Post Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Learning to love well…

It’s been said that loving well is the essence of true spirituality. Loving well involves authentic interaction (or communication) with God, with ourselves, and with other people.

“Love reveals the beauty of another person to themselves”  –Jean Vanier, friend and mentor of Henri Nouwen

Jesus epitomized – and modeled spiritual and emotional health for us.

[Jesus said], “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” –Matt 22:37-40 (MSG)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not able to make the same connection with people as he did. They were competent, diligent, zealous, they were absolutely committed to having God as the Lord of their lives…they memorized entire books of the Hebrew Scriptures, they prayed five times a day, they faithfully tithed off all their increase — plus gave money to the poor, and they evangelized – yet there is little evidence that they delighted in people.

The word incarnate come from a Latin word that means – in – flesh. Jesus choose to limit himself to the confines of human history and a human body.

John 1:14 in the MSG translation says:

“The WORD became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes.”

Today the incarnated presence of God is intended to be the Church – identified in the Bible as the Body of Christ.

3 Dynamics of Incarnational Life…

1. Enter another’s world. James 1:19; Philippians 2:5-8

“Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every [person] be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.” James 1:19 (AMP)

What does it mean to enter “another’s” world?

To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. — Henri Nouwen

What does it mean to be fully present, or become “a ready listener”?

  • Put your own agenda on hold
  • Look people in the eye
  • Practice reflective listening:
  • Allow the other person to speak until their thought is completed
  • Try and restate their thoughts in your own words
  • Don’t try to fix people.
  • Be cognizant of body-language (only 10% of communication is verbal!)
  • Validate people’s feelings. We can validate without being in agreement. (Feelings are neither right, nor wrong, they just are.)
  • Try not to become defensive…

2. Hold on to your world. Ephesians 2:10; John 15:15

“For [you] are God’s masterpiece. He has created [you] anew in Christ Jesus, so [you] can do the good things he planned for [you] long ago.” Eph 2:10, NLT (singular & plural)

In The Emotionally Healthy Church Pete Scazzero states that this dynamic (holding on to our world) is the most difficult and challenging principle to apply. He asserts…

“It is the key to conflict resolution. It is the key to responding in a mature loving way when other people push and challenge your desires, values, and goals inside or outside the church. It is the key to serving as a leader, in any capacity…Without this ability to hold on to yourself, it is not possible to be an imaginative, creative leader who breaks from the status quo and leads people to new places.” (p. 185)

What does it mean to “hold on to your world”?

  • Recognize that we almost always have a choice. (The choice often involves choosing between “peacekeeper” or “peacemaker.”) Peacemakers create false peace.
  • Determine and set clear boundaries:
  • Identify and be clear about limits. Don’t allow people to make demands of you. Allow people to make requests, but not demands. If you hear a request that makes you uncomfortable, your discomfort may be a signal that this is an attempt to invade your boundaries.
  • Learn to say The Graceful “NO.”

“Good boundaries attract good friends.”

3. Live in the tension of both. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Matthew 22:37-40

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Cor 13:4-7 (thought to be a description, not a definition)

  • Living in the tension of another’s world and your own world happens when we are willing to authentically connect with people across our differences (including religion and politics). Civil, or respectful, dialogue…
  • When authentic, incarnational Christian love, or spirituality, is released in a relationship God’s presence is manifest.
  • When we ignore conflict we create a false peace. Jesus was murdered because He disrupted the false peace all around him. True peacemaking disrupts the false peace.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34

  • We cannot have true peace in the Church, or society, with pretense and façade.

To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. –Henri Nouwen

Core Concepts of Leadership

I have found there is no such thing as hard and fast rules when it comes to leadership. Leadership is an art form as much as it is science. Every organization, circumstance, and leadership opportunity may call for a distinctive course of action. Some would describe this as situational leadership.

What are the core concepts of leadership? My current thinking is listed below. I have even attempted to place them in an order of importance.

1. Emotional Health. Emotional health is concerned with such things as: naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings; identifying with and having active compassion for others; initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships; breaking free from self-destructive patterns; being aware of how our past impacts our present; developing the capacity to express our thoughts and feelings clearly, both verbally and nonverbally; respecting and loving others without having to change them; asking for what we need, want, or prefer clearly, directly, and respectfully; accurately self-assessing our strengths, limits, and weaknesses and freely sharing them with others; learning the capacity to resolve inevitable conflict maturely, and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others; distinguishing and appropriately expressing our sexuality and sensuality; and grieving well. Effective leaders, first and foremost, model the capacities listed above and then they develop a learning system within their organization to assist members in measuring and growing in emotional health. (In a Christian organization, this would be an essential component of the discipleship process. In my opinion this critical piece of discipleship has been severely over-looked in the Church.)

2. Life-Long Learning. With the meteoric advance of technology there is an accompanying realization that formal learning, typically concentrated in the earlier stages of life, can no longer sustain an individual or organization throughout their lifecycle. Peter Senge, in his book The Fifth Discipline, describes this concept as developing a learning community. Senge defines a learning community as one that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future. Other definitions include:

  • An organization that achieves its goals by providing an environment conducive to the continuous learning and development of individuals, teams, and the organization.
  • An organization in which people at all levels individually and collectively are continually increasing their capacity to produce the results they really care about.
  • An organization that when a mistake is made notices the mistake, fixes it, figures out what caused the problem and corrects the root cause.

3. Developmental Empowerment. This concept is related, or we might say, the outcome of the previous two concepts. Developmental empowerment encourages and supports the importance of human responsibility in both the development and the interactive nature of growth. Developmental empowerment encourages growth in stages, looks for and quantifies evidences that accompany transformations from stage to stage, and understands the process as being lifelong, with milestones representing fundamental change. Committed to holism, developmental empowerment sees all aspects of life influencing and interacting with each other. This is a distinct shift for most organizations (including the church).

4. Calculated Delegation. Delegation is both a word and a skill that we have all heard of, yet few understand well. Effective delegation can be a dynamic tool for motivating and training team members to realize their full potential. Artful delegation underpins a style of management that allows staff members to use and develop their gifts, callings, and passion to full potential. Delegation is primarily about entrusting our authority to others, granting authority equal to responsibility.

5. Strategic Mapping. Members of an organization are more able to adapt to changes if there is a generated map of intent laid out (a map is generally more flexible than a plan). Mapping is crucial in effective leadership because it provides the organization with a direction and quantitative means to achieve its goals. Effective leaders initiate the mapping process and exert effort in communicating those plans as clearly (and redundantly) as possible.

These five principles: emotional health, life-long leadership, developmental empowerment, calculated delegation, and strategic mapping are all important in improving leadership skills. But these are not enough. The success of leadership will ultimately depend on the way we recognize our organization’s needs and how we can adapt our leadership style to those needs. In the same way that we would evaluate our team’s performance, also regularly evaluate and reflect on our own. Only you can tell what appropriate leadership is for your situation.