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Posts from the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

The Wise, the Foolish, and the Evil

Every Thursday at lunch a number of SpringHill staff view one session of the 2011 Willow Creek Leadership Summit videos. This past Thursday we listened to Dr. Henry Cloud teach on the three different types of people in the world – the wise, the foolish and the evil, and the strategies leaders need to use for dealing with each. His talk comes directly from one of the chapters in his most recent and insightful book – “Necessary Endings“.

After finishing the video we had a short debrief about what we learned, what new thoughts we each had and what challenged us. Ironically, the one challenge we all shared was that, as we watched, we all asked ourselves “which person have I been or am I now?” For each of us, it was a challenging moment of personal evaluation that cut right to the heart of many issues and relationships in our lives.

So in the spirit of seeking the light, below are the characteristics of each type of person. Take a moment and do your own self-reflection and ask “what kind of person have I been or am I now?”

Wise Person: When the light (truth) comes to them, they adjust themselves to the light, so who they are a person matches reality. In other words they seek and receive feedback and change themselves as a result.

Foolish Person: When the light (truth) comes their way, they try to adjust the light (deflect the truth) instead of changing themselves. When receiving feedback they deflect, blame and do not take responsibility for their own actions and performance.

Evil Person: When the light shines on them they want to destroy both the light and those that shine it. They have destruction in the hearts and want to retaliate against truth and those who share it.

“Strategic Planning is Not Strategic Thinking”

As part of my work in re-articulating the SpringHill vision I’ve turned, once again, to one of the best books on leadership ever written The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. In the section titled Inspiring a Shared Vision Kouzes and Posner write…

“Strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking because it causes managers to believe that the manipulation of numbers creates imaginative insight into the future and vision. This confusion lies at the heart of the issue: the most successful strategies are visions; they are not plans. McGill University professor Harry Mintzberg explains that planning represents a “calculating” style, while leaders employ a “committing” style – one that ‘engages people in a journey. They lead in such a way that everyone on the journey helps shape its course. As a result, enthusiasm inevitably builds along the way. Those with a calculating style fix on a destination and calculate what the group must do to get there, with no concern for the members preferences. But calculated strategies have no value in and of themselves…Strategies take on value only as committed people infuse them with energy.’

Leadership that focuses on a committing style is what leadership scholars have called transformational leadership. Transformational leadership occurs when, in their interactions, people ‘raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. Their purposes, which might have started out as separate but related, as in the case of transactional leadership, become fused…. But transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both the leader and the led, and thus it has a transforming effect on both.'”

I’ve taken these words to heart and am using them as guides as I lead SpringHill in the re-articulating of its vision.

Our Relationship to Creation

I’m reading the last book written by John Stott before he passed away, titled The Radical Disciple. If you haven’t read it you must. It’s not often we have the privilege to read the intentional final published words (Mr. Stott knew this would be his last book) of such a significant person on such an important topic.

The sub-title to the book is Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling and true to the sub-title, Stott covers a wide range of neglected discipleship topics, including one chapter titled “Creation Care”. The fact that John Stott, in his last book, covers this topic, only affirms the great respect I’ve always had for him.

Let me share with you just a bit of his perspective on creation care.

“The Bible tells us that in creation God established for human beings three fundamental relationships: first to himself, for he made them in his image; second to each other, for the human race was plural from the beginning; and the third, to the good earth and its creatures over which he set them.

Moreover, all three relationships were skewed by the Fall. Adam and Eve were banished from the presence of the Lord God in the garden, they blamed each other for what had happened, and the good earth was cursed on account of their disobedience.

It stands to reason therefore that God’s plan of restoration includes not only our reconciliation to God and to each other, but in some way the liberation of the groaning creation as well. We can certainly affirm that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth, for this is an essential part of our hope for the perfect future that awaits us at the end of time (e.g., 2 Peter 3:13, Revelations 21:1). But meanwhile the whole creation is groaning, experiencing the birth pains of the new creation (Romans 8:18-23). How much of the earth’s ultimate destiny can be experienced now is a matter of debate. But we can surely say that just as our understanding of the final destiny of our resurrection bodies should affect how we think of and treat our bodies we have at the present, so our knowledge of the new heaven and earth should affect and increase the respect with which we treat it now.”

Jim Collins & Great by Choice

Mark Olson, SpringHill’s former President, was the first to introduce Jim Collins and his work to SpringHill through the book Built to Last.

It was in reading Built to Last that I became a fan of Jim Collins, and it certainly wouldn’t be far off to say, over the years, that I’ve become a disciple of Jim Collin’s research/writing. Since Built to Last, I’ve read all his books, have had our key leaders read his books, then continued the practice Mark started of applying the books’ principles to SpringHill.

After 15 years and 5 books, both Collins’ concepts and terminology have become part of the SpringHill culture. Read our strategic/ministry plan and you’ll see how Collins’ work has impacted and influenced SpringHill.

In an effort to avoid becoming an organization that is always chasing the “flavor of the day” we’ve been intentional about staying consistent in using Collins’s concepts and terminology. We acknowledge there are other good management consultants who use different terminology and have their own twist on strategic and leadership concepts. But we believe it’s counterproductive to switch, mix and change language within a culture, in the name of being cutting edge, when the underlying principles are similar or the same.

Finally we’ve stayed with Collins and his work because, unlike so many other experts and their books, the concepts derive from rigorous research not anecdotal evidence, opinion or folk-lore.

Which brings me to Collins’ new book (written with Morten T. Hansen) – Great by Choice, it’s another “great” work based on “great” research. Many of SpringHill leaders have already read it and a number of our department teams, including my leadership team, have plans to carry out the appropriate concepts into SpringHill.

So once again, Collins provides timely and relevant insight for organizations and leaders looking to stay or become “great”. I highly recommend it.

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

As I read The Lord of the Rings for something like the 10th time I was once again reminded of the great wisdom Tolkien shares as part of the story. Below are some of my favorite quotes, many of which I’ve looked to and shared with others when they’ve seemed most applicable.

“I wish it had not happened in my time.” Said Frodo. “So do I” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live in such times. But that is not for them to decide. All
we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

“He deserves death.” Deserves it! I dare say he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

“Handsome is as handsome does.”

“You have come and here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world.”

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wonder are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken: The crownless again shall be king.”

“He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”

“It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill.”

“Despair or folly?” said Gandalf “It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.”

“The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yes such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

“You have come and here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world.”

“To cast aside regret and fear. To do the deed at hand.”

“The treacherous are ever distrustful.”

“Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves.”

“The houses of the dead are no places for the living…Authority is not given you to order the hour of your death,” answered Gandalf.

“Despair had not left him, but the weakness had passed. He even smiled grimly, feeling now as clearly as a moment before he had felt the opposite, that what he had to do, he had to do, if he could, and what whether anyone
ever knew about it was beside the purpose.”

“The houses of the dead are no places for the living…Authority is not given you to order the hour of your death,” answered Gandalf.

“For it is said in old lore: ‘The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.’

Rereading The Lord of the Rings

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” C.S. Lewis

I’ve just finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for maybe the 10th time. I’ve read it so many times because it moves me like no other book (besides the Bible). I actually want to be in the story.

And here’s what moves me and draws me back every few years.

First I love the characters. They are noble, humble, live sacrificially and fun-loving. We, however, live in a cynical and jaded world where we’ve come to believe that no one is capable of living for something greater than themselves. Even Peter Jackson’s movie version affirms this view by his portrayal of some of the characters. But Tolkien’s characters provide us hope that it’s possible that the world and Jackson are wrong and we can live above the cynicism that surrounds us.

Speaking of worlds, I also love the world in which the story takes place. I want to live in a world, like the Shire and Middle Earth, where the love of family, friends and the land seem so rooted and intertwined. Instead we live in a transient world where we’re disconnected from each other and creation. To believe a different life’s possible, one as Tolkien created, has a powerful draw.

Finally it has one of the elements I love in any story – a grand adventure. I’m an adventurer at heart and this story has the ultimate adventure – to do the impossible, at any cost, for the sake of others and the world.

So I know I’ll read The Lord of the Rings again someday because I’ll want the old magic to once again rekindle within me the desire for a different world, Tolkien’s, and ours.

In my next post I’ll share some of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings.

A Gift for You

It’s Christmas and I want to offer you a personal gift I’ve been working on for the last year, and with the help of family and good friends it’s ready for you.

It’s personal because in December 2010 I asked God to direct how He might use me during 2011 and beyond in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. Then on an early morning run God provided a simple answer – I was to combine my commitment to encouraging others to read the Scriptures with my love of reading the entire Bible each year. I’d do this by publishing my journal entries for each of my daily readings, first via a blog then in book form. My goal’s been to encourage all my family and friends to join me in reading the entire Bible.

So I’ve been journaling daily this past year with this goal in mind, praying that God would somehow use this gift to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now Volume 1 (Days 1-90) of Reading the Bible through in a Year is ready for you. The reading schedule takes you through the Old and the New Testament side by side. It’s my favorite schedule because the Old Testament helps us better understand the New Testament while the New Testament brings the texts of the Old Testament to life.

If you’re interested in receiving Volume 1 and being on the list for the next 3 volumes simply subscribe to my blog (upper right corner of my blog). If you have any technical issues in subscribing please feel free to contact Lynn Fischer at lfischer@springhillcamps.com

Merry Christmas and a fruitful 2012.

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

“The most successful leaders are very good at knowing how and when to ask the critical questions…” (Kaplan, p. 12)

As part of our recent Chicago 7 gathering we read What to Ask the Person in the Mirror by Robert Steven Kaplan.

Kaplan’s a former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc and currently professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. After being assigned to read Kaplan’s book by John McAuley of Muskoka Woods the first thing I did was to scan the description of Kaplan and his professional background. I don’t judge books by their covers but I do often make snap judgments based on their authors.

In this case I mistakenly believed What to Ask the Person in the Mirror would be a theoretical book best suited for very large organizations.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. In a very clear, concise and practical way Kaplan lays out the key questions leaders must ask and the critical roles they must play if they’re to effectively lead an organization – large or small, profit or not-for-profit.

The book begins with questions related to the articulation of the vision and priorities of an organization. This discussion becomes the foundation for the rest of the book with the topics working together to build a comprehensive plan for a leader and an organization to follow.

The topics include time management, receiving and giving feedback, succession planning, delegation and evaluation. Then Kaplan concludes with an important discussion of leaders as role models and the importance of a leader understanding their “talents, personality, values and passions.”

It’s an appropriate conclusion to a very practical and insightful book, a book that I will continue to sit on desk so that I can reference it in my ongoing efforts to becoming a more effective leader.

The Weight of Glory

It’s SpringHill’s Labor Day Family Camp weekend at our two overnight camps. There are nearly 300 families and 1500 people enjoying family time, pursuing fun and adventure and worshipping together with great music and inspiring speakers.

Our Michigan camp speaker is Clint Dupin, a Teaching Pastor for Kensington Community Church in Troy, Michigan. His theme for the weekend is the “weight of God’s glory and its significance in our lives”.

As he was speaking on Saturday morning I couldn’t help but think about some of my favorite words from a sermon from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, titled “The Weight of Glory“.

Since you might not be listening to Clint this weekend I thought you might be blessed and challenged instead by C.S. Lewis’ words.

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbors’ glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours….

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

John R.W. Stott & Basic Christianity

John Stott died yesterday at age 90. If you haven’t heard of John Stott, he’s been an Anglican pastor and a significant leader in the world-wide Christian church and in particular the Evangelical stream of the Christian faith.

I’ve never met Dr. Stott nor ever had the opportunity to hear him speak yet his teachings through his books have had a significant impact on my life and work.

In particular one little book titled Basic Christianity has influenced my theological perspective and approach to ministry. What makes it so powerful and timeless is the simplicity in which Stott describes, without compromise, the foundational truths of the Christian faith.

I first read it as part of my training to become a volunteer Young Life leader because it framed so well the message we wanted to communicate to kids on a weekly basis.

A couple of years after coming to SpringHill we began evaluating the content of our daily and weekly lessons for summer camp. SpringHill’s a non denominational ministry so we don’t address controversial and “peripheral” doctrinal issues in our work but instead “major on the majors”. But at the time some folks were asking if we needed to expand our list of “majors”.

In stepped John Stott and Basic Christianity. I had our key staff read the book and then we as a team discuss its content. When we finished we all agreed Basic Christianity defined the piece of the Christian message SpringHill’s called to share with kids.

And to this day you’ll see copies of Basic Christianity around SpringHill and more importantly you’ll still see its outline weaving through all our lessons and curriculum and as a result still impacting the lives of 1000’s of SpringHill kids and families each year.

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