Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tribes - by Seth Godin

I just read a remarkable little book - Tribes: we need you to lead us by Seth Godin. It has no chapters and is only 147 pages long. There is a new subheading approximately every page. It feels like a book of quotes and yet you feel pulled through it page after page almost as if it had a flow. Actually, it does have a flow, just not in the traditional sense. But there isn't much traditional about this book or its author.

Let me give you a flavor of the content:
  • Change isn't made by asking permission. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.
  • It's easy to hesitate when confronted with the feeling that maybe you're getting too much attention. Great leaders are able to reflect the light onto their teams, their tribes. Great leaders don't want the attention, but they use it. They use it to unite the tribe and to reinforce its sense of purpose.
  • Challenging the status quo requires commitment, both public and private. It involves reaching out to others and putting your ideas on the line. (Or pinning your Ninety-five Theses to the church door.)
  • The factory is part of the fabric of our lives. It's there because it pays, and it's there because it's steady, and it's there because we want it. What you won't find in a factory is a motivated tribe making a difference. And what you won't find waiting outside the factory is a tribe of customers, excited about what's to come.
  • As the ability to lead a tribe becomes open to more people, it's interesting to note that those who take that opportunity (and those who succeed most often) are doing it because of what they can do for the tribe, not because of what the tribe can do for them.
  • The art of leadership is understanding what you can't compromise on.
  • Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don't need to escape from.
  • The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.
  • Being charismatic doesn't make you a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic.
This book is a call to have faith and follow your passion - your tribe will coalesce and follow you. In the last subheading, I was invited to share this book with you. Will you read it?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Life is Precious

My cousin's family lost their 18-year-old son and brother in a tragic car accident this morning. All day long since I heard the news I've been walking in a different world. I can't stop thinking about how much sorrow they must feel, even with the knowledge of God's eternal plan. It is especially difficult to wrap our perspective around life and death when someone so young is taken so suddenly - no time for goodbyes. Even when you have a firm faith that you'll be together again in eternity, this life is so...mortal. Death seems so final and painful. And since we don't know how long it will be until we pass through death's gate, it feels like it will be forever until we see our loved one again.

It is a shame that it takes a tragedy to make me seek perspective, but today I have loved my wife and sons more deeply. I will be reaching out to my cousins over the next few days and through the holidays, as the funeral services are conducted, and loving them more deeply as well. They have been so supportive of my family - always there for family events.

As I thought about the life of this 18-year-old young man, I daydreamed about sitting with him on the back deck of another cousin's house not too long ago, talking about life in general and considering what the future held in store. Like most boys that age, he came across initially with that distant attitude - kind of a shy version of James Dean. But the more we talked, the more depth I could see in his views. He had the same wonderful hopes, dreams, longings, yearnings, that all of us "boys" pass through as we go down the road toward manhood.

I like the words of John Eldredge - "...in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue." Thanks to God in Heaven for that desperate desire - it makes life wonderful.

So, to my cousin's family - I love you so much., and I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for blessing our lives every chance you get.

And to Neal - I will miss you very much. God be with us all 'til we meet again.

Monday, December 15, 2008

God Came Near

(Written by Max Lucado)

The noise and bustle began earlier than usual in the village. As night gave way to dawn, people were already on the streets. Vendors were positioning themselves on the corners of the most heavily traveled avenues. Store owners were unlocking the doors to their shops. Children were awakened by the excited barking of the street dogs and the complaints of donkeys pulling carts.

The owner of the inn had awakened earlier than most in the town. After all, the inn was full, all the beds taken. Every available mat or blanket had been put to use. Soon all the customers would be stirring and there would be a lot of work to do.

One's imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family at the breakfast table. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about their welfare? Did anyone comment on the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? Perhaps. Perhaps someone raised the subject. But, at best, it was raised, not discussed. There was nothing that novel about them. They were, possibly, one of several families turned away that night.

Besides, who had time to talk about them when there was so much excitement in the air? Augustus did the economy a favor when he decreed that a census should be taken. Who could remember when such commerce had hit the village?

No, it is doubtful that anyone mentioned the couple's arrival or wondered about the condition of the girl. They were too busy. The day was upon them. The day's bread had to be made. The morning's chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred.

God entered the world as a baby.

Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.

The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.

A more lowly place of birth could not exist.

Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him -- so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can't remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn't figured it all out. The mystery event puzzles him. But he hasn't the energy to wrestle with the questions. What's important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes he remembers the name the angel told him to use ... Jesus. "We will call him Jesus."

Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph's saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can't take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel. "His kingdom will never end."

He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And the worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he has just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty's arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren't looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.' When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:6-20 (NIV)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Christmas Sweater

I just finished a great book by a guy who I admire for his unvarnished version of things. Glenn Beck is a champion of freedom. He says some crazy things, but he believes them, and he is usually right.

This book is good like a Richard Paul Evans book. I think you should read it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Freedom, Politics, Apathy, and Kingship

OK. I need to blog about this issue - it relates to why our freedoms continue to be eroded and why common people get so apathetic about politics.

First, I need to state that I don't like to be pigeon-holed into a certain category or party. It's just not that black and white. However, when I analyze my personal value system, I find that a greater number of my values align with one party platform than with the other. And since our system truly gives a political voice only to those two parties, I have tried my best to be involved in the process. I am the precinct chair in my neighborhood.

As precinct chair, I am automatically part of the Central Committee for that party in the local county. We hold quarterly meetings, always on Saturday. I don't have a problem committing my time to this end, if I believe it will make a difference.

However, my time doesn't appear to make a big difference. At least not yet. There is a leadership structure in place that always attempts to consolidate support and reduce dissension. This is antithetical to freedom. In the political process, our voices must be heard if we expect to live free.

I intend to continue to attend these meetings, and try to make a difference. But here are a few things of note to those who care:
  • I don't like to be manipulated
  • I don't like back-patting sessions - they are a waste of time
  • I believe that the marketplace of ideas is amazingly beautiful, even though it is messy
  • Poor leaders who lack self-confidence try to eliminate opposing ideas
  • Great leaders love the powerful insights that come from opposing viewpoints
  • Saying one thing and doing the opposite makes you a liar
  • When liars, poor leaders, manipulators, and back-patters find ways to stay in power, people become apathetic

Neither party embodies the value systems of the American populace. A great disenfranchisement is taking place. We are experiencing the seeds of a revolution in this country. While there is much apathy, more and more people that I visit with are educating themselves, preparing themselves for something that they feel is coming. John Adams once said:

The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

I am continually praying that this new revolution will not result in bloodshed, like so many revolutions of the past, and that it will result in greater freedom rather than greater bondage. I feel very optimistic that better days are ahead of us. I don't think that it is productive to sit back and wring our hands and worry away each day. To borrow a phrase that I've heard a lot in the past few years:

A true statesman is someone who sees the world as it is and how it ought to be, and inserts himself in the middle to make the change.

I hope you join in my sentiment that each one of us is a King or Queen in a great Renaissance of Kings, not in the sense of the Monarchs in your history books, but each man and woman realizing that they are Divine, and a rightful leader in their homes, neighborhoods, communities, states, and countries. I envision a day in the not-so-distant future when more of us live by the true principles of kingship, and live our best life, reaching out to those around us to teach, improve, understand, succor, and sustain. Can you join me?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Blogging can be dangerous

Unfortunately, bloggers are the most common journalists to end up imprisoned for their activities. Apparently rulers know the power of ideas!

More bloggers put behind bars

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Babes in Toyland

My oldest son is in a play this Christmas season - December 1-22. I saw the show on opening night - it was fantastic. First, the venue is pretty cool. It is the Empress Theatre in historic Magna. It seats about 180 patrons in the round. This is community theatre - nobody gets paid - but you wouldn't know it from the quality of the acting. Even the costumes and set are pretty good.

The show is totally new - it borrows a few character names and songs from the original, but has a new story and mostly new songs. It is definitely great family fun.

If you're in the area and looking for a good Christmas venue, I would recommend this show. Call ahead and reserve your tickets:

(801) 347-7373
9104 West 2700 South

The show runs Monday through Saturday through December 22; it is double cast and my son is in the MWF cast. Tickets are $9 Monday-Thursday and $11 Friday-Saturday.

Viva la Performing Arts!