Tag Archives: christmas

Four Tenets of Servant Leadership

Whether you are a Christian or not the story of Christmas is the story of God becoming man.  That is to say, you don’t have to believe the story is true to understand that this is what the story is all about.

I’m not really too surprised then that in this Christmas season I have found myself involved in several different conversations on what it means to be a servant leader. I know, I know, much has been written on the topic, some good, some not so good but from the conversations I’ve been fortunate to be a part of four particular themes have emerged.

Even if you only give credence to the Christmas story as historical fiction these four principals or tenets, examples of what it means to be a servant leader, are startlingly relevant today.

Tenet 1: It takes a leader
It amazes me how many people miss this and land on some very spongy, soft definition of servant leader. The phrase itself indicates a leader, modified by the word servant. This is NOT the servant who leads. This is a position of strength, of authority, not egotistically swung about like a cudgel but judiciously exercised on behalf of those being lead.

Read the narratives, the stories of Jesus life. From a young age he displayed leadership characteristics. As he grew into a man people followed him. He lead, and served those he lead.

If you don’t know how to lead you can’t be a servant leader.

Tenet 2: It takes commitment
Servant leadership is not a string of random acts to occasionally help someone out. It is a commitment to regularly set the needs of those you lead as primary. Not in some sort of socialistic/Mr. Spock “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” thing, but in a way that sacrifices self promotion in favor of people development.

Jesus went from being God to being man, not transformed into a full blown adult but born as a baby. That’s not a one time act. That’s not a string of wishful helps from a genie. That’s a commitment, probably a bigger commitment than we can even imagine.

We’re talking about a commitment to develop and grow those whom you lead.

Tenet 3: It takes proactive movement
The servant leader is not one who sits around and wits for his followers to make requests. He doesn’t stand at the proverbial door like a butler waiting for orders. The servant leader anticipates the needs and desires of those being lead and seeks to meet those needs. This isn’t a posture of gift giving benevolence but rather an anticipation of what will contribute towards growth, development, and the achievement of organizational goals.

Jesus didn’t stand next to the door as the disciples came in to the last supper and ask if he could wash their feet. “Foot wash today Simon? John? anyone?” He took the proactive step.

The servant leader doesn’t wait to react to a request. The servant leader proactively anticipates needs and meets them.

Tenet 4: It takes succession planning
If you’re going to commit to helping people develop and grow you’ve got to have a target of some kind in mind. Whether you are growing YOUR successor or growing folks who can move up into other positions in your organization you’re growing people in a direction.

Jesus didn’t show up, do his thing, and bail. He grow up some guys who could further His efforts after He’d gone. He was quite intentional about preparing them for the role. In fact, in an interesting twist, the less you believe in Jesus as the Son of God, the more you have to believe that the disciples did a great job growing a religious movement beyond the guy who trained them! In either case Jesus was quite the succession planner.

The servant leader doesn’t just grow an organization. She grows the people who will continue to grow the organization after she is gone.

At the end of the day it is about heart, you can’t adhere to these tenets over time without a heart commitment. Lead, commit, move proactively and take your people to the next level. Watch what happens. You might just change the world.

Have you ever had a leader who exemplified these tenets? What did that look like?

The Christmas Wrap: Luke 2

picture courtesy of steppelandstock at deviantart.comA number (OK, a pretty large number) of years ago my brothers and I were asked to “put together a rap” for a Christmas program at church. We decided we’d try to stay as true to the text as possible, obviously taking some poetic license as you’ll see, so for grins you might want to open your Bibles to Luke chapter 2.

OK folks I’m gonna take a shot
I’m gonna tell you what it is and what is not
We’re gonna take a little trip back in time
To when the Roman Empire was in its prime

Now in this days there went out a decree
Telling everybody where they had to be
The Roman emperor Cesar was on people’s backs
And wanted to be sure that everyone was taxed
And so in order to be counted everybody had to come
Unto the city that their ancestors were from

A Galilean named Joseph from Nazareth
Went to Judea to the city of David Beth-
lahem was the place that he had to sign
Because he was a descendant of David’s line
And he took with him his wife to be
And you know that her name was Mary

Now Mary was a virgin but she was with child
A lot of people today think that that sounds wild
But it was not strange bizarre or odd
She was the chosen human mother of the son of God

But getting back to the story of Joseph and Mare
They went to Bethlehem and when they got there
You know it seemed that Mary’s time had come
And that then and there she’s gonna have a son
But since the inn was full they had no place to stay
so she laid the baby Jesus down in the hay

Now in that region watching over their flocks
There were some shepherds in the fields eating bagels and lox
When a glorious angel of the Lord appeared
And as the glory shone around them they were filled with fear

“Be not afraid for I bring good news”
“Of great joy to all people both Gentiles and Jews”
“For unto you is born today in Bethlehem”
“The savior Christ the Lord”, the angel said to them
“And this to you shall be a sign”
“that the baby you might more easily find”
“He shall be laying in a manger in swaddling clothes”
The shepherds looked around and said, “what are those?”
And then suddenly and amazing thing
A multitude of angels began to sing

They “appeared to the shepherds in the sky
Singing glory to god in the highest
And on earth peace among men
Because the Lord most High is pleased with them”

Now when the angels had finished the shepherds turned
They went to Bethlehem because of what they learned
And I think you’re gonna know just what I mean
When I say that this was the nativity scene
It was the Bethlehem stable where the shepherds went
Along with three wise men from the orient
The three kings had brought frankincense and myrrh
And I’m not really sure what those things were
But that’s really not important but neither is
Santa Clause Rudolph and all that biz

The real deal of Christmas is that it shows
God’s love for us because he chose
To send to us his only son
To make salvation possible for everyone

Hope you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Three Acts – Act 3: Herod

The third of three Christmas season monologues. This one once again uses the on stage screen to display the lines of a second character thus putting the audience members in the place of that character.

For Herod I used an accent similar to something generically middle eastern. Pick almost any local character from any film about the crusades.

Feel free to use any of these monologues as you have need! Merry Christmas.

<Graphic on screen:” Your Highness?”>

<reading from an imaginary scroll, holding up a hand> A moment…<putting down the scroll> Yes Shimri, what news of the easterners?

<Graphic on screen: ” Forgive me your highness but…they have left the kingdom”>

 <frowning> My instructions were clear were they not? Did I not tell them to find this child and report back to me? Were they not shown the courtesy of MY palace coming begging at my door looking for this ….how did they put it…he who was to be born king of the Jews? They defy me in my own kingdom, seeking their would be usurper?

<growing angry> King of the jews?!?! I am Herod…THE GREAT.

<losing it> I am king of the Jews!!!!!

<pacing, growing slowly cold and calculating>

 <Graphic on screen: “Yes, my king.”>

They claim to have seen signs these…astrologers…and yet my own wise-men do not deny that it may be so. Whether or not it is true there will be others who will follow after these three, others who share their …belief. And then what will happen? If they were to somehow manage to bring their belief to bare fruit, where would we be then? Unrest? Rebellion? Death? And where would that lead, an upstart king who has no knowledge of the delicate balance we must maintain with Rome. No, no…not that. I must protect my people. I must protect my throne…MY throne.

<paces a moment more then pauses as though struck by an idea>

 Shimri, you are a scribe and I see you carry your scrolls with you today. Good, good…read to me the passage concerning Pharaoh and the Hebrew mid-wives, I believe you know the one.

<Graphic on screen:The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.” >

<listening, then holding up a hand>

 You see Shimri we shall not make the same mistake. If this usurper is to be a king, then it stands to reason it is a male child. But we shall entrust this duty to soldiers, not to simple midwives. As it is written…so shall it be done.

<Curtain>

Herod’s perspective on the birth of Jesus was obviously self centered and self serving, something we can all to easily fall into ourselves. Picking him as the third of the three characters was the choice of the pastor doing the teaching but it made for an interesting change in perspective from the traditional conversations about the nativity.

How might looking at Christmas through someone else’s point of view help you clarify your own?

Christmas in Three Acts – Act 2: The Innkeeper

This is the second of three monologues on the Christmas story. In this one I chose to use the on stage screen to represent a second character’s part of the conversation thus putting the audience in the place of that character. From the response we received that mechanism worked pretty well.

Simeon here is probably best done with a rather stereotypical Jewish accent.

<Graphic on screen: ”Good day Simeon…”>

<looking up from imaginary set of “books” or real set of “scrolls”> Ah, Mathias, trust a tax collector to be on time. <chuckling> I have prepared the records from the last month for your review. I believe you’ll find them all to be in order as usual.

<flipping through a page or two>

You can see here that things have returned to normal after the crowds we had for the census. <shaking his head> While I do not begrudge the money to be made from such crowds it was a busy time indeed. If only Jesse and his sons had lived anywhere other than Bethlehem, perhaps then we would have seen an increase in business without the entire town overflowing.

<Graphic on Screen: “Yes, the home of the line of David, the shepherd king.”>

<Groaning, rolling his eyes> Ah you have done it now Matthias…reminding me of shepherds….<shaking his head> Do you know Mathias, that a flock of shepherds actually smells worse than a flock of sheep? <flipping through the pages> Yes, here it is, the last night before the official census was to begin.

A young couple comes to my door as evening is falling, obviously weary from the road. I am run off my feet as it were trying to keep up with my guests when they arrive looking for a room. Can I tell you Mathias I almost laughed. A room? In Bethlehem? That night?

<holding up his hands>Buuuut….I am not an unkind man Mathias as you well know, and the young girl appeared ready to burst with child soooooo…I offered them the hospitality of my stable. <chuckling> Do not look at me so. They were in need and I did not charge them….much. <pointing to the books>

I thought nothing of it…that is until later that night.

I awoke, not from any particular sound but from a sense of something of import happening…that is the best way I can describe it to you Mathias. I knew there was something afoot. I dressed quickly and checked the guest rooms. I thought next to check the beasts when I remembered the young couple.

<frowns>Imagine my surprise Mathias when I go out back to my stables to find a veritable flock of shepherds bobbing like chickens around the door. The smell was almost too much to approach but I managed to get the attention of one of the men on the edge of the crowd only to be told a fantastic tale about the birth of the child.

<pausing>

You know Mathias I believe that too much time spent with sheep makes a man as dumb as one…King David not withstanding…

<Graphic on screen: “I have heard the tale”>

<Second graphic on screen “They say the child is the messiah”>

 <nodding> Then you too have heard the foolishness!! Imagine, the messiah, born in a barn, sleeping in a feed trough!! And these shepherds actually believed the tale!!! Some story about an angel, or an army, appearing and telling them it was so. And Mathias, they stayed all night!! Worse yet they went through the dark streets of out little town telling others, many of whom came to see for themselves.

<Graphic on screen “You do not believe their tale?”>

<laughing> Mathias, I am business man! What time do I have to spend on the superstitions of some wandering herdsmen who probably inhaled too much smoke from a dung laden fire and imagined the whole thing?

<shaking his head>No my friend. I saw the child. He looked as other new-borns…gangly, messy, odd shaped head. I congratulated the couple of the birth of their son…but that is all it was. And, as my gift to them, I did not even charge them for the use of the stable and the loss of a night’s sleep.

<considering, pouting a moment> Annnnd if it should turn out I am wrong perhaps “the messiah”  will remember kind Simeon who let his parents stay for no charge. <laughing> Perhaps he will even pay for the night himself!!

Of course, then you would charge me the taxes…either way I lose.

<Curtain>

Simeon missed it. What are you don’t this holiday season to help assure that you don’t “miss it”?

Three Steps to Spiritual Hydration

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you drink and drink and drink but can’t seem to slake your thirst? Typically you wake up and find out you were REALLY thirsty in real life and THAT is why you couldn’t fix it in your dream.
I think I woke up a bit this morning. I realized that in real life I am spiritually thirsty.  Perhaps it was the fact that the message was spot on this morning at church. Perhaps its because the last three or four weeks have been jam packed with stress on just about very level.  Whatever the cause the experience of “waking up thirsty” reminded me of a few things this morning:
  • Spiritual thirst sneaks up on you. You typically don’t even know you’re thirsty until refreshment catches you by surprise. The truth is we typically wind up spiritually dehydrated before we even knew we needed a drink.
  • Spiritual thirst affects our vision. It becomes the lens through which we view life. We didn’t put the glasses on but our vision is shaded all the same.
  • Spiritual thirst affects all of our relationships. Because it shades what we see it shades how we think, act, and feel and THAT rubs off on the people around us.
So how do you beat something that insidious? If I don’t even know I am thirsty how can I ever expect to drink enough to satisfy it? Allow me to suggest three steps to spiritual hydration.
Step One: Guzzle, don’t sip.
What is it that wakes up your soul? Is it a particular piece of music? A picture, a place, or spending time with a particular person perhaps?  As we come into the heart of the Christmas season there will be stressors and time demands enough to distract even the most spiritually diligent of us. So go to your favorite passage of scripture, your favorite carol, or your favorite Christmas tradition. Seek it out and take the time to relish it, to drink deeply of it.
Remember, the trouble with spiritual thirst is that we don’t know we’re thirsty until we get a drink. But that single drink that identifies thirst isn’t enough to quench it so when you take that first drink be prepared to drink deeply and repeatedly.
Step Two:  Look beyond the cup. 
That thing that you identified in step one is really the cup from which you’ll start to drink your spiritual refreshment. As with real thirst it isn’t the cup that satisfies, it is the contents.  So in the spiritual sense you need to ask yourself what is it that the cup is pointing me towards? What is it that my soul is thirsting after?
Step Three: Identify the cause.
Most of us would probably be surprised at just how close we are to physical dehydration. That’s because we drink beverages that don’t truly hydrate: coffee, soft drinks, beer, wine…good drink that may even temporarily satisfy thirst but don’t hydrate.
The only way to truly spiritually rehydrate is to discover what it is that is making us thirsty. What are we drinking in that leads us to think we’re satisfied?
Find a minute this week to take a spiritual drink for it is only by drinking that we discover we’re thirsty. Drink deeply and attend to that for which your soul thirsts. Pause just long enough to discover what it is that is contributing to your thirst…then go back to the top and drink again, and again.
What are the cups that hold spiritual refreshment for you? What is it that your soul thirsts after?