• Book Reviews,  Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    Some Non-Fishing Insight from A River Runs Through It

    As I said in my earlier post, A River Runs Through It is one of my favorite stories, much of my love for it has to do with its observations about life not just its insight on fishing. So below I’ve pulled some of my favorite “non fishing” quotes. After your done reading them, even if you’re not a fisherman, you may want to read the entire story for yourself. It may stir your heart as it does mine.

    “My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

    “Sunrise is the time to feel that you will be able to find out how to help somebody close to you who you think needs help even if he doesn’t think so. At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear.”

    “Even the anatomy of a river was laid bare. Not far downstream was a dry channel where the river had run once, and part of the way to come to know a thing is through its death. But years ago I had known the river when it flowed through this now dry channel, so I could enliven its stony remains with the waters of memory.”

    “As the heat mirages on the river in front of me danced with and through each other. I could feel the patterns from my own life joining with them. It was here, while waiting for my brother, that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books.”

    “For all of us, though, it is much easier to read the waters of tragedy.”

    “‘Help’, he said, ‘is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly. So it is,’ he said, using an old homiletic transition, ‘that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, ‘Sorry, we are just out of that part.’

  • Marriage and Family,  Resources,  Summer Camp

    Sacred Places

    There are many places in the world that are grand, many more that could be described as stunning, and of course, the world’s full of historic sites. Yet there is only a hand full of places that one might call sacred.

    Places become sacred because they have history, they’re beautiful, and most importantly, because something significant happens in the lives of people when they visit.

    This past week I had the opportunity to stay at one of these rare and sacred places – WinShape Retreats, on the property of Berry College in the mountains of northern Georgia. WinShape Retreats occupies the old Normandy Dairy buildings built and used by Berry College students to study dairy sciences.

    Even the bricks used to build all the Normandy Dairy buildings were produced by Berry College students in a brick factory donated by Henry Ford. Each building we toured oozed with history and beauty.

    But it’s what’s now taking place in these buildings that’s moved this place from historic to sacred. You see, when Berry College made the decision to consolidate their dairy sciences program, and move it closer to campus, the Normandy Dairy no longer had a purpose.

    In stepped the WinShape Foundation, led by the Cathy family, the founders and owners of Chick-fil-A restaurants. WinShape renovated all the buildings, turning this old dairy into a retreat center that offers marriage saving conferences, boys and girls camps, women’s and men’s retreats, and leadership summits.

    Yet places become sacred through and because of people. People who’ve dedicated such places for grand and noble purposes, such as helping build strong kids, marriages and families. Our group experienced firsthand such people, the committed and talented staff of WinShape, who’ve made a historic dairy into a sacred place, a place where lives become transformed.

  • Growing as a Leader,  Reflections

    The Beach or the Mountains, or the …?

    I remember late night debates with friends about which were better – the mountains or the beach? At the heart of the debate was the romantic calling of the sea and the laid back life on the beach versus the adventure and majesty of the mountains. What both have in common is that they show the immense size and beauty of God’s creation while often creating existential crises because they make us feel so insignificant in their midst.

    When pressed in those debates I always landed on mountains as my choice. But over the last 15 years my preference has slowly shifted. As our family traveled down to Myrtle Beach for spring break I posed the question to them – mountains or beaches? After a bit of discussion they asked my choice to which I answered – neither.

    You see a couple of years ago I realized that my answer was now “C. None of the above”, though I still love and appreciate both (especially the beach after a long Michigan winter), my first choice has become, what I call, the great north woods, especially the forests and glades around the Great Lakes.

    There is nothing I love more than a summer morning filled with the sweet smell of firs, pine and poplar combined with the coolness that the natural air conditioning of the Great Lakes provide, or watching the sunset over a spring fed lake or over the coast of Lake Michigan. I still love to watch white tail leap a fence or catch a trout in a lake or a stream.

    There’s just so much that I love about great north woods, but in the end, I find the same majesty of the mountains and the same romantic calling of the sea but in an environment that’s personal, intimate and accessible.  They have truly become my sanctuary.

    What’s your favorite place?

  • Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    Being a Higher Purpose Organization

    Photo by my friend Mike Smith

    Working for SpringHill, a not-for-profit organization committed “to creating life transforming experiences where young people can know and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ” can be heady stuff. It’s easy to believe that there’s no higher purpose than our mission.

    Yet over the last couple of years I’ve been challenged with the question “is our mission ultimately our highest calling or does SpringHill have yet a higher purpose?

    An article by Russell Eisenstat and Tobias Fredberg of the TruePoint Center for Higher Ambition convinced me that SpringHill should have a larger purpose. So I’ve modified slightly Eisenstat and Fredberg’s language and began to think in terms of SpringHill being a “higher purpose organization.”

    What does “higher purpose” mean? It means SpringHill’s called to make a larger impact in the world than it can do on its own by being a significant part of a world-changing movement.

    By implications this means that the movement’s larger, more significant and enduring than SpringHill itself. Now it’s easy for SpringHill to understand its connection to the higher purpose of Christ and His Kingdom. But the deeper and more tangible question centers on understanding “what’s Christ’s unique higher purpose for SpringHill and how does it fit into His Kingdom?”

    I don’t have the answer yet (to find the answer’s an act of discovery) but I have some preliminary thoughts on our higher purpose.

    I believe it will involve the spiritual growth of all kids and that we’ll enable others to serve kids better. Finally our higher purpose may center on being an organizational role model that helps other not-for-profit’s be more effective in their work.

    So please share your thoughts and insights into what you believe SpringHill’s “higher purpose” might be. I’d love your input.