that will render it all useless and threaten the dream.  Fear removes the love that drives the dream and replaces it with a preoccupation with self.  We care deeply about something but then the fear begins to creep in.

At the IJM we have a dream to protect people from violence.  We have seen people rescued from abuse but every day fear goes to work trying to destroy the dream.  Violence fights back.  Fear begins to undermine the love you had to try to protect people and replaces it with preoccupation with self.

Fear has a devastating effect on the love that undergirds our dreams, but I’ve seen far more dreams destroyed by a leader’s everyday anxieties that lead us to abandon our dreams without putting up a fight.

You and I are actually not likely to even know what scares us most deeply.  I almost didn’t start IJM 20 years ago because of fear.  I wasn’t scared of leaving my career or of taking care of my family.  When I got quiet I found I was scared of being a failure or even looking like a failure.  I was afraid of trying something hairy and audacious and turning out to be a public failure.  That picture of being a loser became almost unbearable, but once I exposed the real fear I could ask, “Is that the fear I want to kill my dream?” And the dream won.  But if I’d taken up the fa├žade of the respectable dream I think the dream would have died and I would have been applauded as wise and respectable.

Being brave is going to be hard because we’re unlikely to know what we’re afraid of.

1)   You must relentlessly inventory your own fears – take the time to examine your fear and see what you’re really anxious about.  Without this you are driven not by your conscious, hopeful dreams but by your unconscious fears. At IJM, every day everybody gets paid to sit still for ½ hour in silence to ask God to check what’s going on inside them.  It’s called 8:30 silence.  When you sit in silence what bubbles up in worry, insecurity.  But if you practice it and are attentive to God there is a strength of insight that develops for every working day.  Is God in a panic about how all this will get done?  He offers a way, a way of hope and peace and love with joy.  You can lead every day like that on the strength of a regular inventory of your own fears.
2)   Switch from playing defense to playing offense.  No great dream of love has ever been built on the fear of what might go wrong but on the hope of what might go right.  Today at your core are you more impressed with what human beings are getting wrong or with what God is making right?  You cannot lead forward in pursuit of a great dream of love while you’re leading a retreat to a bunker of safety.  God is inviting His people and His leaders to stop living in the joy-killing fear of playing defense in the world and to join Him in playing offense.  God is building His Kingdom in the earth and Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  Gates don’t move around taking territory.  Hell is desperately playing defense and cannot prevail against God’s offense.  As the leader of IJM, I know loss and evil is real in the world.  But on the night before He died Jesus said, “Take courage; in this world you will have trouble but I have overcome the world.”  This means we switch to offense and charge the darkness—to advance into what is hurting and broken and bring His healing and redemption.  Example: modern day slavery—millions of the poorest held illegally—nearly 46 million people enslaved today—more than any other time in history. Over 15 years ago Cambodia was ground zero for this.  I could find hundreds of children for open sale there.  This is unspeakably ugly stuff so how should the people of God respond?  The Christians in Cambodia joined with local authorities and began to rescue children and churches around the world helped make good facilities for after-care for these children.  A decade ago Cambodia was the darkest example but now experts have documented the collapse of child sex-trafficking in that country.  This is the people of God playing offense in the world.  Write down two words:  Freedom Sunday – join a mass movement in the fight against slavery. 
3)   Successful leaders of great dreams do one more decisive thing.  They forge a community of courage around them.  Lone Rangers do not make great dreams come true ever.  This Summit is about doing things that matter that are real in the world.  Jesus was God almighty and if anyone was entitled to be a Lone Ranger it was Him.  But he gathered a community around Him and on His last night with them called them to courage.  What was his strategy for securing that courage? – forging a community—a team humbly serving one another.  He says “Love each other as I have loved you.”  He told them to secure their courage with the humble service with which you care for one another. 

Strategy and planning are critical but will be undone if leaders are afraid.  A loving community is the protection against this.  When I got the call that three of our workers had been murdered I knew our ministry would be assaulted by fear.  As I sat on the plane as I rode to Kenya I knew our survival against fear would depend on how well we were loving each other.  A police gang had declared war against us and now they had come for us.  How would we respond?  Would we scatter in fear or dissolve into frightened infighting or just quietly abandon the dream?  When I arrived I found a team holding each other tight through grief, a team staring down their own honest fears and choosing to trust God and each other, a team rigorously retracing their steps, asking hard questions, counting the cost, but in the end they have chosen to double down on the fight.  We have grown by 20%.  Kill us and we will grow by 20%.  It turns out that courage, like fear, is contagious.  Five of the murder suspects have been arrested and the fight against police violence has been launched as is not going to stop because they forged a community of courage and not fear. 

The memorial service for the workers was broadcast live across the country. At the end of the service I felt the weight of the uncertainty but I also felt a gentle hand and looked up to see a familiar face in David who had a decade earlier in Nairobi been rescued from abusive police.  Now he was the face of serious courage and joy that met me at that memorial service.  He wanted me to know he had graduated from law school and was continuing the fight.  He looked me in the eye and said, “Brother, we will never stop fighting.  Don’t worry; we will win.”  He is a leader forging a community of courage.  On the day he celebrated his admission to the high court he wrote me a note, “Brother, may we always remember that we are nothing but servants in the battlefield.  The real soldier is Christ Himself.” 

As a leader you have a dream in your heart.  A dream of love.  A dream of what might be so much better.  You have a yearning of great goodness—a love of irrepressible transforming power that comes from the God that made you.  The make or break truth to hold onto is this: the real soldier is God Himself.  If we can hold onto that truth, that is what will allow us to lead without fear.

Five years after MLK gave that “I have a dream” speech he stood before his followers. He’d been receiving constant death threats.  He wanted them to know that God had allowed him to go to the mountain top and to see that the dream was secure, “I’m so happy. I’m not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. " You have been given everything you need to lead this struggle God has placed in your heart.  What could God do if you could trust Him to lead without fear?  What if you could be transfixed by the glory of the coming of the Lord?  Lead without fear out there to the glory of God and the transformation of His world.

2017 Willow Creek GLS -- Angela Duckworth -- The Power of Passion and Perseverance

(at 2017 Willow Creek GLS to learn more about leading our Operation Christmas Child team)

It is truly an honor for me to be here.  I think some of you have heard about grit. It’s what I study as a psychologist.  Each and every girl and boy, man and woman can develop grit.

I think all people are ambitious.  When I was a child I thought only some people were ambitious but now I think all are.  If people have a choice they would be excellent at what they do.

What is grit?  Four Questions:
1)   I am a hard worker.
2)   I finish whatever I begin. (this is the single most predictive item of who will go on to achieve challenging goals)
3)    I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to achieve.
4)   My interests change from year to year.

1 & 2 have to do with perseverance and 3 & 4 have to do with passion. 

Grit scores and age – as age goes up so does grit
Why?  Millennials grew up with more ?
Maturity principle – with age and experience and character strengths get better

Either because of culture or experience, grit can change.  This tells me we can build grit and we can start today.

Will Smith – (my favorite psychologist) said, “The only thing different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill.  If we get on a treadmill together, either you’re getting off first or I’m gonna die.” 

Talent vs. Effort

1869 study Sir Frances Galton “The truly eminent have ability combined with zeal and with capacity for hard labor.”

Charles Darwin – “I have always maintained that men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work.” 

GRIT is sustained passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals.

It is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. Talent is nothing if you don’t apply yourself.  Talent X Effort = Skill
                        Skill X Effort = Achievement

Of course talent counts but effort counts TWICE.

Anders Ericson did decades of research on high achievers. No matter who you are or how much talent you have you start at the bottom of the learning curve.  Even talented people have to learn and need practice to get better.  You need deliberate practice that makes people better faster.  After thousands of hours you might get a chance to be world-class.

You could get better for a few years and then plateau.  This happens in all kinds of professions = arrested development.   This describes many if not most of us.

You could drop out – start and not finish.  Every one of us have dropped out of something.  We are not able to retain the skills we no longer practice. 

Three possibilities –
n  What is deliberate practice? – begins with a stretch goal.  World class experts know exactly what they are working on.  Next they focus 100% on practice toward that goal; then they get feedback for improvement.  Then, the hardest might be to reflect on your performance and refine it.  This is what sets experts apart.  But it’s hard!  2006 National Spelling Bee—Winner Carrie Close describes her practice as she kept a diary of preparing for this competition. They were categorized—first was leisure reading which was enjoyable.  Second was being quizzed which was more effortful and less enjoyable.  Last, deliberate practice was done alone and was rated as the more effortful and least enjoyable way they prepared.  Grit predicted how many hours of deliberate practice they completed and that was the predictor of achievement.  This keeps you learning and improving
n  Many of us drop out of things too early—We studied that by going to West Point Academy and gave the Grit scale on day 2 of the summer training and then waited to see who would drop out.  We found the higher the Grit score on day 2 the more likely the cadet was to stick it out in the program.  West Point has a measure called the Whole Candidate Score measuring various abilities but this does not predict success in the first summer of training.  Ability was not related to Grit. 
n  What do you give up when you develop Grit?  Individuals who are passionate and persevering in what they do are usually deeply satisfied with their life. 

So how do we build Grit? (in chronological order)
1) Develop your interests before training your weaknesses.  Interests are central to the development of Grit.  Interest is the seed of passion.  Interest is the first and most important part of emerging passion
2)  Know the science of deliberate practice – reflect, refine, and repeat
3)  Cultivate purpose – “In choosing what to do, I always take into account whether it will benefit other people.”  Usually develops in middle adulthood.  The higher your commitment to other people the greater your passion and perseverance.
4)  Change your mind about changing your mind.  Dr. Carol Dweck contrasts a Fixed Mind-set with a Growth Mind-set.  Growth mind-set leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges.  We find Growth Mind-set in children and adults predicts Grit.

Before I conclude I’d like to think about the people around us.  Let me tell you of an Olympic swimmer who said as a young boy he wanted to quit and his father said I don’t want you to quit just because you’re losing so he told him he had to practice and when he got to the top of his age group he could quit if he wanted.  The swimmer said, “My parents loved me so much they didn’t want me to quit on a bad day.” 

We all have a chance to create a culture that will cultivate and embrace Grit.  Grit is something I believe you can build in yourself and in others.  It unlocks the ambition in all of us so we can be as excellent as we are able to be.

2017 Willow Creek GLS -- Immaculee Ilibagiza-- The Act of Forgiveness

(Here at the Willow Creek GLS hoping to get some tips for our Operation Christmas Child team)

April 6, 1994 –  the plane carrying the Hutu president of Rwanda was shot down and violence to wipe out the Tutsis ensued. Hutus went door to door slaughtering and over 1 million were murdered.  Immaculee’s family was all murdered except for one brother but she has committed her life to peace.

It is a great joy to be part of this event.  Each of us need these leadership principles in one way or another. 

The genocide was a terrible experience but the lessons I learned were invaluable. I learned to forgive but more importantly I learned the joy of forgiveness.  I learned forgiveness is possible in any situation.  I begged God to help me and I began to understand the beauty of letting go.  It is a gift to have faith—to know when you can’t He can.

Another lesson was to realize whatever God tells us, He is right.  He taught us the greatest commandment is love.  In our country we failed to love one another so when I think what can we do to stop wars I realize acting in love in my own life will bring change.

Genocide started in 1994. I was home on holiday from college.  I somehow knew when we heard the president was killed that we were going to be killed.  God had prepared us.  Politicians were behind the hatred.

BBC Radio reported the killing of entire families.  My parents were people who helped others in any way they could.  As children we didn’t like that—we wanted new things for ourselves.  People came to my parents to ask for advice and would bring them gifts for all they had done for them.  I want to remind you to be thankful for the people in your life you love. 

The second day after the genocide started, my father had a rosary in his hand and said, “Do not be scared; fear is our worst enemy.  If the government has planned this, they will kill us.  Let’s take this as a chance God is giving us to repent of our sins so we can go to heaven.”  I was sent to a neighbor from another tribe who was a Protestant pastor.  Not everyone from the other tribe was killing people.  I was the only daughter so they sent me alone to the neighbor who showed me a tiny bathroom and told me to stay there.  Then he brought 7 more people to hide in that tiny space.  I learned complaining doesn’t help.  We had to be absolutely quiet.  I started to feel anger and fear.  They put a radio outside the door where we were held and I heard them directing that everyone be killed.  They gave an order to search every house.  I felt that it was over and I was going to die.  Then I heard a voice telling me to appeal to God because He is almighty and I chose to turn to God and asked Him, “If you are there, don’t let the killers open the door of this bathroom today.” After that I fainted and 5 hours later the neighbor came and said they came and searched every room and opened suitcases.  They came right to the bathroom but then told the pastor, “You couldn’t hide these people,” and the searchers left.  I knew God was real and He heard me.  From that moment I decided to believe in God even when I didn’t understand.  I asked the neighbor to give me a Bible and I started reading.  I was reading to understand. 

When I read, “Pray for your enemies,” I would close the page.  Then I’d open again and read about forgiving and close it again.  I took my rosary and when I prayed the Lord’s Prayer and came to the line, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” I couldn’t pray it.  I’d pray from morning until night but I still couldn’t pray that prayer so I started to skip it.  One day I felt God was telling me this prayer was not man-made and I shouldn’t try to edit His prayer. For the first time I went on my knees and poured my heart out in surrender and asked Him to help me forgive.

As I read about the crucifixion and how Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” I started to realize I needed to pray for my enemies and not be like them.  I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. 

I started to learn English when I was in that bathroom and I had the freedom to think about my future.  We stayed in that bathroom for three months.  The first night we came out I found out everyone I left behind was killed.  I wanted to die but I remember feeling the hand of God reminding me my journey was still here. 

You don’t know how long that journey on earth is but God was telling me however long my life was it was His gift and I needed to decide what to do with it. 

To love and do something beautiful became the goal of my life.  I left Rwanda in 1998 and live in New York City.  The greatest gift of all this was to know I can hold onto God in all I do.  This enables me to remind you—whatever you might be facing, remember there is always hope.  Let nothing scare you or impart any fear.

I went to the prison and offered forgiveness to the man who killed my family.  There is so much freedom in letting go—so much joy.

2017 Willow Creek GLS -- Sam Adeyemi -- Leading from the Inside Out

(Here at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit to get some tip for Operation Christmas Child)

Sam Adeyemi – Leading from the Inside Out—Daystar Christian Centre in Nigeria
--70% of the country lives below the poverty line

I am honored to be back at the GLS.  Our church started like many other churches start with very few resources in a restaurant.  We had to change venues within a few months because we didn’t have money to pay.  We attracted people who needed financial help and I thought, “I think I have the wrong people here.”  Many questions go through the mind when things are not going according to your plan.  Then I realized you don’t attract who you want in leadership; you attract who you are.

The leadership dynamic works when there is alignment between the sense of identity of the leaders and that of the followers.  Social scientists says when people say the leader is charismatic it’s more because the leader is a prototype of that group. 

A few years ago I sat on an airplane with one of Nigeria’s greatest leaders.  I asked him how the church in Nigeria could be more effective in influencing national development.  He asked me, “If a group of robbers had the chance to elect a leader, would they elect a policeman?”  I realized they would elect a more experienced robber.

For the leadership dynamic to work, then, either the robber becomes a policeman or the policeman becomes a robber.  For the policeman to help the robbers to become policeman they have never been before.  There would need to be a change in the lives of the robbers first and effecting that change is the miracle of leadership.

God makes champions out of ordinary people and so can we.  Pastors ask me what to do when the first people you attract are not the best members.  Until the ideal members show up, what do I do with the ones I have?  When the millionaire members show up, they will have needs in their lives and the test of your leadership will be leading them.

Real and sustainable change in people’s lives begins with a change in their sense of identity.  One of the richest gifts you can give someone is a new vision of themselves. When you let them know they can do more than they think they can do you bring change to people’s lives.  What we believe is what we become. 

Most people are sabotaged by self-limiting beliefs shaped by their experience and social status.  For some being poor has become part of their culture and they battle a mindset of poverty.  It has become a group identity.  Many can’t imagine themselves becoming something else.

The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.  How do you throw the heart of a whole organization over the bow?  Matthew 13:15—Jesus described transforming the hearts in powerful steps to healing:  see with eyes; hear with ears; understand with their hearts and be healed.  Change on the outside follows change on the inside.

Whatever people see and hear consistently over time will enter their hearts and put their lives on autopilot.  Change what they see and hear.

Four steps:
1)   Describe your vision for your group or organization over and over.  There is power in vision. Vison=ability to see people, places and things not just the way they are but the way they could be.  How we describe the people we lead is so important.  Your vision is like a mirror that allows them to see their future selves.  How you treat people is important.  Twenty years ago my mentor challenged me, “Rather than planning your church on guest speakers, why don’t you become the person they want to listen to.”  He shifted my thinking about myself and that’s what great leaders do. 
2)   Set up a structured training system.  Is your training system capable of producing the leaders you see in your vision?  Training sets up consistency across the organization.
3)   You must model the transformation you want to see – as you grow, tell your employees they can do what they see you do.
4)   Reinvent over and over. You ‘die’ at one level to evolve to another. 
Many leaders are stuck because their progress has been blocked by their success.  Lead others into their own death and resurrection experience.  Train them; release them; allow them to start their own organizations.

Acts 4:13 “When the saw the courage of Peter and John and that they were uneducated men” they knew they had been with Jesus.  No one should hang around you for one year or longer without transformation in their lives.  Even you are far better than you think you are and can do a whole lot more than you do right now. Be brave to embrace and fulfill the destiny God has for you as a leader. 

2017 Willow Creek GLS -- Marcus Buckingham -- Reinventing Performance Management

(Here at the 2017 Willow Creek GLS to get leadership tips for Operation Christmas Child)

I’m here as a researcher. I’m a strengths space researchers.  If you want to learn about great leaders study great leaders.  You discover most research studies failure and then inverts it.  In order to learn about joy we study depression.  To learn about happy marriage we study divorce. 

Not bad is different than good or great. 

All unhappy marriages have one thing in common: people argue a lot.  When you study happy marriage and count the number of fights it’s the same as in unhappy marriages.  The difference is what goes on in the space between the fights. 

You learn nothing about excellence by studying failure.  You have to study excellence to learn it. 

Most companies don’t know what teams exist or who is on them.

Your job as a leader is to build more teams like your best team. 

How do we build more teams like our best team?
--Ask the people on the highest-performing teams questions about their team and ask the low-performing and look for the differences. 

8 Pivotal Questions:
I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company
At work I clearly understand what is expected of me
I have a chance to use my strengths everyday at work
In my team I am surrounded by people who share my values
I know I will be recognized for excellent work
My teammates have my back
In my work I am challenged to grow
I have great confidence in my company’s future

“We” questions and “Me” questions

People want TWO things
--Make me feel about something bigger than me
--Make me feel special or unique

Facebook oriented to speed.  You can see it in the physical plant. Everything screams ‘temporary’
Apple’s building, on the other hand, is pristine. 

None of the above questions ask them to rate the team leader; they are asked to rate their own experience because human beings are notoriously bad raters of other human beings.  Most performance reviews are bogus—we talk about people and their potentials in a talent review and rate on different competencies. 

--Multisource feedback study;  4,492 Ratees; 25,000 Raters; 500,000 Ratings—trying to find explanation for ratings.  The large orange chunk on the pie chart (more than 50%) which explains why you rate = idiosyncratic rater effects and it doesn’t change from person to person.  My pattern for rating will be the same for each person I rate. 

--They tried to get rid of this effect by changing the system but as a result of this the effect of idiosyncratic rater effects went up to 61%. 

--more studies still yield the same data and more articles have been published about getting rid of performance reviews

--Numbers are being “sneaked back in” though because we need to invest differentially.  Most ratings have been based on BAD data and we need to develop GOOD data. 

--To fix performance reviews allow persons to do ratings based on their own experience. 

TWO of the questions trump the other six:  I have a chance to use my strengths everyday at work and At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me. 

How do we do this when goals become obsolete quickly? 

There is a silver bullet—one technique the best leaders do—

**Frequent Strength-based Check-Ins about near-term future work (weekly with each employer—what are your priorities and how can I help?)
A year is 52 sprints so touch base every week. 

We don’t want feedback; we want attention.  We want coaching attention.

--The perfect span of control is the number of people you can touch base with every week. 
--If you are too busy—stop everything else you are doing and just do this. 

Raise your hands if you’ve ever been in love. Go back to that feeling for a second—doesn’t it feel great. You can’t wait to be with that person and you feel like you’re most creative when you’re in love.  You have resilience.  What an amazing thing love is.  Wouldn’t it be great if the purpose of work is to discover what you love?  I have two children and hope they can discover work that they love.  How do you find that which you love? 

Research Road Trip = Love + Work – trying to find how people discover work they love.  God blessed us with such unique gifts and work is one way we can use what we love. 

2017 Willow Creek GLS -- Juliet Funt -- The Strategic Pause

(Here at the Willow Creek GLS trying to learn some leadership tips for Operation Christmas Child)

I have 3 blue-eyed boys.  They did ‘toddler looping’ where they said the same phrase over and over—like “mommy red fire truck”.  I thought—this person talks all day and I had an aha moment thought that must be what my husband has felt like since the day we met.  I went home and sat down my husband and told him this and his eyes got misty and he looked at the ceiling and said, “Thank You, Jesus.”  And we are Jewish. 

Men tolerate silences in conversation better than women but most of us are getting more intolerant of “the pause” in our day.  The pause is becoming a memory.  The loss of time without assignment has consequences in our life.  The pause is where we introspect and create and it’s the most endangered element of modern work.  It’s been squeezed out by the tyranny of the urgent and the presence of constant media. 

(crazy funny monologue about our crazy packed days)

It’s a recipe that’s 100% exertion and 0% thoughtfulness.  When talented people don’t have time to think business suffers.

This exists because
1.     We are too busy to become less busy
2.     We don’t examine the cost

Too much busyness costs
--cost to humanity
--busy work as waste is phenomenally expensive ($1,000,000 per 50 workers)

Where are we in the evolution of the age of overload?
--Like Wil E. Coyote falling off the cliff we hang suspended
--We can choose whether to let this happen or find a new, viable solution

Solution is WhiteSpace-
--A strategic pause taken between activities –recuperative or constructive
--Don’t need long stretches of time
--An MRI of the brain during the pause shows much activity during that pause

Great leaders naturally use WhiteSpace
--Jack Welch spent an hour a day in “looking out of the window time”
--Bill Gates locked himself in a cottage for 2 weeks a year
--Alan Funt (her father) never rushed the ‘cooking’ of a great idea

I spend 100% of my time consulting and writing about the strategic pause
--I ended up here because I’m the most driven rat

Three things it is NOT:
--Mindfulness (focusing on one thing)

What it IS:
--No goals or boundaries
--Permission to think the unthunk thought

How to get it:
--Decrapify your workflow
1.  Be conscience of the thieves
2.  Defeat them with the questions
--Busyness always feels like it’s our fault
--We found 33 unique sources of pressure that cascade onto you—(pressures of economy, etc.)
--Busyness is not simply a personal problem
--Analyzed the 33 sources and found 4 that were positive assets that are common thieves

The Thieves of Productivity

--these operate on the Hedonic treadmill – whatever we have, soon we will want more
--the thieves are also linked to our personality and we will identify with some more than others
--Every one of the thieves has a value and each has a fault

--Next step is to defeat them by asking questions, using language to ‘out’ them

--In the presence of the thieves that WhiteSpace will be filled.

Here are the WhiteSpace Simplification Questions
Is there anything I can let go of?
Where is “good enough”, good enough?
What do I truly need to know?
What deserves my attention?

When we commit to be reductive we commit to strip away the unnecessary.  We can’t follow up on every idea or go to every event.  We need to learn to let go.

How do you put this into action? 

WhiteSpace learning activity – (use phones  to do one lesson each week for 3 weeks with your team. )

Time to learn a tactic—this one deals with email
--#1 problem with email is not quantity; it’s the expectation of immediate response
--WhiteSpace NYR codes – go in the subject line
NYR: Need Your Response
NYRT: Need Your Response Today
NYRQ: Need Your Response Quick
NYR-NBD: Need Your Response-Next Business Day

WhiteSpace at Home
--Whatever “It” is for you—rush out there to not miss it
--It’s never too late to miss tomorrow
--The business part of this is important but more important is to build some WhiteSpace into your life

2017 Willow Creek GLS -- Laszlo Bock -- Insights from Inside Google

(Here at the 2017 Willow Creek GLS to learn about leadership for Operation Christmas Child)

It’s an honor to be here today.  When I was invited I wasn’t sure what the organization was so I did some homework and realized this is a pretty big deal. My next thought was that I’m not qualified to speak to this group. 

Early in my career I found myself frustrated in my work.  I’ve had 14 or 15 different kinds of job: tutor, teacher, librarian, baker, waiter at Olive Garden—every place I worked there was a gap between the values the leaders talked about and what they lived.  That made me angry and made me go down the path of human resources which got me hired by a small start-up called Google.

The problem with human resources is that every single person you work with things they know how to do your job better.  My mission is: find the best people; grow them as fast as possible; keep them at the company.

At the end of last year I left Google and started a company called Humu—named for a fish—and our mission is to make work better for everyone everywhere through science, learning and love.

I had this epiphany years ago and realized we spend more time working than anything else in the world.  We spend all our times with bozos someone else hired and it seems the experience of work should be meaningful. 

Google believed in open source—make everything public and allow them to test it.  They believed if we open-sourced what we do on the people side we can do some good.  So I wrote this book called “Work Rules”. 

The one question I get when I talk about how to make work better:  You worked at Google but I work at a small shop or I’m in another country, so how can this work for me?  I was thrilled to learn that what I’m going to share works everywhere.  We as human beings are fundamentally the same.  We all want the same thing: happiness, meaning, to have a voice in what we do.

Google was named best company to work for in 2007.  I was on a panel with someone from Wegman’s (who’d been in the top 5 for years.)  Though Google and Wegman’s were very different, we agreed on everything:  treat your people right and they will do right by you. 

What I’m going to share with you works. 

The most important thing:  Give your work meaning.  If your goal is to be #1 or #2, what do you strive for when you get there?

--you need to have a mission that matters.  Google’s missions was to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and useful. 

Survey of people to see how many have meaning in their work.  Looked at every type of job:  1/3 have meaning; 1/3 do it just to make a living; 1/3 see it as a personal game.  Across every field (even non-profits and ministry) this is true. 

Some people remember the duty but forget the joy. 

Adam Grant is a professor who wrote a book called “Give and Take”.  Early in his career he wanted to get tenure as a professor.  He went to a call center that raised money for college scholarships.  He found they were raising $1300 every week.  He went to the scholarship recipient and had them write essays about what the scholarship did for them for the call center workers to read.  The call center profits didn’t change at all.    Next he got scholarship recipients to write essays about the MEANING of their college experience and took those back to the call center to read.  This time the profits rose to $3100 a week because of being connected to meaning in the lives of human beings.  Next he brought scholarship recipients to the call center once a week and the profit rose to over $5000 a week. 

Concrete ways to instill meaning; 
--Figure out why you are doing the work you are doing and post reminders to yourself
--Find the people around you and ask them what motivates them. Find the people who are connected and have them tell their stories.
--Have people come in who are beneficiaries of what you do.
--Repeat the above again and again.


Next thing we’ll talk about is trust.  Do you believe human beings are fundamentally good or fundamentally evil?  I’m going to assert people are good.  Most organizations fail to trust their people. 

What meetings happen we don’t know about?  What goals are set we don’t know about?

Having a goal is important and you need to make sure people know the goal.  Publish the goals and share results. 

Bureaucracy Busters = ask employees how to make things better.  Ideas submitted—voted on—made changes


If you give people information about profit/loss they will use it to make good decisions.  Once in a while something will slip but if you treat people with trust and respect they will repay you by being more creative and adding back more value.

Professor at MIT explored productivity.  Partnered with NIKE in Mexico and found 2 plants where each employee was making 80 T-shirts a day.  Plant A—kept the same  but Plant B—let employees (all women) figure out how to run the work themselves.  Number of T-shirts went from 80 to 120 per worker and cost went down and employees were happier.

If you are a leader, give your people more freedom than you are comfortable with.  Ask “what do you think?” and then try whatever they suggest.

Have a suggestion box and the next level is to have the team figure out what to do with the suggestions.

Recruiting and Hiring – the most high-leverage thing you can do

We all think we’re good at hiring but we all do a poor job.  Did a study with  11 college sophomores who watched interview videos without the sound and asked them to assess the candidates and they came up with the same evaluations as the trained professionals.  They found we make snap judgments when we meet people and then spend the rest of the interview justifying the first impression. 

Two rules:
--Don’t let the interviewers make the hiring decisions.  Make them write up the interview and give it to someone else to make decision.
--Don’t hire anyone who isn’t better than you in some way

Give your work meaning
Trust you people
Hire only people who are better than you

Find that thing that drives you.  Ask the people around you what drives them. Keep doing this again and again.