Ash Wednesday Oddness

Ash Wednesday Oddness

Maybe it was the red-eye flight from Phoenix last night. Maybe it was going from 80 degree sunshine to 20 degree spitting snow. Or maybe it was a 1:00 am bedtime after the late flight, or the lack of enough caffeine to jump start the day. Or maybe it was the outcome in New Hampshire as the drama of the year moves south to the Carolinas. Or maybe it was reading Psalm 51 and having ashes smeared on my forehead in chapel this morning on this Ash Wednesday.

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What I’m Reading Right Now: Remarkable Book

What I’m Reading Right Now: Remarkable Book

Today, I launch a new monthly series called, “What I’m Reading Right Now.” Each month, I’ll share what articles, books, blogs, etc., have piqued my interest. I hope you enjoy it. Leave me a comment to let me know what you are reading right now and why you find it interesting.

Peter Drucker used to say, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It was his way of saying that the organizational culture of an institution trumps any grand plans and visions for the future. Your vision statement can be scintillating, your strategy map inspiring, your processes airtight, your deliverables measureable—and you will still fail if your culture is incapable of carrying the weight.

Remarkable Book by Randy Ross & David Salyers

So I’ve been reading about organizational culture. Remarkable! book by Randy Ross and David Salyers is a parable about a company. It doesn’t take many pages to know that the principles they write about in their fictional story rise from a Christian perspective on power and people.

Culture is how we behave as a group of people. It is what we have the capacity to build by hiring and firing, rewarding and confronting, highlighting and dismissing. Our daily choices move us closer to or farther from the culture that sustains good work and keeps good people.

One of my takeaways is that leaders need to spend less time on flowery vision statements and strategies, and pay a lot more attention to how their choices inform the culture.

I am praying for grace to do that.

God’s No Stranger to Small

God’s No Stranger to Small

In my last post, I left you with this question:

Is it possible that the church of Jesus, in cultural exile today, has done the same thing? Shrunk her vision to returning to Yesteryear, to getting back to the culture of yesterday, recovering all that we have lost?

I say yes and here’s my explanation.

I was at a gathering of pastors who were invited to share the most exciting thing that had happened in their congregation the previous year. Many shared about transformation in the lives of people and ministries having an impact on their community. One pastor shared that his congregation had broken the Guinness World Record for the longest banana split. God had, he told us, provided a good price on bananas and ice cream. Maybe it was a community outreach or a morale booster for the church, but I could not help thinking about the Servant of the Lord. Given the mission of lighting up the world with the message of Jesus, why are we looking for bargains on bananas? The saddest thing is that this probably was the most exciting thing that happened in that church that year.

Has the church of Jesus become narrowly narcissistic? Do we even see the dark world around us and speak into it with the confidence of the Servant of the Lord that our news is worth sitting up and paying attention to? Or are we people who gather in our churches and care mostly about ourselves?

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Too Small a Thing

Too Small a Thing

“Afghanistan, listen to me. Russia, France, Zimbabwe, pay attention to what I’m saying. Singapore, open your ears. Australia, this is something you need to hear.”

You would think me strange to call the nations of the earth to pay attention to what I am about to say. Truth is, they aren’t paying attention to me or you. They have no clue we’re even here, or who we are. They perceive us as neither blessing nor threat.

But that is exactly how Isaiah 49 begins. The Servant of the Lord says,

Listen to me, O coastlands,
Pay attention,
You people from far away!”
—Isaiah 49:1

Who is this strange speaker who believes his work is so important that all the nations ought to sit up and take notice? I’m glad you asked because he gives us his bio in the following verses.

The LORD called me before I was born,
While I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
In the shadow of his hand he hid me;
He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me,
‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom, I will be glorified.’”
—Isaiah 49:1b-3

This “Servant of the Lord” reminds us of other characters we have known.  Jeremiah, the one called while still in the womb. Sarah’s baby, born to a mother and father far past child-bearing years. The prophets of Israel given sharp tongues.

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