• Book Reviews

    The Valley of Vision

    Over the years I’ve benefited from reading some of the classic devotionals. But I discovered one a couple of years ago that’s become my favorite. It’s a compilation of Puritan writings rewritten as a book of prayers call The Valley of Vision.

    Each prayer is Scripture filled, poetically written and maintains a sense of transcendence of both the truth of the prayer and the God to whom the prayer’s directed to. I read one each night before going to bed. The one below is I read a couple of days ago and share it with you as an example of prayers found in The Valley of Vision. May the prayer bless you as it did me on this particular night.

    A Minister’s Prayer

    O My Lord,

    Let not my ministry be approved only by men,

    or merely win the esteem and affections

    of people;

    But do the work of grace in their hearts,

    call in thy elect,

    seal and edify the regenerate ones,

    and command eternal blessings on their souls.

    Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;

    Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word,

    that seed sown in weakness may be raised

    in power;

    Cause me and those that hear me

    to behold thee here in the light of special faith,

    and hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;

    Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself,

    and help me to experience the power

    of thy dying love,

    for thy blood is balm,

    thy presence bliss,

    thy smile heaven,

    thy cross the place where truth

    and mercy meet.

    Look upon the doubts and discouragements

    of my ministry

    and keep me from self – importance;

    I beg pardon for my many sins, omissions,

    infirmities,

    as a man, as a minister;

    Command thy blessing on my weak,

    unworthy labours,

    and on the message of salvation given;

    Stay with thy people,

    and may thy presence be their portion

    and mine.

    when I preach to others let not my words

    be merely elegant and masterly,

    my reasoning polished and refined,

    my performance powerless and tasteless,

    but may I exalt thee and humble sinners,

    O Lord of power and grace,

    all hearts are in thy hands,

    all events at thy disposal,

    Set the seal of thy almighty will

    upon my ministry.

     

  • Book Reviews,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    Onward – How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul

    If you’re a coffee aficionado, student of leadership or intrigued by the workings of large corporations then I recommend the book Onward by Howard Schultz the Chairman, President and CEO of Starbucks.

    My interest falls primarily into the first two categories – coffee and leadership – though I’m not a true aficionado I do enjoy a good cup of coffee. But the second category – leadership – is what put the book on top of my summer reading list.

    In particular I wanted to understand how Schultz led Starbucks through difficult economic times and organizational change while maintaining and even strengthened their values, culture and brand.

    Because Schultz is an articulate and passionate leader the book turned out to be practical. It’s full of quotable statements about business, leadership and of course coffee, making it a great case study and enjoyable read.

    In reality Starbucks represents a number of the qualities we envision for SpringHill including having passionate & loyal fans, strong organizational culture built on their values and industry changing innovation that makes a difference in the world.

    So reading a firsthand account of Starbuck’s transformation provided some helpful lessons for both SpringHill and my leadership as we continue to reach more kids, more effectively for Christ in a changing world.

    By the end of the book I filled four pages with concepts I could adapt to my leadership as well as ideas that we can possibly try at SpringHill – a number of which I’ve already applied to myself and introduced to the organization.

    There’s one other change I made as a result of reading Onward – inspired I found our old French press at the back of our cupboard and now use it to brew my morning coffee.

  • Book Reviews

    UNBROKEN

    If you’re having a bad day, a bad week or a bad year you need to read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. No matter how bad things are in life nothing compares to the experiences of Lieutenant Louis Zamperini.

    And if you’re having a great day or your best year then you also need to read it. Because it’ll cause you to be thankful for the blessings you are experiencing.

    But this isn’t why Unbroken is the best book of any kind I’ve read in the last couple years. No it’s great because Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seabiscuit, is a great story-teller, and the story she tells is so incredible that it’s almost unbelievable.

    As I read this story of being lost and then brutalized I kept asking myself “can this be true? Is it possible that a person could really survive all that Zamperini went through?”

    And the answer is “yes.” And not just survive but in the end achieve a wholeness and redemption that most people who’ve never lived through anything remotely as close to what Zamperini did do not achieve.

    And this is also why it’s a great story because it’s true and it’s full of hope, true, real Hope. It’s a Hope that can transform any person because it transcends every situation no matter how horrible. Zamperini’s life’s a testimony to this reality.

    So if you are looking for Hope, or simply want to an excellent book to dig into read Unbroken and I promise you it’ll be a story you’ll never forget and it might be one that could change your perspective on life forever.

  • Book Reviews,  SpringHill Experiences

    On Being Lost

    “Psychologists have observed that one of the most basic human needs, beginning at birth, is to be gazed upon by another.” Therefore, “part of the terror of being lost stems from the idea of never being seen again” from Laurence Gonzales’ Deep Survival – Who Lives, Who Dies and Why.

    If you’ve ever been lost you know the truth of this statement.

    As I’ve thought about this statement I’ve been struck by the very real relationship between being lost geographically and being lost spiritually.

    No wonder the Biblical writers, pastors and theologians talk of being separated from God as being lost.

    And there are few things worse than being lost. Because ultimately being lost means we are no longer “seen” thus no longer known. And this is an even more frightening thought when we think of it in spiritual terms.

    Now the truth is we’ve all been lost, and to some degree, we are probably all a bit lost now in some part of our lives which is why we understand this deep need to be “gazed upon” by God.

    So as I reflected on the meaning of “being lost” I’ve been personally convicted that I need to continue helping those who are lost and who desperately want to be “seen again” and be “gazed upon” by their Creator.

    I’ve also become more convinced than ever of the importance of ministries like SpringHill that exist to help lost people become “seen again” by the One whose gaze changes everything. There is no greater gift to give or receive.

  • Book Reviews,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    “Leadership is an Art”

    “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you.” Max DePree in his book Leadership is an Art and repeated to me in my recent meeting with Roger Williams, Executive Director of Mount Hermon.

    I’m very appreciative of Roger’s reminder of these words from this great book.

    So when I got back to my office on Monday I grabbed my autographed copy and began to flip through it. As I did I realized two important but related facts concerning this book.

    First, it is one of the best books on leadership I’ve ever read and was and is foundational in my leadership philosophy.

    Second, I saw God’s hand directing Roger to bring Leadership is an Art back to my mind because of work the SpringHill Leadership team is doing in organizational planning.

    So I took my copy with me on my trip this week knowing I now had to re-read it.

    As I’ve finished it on my flight I’ve been blessed, challenged and affirmed once again because DePree puts into words and stories the heart of leadership. He sets an ideal that is noble, human, convicting and one I aspire to.

    It is full of wisdom that is practical, philosophical and speaks to both heart and mind. And it is one of the most quotable books on leadership you will ever read.

    It was written nearly 25 years ago so I was worried it was “dated” but I was not disappointed. It reads as contemporary, or maybe even more contemporary, today as it did when I first read it in the late 80’s. Both the truths and DePree’s writing style are timeless.

    So I’ve ordered copies for my leadership team. We are going to read it together because it represents the kind of organization and leadership we aspire to.

    If you want to be inspired to be the best leader you can be join us in reading (or re-reading) Leadership is an Art by Max DePree. It maybe the best book leadership book you’ll ever read.

  • Book Reviews,  Living as a Leader,  Marriage and Family

    College Choices and “Artful Procrastination”

    Butler University, University of Cincinnati, Point Park University, Alma College, maybe Indiana University or Purchase College?

    My daughter Christina’s been accepted into four college ballet programs and is waiting on two more. The four schools she’s been accepted to have a constant flow of communication going to her in hopes that she will pick their school and program.

    Only problem is Christina is waiting for two more schools. So though the pressure (from the schools, others in her life and herself) is on making a decision now – as her agent I’ve instructed her to wait until just before the commitment deadline.

    There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then that will help her make the best decision.

    So procrastination, not being decisive is Christina’s best course of action.

    This concept of decision-making’s discussed in one of my favorite leadership books – The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Steven Sample. It’s full of practical suggestions for being an effective leader. It’s one of those books I occasionally re-read and often refer to.

    In one of his best contrarian perspectives Sample provides his rules for making decisions, one of which is:

    Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off until tomorrow.

    This runs counter to what leaders hear from others. We’re supposed to be certain, confident and decisive. But Sample makes a case for what he calls “artful procrastination.”

    Sample believes a good leader should take all the time he or she can to make a decision. Why?

    Because new options and information will become available during the “procrastination” period that will allow for a better decision.

    Now there are times when snap decisions need to be made.

    But most important decisions, ones with long-term effects generally do not require immediate action. Instead they require input from others as well as thoughtful reflection and prayer. None of which can be done in a New York minute.

    So Christina will put off deciding what school she will attend until “tomorrow” knowing that it’s the best day to make a big decision.

  • Book Reviews

    Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship

    “God has used this book and Bonhoeffer to show what my life needs to be as a disciple of Christ. As a result of God’s call through this book I am committed to obey and follow (adhere to) Christ with single-eyed focus. I will obey before I worry about faith. I will do this in context of the visible believing community – which is Christ’s Body. I want the costly grace and not the cheap grace and I pray that God will call me to Him and I will follow. Michael Perry 11-21-1991”

    As part of a seminary class I’m taking we’re reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.

    So I went to my bookcase to find the copy I read back in 1991 and as I opened it I discovered the above note I had written on the back cover.

    The note reminded me of the impact this book had on me twenty years ago. As I have had the chance to re-read it I realized it continues to have a significant influence not just on my thinking and philosophy of ministry but more importantly on how I live.

    Here are a couple of the questions I wrestled with after reading The Cost of Discipleship twenty years ago and am again challenged with as I re-read it.

    First, Bonhoeffer’s concept of “costly Grace” verses “cheap grace” raises an important question that is relevant for us today. How do we share the Gospel with people without gutting it of the difficult parts? How do we tell the good news that we can’t earn our salvation and yet, to be a follower of Christ, will cost us a lot – maybe everything?

    The second question is how do we assure we do not fall into the trap of believing that being a Christian is just simply making a decision (or multiple decisions) in a single moment in time instead of accepting that being a Christian means following Christ in every moment of time?

    Both of these questions are as relevant (or more relevant) today than in the days Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship.

    So if you are looking for a challenging, thought-provoking book about what it means to be a follower of Christ this classic maybe just the book. It’s not perfect but it will have you asking yourself questions like the ones I dealt with above.

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