I hate bullies

I’ve not been blogging much of late. Folks who are experts in this tell me this is very bad because….you blog to get heard and you will not get heard if you don’t develop a following and you will not develop a following if you don’t blog often. Truth is, I blog merely to ventilate and clear my head. Since I know there is a possibility this may get read it motivates me to at least be a little careful about what I put out here. Lately…for the last 2 years, I’ve been deeply involved in a ton of ‘required writing’, not the the least of which is a doctoral program plus three different book projects. I’ve little time or inspiration to write after all of that. Even my three-decade-long practice of journaling has all but come to a halt.

Said all that to say this…I’ve got something I just realized about myself and I need to write it before I say too much about it to the wrong people. I deeply despise bullies…especially when they come in the form of abusive leaders. I realize no one likes bullys but I mean I have a loathing, distrust, dislike, get sick-in-the-stomach-want-to punch-them-in-the-face disregard of leader-bullies. Those that know me will be surprised at my outburst here but not about the subject matter.  Leadership and authority are a trust. Jesus taught us that if a leader was to be truly effective he first must be a model and a servant.

If you are a leader and I disagree with you I will always do my best to get out of your way and try to get behind you. I will give you the benefit of the doubt in every circumstance possible…because I know that leadership is hard and it takes courage. Leaders will not always get it right and I know that. If someone has been entrusted with a leadership responsibility I want to step up with my support and encouragement…even if I may think they are wrong. On the other hand, when I see a leader act with an abusive sense of entitlement I tense for a fight. When I see one begin his relationship with subordinates by communicating disdain and/or distrust I start circling the wagens. If I witness multiple communications indicating the leader thinks he is the ‘boss’ just because he wears the rank or title and the opinions and skills of subordinates are routinely ignored–I’m organizing an army. National president, school principle, shop foreman, car-pool organizer or commanding general–it matters little to me. You have my admiration for your willingness to lead. If you abuse that trust I’ve learned to instinctively confront, oppose and if necessary–bring you down.

Now I feel better. Good night.

Posted in Courage, Followership, Leadership | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What I Learned from Tony Bennett

I attended a Tony Bennett concert in Nashville this week and was absolutely “wowed”. Not only was I impressed by the artist musically but learned so much from the evening that I had to take a few minutes to record my thoughts.

First a confession; I’ve not really been a fan of the 1950’s era crooner or the genre’ of music I associated him with. The thought of spending an hour or more in a concert hall was not something I was particularly excited about. I was prepared to make this small sacrifice however. The tickets were an anniversary gift to Patty and I from Jeremy and Erika and they were accompanying us for the evening and treating us to a fabulous dinner. Rob and Sheila volunteered to stay behind to watch the grandkids. I HAD to put a good face on it. As we made our way to our seats in the packed concert hall, I was relieved to note I was only one seat from the aisle. This would allow me a quick ‘break’ if things got too boring.
My need for an escape proved totally unnecessary. I was spellbound for more than 90 minutes by what I saw occurring before me and what it was doing to me. I’m still not a raving fan of jazz, classics, big band era vocals and show-tunes—or whatever it is they call what he was doing. What impressed me was the energy, vitality and passion that came from this man as he performed. He connects with his audience as he sings and dances—yes dances, throughout this marathon performance without benefit of even an intermission. I wanted to learn more about this man. Born Anthony Dominick Benededtto he will be 85 years-old this August and yet he still performs up to 200 concerts per year. He still is recording and producing albums that will sell millions of copies. He is also an accomplished artist with paintings in some of the nations finest galleries. He draws, sketches or paints daily. His musical career peaked during the 1950’s but hit an impasse that sent him to near financial ruin for several years. His greatest productivity and creativity came after the age of 60. His list of accomplishments since that time are staggering.  Someone failed to communicate to Mr. Bennett that he was past his prime and just too old.

My own father is 86 years, five months old. He inspires me every time I visit with him, email him or talk with him on the telephone. I’ve always loved and admired him but never more than now. The years have given him such depth of insight on things that really matter. He has always been a prolific story-teller. In these later years he has begun to write and record his story in his own words. He continues to have an impact—in some ways more than he ever has. He is our reminder that with God there are no accidents or coincidences. God weaves a marvelous tapestry with every event of our lives. If we learn to trust and worship Him we will get the joy of seeing this for ourselves.
I am 59 but I don’t feel old. While it’s true my body does not seem to heal or recover as fast as it did when I was 35, I’m not ready to get “old” yet. If by old you mean ‘over the hill’ or past your prime I choose to totally reject that notion. I refute it based upon scripture, history, medical science and the conviction in my heart that the best is yet to come. I have dreams yet to dream—and to achieve. I have experience and wisdom acquired that I need to share. I’ve been blessed to be a blessing.

I think I’m in good company. I’m of that generation of post-WWII Baby Boomers, who came of age believing we had a destiny to fulfill and a world to change. Many of us got distracted for awhile by the business of living and surviving. We are nearing the time our government and much of society tell us we can ‘retire’ and step aside. There is a ‘fire in our gut’ that tells us we haven’t finished yet. There is a part of us that longs for the freedom from the daily grind but the idea of not being productive is repulsive. This can and should be our greatest hour. Like Old Testament Caleb, who upon turning 80 years old and after leading the armies of Israel for many successful campaigns says to God: “Give me this mountain…”we too long for an even greater campaign. Something ‘lit a fire’ under Tony Bennett that catapulted him to a level of productivity that he had never known as a young man. I want to likewise refocus and submit myself totally to my Creator. What does He yet have for me to do? I cannot control the number of my days; that is in His hands. I can decide that whatever I have left I give them to Him first and without reserve.

Posted in Courage, Endurance, Persistance | Tagged | 2 Comments

Going Global

Anyone that has spent more than ten minutes with me KNOWS how thankful I am to be associated with the heroic men and women who serve as our military missionaries overseas. Also the equal passion for conveying the strategic importance the Ministry to the Military (MTTM) is to the Harvest of Jesus Christ. You might be surprised to know that I called for these great men and women of God to help me lead a strategic change in our approach to our mission.

We launched a new perspective for MTTM ministry at the European Leadership Training Conference in Germany last week. It is my intent to bring a similar emphasis to our leaders in the Far East, the Southern Command and the USA. There has been some “broiling” and controversy in the wake of this meeting. My response to this debate?—Great! We need to dig-in to this subject, take it seriously, find out just what it means to us and then DO SOMETHING about. I’m not at all interested in just presenting some things we forget about the moment we walk out the door. I called for radical, immediate and continuous change.

So what’s all the fuss about it?

I presented a session entitled “Going Global; Thriving by learning to cross borders.” This was not so much a new perspective as it was an urgent cry for us to refocus on our existing vision and values with a missional awareness of the current world environment. It is a new way of looking at an old mission. It became a bit controversial when I suggested many of us had committed to the harvest closest to our doors while losing sight of our commitment to develop the ministry globally. I challenged our leaders to realign their efforts behind a truly global perspective—a commitment to relevant ministry locally and effective MTTM around the globe.
What does it mean to ‘develop a global mindset?’ I offered four guidelines:

Having a global mindset means…

1.  a willingness to ‘cross borders’. Not just geographical crossings but to seek out people of other cultures, languages, ethnicity, socio-economic standing. When we make the effort to cross a border we are saying that person is just as important to God as we are and we show them respect. Crossing borders requires that you see the poor, the hungry, the destitute and you learn ways you can connect.

2. you go and act to deliberately, intentionally interact with a culture beyond your own to bring them benefit. When this ‘border crossing’ becomes a way of life we will understand that we cross borders to show the love of Christ. We show the love of Christ by deliberate attempts to discover needs and to meet them.

3. It does not mean to reject or deny our own culture or nationality. In fact, without a clear and healthy sense of who and what we are and the culture that shaped us, it is very difficult to learn how to understand and accept others. We can only really understand and appreciate differences if we are first clear on what has been and what continues to be important to us.

4. you will passionately keep the over-arching perspective in view as well as burn for those you have personally crossed borders to reach. The Great Commission of Jesus is our model. Jesus loved, healed and served those directly in front of him as well as sending us into the whole world.

Bottom line to all of this? We start by reaching those closest to us—military, DOD and families. We then involve them in touching the world around us—near and far. The pattern is in Acts 1:8…Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. We cannot be a New Testament movement unless we have a demonstrated committment to the Harvest both locally and globally. If we put one over the other we are missing the mark!

Posted in Courage, Leadership | 9 Comments

Remembering Sandra Alcorn

Patty and I lost a dear friend last week in Grayson, Louisiana. She seemed much too young-barely 58—and she went much too quickly—3 weeks from the day of her diagnosis. We have known Sandra since she was a 29 year-old soldier’s wife in Germany. We loved her then and marveled at the way she made a beautiful loving home for her husband and three young girls and also made their military apartment a refuge of love & hope for other young families and soldiers. Later we would experience her as a pastors wife, a conference coordinator , women’s ministry leader and a grandmother to 12 young boys and girls. Through all of this she was a true Christian and our dear friend. While they were in Germany as military missionaries (two separate assignments totaling 11 years), we always felt at home in her kitchen and enjoyed her hospitality. I’ve come to believe that one of the reasons I came to Louisiana as the overseer was to help bring them back to their childhood and family home. She passed quietly, was memorialized then was buried while surrounded by family and friends in the place of her birth and upbringing—Shreveport, Louisiana. I’ve been asked to share the following thoughts I gave at her funeral in Shreveport.
Reflections on the passing of Sandra Kay Alcorn October 15, 2010; Shreveport, La
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14)
Everyone that knows and loves Frank and Sandra Alcorn has been with them on the emotional roller-coaster that has been their life the last three weeks. We were shocked to hear of the initial hospital visit, the dramatic surgery and then the pronouncement that she had stage three cancer. We prayed fervently while she was in surgery and were so hopeful when we learned that the surgery went well. We hoped and prayed for the best. Every day I would speak or text message Frank to get an update. Some days were hopeful, even exhilarating-many were not. Over every day there was a heaviness that reminded us that our Sandra was not well and we longed for the day we could see her recover and would have no need for the special care of the hospital. Sandra too longed for it to be over with. I doubt many of us spent much time entertaining the possibility that she would not survive this ordeal and not be going home with Frank at some not-too-distant moment.
All of this was still being processed in my spirit when I turned on the television late Tuesday night to try to catch up with the news. Every station seemed to be covering the live developments of the Chilean miner rescue. I locked in to join the masses around the world that were viewing this unfolding drama as we waited for the miners to be brought up. I watched the powerful emotions displayed upon the rescue workers, the family members, members of the press and even the Chilean President and his wife. It seemed that everyone had a huge stake in what was happening. You all saw it but let me review just a few of the issues involved.
The miners had been trapped in the darkness of this underground cell for more than 69 days. Though they had been able to get them food, water and some electricity, they were far from being comfortable in their underground cell.
It was reported that the miners were in relatively good spirits. They had adapted well and had even organized themselves into a very close-knit band of brothers – a community of faith of sorts.
In spite of all of this they had all looked forward to the day that the half-mile rescue hole would be completed and that one-by-one they could be rescued. Their struggle to survive had built very special bonds but all knew that they were destined for more than to spend their lives in a hole 2500 feet under the ground. They longed for the deliverance that was to come. They had rehearsals to prepare them for the day they hoped they would all be rescued. A roster, or an order of who was to be rescued first was put together and sent topside.
The hole was dug, and a rescue capsule had been prepared. No one knew for sure, however if it would work. Engineers acknowledged that the 2500 foot hole was not perfectly straight but proceeded down at an angle. As a result, it was possible that the capsule, over 7 feet high but only 21 inches in diameter could jam and get stuck in the long tunnel thus locking one of the miners in place with it. This would be a disaster, not only for the miner in the capsule but for the rest of the miners still to be rescued. Everyone on both ends watched —for 22 hours, while one by one the capsule was sent down loaded with a miner and then brought to the service. Each miner had to face a half-hour ascent in a pitch dark, cramped capsule while being pulled slowly to the service. With every arrival at the top the reaction was always the same. The crowds laughed, shouted, cried, hugged, sang and families were reunited. The Joy and celebration could not help but totally capture anyone watching even from thousands of miles away. I found myself weeping tears of joy and laughing out loud with them as I imagined what it must have been like for a family member to be reunited with their loved ones.
In the midst of this I thought of Sandra Alcorn. We are grieving her passing. The truth is, she has been down here trapped in the mine shaft with us. She had helped all of us who knew her to brighten our existence. She helped us so much that we often forget that we are not meant to be here. At best we are trapped in a dark place that is only made tolerable through the light, resources brought from above, our support of each other and the ultimate hope that one day we will all be delivered. Sandra made it to the top of the shaft…she has been rescued!! She is among that liberated group that is breathing the fresh clean air of the eternal dwelling place all of us were created to share with her. They are celebrating topside! The Word of God says “Precious in the sight of the Lord are the death of His saints.” She was privileged to be higher on the rescue roster than some of us. I would submit to you that the joy in heaven upon her arrival far exceeds that joy demonstrated by the Chilean president, people and rescuers welcoming the rescued miners.
Remember our scripture in Colossions 1:13? For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,

Here’s what I hope to bring to you…and to me. Picture this…When the miners still in the hole, heard that one of his fellow miners got to the top safely—they erupted in cheers. They were glad for their deliverance-and they were reminded that soon they too would enter that dark capsule long enough to be vaulted to the light of their deliverance. They would be brought into the arms and safety of their loved ones never to be endangered again.
Thank God for what has been called the “Blessed Hope” of the church. The resurrection of His saints:
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.(I Thess. 4:13-18)

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God ; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery ; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet ; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY ? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING ?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law ; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (I Co

Posted in Courage, Leadership | 1 Comment

On the road again

No time to really reflect, but in a few moments I will put the last items on a 22 foot truck and head back to Cleveland, TN. The only thing about the moving process I like is when it is finally over-which will take weeks. It’s like the crazy guy who when asked about why he kept hitting his head against the wall was to reply “cuz it feels so good when I stop.” You can bet I will work to try to stop this moving process. Sometimes it serves a good purpose but often is sheer nonsense.

Posted in Courage | 1 Comment