Friday, August 23, 2013

The Butler: More than a Good Movie

If I know one thing for sure, it's that racial issues in the United States are still alive and well.

And although African Americans now have the right to vote, own property, attend desegregated public schools, etc. etc... I still find myself saying every so often - "Wow, and it's 2013."

Take this story, for example:

One of my friends, who happens to be African American too, took her two daughters to see "The Butler" last week. Her daughters were deeply moved and amazed at the narrative of history being played out before them. They had learned very little of this history in school, and they wondered why.

I too have questioned this lack of the "whole-story" in our country's history lessons.

I think the answer is found in the rest of this story.

So... one of my friend's daughter's plans to try out for a part in her private school's production of "The Great Gatsby." In order to prepare the students for tryouts, the drama teacher set the stage for the 1920s - the decade that  F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby takes place.

The teacher went on and on about how wonderful this time period was for Americans. How most people enjoyed a time of wealth and prosperity. How this period marked a time of fun and revelry.

After noting that "The Butler" began in the 1920's, when sharecropping covered a dark blanket over much of the South, and therefore, most African American families, my friend's daughter responded something like this:

"Mommy, my teacher said the '20s were a time of fun and wealth. But it wasn't that way for African Americans."

And that, my Friend, is one reason why race relations are so difficult in every era of our country. Oftentimes, African Americans and Caucasians have two completely different realities. And what becomes frustrating is when one side is unwilling to see and validate the other side's reality.

Which is why a movie like "The Butler" is so vitally important.

We've all seen movies that helped us peer into the White House. We've seen Eisenhower portrayed. We've seen the Kennedy family portrayed. We've even seen Ronald Reagan portrayed.

Yet how amazing was it to see the White House through the lens of a servant - an African American one at that.

That alone is enough reason to see "The Butler."

What director Lee Daniels did was afford us the opportunity to see life from a different perspective -- the perspective of an African American man who grew up in abject poverty, but rose to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. A man who served with dignity and pride, despite many who considered his occupation beneath the modern Black man. A man who, in service to his country, resembled our Savior.
"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." *
So, whatever you've got planned this weekend, fit in a viewing of "The Butler" if you haven't already seen it. Go see it with others and discuss it afterwards. Feel free to discuss it with me here or in my Facebook inbox.

Brothers and Sisters, we've got to begin to attempt to see life from the lenses of our brothers and sisters of different hues and cultural backgrounds. 

We've got to talk less and listen more.

We've got to open our hearts to truly see.

It's the only way we're going to tackle this race thing in our country.

Laws cannot do it.

Changed hearts are the answer.


* These words are found in Matthew 20:26-28. And it's no coincidence that I just read them during my devotional time this morning. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Legacy of Leadership: Pastor Oscar Muriu

Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Today marks my last post on the Global Leadership Summit. Sad, I know...

In case you're just getting on board, I'll list my previous posts: Global Leadership Summit: My Takeaways (with a focus on Pastor Bill Hybels), General Colin Powell: Impeccable Leader with Humble Beginnings, Patrick Lencioni's 3 Signs of a Miserable Job and Dr. Brene Brown: Walking Her Talk.

Today, I want to share one more talk from the Summit. I'd never heard of this speaker before, but I'm sure I won't forget his message.

Pastor Oscar Muriu

Pastor Oscar Muriu, Senior Pastor of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya, East Africa, spoke on a topic that I'm excited to close this series on.

He spoke on leaving a spiritual legacy. I'll jump right into his five major points.

1. The size of your harvest depends on the number of leaders you raise up.

Pastor Muriu encouraged leaders to pour into the lives of potential leaders, thus multiplying the work of the Kingdom of God.

I love love love this quote from him:

"The test of your leadership is not the impact you make in your lifetime, but how many leaders you raise up who will continue the work after you're gone." 
2. Live for the next generation, not your own.

His definition of mentorship? Walking with people that are a generation younger. That's at least 20 years younger. Now that's a game-changer.

As Pastor Muriu stated so well:

"When you live for your generation, your vision dies with you."

3. Identify the budding leaders around you and go to the Lord in prayer about them.

Always have your eyes wide open to the potential in others around you, especially those of the next generation. And pray regularly for them - that God would raise them up as the leaders that you - and He - can envision.

4. Instill the love of God and others in them.

Model a life of love for the Father, the Church and the world for them to see and emulate. And encourage them to love hard as well.

5. Never do ministry alone; always have budding leaders around you.

Pastor Muriu emphasized the importance of spending quality time with budding leaders. So much so, that he brought to the stage three budding leaders that had accompanied him to the Summit - all the way from Kenya.

His investment in those young people was evident, and his face beamed when he introduced each of them to the Summit audience. He was a proud papa, showing off his precious children to the world. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Have you identified any budding leaders around you? Are you spending time with them, investing in them, encouraging them in their relationships with God and with others? 

Let's increase God's harvest!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dr. Brene Brown: Walking Her Talk

The week in "Deep Waters" we've heard from Pastor Bill Hybels, General Colin Powell and Patrick Lencioni. Each spoke at the Willow Creek Association's Global Leadership Summit, but each shared a different take on leadership.

A common thread among each of them was this: Leadership is not about me. Leadership is about inspiring others towards a passionate vision, and doing that in a way that honors, encourages and blesses them.

It's not about me.


So with that in mind, I move on to my next Summit speaker -- Dr. Brene Brown.

Dr. Brene Brown
Before I share Brene's talk, let me just say - this lady's has some serious chutzpa. She is one of the most courageous women I know. And yet, her courage is a treasure that she earned through some dark days and long nights. 

As a university research professor, Brene has spent many years studying people. And what has she studied primarily?

Vulnerability. Shame. Worthiness. Authenticity. Courage.

Well as fate would have it, Brene morphed from professor to student after completing her first TED Talk. She'd spoken on "The Power of Vulnerability", and afterwards found herself slammed with criticism and scorn by others. 

People criticized not only her talk, but they ridiculed her for her weight and her looks. She was crushed. Devastated. Ashamed.

So she did what most hopeless people do. She burrowed into her cozy comforter and refused to get out bed.

Thankfully, with a healthy dose of love and encouragement from friends and family -- and some amazing inspiration from someone long gone -- Brene stepped one foot out of bed, then two. And she began to live out all the research and truth she'd already discovered. 

She even did another must-see TED Talk.

Through her own vulnerability and authenticity, she learned to overcome shame. She discovered her worthiness. She embraced courage she didn't even know she had.

And she's teaching many others to do the same. I felt privileged to be one of her students at the Summit.

Her three major points were:
  • We all need to be seen and loved
  • We all need to belong
  • We all need to be brave
If you've read my previous Summit posts, you're probably hearing some running themes here. 

When speaking of leadership, Brene encouraged leaders to be vulnerable and authentic with others, even their subordinates. 

Loved this quote from her: "The model of a leader as 'The Great Oz,' all-knowing, all powerful -- that dance is up..."


Earlier I mentioned that during her time wallowing in shame and despair, Brene found inspiration from someone long gone. I want to share that inspiration with you today - from President Theodore Roosevelt:
"It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;' but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
And this, my Friend, gave Dr. Brene Brown the courage to get out of her bed of mourning and get back out into the "arena."

So what about you? Will you remain in the stands or get out into the arena? Will you spend yourself on a worthy cause? Will you, at best know triumph in the end, and at worst, "fail while daring greatly?"

Will you?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lencioni's Three Signs of a Miserable Job

Yesterday I shared some invaluable thoughts from General Colin Powell. Sunday I shared some wisdom from one of the most passionate church leaders of our time, Pastor Bill Hybels.

Well after the calm, refined delivery of Colin Powell, the Global Leadership Summit planning team must have decided it would be a great time to shake things up a bit.

And onto stage walked the most energetic and hyperactive speaker I think I know. And yet he is one of my favorite speakers ever. He's none other than Patrick Lencioni, who is committed to helping organizations become as healthy as they can be. Love the man.

Patrick Lencioni

So with no further ado... I present:

Patrick Lencioni's Three Signs of a Miserable Job:

1. Anonymity

In Genesis 16, Hagar suffers greatly after she discovers she is pregnant with Abraham's child. Sarah's bitterness and jealously drives Hagar away from home and into the desert. When the Lord speaks to Hagar and promises her hope and a future, she exclaims, "You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me."

We all long to be seen. We all long to be more than a number, a nameless face, a body sitting in a cubicle.

The best thing an employer can do for his employees is to "see" them. Know their names. Know their spouse's names. Their children's names. And make the time to care for them, not just their work.

According to Lencioni, "Good people don't leave jobs where they're known." 

2. Irrelevance

Everyone wants their life to count and make a difference. We need more than a paycheck or a slap on the back for a job well done. Those things are great and important.

But we need to matter.

"If you don't think your job makes someone's life better somewhere, you feel irrelevant," says Lencioni.

Too true.

3. Immeasurement

Once we know we're seen and valuable, we need to be able to measure that value. 

How much do I really bring to the table? How well am I doing my job? Am I meeting the expectations of my boss(es) or leader?

There's no frustration like taking an important test, yet never receiving a grade for it. Did I pass? Did I fail? Can I make any improvements?

These are vital questions and must be answered to turn a miserable job into a fulfilling one.

Based on these three criteria, is it time to pray about your next job? Or can you encourage this kind of healthy culture right where you are? Think about it!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Colin Powell: Impeccable Leader with Humble Beginnings

Yesterday I shared the first in a series on this year's Global Leadership Summit. Well, today I share one of the Summit's special treats for me: former - and the first African American - US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

When I hear a person speak in this kind of forum, I always learn things about them I didn't know. General Powell mentioned that people often ask him to share all the great military schools he attended. Some even ask him, "So what year did you graduate from West Point?"

Actually, General Powell admitted he wasn't a great student. Segregation forbade him from attending the best military schools. And he'd graduated as a rather average student from City College in New York.

I was floored to hear this.

But I was also inspired and encouraged as a Mama. 

General Powell's admission to a mediocre school career gave me hope for my children - some who make wonderful grades, and one who struggles through school for average results. He reminded me that the jury is still out on all my kiddos - and your kiddos too.

As parents, we cannot assume that our C-students will land a C-level career. We also cannot assume that our A-students will find total success post-college graduation. They will all struggle on some level. They will all succeed on some level.

We must trust our children to the Lord who created them - their minds, their talents and their creativity. And if they avail themselves to His will, He who created them will direct their futures.

But get this: my child or your child could one day become a great leader like Colin Powell. And that C in Math does not negate that possibility.

Okay, now that I got that out of my system... I'll share two inspiring quotes from Gen. Powell's talk:

"Leaders inspire people to reach beyond themselves."

A recurring theme during the Summit was - Leadership is not about me. Leadership is about others.

When Gen. Powell spoke these words, I had to stop and get to tweeting. Because leadership is not just reaching beyond myself to do what I may have thought impossible. It is encouraging YOU to reach beyond YOURSELF to do what YOU thought impossible.

When we all reach beyond ourselves, maybe we can solve the worlds problems. Human trafficking. Poverty and hunger. Orphaned children.

Now fill in the blank and go encourage someone else to reach beyond him or herself to solve that world problem.

"As we move forward, let's not forget others behind us."

Chances are, if you're reading this blog post, you've got some people "behind" you. You've got children or nieces and nephews. You may have some people you supervise at work or at least someone who serves in the position you used to fill. There's a younger generation of folks in your church or community. 

Whoever you consider "behind" you, serve these people. Bless them. Use your influence to speak up for them, especially if they have no voice.

General Powell also encouraged his fellow leaders to focus on their followers. After all, they are the ones that really do the work and the mission of any organization. He also advised us to constantly show people that they're important - no matter what role they fulfill in an organization - or church, or family.

I wholeheartedly agree. After all, people are truly important to God.  

And they should be just as important to you and me.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Global Leadership Summit: My Takeaways

On August 8 and 9, I had the wonderful opportunity to once again attend the Global Leadership Summit, a vision of Pastor Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association. These two days of instruction, encouragement - and even rebuke - were game-changers.

Over the next few days, I'll share a few quotes from several speakers, so you don't have to just take my word for it. Today I'll begin with...

Pastor Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church

Pastor Bill Hybels opened the first morning, challenging leaders to be courageous, as God encouraged Joshua to be in Joshua 1:9. Courage, Bill said, must be paired with vision. 

And what is vision?

"Vision is a picture of the future that creates passion in people."

Have you ever experienced passion that had its genesis in someone else's vision? Better yet... has God ever given YOU a vision that created passion in others? It's an amazing thing.

Yet Bill had a warning about vision. Vision can be thrilling in its inception, but challenging to live out. Vision requires courage. And because it requires courage...

"A lot of visions are aborted in the hearts of leaders."

Think of the life-changing initiatives that have been aborted in the hearts of leaders. The non-profits that have been aborted. The companies that have been aborted. The schools that have been aborted. The churches that have been aborted.

Do you have a vision that just needs a little courage to propel it forward? Don't allow fear to snuff out your vision. Or should I say, don't allow fear to snuff out God's vision within you.

There's one more point from Bill's session that my husband Anthony and I have repeated often. 

"People join organizations. They leave managers."

When Bill spoke these words, all Anthony and I could do was nod our heads in agreement. This is so true! When people join churches, non-profits organizations, even companies, they often do so out of a commitment to the organization's mission and work. 

However, when these good folks decide to leave, it is often because of a manager, a CEO, an executive director, or worse -- a pastor.

So what's the answer, according to Pastor Hybels? Relationship. Pouring into others. Nurturing relationship with them. Affirming that they are seen and they are loved.

It's that simple.

It's that complicated.

Come on, Children of God. Let's lead courageously!