Well it's December and I have been reflecting on the 2015 year. It has been a mixed year of success and failure, excitement and disappointment, birth and death. Overall, I have learned much about myself as a leader. I have learned three important lessons:
Learn how to respond to situations.
I have a great deal of influence.
Listen, listen, and listen some more.
Birth and Death
Nicolle is the birth apostle of Conway. She does amazing work assisting women who have the privilege to bring a life into the world. Being able to participate in the birth of an individual is a pretty life changing event. At the same time, being able to assist anyone in the development of a project or important matter has a similar level of satisfaction and excitement as delivery.
My doctoral studies in organizational leadership have afforded me the opportunity to assist men and women in the development of nonprofits to serve low income persons and communities. It is a great time to sit with people, hear their vision, and work through a process. The personal satisfaction I have in this birth process is the opportunity to work with people who have a desire to create opportunities for others. This fits in my "three spheres" approach to life (Email me and we can talk about this approach). I was blessed to be honored by the Chamber for my work to advocate for others and Governor Hutchinson appointed me to a cool opportunity as well. While there have been great opportunities to work in the birth process, I have also been reminded with birth there is death.
This year has been difficult because I closed the door on church planting. This closure happened in two very significant ways. The last Sunday in September brought to a close the Church at Oakwood. This church was a labor of love since 2007 when it was just myself and the family. Over the course of eight years, many beautiful people had the opportunity to experience "church" in a new way. It was called the "trailer park church," "TP church," and even the "cult." A nonprofit was produced, missionaries were sent out, and above all the Gospel was being heard. In 2012, I made the decision to step down as the leader of the church and in 2015 moved on to plant a new expression. I have to admit when I learned about the Church at Oakwood ceasing, I was deeply disappointed and questioned my own leadership decisions. At the end of the day, I first had to trust God in what he was doing and second trust the decisions of the leadership I had discipled through the years. Trust is a hard thing! I love to delegate and part of delegation is trust. So with the closure, I wrestled with delegation and reexamined how to best delegate to others. I am still in process.
The second death was Advocate Community Church. I thought we would catch lighting in a bottle a second time with a new church plant at the beginning of this year. We had some good interest. I worked through a process but as time went on and some good intense discussions with the family, we realized the season of being trailblazers as church planters was over. It was a great weight lifted off of me. I realized I could give greater attention to the opportunities God was giving me in carrying out the reality of the incarnation and resurrection in the context of loving ones neighbor.
So birth and death have been two enjoyable and painful experiences. Birth and death have one commonality, both experiences move you to a new state of being. For that I thank God.
Opening My Mouth
There is this song by Emeli Sande titled, "Read All About It, Pt. III." The song contains two powerful lines which pretty much summarize my feelings about using words and influence. The artist states,
"You've got the words to change a nation, But you're biting your tongue."
"You've got a heart as loud as lions, So why let your voice be tamed?"
Those two lines touched my soul because this past year I was in this horrible place of having many things to say but withholding those words out of some type of fear. Fear can be paralyzing emotion. It can stall momentum and lead us to consider other people and other things determine our value. But fear can be a good thing as well. Fear is what helps us discover courage, fortitude, and resilience. Fear can be a tool which removes the dross from our souls revealing characteristics we desperately need for the next stage of our journey.
So in the last few months I have taken fear as my ally leveraging its influence for the benefit of others. In choosing to open my mouth and say things in the hope of changing my small city it has had it's consequences. I have had painful realizations people whom I perceived as friends held that relationship on a conditional basis. It was on condition I towed the line, speaking and saying things to which I had to agree. When I have chosen to offer a different perspective relationships were severed, my integrity challenged, and my nonprofit organization lost donors.
By nature I am a loner. I like to be by myself or in very small groups. So when I had folks step out on me by default reaction was, "Bye!" I must say I went through these emotions of sadness and anger, bitterness and relief. Eventually I had to shake the dust off and keep moving forward because the season was over and the lessons learned. Honestly, I think my emphasis on loving one's neighbor has been more for me than anyone else this year.
I believe I am pretty clear on my purpose in life. God's saving grace empowers me to advocate for the poor and speak on what it means to love one's neighbor. So when I lost relationships or had my organization impacted because I say or write things which are consistent with my purpose I ask myself, "Why are you surprised? Are you not paying attention?" Yes, I am going to address homelessness, racism, poverty, immigration, criminal justice, and other issues because it what I deal with on a daily basis. I am only seeking to be consistent.
These experiences have also reminded me I have a responsibility to people. I have a responsibility to my family, the organization I lead, and the people I speak for on a daily basis. So I think deeply. I pray about what I am about to communicate. I have to trust God. Ultimately, I have a responsibility to say and do what is right, not what is popular, expedient, or political. Why? Because human beings are impacted by our thoughts and ideas. Thoughts and ideas become plans, policies, and strategies to be implemented on a local, national, and global stage. If we are not willing to communicate boldly and lovingly about people and their general welfare, we are in trouble.
So in 2016 I will grow as a lion whose mouth is meant to influence a nation. Thank you for that song Emeli!
I am looking forward to waving goodbye to 2015 and embracing 2016. I have great anticipation and excitement for family, my organization, and I have a dissertation waiting on me. Yes Lord! Birth and Death remind me all of us move from one state of living to another. So pay attention to the things which have come alive and passed on in your own life. Finally, more of us need to open our mouths. I believe there are many more lions roaming the countryside of America. We are in need loving, reasonable, and passionate voices who are concerned more about people than systems, human flourishing rather the famine of compassion. We are in need of creative voices who are willing to take fear as an ally and inspire our humanity towards