Pit Bulls and Blood Hounds.

If we’re going to lead well, we don’t have time to play the victim.

 

A few weeks ago I had the humble privilege of engaging a dozen phenomenal seventh and eight grade students. They were part of an inaugural, three-day event called, Team Leadership Initiative. It was an honor to be asked to speak on the topic of, Faith in Leadership. When I teach or present topics I like to make the session interactive since lecture is the least effective way people learn. So, I prepared a skeleton of my presentation, leaving lots of pockets, catalyzed with questions, for discussion.

I arrived with several pages of quotes from well known and not-so-significant leaders. I was very pleased to find a few of the students were familiar with all of the quotes. It was invigorating to interact with and discuss how faith affects leadership. The topic is worth far more than one hour.

However, emerging from the back-and-forth banter was the question of what should the posture be of a leader who finds herself in adverse situations. “Leaders don’t have the luxury of playing the victim,” I said. These words seemed to roll off my tongue as though I’d been saying them for years, but I hadn’t...

Casting a Long Shadow.

Remember, success is intentional!

Well, to be perfectly precise, Sir Winston The Great! He’s our ten-year-old, West Highland Terrier. He’s quite the character. Seventeen pounds of pooch with a ton of passion. He’s the embodiment of the phrase, little body, big heart. We were on a walk the other day, and we stopped for a moment to catch our breath. It was quite warm, and the pavement radiated heat like a furnace. I saw and captured a photo I’m including with this post. It made me think of all the years gone by with this big-hearted dog.

Winston is the second of our two Westies. The older, wiser, more cautious Reilly, aka The Wonderful Mister O’Reilly (it has nothing to do with the political pundit!), is deliberate and calculated. He’s never run into a wall chasing a ball. But he has slid off the edge of the couch while sluggardly sleeping on his back. But Winston, well, let’s put it this way, if Winston were our first dog, we wouldn’t have two...

Pregnant...With Cancer.

Facing a terrible, seemingly insurmountable ordeal? This too can be a great blessing.

 

I’m always on the look out for writing topics. That’s why the parenthetical title of this blog is, All Who Wander Are Not Lost. In my “wandering” I’m always looking for things of this world and connections to the internal or spiritual. Often those revelations serendipitously appear like an ice cube down the back on a hot August day - very startling yet amazingly refreshing. Most of the time, they’re subtle and shy, slow to develop and emerge. I had two ideas brewing for this week’s post. One was on Sabbath and the other focused on my dog, Winston. However, what I’m about to share is the proverbial ice cube on the spine.

I'm part of a speaking cluster meeting every month since January. At gatherings, a guest presents techniques to improve our public pitches. Then, after lunch - today we were allocated a mere 13 minutes - we circle up listening to just a few in the group for 5-minute rotations. Today started off with a curve ball. Instead of 5 minutes and prep time, we’d have a minute-and-a-half to tell a story from our life, extemporaneously.

A good friend went first and did wonderfully relaying a story about his wife and kids. Next, Andrew went and spoke about The Boston Red somebodies or other. It was good, but not New York Yankee good. Somewhere in the pit of my soul, I knew I was next and, sure enough, Dave the Moderator, came through. And of all the things I could’ve talked about, I chose a rather heavy topic.

About two years ago, actually it was August 4, 2015, my wife and I walked, hand-in-hand, out of the hospital towards our car, in complete silence. I don’t remember much other than beelining to the vehicle. I opened her door - in silence. Inserting the key into the ignition, I started the engine and we drove out of the parking lot - in silence. We weren’t too far down the road when I spoke to Kris with a raspy voice. “Well, I guess if, ‘we can be pregnant,' then ‘we can have cancer.’” Silence...

Coffee Crash. How to Avoid a Meltdown!

What if we've been conditioned, even encouraged, to handle big problems with more emotion and intensity than we should? What if, we approached them with the same matter-of-factness as we do when the toothpaste runs out?

I just received a new shipment from my favorite caffeine dealer, Birch Coffee in NYC. I wanted to try their Brazilian roast, so breaking out my Chemex, scale, and kettle, I brewed a batch. I’d gotten up early this morning, so I had extra time to take time. With the warm weather, I strolled out to our patio with coffee in hand, sipping carefully the delightful flavor I’ve come to expect from Birch Coffee. Savoring both the cloudless sky and a delightful breeze rustling the edges of the plants surrounding the patio, it was a perfect morning to enjoy café fresca! But, as in most situations when you’re vacationing in your mind but living in reality, it was time to shuffle off to work.

I’ve been making my way through an insightful book called, Creativity Inc. It’s the story of Pixar by one of its founders, Ed Catmull, full of anecdotal lessons on life and leadership. Being both a fan of Pixar and healthy leading, it’s been a great read. The other night I finished the chapter on change where Ed drills down into the depths of our fears surrounding change. One thing catching my attention was his differentiation on handling small and large problems; he says there isn’t any! Running out of toothpaste isn’t confronted any differently than a crashed computer hard drive storing years of work - but we’ve been conditioned to think there is and so for one we are calm and the other we fuss...

Politics and Hunting Stands.

It was a blustery afternoon. Leaves whirled across the field as I made my stealthy approach. Inching up the steel ladder, I could feel the trunk of the tree move with the gusts from the east. When I reached the top, I clung tightly to the tree with my left arm. My right hand gripped the top of the climbing stick as I gingerly placed my left foot on the metal platform, in prima ballerina style. A little weight. A little more. A bit of a push with my toe. Not sure if I would regret the next move, I swung my other leg off of the step placing all of my weight on the platform. The wind whipped and the tree swayed and my stomach tumbled inside.

I nocked an arrow, pulled my camouflage balaclava over my head and hung on tight.

Still hugging my woody friend, I clipped in my safety harness not convinced that I should. “What if the entire tree falls? I’m lashed to it!” I thought as I hoisted my bow from the ground by a cord. I sat precariously on the dilapidated cushion. My every movement was watchful and deliberate as my body countered the driving wind. The branches whipped above me. As if to inaudible music, the tree swayed and I pressed tightly against my dancing partner fearful of a misstep. I nocked an arrow, pulled my camouflage balaclava over my head and hung on tight. Thankfully, as the sun set, the wind eased and hunting was on!

Faith. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Over the years I’ve heard all sorts of definitions of it. Some hail it some rail it. Some feel it’s the only thing keeping us together; others see it as weak and delusional. But in that tree, as I prepared to hunt for the evening, every ounce of me was expressing faith in its biblical form. You see, to be a person of faith is far more than just picking an object and banking on it. Effective faith is rooted in historical truth and experience, much like the hunting stand. Let me explain.

First, the stand belongs to a friend. When he said I could use his setup, I didn’t have a hesitation as to how well it was installed; I knew the care he took to hunt safely. Second, the tree was alive and sturdy. No evidence of any sickness or weakness. What I was anchored to would hold. Third, I’ve been in a lot of stands over the years, each performed the way I was told it would. Overall, there were several concrete facts to support my belief that the stand wouldn’t fail:  sound installation, integrity of the structure and experience. The same is true for our spiritual life.

The faith the scriptures express is, for sure, a faith that isn’t always by sight, but it is grounded in truth and fact. In the book of Hebrews, in chapter 11 it says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” How can we be sure of things that we hope for? Well, if there’s no historical evidence to support this claim, they’re just a bunch of words, aren’t they? The extent of our sincerity has no bearing on actuality either. Very sincere people have been grossly wrong. However, if there is evidence, then we have reason to believe, to trust, to have faith! From the reliability of the biblical scriptures and the narrative they lay out to the resurrection of Jesus himself - with 500 eyewitnesses - the biblical story has significant support. When the Bible speaks of faith, it’s not suggesting a “blind faith”, believing without evidence. No, the faith of the scriptures is a faith of evidence and truth.

As people of faith, we can live with the conviction that the things we do not see are, indeed, real because of the things we have seen

As people of faith, we can live with the conviction that the things we do not see are, indeed, real because of the things we have seen. As painful as it may be for some to hear, our experiences with God play a role in substantiating our faith in God. This is one reason why Jesus spent time with his disciples; belief is pinned in experience! But, our experiences also need to take a back seat to the truths of God in the Bible. We have to be sure that the cart doesn’t overtake the horse.

So, why the “politics”? Because how and why we vote this week can display where we place our faith; consider the election as the “wind”. If you expect your life on Wednesday to hold more or less promise than the previous weeks, you may want to check where your faith is placed. The political system? Politicians and professionals? Just as gusty winds affected me, the corruption, bigotry, deception, and buffoonery of the president-elect will rock your world. Neither candidate is even close to faultless and if you can’t see that, may I suggest that you’re living by blind faith, or even bad faith - something the Bible never, ever suggests we do!

Our faith, based on truth, anchored in historical experiences, tempers the forces that threaten to instill fear and anxiety.

Our faith, based on truth, anchored in historical experiences, tempers the forces that threaten to instill fear and anxiety. Are there areas of unknown in faith? Absolutely. But it’s only in our faith that we can have any assurance of safety and security. I could have easily allowed the wind to get the better of me and forfeited the hunt altogether. We could easily vote out of fear or boycott our civic duty altogether. But we must choose to go with what we know to be true, right and godly. I’m voting on Tuesday with confidence in the truth that God, the one who revealed Himself through Jesus of Nazareth, is sovereign. And I’ll wake up on Wednesday with the same hope I had yesterday.

So, whether it’s politics or hunting stands, where do you place your faith? And, is it in something that’s secure? If so, let the winds blow, for surely they will!