Category Archives: Leadership
Thoughts and Prayers –
I have to admit I am sick of the phrase; “Thoughts and prayers,” which inevitably occur each and every time there is a mass shooting in our country. As of yesterday, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a total of 30 mass shooting incidents have occurred as of February 14, 2018, including Wednesday’s school shooting in Florida. Thirty! That’s almost 1 every day. Following these mass killings, politicians play two cards; “Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” followed by; “Now’s not the time to talk about gun control and what we can do to stem the tide of gun violence in our nation.” Every time one of these politicians speak these words or ones like them I almost throw the remote at the TV. Kids are dying! Most of these politicians are pro-life, anti-abortion, but somehow someway they play a Jedi-mind trick with themselves and see these as two separate issues. I can’t do that, I won’t do that. Something needs to be done.
I am acutely aware of the mental health angle and the restriction for individuals who mentally should not own a gun. I understand waiting periods for guns and background checks but we must do more. Our children are dying! The National Rifle Association is a powerful entity. They lobby and support many politicians:
La. Sen. Bill Cassidy, tweets his sympathy and prayers – received $2,800,000 from NRA.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman tweets prayers – received $3,000,000 support from NRA.
Iowa Rep., Janie Ernst tweets, join me in prayer – received $3,100,000 from NRA.
Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio tweets, a terrible day you pray never comes – received $3,300,000 from NRA.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner tweets, heartbreak and prayers – received $3,900,000 from NRA.
Az. Rep. John McCain tweets his prayers – received $7,700,000 from NRA.
Fla. Gov. Rick Scott ordered flag to be lowered for senseless tragedy – received A+ rating from NRA.
V.P. Mike Pence tweets heartache and prayers – received A+ rating from NRA.
Donald J. Trump tweets his prayers – received more than $21,000,000 from NRA in 2016 election.
I don’t know what to do. People smarter than me have been trying and yet for some reason are met at every turn with obstruction and obfuscation. I also want to know where the church is on this?!?! It’s clear to me Jesus never condoned violence of any kind and sticking up for the poor, down-trodden, innocent ones was his mission and should be ours. We’ll stand on a street corner with pro-life signs, slap a pro-life bumper sticker on our car but few vote for stricter gun laws.
I don’t want to start a debate. I want a solution. I want kids to stop dying and the church be silent no more. The youngest and brightest among us are dying. Thoughts and prayers do nothing without actions backing them up. Do something or stop saying it!
This afternoon I stopped by a store to pick up some sodas for our incarcerated father’s class. I grabbed and carried them to the cashier station. I waited on the woman in front of me and when she was finished stepped up and watched the cashier scan the drinks and stick them in plastic bags. When it was time, I scanned my card and then entered my pin number. However, as soon as I punched the digits in I knew it was the wrong pin. I told the cashier and she reset the scanner. For a moment I couldn’t separate all the pins and passwords in my life and choose the correct one but finally settled on the right one. It worked and I walked out with my purchase.
As I drove to the jail I thought about the men in my class who were receiving their certificates of completion tonight. I thought about the different men in the program and how each of them has certain “codes” which work for them. For one humor might be the key, another is not being singled out in class but letting him join the conversation when he’s ready. Our goal at the jail is to give the men a collection of tools and skills which will keep them clean, responsible, have abilities that many people on the outside take for granted. However, getting them to participate and accept the knowledge is tricky. Not any one approach works with all. We must take the time, learning about the men, connecting with them, understanding the way they think so we can “break the code” that will help them make life changing choices.
Yesterday I wrote about hearing the sound of a kitten but not being able to find it (“Listen” (https://thewannabesaint.com/2017/09/08/listen/). Today, I saw it for the first time. However, it wasn’t the way I wanted to be introduced. I was weeding near outdoor shelves and the weed whacker was on full throttle. Grass and dirt flying everywhere and when I was right next to the outdoor shelf all of a sudden the gray kitten (I now know what color it is) shot out from under the shelf running for dear life. I immediately turned off and put down the weed eater and went looking for it. Using my best “meow” and “here kitty kitty” I tried locating it to introduce myself and assure it wasn’t in any danger but no luck. It was in too much distress to come out of whatever hiding place it discovered. After I finished with the weeding I put out a little food and some water in hopes it will show up again. We’ll just have to wait and see.
A friend, who is a teacher, posted on Facebook that it can be difficult to reach students because of the trauma and distress they face in other parts of their lives. He lamented the impact a teacher can have because of the other challenges and difficulties his students are facing on a daily basis. I find this true in my work with men as well. Whether they are incarcerated, in a rehabilitation clinic, non-residential, divorced or living with mom and the children, most of these men have a painful story. They are impacted by their past experiences of neglect, abuse, heartbreaking home lives, and lack of positive male and female role models. These not only affect their current behavior but also wire their brains and condition their bodies to react in mostly negative ways.
What I’ve learned is that I can’t fix these men. It’s not in my power. What I can do is show them respect and kindness. I try to connect with each one personally. If I can establish a relationship built on kindness and respect amazing things can happen. I’m unable to help them all but I try and trust this is enough.
to Learn –
I once listened to a man who was in charge of a big organization. He spoke about how he arrived at his position, ran the day-to-day business, and wanted to teach others how to follow in his footsteps. As I listened I also glanced around the room at the staff he had assembled and realized something was missing. As jazzed as he was being their leader their eyes, mannerisms, betrayed the fact that they didn’t feel the same way.
As I got to know the managers and leaders who worked under the main guy I realized there was a lot of dissatisfaction and exasperation. The main leader could be a bully, didn’t listen, had all the answers to all the wrong questions. He was a leader but he wasn’t their leader. Most of them felt distant and disconnected.
Since then I’ve met similar leaders and similar staffs. I’ve also met good leaders who sit with their staff members and let them talk. I’ve met leaders who are open to criticism. I’ve seen leaders apologize for not being good enough and watched them work to become better.
The quote (pictured) is a valuable lesson. To learn, not just from those who do things well, but also from those who need improving, takes a willingness to be open, willing and ready to learn in all situations and seasons.
My truck smells good! It’s Certificate Ceremony Celebration night for one of my Incarcerated Fathers classes. For 10 weeks they’ve listened to me, took notes, completed homework and now the smell of success will go from my truck to the classroom. They’ll also receive a completion certificate, a letter of recommendation, but pizza will be their most beloved prize tonight.
Its amazing how quickly you can get to know and like someone. These guys are serving sentences for everything from drug running to stealing to assault. Some of them have been beaten down by a system that’s can be more punitive than educational. However, the sheriff in this county believes in redemption, that no one is beyond saving. We’re all human and nothing really separates us except the walls we erect.
So, off I go. A glamorous pizza delivery guy. I hope, when all is said and done, they will have received much more from me than a few slices of pie.
Brian Loging (Twitter)
An Example –
Earlier this week I was part of a conversation where someone began being critical of another person. These conversations usually go down hill quickly but instead, the one who was being critical stopped in mid-sentence and said; “I’m going to stop talking. I have a blind spot when it comes to this person. Too often all I see is the negative and that’s not fair to them.”
I admired this person’s self-awareness and self-restraint. Most people would blame the other for their bad mouthing, continue with their complaining until they couldn’t think of anything else deleterious to be said about the other.
Self-awareness is key to personal and community growth. Being cognizant of our own foibles helps us grow in our knowledge of self and gives others an example to follow.
This morning someone asked me if; “a leader with a strong personality is a good or bad thing?” I reflected for a few moments on the leaders I have served under. Surprisingly there haven’t been too many who’ve had strong personalities. As I whittled my way through the last I thought of two who fit the description. Interestingly enough one had the opposite personality of the other.
The first was gregarious, affable and larger than life in his expressions of love and support for friend and stranger. He was the type who would come unexpectedly into my office, plop down in a chair, talk for a while and then decide we needed to go to breakfast, no matter the time of day. He wasn’t in competition with his staff, allowed others to shine and didn’t keep a scorecard.
The other wasn’t at all like the former. His personality was certainly large but in a way that kept others in fear of their job or at least being aware their job’s future was in his hands. I do not doubt his love for other people but his leadership style could be overbearing and constraining. There was one way, his, one voice, also his. He believed his vision for where the organization was to go was the right one and took umbrage to anyone who challenged this belief. For those who were comfortable with his style, and their place in the food chain, things were pretty smooth. For those who struggled under the weight of his personality it could be difficult and debilitating.
As the conversation with my friend continued I spoke about both leaders, their style of leading and managing and their grandiose personas. “For those with over-sized personalities, whose job it is to guide staffs, peoples and organizations, not taking oneself too seriously is a good trait to possess. Humility, a servant’s heart and a willingness for others to succeed, to surpass and outgrow your ability to lead are also rare and valuable gifts. Leadership isn’t about sitting, guarding the big chair, but helping others find big chairs of their own to sit in.”
Earlier this week the non-profit organization I work for, of which the Fatherhood Engagement program is a part of, had its yearly review.
A representative from Washington, DC came to Columbia, TN to check us out. It was an audit of everything from finances to program implementation to staff efficiency and competency.
Key members of the team, including myself, had to give formal presentations explaining what we were doing, why we’re doing it and the impact we’re making. There were questions asked, suggestions for improvement made and at the end of the week a summary and evaluation of our program’s effectiveness for reaching families who live in South Central, Tennessee was given.
I am pleased to say everything went well and the team received high marks for leadership, staff versatility and our program’s overall productivity and success. We’re not perfect but progressing very well. After the federal examiner left, the staff breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Being held accountable is not easy. Having your program, job skills, family, personal life put under a microscope isn’t easy. Wisdom, however, teaches us that it’s necessary. Truthfully, all of us are capable of deceiving ourselves. Our egos generate excuses, escapes and excellent ways to push the blame onto something or someone else.
Self awareness and examination is difficult. To allow others to help us see what we do well and where we need to improve takes a willingness to be vulnerable. When areas of weakness, shallowness, selfishness or sinfulness are found we are challenged to accept what has been revealed and change what is possible.
Perfection isn’t an option but perception and progression is the way forward.
A few years ago I sat in a meeting where a young leader had recently been appointed. He had a lot of great ideas, a grand vision of where our organization needed to go and a list of all the things which needed to be fixed, adjusted, discarded. After his excitable presentation he took a breath and asked us for feedback.
Several staff members shared their reactions and when my turn came I told a story about my Golden Retriever named Belle. “Since a puppy she’s loved to go for walks. However, she also has a quirk about whomever is walking her not getting too far ahead. As long as you stay close she’ll keep up but if you start going too fast she slows down and if you don’t notice she’ll lock her front legs and you either decrease your pace, stop or drag her.”
It was a reminder to him, and to all of us, that change, transition, adjustments to a new way of being can only happen so quickly. Sometimes our enthusiasm, passion to improve and/or assist overwhelms and we’re met with resistance instead of receptivity.
Wisdom helps us know the difference between leading and dragging, walking beside or going forward alone.
Someone asked me this morning what makes a good leader? I thought for a moment and replied; “I have worked with great and not so great leaders. The difference is a great leader doesn’t have the need to be recognized as great.”
I then relayed a story about a senior manager who told me how he’d been having trouble with some folks in his organization. He was going to have a meeting with them and invited the district manager to attend. When the manager arrived at the room where the meeting would be held he found the district manager arranging the chairs in a circle for the participants. The senior manager stopped him and said he should be recognized, seated, placed among the the others in such a way they would see and know he’s in charge.
I remember listening to this manager as he shared this story with a sense of triumph and pride in his voice. However, all I could think is; “a leader doesn’t need special positioning to be recognized as great.”
The great leaders I’ve known and admire are humble, sit wherever there’s a seat, are as comfortable listening as speaking. They don’t dominate every conversation, are open to contrary opinions and aren’t threatened by the talents and gifts of others. They don’t desire a particular parking spot, the corner office or their name on a sign. They instill purpose not pressure, harness the passions of their team not harass those serving with them, embrace the strengths of others and are not envious of those who do some things better.
Great leaders see their position on a team as a blessing not a right and an opportunity to make others and themselves better.
Today I had lunch with a pastor friend….
We talked about many things including what makes a good leader.
We agreed that the prime ingredient was humility. Being able to admit our faults, our weaknesses, was crucial, especially in times of conflict and struggle with those we worked with.
As we talked we gave examples of folks we had served with who had blind spots, who were unaware of their own shortcomings and how they were incredibly difficult to deal with.
We also admitted we have been those people.
The thing with blind spots is… we can’t see them. If we could see them we’d have to call them something else.
So what do we do? How do we see without seeing?
We can’t see our blind spots but we can be aware, humble enough to admit we are flawed, imperfect people. We can know we are biased, prejudiced, and shortsighted. We can allow for the possibility that we don’t know everything and everyone can teach us something.
“If you’re dumb surround yourself with smart people, if you’re smart surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.” – leadership proverb
Earlier today I finished up a lawn and was packing up to go to the next one. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a pre-teen boy trying to move a loaded trash can to the curb for pick up.
He was having trouble because of the weight. No matter how he positioned himself around the receptacle it wasn’t budging.
After a few moments of watching him struggle I called over to him; “Need some help moving that trash can?” “No.” came his quick reply. I nodded my head, finished loading up, and delivered the invoice to the front door. By the time I got back to my car the boy had moved the trash can to the curb. “Good for him,” I thought.
Sometimes people need our help getting the refuse out of their lives, other times they need to take out the trash themselves. Whatever path they choose we should let them know we’re here to help but also respect them enough to let them do it alone.
(Thomas Merton’s advice to a priest in 1968 reflected his own evolving sense of his monastic and priestly vocation. It also strongly mirrors my own. – bdl)
“Couldn’t you be a sort of ‘underground priest’ in lay clothes? In other words it seems to me that you might be called to a kind of hidden service in the sort of unofficial and informal life you desire.
In short, be like a layman, live like a layman, but do some of the priestly work and service along with it… All the more reason to get out of the ordinary patterns and yet to be a priest nevertheless, and work in a quiet, relaxed relationship with people you can relate to without too much difficulty. After all, you are always going to have to relate to people.
See your priesthood not as a role or an office, but as just part of your own life and your relation to other persons. You can bring them Christ in some quiet way, and perhaps you will find yourself reaching people that the Church would not otherwise contact.”
He is a troublesome soul, this person I know, hard to get along with and even harder to love.
At one time we worked together and it was indeed difficult. We were just too different. Many times I was called to his office for “crucial conversations” that never led anywhere because it was never about office policy, other staff, or various issues, it was about him not liking who I was, what was and wasn’t important to me.
One time I was told he needed to review my department, speak with those whom I was responsible for and worked with, to make sure I was doing what needed to be done. He met with a core group of leaders and was surprised at the level of love and respect they had for me. I wasn’t, because I knew the depth of relationship I shared with them. I also knew the reason for the review, and the surprise it went so well, had nothing to do with my abilities and everything to do with his uncomfortableness with me. It was always about me and him but he didn’t understand, or couldn’t accept, he was negatively biased toward me.
It almost always comes down to us and whether we are willing to examine our own judgements, labels, biases, likes and dislikes, when it comes to other people. To be willing to discover and put aside our excuses for why we don’t like someone isn’t easy. To decide to be kind, compassionate, merciful and loving towards them is even harder. To be responsible for our own thoughts, feelings and actions might be the toughest of all.
Today I shared the following with my campus family as we began our last few weeks together…
Waiting can drive us crazy. Maybe this is why there is so much of it in life. These last few months have been one long season of waiting. A thought that keeps coming to my mind, “perhaps, life can be best summed up as one long lesson in patience.”
In a world where almost everything moves at such a high rate of speed, sometimes it’s difficult to catch our breath before something else dashes in to take it away. Instant gratification is no longer an option but rather a necessity. At a time where everything happens so fast, shouldn’t patience be placed on the endangered species list? It seems to be no longer a virtue and no longer needed.
However, life still requires patience and a recognition that for everything there is a season.
Jacob, the heel-catcher, has met a kindred spirit. Both men are deceivers and manipulators. Both do whatever they can to get the better of the other. It just comes naturally. Laban tricks Jacob first by marrying him to Leah before Rachel…After many years of service, Jacob finally outwits Laban and gains a more valuable flock in the process.
31 As time went on, Jacob overheard what Laban’s sons were saying about him.
Laban’s Sons: Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father; he gained all his wealth from taking advantage of him.
2 And Jacob also noticed a change in how Laban looked at him and treated him. He seemed colder toward him than before.
Eternal One (to Jacob): 3 You must now return to the land of your ancestors and to your own family. I will be with you always.
4 So Jacob called his wives Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flock was grazing.
Jacob: 5 I notice your father’s attitude toward me has changed; he doesn’t regard me with the same respect as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me….(but God has said to me) 13 “I am the God of Bethel, the place where you poured oil on a pillar and made a vow to Me.[a] Now get up, leave this land, and return to the land where you were born.”
It has been a long season of waiting for Jacob, heel grabber, one who wrestles with God.
He has waited in a foreign land for his brother to cool off after Jacob tricked him out of his inheritance. He fell in love with a beautiful woman named Rachel and waited seven years, working for his soon to be father in law only to be tricked into marrying his beloved’s older sister named Leah. He then had to work another seven years to complete the payments for both sisters.
After this Jacob grew rich and Laban grew jealous. The time was coming when he would need to move away from his father in law. As he waited, God blessed and his father in law schemed. Don’t feel sorry for Jacob, he could scheme with the best of them. Finally, after many years of service, back and forth plotting and scamming, wives, many children, trouble between the two families, and much waiting, God reveals to Jacob what he is to do.
3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
It has been many years since Jacob has been home. His life has been lived elsewhere for so long home is more a memory than reality. It’s also filled with uncertainty. What will Esau, Jacob’s deceived brother, do when they come face to face? Where will they live? Will his livestock and investments continue to grow? No certainty is given except (God promised) “Go to the land of your ancestors and I will be with you.”
Jacob gathers his family and discusses this life altering revelation.
Rachel and Leah (respond): 14 Is there any inheritance at all left for us from our father’s house? 15 He regards us as foreigners now that we’ve married you. He sold us in exchange for your years of labor, and he has been using up all of the money that should have been ours. 16 All of the property God has taken from our father and given to you actually belongs to us and to our children anyway! So do whatever God said to do.
“So do whatever God said to do.” Remember these are moms saying this, wives giving their approval. Moms aren’t usually too thrilled when dads/husbands decide to make a U-turn in midlife and do something unexpected. Moms/Wives like stability. They like knowing the kids are getting fed; a roof over their heads, the dad/husband is going to be able to provide for them. Thank God for wives/moms/families who are willing to say; “Do whatever God said to do.”
17 So Jacob got up, and he put his children and his wives on camels for the journey. 18 He rounded up all of his livestock and all of the property he had gained, … crossed the Euphrates River and set his face south toward the hill country of Gilead, he was going home.
When I came to ECN almost 7 years ago I left a ministry which faced many challenges and came to a new place, a new life at ECN as their Christian Education director. Though I had never held this position before, I was excited to do something new after being a youth mentor for many years. However, less than a year later, I was asked to visit this campus church for a few Sundays to be pulpit supply, a fill in, a substitute and I have been there ever since. I have never regretted my decision.
Even last year, when the future of our church became uncertain and my position was no longer available, I still knew this was God’s place for me. In July 2013, after being informed ECN could no longer financially support my position I began searching for another position but also applied at many bi-vocational jobs in this area in case the decision was made to keep the campus church open.
Though I have been considered for various positions in these last several months I have prayerfully sensed God’s leading not to pursue any opportunities until the outcome of our campus was determined. Then in December, following the decision to close LVCN, God’s call for me was to continue being their shepherd, through this time of uncertainty and until the last Sunday, was clear. I obeyed but was unsure what this meant for the future.
As I have considered other ministries and waited for guidance on where to go next, I prayerfully sensed I was to wait, to rest.
One position seemed it might be a good fit. We exchanged emails, phone calls, video interviews and I sensed I would fit in rather well. My last interview with their leadership team was on January 16, 2014. It went very well. As soon as I finished the interview I picked up my bible, prayed and began to read scripture.
The Bible I was reading from has a selection of chapters to be read each day followed by one verse to meditate upon. The assigned section for this day was 5 ½ chapters, over 100 verses. Out of all the possible selections the verse to meditate upon was:
Up until this point Beth and I had been discussing the sense of waiting we felt God had placed on our lives. We also reflected upon certain difficult situations I had encountered while serving here since July 2007.
In some ways we, like Jacob, have been in a period of waiting for almost 7 years. There have been times we looked for a sign to transition but were always directed back to shepherding our family at the campus church. In many ways it has been this place, these people, which kept us from moving on during some very trying times. It is a blessing being their leader.
Now this verse brought everything into focus. I understood why a spirit of rest had been laid upon my heart. That night I saved and annotated the page in my Bible (pictured above) dated it January 16, and shared it with my wife. I read her the scripture I had meditated upon following the interview and she replied; “Do what God wants you to do.” Following this I contacted the church and removed my name from consideration for the position. I realized this was not the season for “next” but of rest.
In the last several weeks, we continued to pray and counsel with mentors and friends, to confirm the direction we are to take and believe it to be our course.
Last week we traveled down to South Carolina where my folks have graciously offered to let us stay with them. So, following my final day as the pastor of these wonderful people on February 28, we will pack up all we own and, like Jacob, move to the place I call home.
The decision, like Jacob’s, is filled with uncertainty. How long this waiting will last we are not sure. How we are going to make ends meet we do not know. But, like Jacob, God has directed me back to the land of my kindred, to go home for a season of rest and he offers his assurance;
Genesis 31:3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
9 O Lord we have waited for your signs
we have searched and listened for your word,
we have waited patiently for a season.
10 O True God, how much longer?
11 When will you release us?
12 Even as we wait, you are still our True God, our King from long ago;
you bring salvation to Your people. You are faithful.
13 You are powerful and we praise you.
15 You made everything and give love and direction to those who follow you.
16 The day is Yours and also the night—
You set in place the sun, moon, and all the stars to light up our darkness.
17 You have arranged all things, control all things;
You are the Architect of our lives. You are creator of all seasons.
One of the “must dos” before my wife and I take a trip with our dogs is to give them a good brushing. The more hair we leave in the yard the less hair they leave in the car!
Grooming, however, is different from petting. Our Golden Retriever doesn’t mind being brushed. To her it’s attention and that’s good. Our Siberian Husky does not share the same perspective. For him being brushed is akin to being punished. When grooming him you must stop to pet and reassure him everything is going to be okay.
People are this way. I once worked for someone who treated everyone the same. His idea of grooming, making us into better workers, was to review events/projects in staff meetings and critique, often in an abrasive way, the employees who were responsible. Though some co-workers didn’t mind the public praise or criticism that accompanied these reviews others were mortified. One staff member even mentioned to him in private that she wasn’t comfortable with this type of “grooming.” His response was she needed to toughen up or find another job!
People react differently to grooming. Some require more petting and assurance to help them be comfortable enough to learn and grow where it’s needed. To get the best out of one another we must be willing to approach each person open-minded, with humility, finding out what works and what doesn’t so we can make sure “teachable” moments aren’t torturous.
Remember what may be grooming to some might feel like punishment to others.blessings, bdl