A few years ago, the Center for Creative Leadership did a survey on power and leadership. The findings were published in a white paper entitled, “The Role of Power in Effective Leadership.” Among other things, the researchers found that “Most leaders surveyed (94 percent) rated themselves as being moderately to extremely powerful at work.” This makes sense, given the fact that most leaders do in fact have at least some power, otherwise they would not be able to lead. The study also discovered “a notable correlation between leaders’ level in the organization and how powerful they believe themselves to be at work.” Again, lots of common sense here. Leaders, especially executive leaders, have power, often lots of it.
Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, celebrates creativity. The school’s posters proclaim: “Nobody puts creativity in a corner” and “When creativity is a state of being, there are no limits.” A promotional video explains, “Creativity is our foundation.” In another clip, a Lesley professor adds, “Creativity really empowers people to be the masters of their own universe.”
I realize that much of this is intentionally exaggerated, but such rhetoric reflects a common tendency to exalt human potential in a way that might actually limit it. Allow me to explain what I mean.
For several years, I was the senior director of Laity Lodge, a unique retreat center in the Texas Hill Country. Laity Lodge sits in a canyon alongside the Frio River, far away from the bustle of civilization. The nearest town, Leakey, which has about 400 residents, is 13 miles away. San Antonio, the closest city of significant size, is 80 miles away as the crow flies. Thus, Laity Lodge offers something rare in today’s world, the chance to get truly away from the demands, pressures, intrusions, and cacophonies of ordinary life.
One of the magnificent gifts of Laity Lodge is the chance to see the sky as we rarely see it.
I began yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion by pointing to the introduction of Pip in Charles Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations. Pip appears in the first paragraph of the novel, in which he explains the derivation of his strange name. Though officially Philip Pirrip, the boy couldn’t say his proper name when learning to talk. Instead, he referred to himself as Pip, and the nickname stuck.
The very first verse of Genesis introduces us to God. The word “God,” which serves here almost as God’s name, is rather like the name “Pip” in that it raises some interesting questions. Though we don’t see what’s peculiar about “God” in English translations, in the original Hebrew the oddness stands out plainly.
Today’s reading: Genesis 1:1-2
Sometimes great stories introduce the protagonist in the very first paragraph. In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, for example, we are immediately introduced to Pip, the central figure of the novel, and we learn why he has such an odd name. Yet, other stories wait for some time before the protagonist appears. In Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Jean Valjean does not show up until around page 50 (out of 1200). If you were not familiar with Hugo’s classic story, while reading the first chapters you might think the Bishop of Digne was the main character. As it turns out, he plays a pivotal but relatively small role in the story of Les Misérables, in which Valjean is the main character.
The Bible takes a Dickensian approach to its protagonist….
When was the last time you really wanted to make a good first impression? I experienced this desire a few weeks ago when I journeyed to Holland, Michigan, in order to meet Max De Pree. Max is a legendary leader, beloved mentor, and best-selling author of several books. Leadership Is an Art, Max’s first book, had a marked influence on my own leadership when I read it as a young pastor more than twenty years ago. Thus, I wanted to impress Max as I shared how he had shaped my work as a leader.
This is Easter Sunday, the day when most Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (Eastern Orthodox believers celebrate Easter a week later than Westerners.) Today, we focus our celebration on the fact that Jesus shattered the bonds of death as God raised him to new life. The resurrection demonstrates that God’s plan for salvation through the cross actually worked.
Today is Holy Saturday, the day between the cross and the resurrection of Christ. It’s a day of reflection and waiting. It’s a time to consider further the reality of the cross so as to prepare for the celebration of the resurrection.
I will never forget a humorous Holy Saturday conversation that happened between my children when they were young.
Today is Good Friday, the day of the year when Christians throughout the world remember the death of Jesus in a special way. In our devotions and private prayers, in our gatherings for worship and communion, and in our sacrificial service to others, we reflect upon what happened to Christ almost 2,000 years ago and what it means for us today. Rightly, we often focus on the difference Christ’s death makes for us personally. Because he died on the cross, we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Because Jesus died, we can experience life as God meant it to be experienced, both in this age (partially) and in the age to come (completely).
I would like to reflect with you on another way in which the death of Jesus transforms our lives, not so much in what we receive as in what we give.
Today is Maundy Thursday according to many strands of Christian tradition. Growing up in a non-liturgical Christian culture, I thought people were calling this day “Monday Thursday,” the silliness of which confirmed my bias against liturgical versions of Christianity. Later, I learned that folks weren’t saying “Monday Thursday” but rather “Maundy Thursday.” Of course, this didn’t help much because I didn’t know the word “Maundy.” Finally, in my twenties, I took a course on church order at Fuller Seminary, where I finally learned the meaning of “Maundy.”