Month: February 2015

21 Brothers

I’ve grown to despise the 10 o’clock news over my 31 years. As a young girl, it was a mere inconvenience. There were more entertaining shows to watch. I had no use for boring facts and political reports. As a teenager, I became appalled by the stories of “kids just being kids”. It seemed sex, stealing, destruction were all normal expectations of teenagers if you were to believe the news. But I was a teenager and I didn’t want to be labeled. I didn’t want to be thrown in with mix. So I tuned it out because, what could I do? As an adult, I have grown tired of the unnecessary lines in the sand. Talking heads demanding to know whose side we are all on. Conservative or liberal. Christian or open-minded. Feminist or blind. Black or white. I have grown tired of navigating the maze that has been created by all of our lines. And I have grown tired of the manipulating fear tactics, reporters reminding us to be afraid because of climate changes. Be afraid because of diseases. Be afraid because of this, because of that. There has been a rumbling in the world and it has been growing. A violent shaking. At first, it was easy to ignore. Just more fear-mongering. More bait to keep us hooked on their every word. You on the words of the talking heads on your side. Me hooked on my side. But the rumbling has grown. And this past week, when 21 Christians were beheaded for their faith, the rumbling caught up to me. I cannot ignore it. I have read the thoughts of others on the matter. Prayers, political statements, fears, heartaches. And yet, I sit here, a writer, a sister to the slaughtered, feeling completely inadequate to even speak to myself in this moment. Two days ago I was weighed down by my own burdens, heartaches, wounds, worries, shame. I could not shake it. Then, on Sunday, the walls shook and crumbled and all of it came rushing out. And when the flood of self-focused-heartache subsided, I looked up at my parents’ television to see my brothers kneeling at the shore of eternity, their knees sinking into the sand of the earth while their hearts were swept further into the ocean of the glory of Christ. And I wanted to look away. But I cannot. I cannot ignore their cries. Perhaps it was their cries, their shouts that caused the walls of my Jericho to crumble that day. So ISIS, you have my attention. You have slaughtered my brothers. You have warned us, the nation of the cross, no more a physical nation than your own ISIS. We are not contained to a land and you know it. So you warn and we hear you. You have my attention. But I will not give you my fear. I fear The One who is able to destroy the soul and the body (Matthew 10:28). And my fear of Him is also my confidence. I hear the talking heads begging us to live in fear. Promising that you may be waiting outside the doors of our own churches soon. And I admit, my hands tremble at the thought. I am not brave. I have said it before. There is no incredible courage running through my veins. But the courage that ran through the veins of Christ has covered me. And this One who spilled His blood, red courage, crimson love to give life to the dead, He warned us there would be those who would murder us and believe they were honoring God by the act (John 16:2). And here you are. There have been others, but now it is you.  So here is what I will do with your words echoing in my ears, with the image of my family members burned on my eyes…

  • I will remember that as a family of Christ, their deaths affect me. 
  • I will remember that my family in Egypt and Syria and Iraq and China and many other places are experiencing pains I cannot fathom at this point in history.
  • I will remember that Jesus promised persecution for The Church. 
  • I will remember that history proves that persecution only serves to grow the Church, not silence Her.
  • And that a lack of persecution is, in fact, more dangerous than facing death for our faith.
  • I will remember that Christ, who sat down when He had finished His work on the cross, stood to welcome my 21 brothers home. 
  • I will remember that the orange jumpsuits you clothed them in, and sin-stained rags we all cloth ourselves in, were traded in for robes of white. 
  • I will remember that Jesus has already won. 

So my knees may shake from the rumbling, but I will remember that the cause of the rumble is the armies of God, the crumbling of walls, the fall of giants who would mock Christ. Our army may be untrained. They may seem common and weak when compared to your militant ranks. But like David, we know our God is bigger. Like Joshua, we believe that even uncommon tactics that feel like walking in circles, when paired with faith in Christ, can destroy nations. We believe with Daniel, that governments can tell us to fear the consequence of our faith, but our God can shut tight the mouths of lions. We believe with Christ that Sauls can become Pauls. Yes, even you. Even you might come face to face with Christ and be changed. And I will remember that Christ commanded us to pray for our enemies. Yes. Even you.

Own It

Super Bowl XLIX. I slept through most of it. Have mercy upon me. I had just spent 40 hours with fifteen thousand 18-25 year olds expending the energy of a high schooler after 30 ounces of Red Bull and sleeping like a college student (read: not much). I did catch the last quarter and some incredible drama along with it. If I had my druthers, we would be discussing that childish brawl, but most of the world cannot seem to get over that Seahawks pass.

I do not blame them. From the little I understand about football, it was not their most brilliant moment. Perhaps, at least for this season, it was their least. They would have had multiple chances to turn that possession into a touchdown had they run. They had a timeout in their pocket. Marshawn Lynch is on their team.

My head is reeling at the moment as endless gospel truths attach themselves to this scenario. The most obvious of which is, why try to deal with sin by your own methods when Jesus is there. Just get the ball to him. Victory is guaranteed.

As obvious as it is, that is not what I want to examine today. Instead, let us consider the response to the infamous pass.  There are countless articles accessing the situation, placing the blame, giving their professional opinions about why it made sense or why it was the most ridiculous moment of the entirety of football history. I have nothing to add about the value of the play. I am somewhere near the bottom of the list when it comes to having the qualifications to break it down play by play. However, the leadership lessons that are delivered to us through this moment in time are priceless.

Pete Carroll. He’s a great leader, and it has nothing to do with the calls he makes in the game. No, he’s a great leader because he allows the people on his team to do their jobs. I’m sure he offers his suggestions, but then he stands back and lets them make the call. Sometimes, that leads to a mess and a loss. Other times an incredible victory. Can you imagine if that play had been successful?! Everyone would be talking about how amazing it was. Perhaps they would use the word risky. Stupid would not be part of the conversation. But, Carroll let his team make their choices and their choices to run that play, run that speed, pause too long, ended in a win being ripped from their grasp.

I read an article today that took time to explain everyone’s fault in the matter. Lockette didn’t want it enough. Lynch should have muscled his way into the play (Gimme that ball. Argh!). Bevell made the call. Carroll didn’t stop them. Wilson didn’t change the call or pass the ball fast enough or low enough. It’s what we do, right? Our plan didn’t work?!? Whose fault is it? And those of on the sidelines are the worst! We like to talk about how it would be different if, in some alternate universe, it had been up to us.

Carroll had a totally different response. He didn’t tell the reporters how Lockette should have picked up the pace or Lynch would have just taken the ball if he really wanted to win the game. No. Instead, the coach said, “I told those guys [on the team] it was my fault.”  It was my fault…my fault…my…fault. Does that seem to be echoing in anyone else’s head?

In leadership, this is one of the most difficult things to do. When your team makes mistakes that cost you a win, when things go wrong and it reflects on how you do your job, to turn to the watching world, the armchair quarterbacks, and say “It was my fault.” To set aside for that moment, the analytics of who could have done more to make it work, to not give into the knee-jerk reflex to protect self, and to step into the path of the hurling tomatoes and poison-tipped microphones and own it…it takes humility. It takes dying to self. It takes more than what most of us have wired into our bones.

I know that more is happening behind the scenes. I’m sure they have watched the tapes and they will breakdown what each person should have done differently. Lockette will be spiriting his guts out in offseason to make sure that next time he is at the ball first. Wilson will be working on controlling his passes and getting more accurate shots out faster. Bevell will go back to the tapes and boards to develop better plays. Lynch will continue to be a beast. And as a good leader, Carroll will insist on this work. He will not let them ignore their responsibility to do their jobs well. He will expect them to work at it, to improve. But he will not let the world stone them. He will not throw them to the wolves. He will stand in the line of fire and claim until the flames die down, “It was my fault.”

I want to be that kind of leader. I want to expect my team, in whatever realm it may be, to do their jobs well. Then, I want to stand back and trust them. And when things go wrong and victory is snatched from us, when the armchair quarterbacks want a scapegoat, I want to be the kind of leader that says, “Here I am. It was my fault.”