Are We All Brothers or Not?

Finished this book today. (Is there an unworthy read by Gladwell?)

If nothing else, I like the orderliness of his books. In this one, the nine chapters are divided into three parts driving home this theory: The powerful are not as powerful as they seem-nor the weak as weak.  Each chapter is entitled by the person’s name, the “David,” whose story Gladwell unfolds supporting his theory. These people include students, doctors, activists, coaches, educators, lawyers, pastors, Irish Catholics, and parents of murdered daughters. (Saw some glimpses of myself in Wyatt Walker, chapter 6. You’ll have to read to decide if you agree or to see in which person you see your own glimpse.)

The final chapter tells the story of Andre Trocme, a Huguenot pastor that lived in the French town Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during World War II.  He led the town to become a haven for Jews, despite being imprisoned for it.  Gladwell argues that one reason why Trocme and his town could stand up for the Jews was because of their own history of persecution.  They didn’t view protecting Jews as a dangerous thing like the rest of France.  Trocme’s wife Magda said this about her thoughts when the first refugee appeared at their door:  “I did not know that it would be dangerous. Nobody thought of that….There was no decision to make. The issue was, Do you think we are all brothers or not?  Do you think it is unjust to turn in Jews or not?  Then let us try to help!”

Magda did what few of us do.  She dug beneath the surface question to answer the deeper question.  And the question she answered is critical to all our foundations.  After reading these nine stories, I’d say one of the most clear differences between Davids and Goliaths is their foundations.  Most likely, we’d all like to think our foundations are David-ish.  If you’d like to test yours, you should read this book.

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Realignment Day

Five weeks ago I self diagnosed a need. I had a need for a day unlike any day I’ve experienced before. This need was driven by various things. Did I need rest? Yes and no. Did I need time with God? More yes than no. What did I most need was my question. I took this to my coach and what I came up with was this: I needed realignment.

I’ve never heard of a realignment day, but it resonated with me. Since it was self diagnosed, that meant I had to come up with the “treatment plan.” I went into the day with some structure, but very loosely held. I knew prayer and reading would play a major role, but how long and with what content I wanted to be fluid and hopefully spirit led. I’ll share some of how the day went and give you something to consider for your own realignment day.

  • To establish why the title of realignment, I considered these definitions: 1. To place back in line, to bring back into line. 2. To rejoin as an ally. In the consideration, I looked at biblical examples of folks who needed and received realignment such as Adam and Eve, Samson, David, Jacob and Esau, Hosea and Gomer, Moses, Jonah, the prodigal son, and Peter.  This led me to a personal conclusion: I need to realign with how God sees people, with his grace, and with who I am in his eyes. This foundation led the rest of the day’s activities. These activities including reading, praying, and worshipping through music.
  • Reading: four scripture passages and portions of two books about these passages. Some of this was planned and some not. I knew that I was drawn to reading prayers and conversation between Moses and God. But in the moment I was led to other passages from Daniel, Job, and I John. These passages illustrated what is needed for realignment and how to pray for it.
  • Praying: confessional and covenantal. The truth about realigning with God is that he isn’t the one that got out of line. So realignment should include confessing where you got out of line and covenanting about staying in line. But before I wrote out those two prayers I started the conversation with God by asking him this: “What messages do you want to share with me?” To my surprise, he had a lot to say-a full page, a total of 13 clear and specific messages. Those alone were worth the effort and intentionality of the day.
  • Music: listening and creating. Again, to my surprise I was led to listen to one particular song throughout the day. Then as a result of reading and praying, a new song was birthed in my spirit. By the end of the day, where I ended up at a bayside park, not only was I realigned but I also had a song of offering to give back to God and to others what my realignment day had given to me.

Not everyone requires the same type of realignment, but I’m convinced we all need it occasionally. 

  • Are you due? 
  • What could assist you in realigning? 
  • How vital should a realignment day be in order for you to make it happen? 
  • What surprises could God have in store for you on your realignment day?

Onward (book review)

A few weeks ago I saw Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, interviewed about his book Onward. He and his book’s message intrigued me, so I downloaded a copy. Plus, I needed to check off a book on leadership in my 2018 reading self-made requirements.


Onward did not disappoint. It was even more than I expected. A bottom line summary is the book tells the story of the transformation of the company in 2008-2009. This transformation involved many things which required excellent leadership by Schultz and the partners he empowered to lead at various levels in the company.

The writing is strongly narrative without too much direct leadership application. However, here are a few leadership principle highlights:

  1. Communication is always important, but it is even more essential when things are not working. Ensuring that communication is narrow, clear, and repetitive to set expectations wins people’s trust.
  2. A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.
  3. People have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted.
  4. How leaders embody the values they espouse sets a tone, an expectation, that guides their employees’ behaviors.
  5. Growth for growth’s sake is a losing proposition.
  6. Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow.

Besides the narrative of the New Orleans conference, worth the purchase of the book alone, this is the quote I most liked:

Wherever the location, the best beans – the ones with enchantingly complex flavors and compelling characters, known as arabica – grow under some degree of stress, like high altitudes, intense heat, or long dry periods.

This truth exemplifies the story of Onward. We can all learn from these beans. We can all be on the mission of moving onward.

Quiet (book review)

My guess is most readers of my blog have not read Susan Cain’s book Quiet. My encouragement is that you should.

Her book first came on my radar in 2012 when I heard her interviewed briefly about it at a Catalyst conference. I was intrigued but didn’t reach for it until now. Too bad I didn’t read it earlier.

Why? Because she helps you get it-the differences between extroverts and introverts. She helps you embrace your introversion, if you are one. And she helps the extrovert understand you. Yes, that’s possible. She even gives you insights into those people who appear to be one but are really the other. You’re intrigued now, aren’t you?

So who should read this book?

  1. Anyone who suspects they are introverted but aren’t sure
  2. Anyone who knows they’re introverted and struggle with it
  3. Anyone who lives with an introvert
  4. Anyone who works for or leads introverts
  5. Anyone who wonders why they are drawn to have introverted friends

Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet. P266

This is one of those books to not only read but add to your library. Power Up!

Let the Creating Begin

(A final thought from No One Gets There Alone)

In giving helps for mental toughness, Dr. Bell says that consistency is the key.

Remember, we first create habits, then our habits create us.

Whatever we want to get better at, we must consistently do. Don’t mistake action for achievement. If we want to get better at swimming, then swim; if we want to get better at public speaking, speak. If we want to improve our sales, get a coach. Period.

Whenever I’ve led discussions about spiritual disciplines like prayer or taught on following the leading of the Holy Spirit, comments are always made about not feeling confident on how to do either of these. Let me suggest that Dr. Bell’s encouragement to swimmers and public speakers applies here. Create habits. Be consistent. Just Keep Doing It.

What could some habits be that would create you into a confident disciple?

  1. Pair up with another growth-desiring person. You could do this in many ways. Ask God to bring that person into your life. Be real with them and start pursuing growth together. Chances are that person is already in your life and you just need to take the first step.
  2. Develop your strategy. If you want to read the entire Bible, then find a reading plan that works for you. If it takes you one month, one year, or many years, who cares. Figure out your plan and start moving. 
  3. Say hello to God often. What if you turned off the radio in the car going to or from work just to be alone with God? What if you paused midday to talk about your morning and your afternoon? What if you didn’t get out of bed before saying good morning? What if one day of your weekend you didn’t ask for anything in your prayers and just said thank you? What if you prayed as often as you texted your spouse or best friend?
  4. Test your nudges. It’s possible that thought about that person you rarely think about was a Holy Spirit prompt to reach out. It’s possible that thought to bake your neighbor some cookies was a Holy Spirit avenue to relieve loneliness. It’s possible that cry for sympathy by your waiter’s comment was a Holy Spirit opening to offer a prayer with them.

Here’s a personal example from a different life arena. By nature, I’m not a morning person. I hated my teenage years when my mother would come in my room every morning turning on the lights and declaring it was breakfast time. But you might say, since I began running over ten years ago, I’ve been recreated by developing new habits. The discipline needed to properly train for races has slightly altered me. I now have little problem getting out the door to run by 6am several times a week.  I can even meet people at 6am for a group run and actually enjoy it, occasionally. Let’s not push it.

Who do you want to be? Who is God prompting you to be? What are the habits of that kind of person? Work to establish the habits of that person and let the creating begin.

NO ONE Gets There ALONE (book review)

What a nice surprise this book by Dr. Rob Bell was. While checking out a recommended book on Amazon, his book popped up also. Not familiar with him, I was intrigued by the title. Knowing I have a commitment to reading a few coaching books this year, I went ahead and purchased it. Here are some quotes to illustrate why you could consider doing the same:

  • Everyone is an athlete; our office is just different. Some of us are corporate athletes, sales athletes, or entrepreneur athletes. Being an athlete is an attitude and awareness. It means looking through our own lens of life as an athlete.     
  • True competition is me vs. me.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.   
  • When we focus on the differences between us, we are in comparison mode, believing we are better than or less than someone else.   
  • Talk about all stressful situations in non-stressful environments.   
  • When we are not all-in, we are just in the way.   
  • The chicken is invested in breakfast by supplying the eggs, but the pig is fully committed by providing the ham or bacon.   
  • Complaining is the first small sign of giving up.   
  • There are two types of pain, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.

You can read this book because you are a coach. You could read this book because you need a coach. Or you could read this book to explore why you should consider being coached. 

For example, Dr. Bell’s section on faith may help you explore yours in a new way. And his approach to mental toughness is encouraging and tool-giving to all readers, regardless of your reading agenda. My personal best takeaway of the entire book was the section entitled “Focus on the Similarities, not the Differences.”

You’ll have takeaways from this easily digestible book. Give it a look and improve how you are getting there.

At Our Best

I’m a third of the way through Dr. Bell’s book. In a passage about success, he wrote this:

We in fact NEED others at their best because it is the way we make ourselves better. All historic rivalries were based on two greats performing at their best. Ali had Frazier, Nicklaus had Palmer, Magic had Bird, Federer had Nadal, Navratilova had Evert and so on.

Funny. On the Wimbledon coverage this morning, they talked about this very idea because of the ongoing success of Federer and Nadal. But when I read this, my mind wasn’t thinking of rivalries. I was thinking about teams and Dr. Bell’s theme of no one getting anywhere alone.

All team members should strive to be at their best. When they do, the team can’t help but experience improvement and hopefully unity. When they don’t, all sorts of dysfunction is possible. 

Being at your best means working at all areas of your life, by the way. Working at having a great home life won’t necessarily equal having a great work life, and vice versa. And neither of these will be at their best if spiritual life is ignored. To be at our best, we must avoid compartmentalizing and work from a full life perspective.

In our Thursday morning men’s group this week, we discussed Micah 6:8. Consider this verse. Consider how God has already made it plain how to be at our best:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously. (MSG)

Miracle in the Andes (book review)

I’ve been obsessed with this book while listening to it. So much so that when disc 7 wasn’t listenable because of scratches, I checked out the book today in order to read what I missed. (NOTE: Manatee County Library rocks! Not only did they bring the book from another branch to the branch closer to me to pick up, but they also called to let me know it was ready. BOOM!)

Nando Parrado is one of sixteen survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Argentine Andes Mountains. Another book, Alive, was written and made into a movie in the 90s. I’ve never heard of this story, so I was riveted by it. My riveting is a credit to Parrado’s storytelling and personal account of the survivor’s ordeal.

If you enjoy true stories that make you think and marvel, you should read Parrado’s book. You’ll be satisfied. But what you’ll hopefully also receive are some life lessons to model. He gives you plenty. These 72 days gave more than 72 lessons. The survivors continue to live them out. Read it and see what you could live out.

What Are You Telling Yourself?

2 Kings 5 tells the entertaining and interesting story of Naaman. Naaman was a commander in the Syrian army who also happened to be a leper. His wife’s handmaid, a young Israelite, encouraged him to go see Elisha, the prophet in Samaria that she believed could heal him. After gathering what he thought he needed for the trip and arriving at Elisha’s front door, he found out things were not going to play out as he thought.

Elisha sent out a messenger to tell him to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman didn’t think this was acceptable.

Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet. (MSG)

“I thought…I said to myself…I told myself.” 

Naaman had told himself what to expect based on his position and on his limited understanding of God’s prophets and their ways. When his expectations were not realized, his initial reaction was anger. His expectations were not realized because he had only talked with himself. 

You been there? I have. Built expectations on just what I thought, what I had told myself. No one else was in the conversation. No one. And it didn’t end well.

Not knowing the God of Israel, it’s understandable that Naaman would have to experience something like this to believe, to see his thoughts in a new light. Naaman had to learn that a life lived with only one conversation with yourself is limited and potentially hopeless. A better life, the one God desires for you, is found when you invite God and others into the conversation. When Naaman humbled himself, released his expectations and listened to someone else, then God was able to heal him.

What are you telling yourself? What if you always welcomed God into the conversation? I grow weary of telling myself anything. I’d rather God tell me everything, be in charge, and meet his expectations.

Leaving The Shield

He is a shield for those who live with integrity. Proverbs 2:7

Solomon says wisdom leads to living with integrity which in turn results in being shielded by God.

We all long to feel safe and protected. Reflecting on this verse recently, I made the connection between making wise choices and maintaining safety from God when the right choice is made. His safety and protection is not guaranteed and is put in jeopardy when I choose to disobey or disregard wisdom. Whatever the results are from an unwise choice is my fault; I chose to leave the protection behind God’s shield.

This isn’t necessarily a popular thought these days. Living life as you want without any fear of repercussions is what culture preaches. Then when life strikes back after someone makes a poor choice, suddenly God is questioned and possibly even denied. It’s his fault, not ours. I bet if we asked some guys from scripture they would testify differently about what happens when you leave the shield of God’s protection.

Ask David. When he left because of his lust, people died, including his infant son.

Ask Jonah. When he left because of his prejudice, he ended up on the beach, covered in fish guts.

Ask Achan. When he left because of his selfishness, he lost everything, and so did his family.

We’re just like these guys. We’ve left the shield at some point. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be a permanent decision. 

Have you thanked God lately for his protection, for being your shield, for welcoming you back after you’ve left? Maybe the next time you talk with him, not only thank him but also commit to following him with integrity, to staying behind his shield of protection.