Leadership Quote(s) of the Week

I have spent some time over the last week skimming back through one of the most formative books I’ve ever read: The Making of a Leader. Here’s some good stuff from the intro, “A Letter to Dan, the Intern”:

“Superficially it may appear that ministry training is the focus of development…but closer analysis shows that the major thrust of God’s development is inward. The real training program is in the heart of the person.

The amazing thing is that during [the primary phases of leadership development] God is primarily working in the leader, not through him or her. Though there may be fruitfulness in ministry, the major work is that which God is doing to and in the leader. Most emerging leaders don’t recognize this. They evaluate productivity, activities, fruitfulness, etc. But God is quietly, often in unusual ways, trying to get the leader to see that one ministers out of what one is. God is concerned with what we are.

We want to learn a thousand things because there is so much to learn and do. But he will teach us one thing, perhaps in a thousand ways: ‘I am forming Christ in you.’

Perhaps the key issue in all of this is submission. Are you willing to submit to God’s purposes right now for you? Anyone can submit to something he or she wants. Submission is tested only when the thing is not desired. God is not in as big a hurry as you and I are.”

Transitions, Tiny Overalls, and Not Being in a Hurry

I finished Rhett Smith’s excellent book The Anxious Christian this weekend. I picked it up for Amy (because it was written by her college pastor at Bel Air Press, not because of anxiety!). One of the best chapters in the book is called “Welcoming Uncertainty” and in it Rhett talks about one of my favorite personal topics (or rants): God works through stages, through a process.

He uses the story of Israel in the wilderness to make this point (From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, Ex 17:1 NRSV). I usually like to use the Abraham story, but it’s the same idea:

We are constantly moving from one big transition to another. At moments we may experience a respite from the journey, but that doesn’t alter the fact that life is rooted in the wilderness experience of continuous transition and choice.

Transitions are scary and difficult, but this is often the exact place we need to be for God do his work in us. It is, as Rhett says, “that place where we are shaped and transformed.”

I’m reminded over and over again that transitions don’t disappear just because you are done with school, or settled into a job, or because you got married. They just keep coming!

Today I discovered that we now have this in our house:

Tiny overalls and other clothing items for a really small person are accumulating in our loft. A reminder that we are facing a big transition. Which raises all kids of questions: Will the baby be healthy…are we ready for this…will we be good parents?

We just want to fast forward to the end and know everything is going to be fine (or if it isn’t then at least we can brace ourselves for the impact).

But God works in a process…in stages. We are in a hurry, God is not. “The greatest temptation of our time,” writes Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, “is impatience.”

No shortcuts, no one step answers to a happy and fulfilled life. The Israelites “left and camped” 41 times in the Exodus story. This is not the last transition for us. Not by a long shot.

It is exactly in those in-between spaces of time…that God shapes us into the people He wants us to become. It is in these times that we should strive to learn what He is trying to teach us.


Generosity Multiplied

I had an opportunity this weekend to stand in front of REUNION, our church community, and share about Sojourn’s Joplin trips. The moment reminded me of the powerful multiplying force of generosity.

Both of our teams (week 1 and week 2) had various responsibilities while we were in Joplin, but for the most part we got to see one house through from sub-flooring, to walls, to the roof, to siding, to windows: all of us from Boston were a part of that process. And while we were doing it we got to know the family that will be moving in. A family that lost absolutely every material possession in the tornado.

On Sunday it hit me: a church community in Boston takes up an Advent Conspiracy offering in December, a collegiate ministry sends 30 people to Joplin in March, and both are part of blessing a family through a house and money to furnish the house…a house that will become a home where generosity and hospitality are extended and multiplied again and again.

Our generosity is so much more that checks that we write, or stuff that we sell. They are stories that go on and on and often we won’t know even a fraction of them. Which creates a great deal of humility. God is always at work and we get to be a part of it and that is a beautiful thing.


I haven’t really blogged about this yet, but we (amy really) are (is) 14/15 weeks pregnant. This week we heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Technically, we’ve already seen the baby and it’s heart beating (back at our week 10 visit), but this was a bit of milestone for us and it was awesome. There were high fives and smiles and a sense of relief coming off our trip to Joplin. So far, so good!

Reads and Links (Technology Themed)

  1. Brett McCracken on the beauty of being “out of the loop”
  2. Is texting good for relationships?
  3. Nadia Weber on the spiritual practice of saying “No”
  4. Scot McKnight has been doing an excellent review of a book by John Knapp called “How the Church Fails Business People“. Here’s a link to pt 5 and the rest of the series.
  5. Amy’s college pastor, Rhett Smith, published a book recently called “The Anxious Christian.” I’m about 3/4 of the way through it and it is fantastic. Pick up a copy!

Quote of the Week

Spanish philosopher and writer, Miguel de Unamuno:

“Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in their mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God himself.”

Some Thoughts on Jeremiah

This past week, in Joplin, our students spent some time with Jeremiah…hearing about his life: his struggles and triumphs and what makes a great life.

Stephen Lutz says that Jeremiah 29:11 is the most quoted/most popular verse among college students. It goes like this:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Good stuff. Encouraging. But, too often we forget about 29:10

“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”

Exile. Dislocation. (Long) Suffering.

These always go together, and the mature person can hold them in tension. The exile and the return home. The seventy long years and the promise of rescue. The suffering and the hope.

Jeremiah lived a great life, but it is was only great because of the tremendous challenges he faced, and the faithfulness to God he demonstrated over a lifetime.

And may that be true of us as well.

Back From Joplin

We arrived back home in Boston yesterday after a rich week of hard work in Joplin, MO. I loved the week for a number of reasons, but I am most pleased with our students who are excited to be back in the city and to continue to tell good stories with their time in school.

Our mantra for the week was “Happy hearts, Run with the horses.” Our students did exactly that. No complaining, no lateness or dragging of feet…they jumped into the experience with both feet, strove for excellence, and did it with joy.

We ended the week talking about how great these trips are for at least five reasons…but with each great aspect comes a dark side, so I gave them five things to shoot for and then challenged them to pick one to focus on:

  1. These trips are great because they allow us to break from the norm and re-imagine what our lives could look like…the danger: escapism…the challenge: ongoing engagement back home (don’t run away!).
  2. These trips are great because they expand our world view…the danger: it only lasts while we are in the experience, then it’s right back to tunnel vision…the challenge: keep perspective.
  3. These trips are great because they create a deep sense of community through shared moments and memories…the danger: we continually try to recreate or run back to this group or experience…the challenge: extend that community to others through invitation and hospitality.
  4. These trips are great because they have a clearly defined, meaningful activity (life is not as ambiguous as at home)…the danger: we give up because it’s too messy or we only see trips as the time we can really serve…the challenge: ongoing, faithful service (even when it is hard).
  5. These trips are great because they allow us to take risks and get out of our comfort zones…the danger: we go right back to playing it safe…the challenge: go take a risk.

It was beautiful to hear our students process through their weeks, hone in on one of these areas, and commit to engagement, perspective, invitation, service, or risk.

A couple of other highlights. Between the two groups we sent down we were able to complete  subflooring, framing, roofing, and siding for a home for a young, single mom named Amy. Her apartment and all her stuff was completely destroyed/lost in the tornado. She’s been living in a fema trailer for 9 months. She will be moving in to this Habitat home (sponsored by one of our supporting churches) in a few weeks when the rest of the work is completed. At the end of our week we were able to present Amy with gifts for her two kids (who have been struggling in the wake of the storm), and $3500 in Sears cards to help furnish her new home. It was a powerful moment.

Finally, it was awesome to lead this trip with my wife, who was our only female staff/leader. She did a great job and I am super proud of her courage. And it was a privilege to lead alongside Nathan Griffith, our Director of Neighborhood Initiatives and a Joplin native. He did an amazing job!

Enjoy the pics!

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Joplin Bound

On Sunday morning we are heading down to Joplin with 10 students for our 2012 Spring Break Trip. We’ve already had one team down there this week and they’ve had a great time and even made the news! (Sojourn in Joplin) I’m excited for our week, excited to see students stretch and grow. These trips are always great for the experience itself, but also (and more importantly) for the space it provides to re-imagine what life could look like here in Boston. I’m sure we will come back with some great stories!

No blogging next week, but I’ll pick it back up when we return.