The Life Giving Leader

When I first started reading The Life Giving Leader, I honestly wondered if we needed another book on leadership. Certainly not everything has been said that could be said about leadership, but I know there are lots of resources available for leaders. As I read Tyler’s Reagin’s book, I saw the value in what he had to share.

As the President of Catalyst, I know Reagin is in a position of leadership and also rubs shoulders with many of today’s top leaders. He draws from those experiences and shares them in the book.

In the first part of the book Reagin focuses on the person of the leader, primarily helping every leader to lead from who they are. He shares how he didn’t feel he could be a leader because of his personality type. He even shares how on two different occasions people told him that his success could be hindered by his personality. He goes on to encourage leaders to live and lead from who they are, what he calls “your truest self.”

I think we all have a picture in our mind of what a leader looks like. While we identify that ideal image, we also are able to point to the places where we don’t match up to the ideal. Reagin’s encouragement is to be who God made you to be, to lead out of that identity and give life to others. Those are good words we all need to hear.

In the second part of the book, he writes about the behaviors of a life-giving leader, including being willing to sweat, sacrifice, surrender and serve. While he had some good insights and suggestions in those chapters, one particular portion really stuck out to me.

Near the end of a chapter, he was writing about the importance of being on a team and how the leader builds good teams. He writes about developing trust and a culture where people believe the best instead of expecting the worst. I thought this quote was a great reminder as we work with people. We are going to let one another down, we are going to make mistakes and there is no perfect team. Knowing that Reagin writes this:

I know this is a crazy thought, but it’s good business to trust people. Obviously, there’s a chance someone will prove to be untrustworthy. But just because you had a bad cup of coffee once doesn’t mean you stop drinking coffee. Just because someone once used you and lost your trust doesn’t mean everyone who works with you should be called into suspicion.

If you work in any sort of group, team or organization, you know there exists what is called the “gap of information.”  When that gap exists, when we don’t know all the details or what someone is thinking when they make a decision, we fill in the gap with either trust or suspicion.  Reagin’s encouragement to leaders is to build a culture of trust and to be an advocate for your team members.  That is some solid advice for leaders as we continue to work with people.

The Life Giving Leader is filled with some good insights for leaders.  Reagin makes it clear that being a leader isn’t easy, but it is worth it. If you lead in any type of organization, this book would be of value to you.

Thanks to Waterbrook and Multnomah for an advance copy of The Life Giving Leader.

Advertisements

Messy Grace

messy graceAs I was thinking through my review of the book, Messy Grace, I received a text from my wife that a dear friend is planning a wedding at the end of this month; a same-gender wedding. Hearing the news came as a bit of a shock, but also a reminder that the issue of same-gender relationships and marriages is not going away.

In his book, Caleb Kaltenbach shares his story of growing up with gay parents. He tells of his memories of growing up splitting time between mom and dad (as most kids of divorced families have to do). What makes his situation somewhat unique is that the time spent with his mom also involved spending time with Vera, his mother’s partner. Kaltenbach didn’t find out until college that his father was also gay.

The author writes about how his parents responded to people who were opposed to and in favor of the homosexual lifestyle. He tells some not so flattering stories of how “church people” spoke in very unkind ways to his mom and her friends. His mom took him to several events and he had a very close interaction with that particular LGBT.

In the book Kaltenbach shares scriptures and his unique insights into how the church can respond and live out the title of the book, Messy Grace. While there aren’t easy answers to this issue, Kaltenbach speaks with one who has unique insight that most of us don’t have.

While I think this is an important issue that the church is still wrestling with, I found this book to be somewhat of a harder read than I expected. It didn’t engage me as much as I thought it might. Despite that issue, I think this book can be a good tool for those who need some direction in how to show this Messy Grace,

#struggles

struggles“We are living for Likes, but we’re longing for love.” In his latest offering Craig Groeschel explores our desire to be connected with others in the ever-growing world of social media. He shares many stories from people who truly are living for “Likes,” whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other outlets.

Some have become so engrossed with our smart phones we have developed a condition called nomophobia – the fear of going without your phone. The author spoke with a number of focus groups made up of young adults who share their struggles with being overly engaged with their phones and devices. Groeschel even shared a personal story of a time he has struggled with being without access to his phone.

Through the book he shared various statistics and stories that point to an obsession with social media engagement. In one chapter these numbers about Facebook were given: “Currently the average American Facebook user has 338 Facebook friends. But surveys indicate that the average American has only two friends they consider to be close. As shocking as that statistic is, I think one is even sadder: 25 percent of Americans today say they have zero close friends.”

While the author (and this reader) admit that there are many advantages we enjoy with smart phones, social media and other communication opportunities, it is easy for those things to become too important to us. Groeschel shares various passages of scripture and practical steps we can take to keep things in balance. Some are as simple as unplugging for 5 minutes each day, determining times when the phone is off-limits and putting filters and other restrictions on our phones. Some are “drastic” as deleting certain apps or unplugging altogether, if necessary.

In an appendix in the book, Groeschel provides The Ten Commandments of Using Social Media to Grow Your Faith and Share God’s Love. With humor, engaging stories and statistics and practical insights, Groeschel offers a timely book that is not just beneficial to the individual reader, but would also be effective as a small group study. The #struggles are real and there is some good advice to be gleaned from this book.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

For The Love Jen HatmakerWhen I was looking around the Book Look Bloggers website for a book to read, I came across For the Love. I recognized the name Jen Hatmaker, but don’t remember reading anything by her in the past or hearing her speak. As I trolled around the social media world, I saw a lot of people posting and tweeting about the release of her new book. Some of them were authors I had read before or speakers I enjoyed, so I was drawn to it by their recommendations.

I had hesitated at first because it was a female author and thought it might be geared for the female population. Then I remembered my same hesitation in reading Michele Cushatt’s book Undone. I ended up reading it and enjoying it, so I thought I would check out For the Love.

I got through the introduction and right away I noticed Hatmaker’s sense of humor, so I thought it was a good pick. Then, as I’m reading through the first chapter, I come upon this phrase: “Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods.” So, at that point, I made the brilliant observation that this particular book was directed toward women.

That being said, I think the message is helpful for any reader. The tag line of the book says “fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards.” I’m pretty sure that all followers of Jesus have experienced that and Hatmaker spells out how that struggle plays out in how we see ourselves, as well as in our home, our neighborhood and even in the church.

Right before I realized this book was geared for ladies, I read Hatmaker’s observation that because we don’t accept God’s grace for ourselves, we have a hard time showing that grace to others. The self-critical become others-critical. If we don’t see ourselves as good enough, we won’t see others that way either.

So, for any females, who might read this post, you should check out For the Love. Hatmaker points to that fact that Jesus came to set us free. We all could benefit by living out of that freedom.

Life Is _____________

life isI had the opportunity to read Jesus Is ____________ about a year ago. Judah Smith’s follow-up Life Is _____________ was a good continuation of what he shared in his previous offering.

Smith uses solid insights, personal stories and doses of humor to reveal from various passages of scripture that Jesus is life. In one chapter he writes these words: “Jesus is always more. More than what? I’ll let you fill in the blank . . . He’s more than bankruptcy. More than sickness. More than sin. More than murder. More than divorce. More than tragedies, tsunamis, wars or famines . . . What are you facing? He’s more.”

Most of the Biblical accounts that Smith uses are probably not new to those who have grown up in church. He brings a new perspective that is refreshing for those who have familiarity with the passages, but writes in a way that communicates with a reader who might be new to these verses. Smith also writes with a practicality that is helpful to the reader. He brings the person of Jesus into our current culture and context.

As an example, he writes about one of the most well-known verses in scripture – John 3:16. Then he asks this question that puts that verse in a new light: “God loves the whole world? This doesn’t make sense. This is crazy. What about bad people? What about indifferent people? What about those who mock him to his face, who flaunt evil and flout his commands?” It gives a new filter through which to think about God’s love.

Probably one of the most powerful moments of the book for me was what Smith shared about his daughter’s birth. He writes about his dad’s battle with cancer and how one day God told him that Smith and his wife would have a third child, a girl, who they were to name Grace. When she was just a day old, they took Grace to church. Smith felt a strong urge to go hold his newborn daughter and took her to a room off stage. That moment, as he looked at his little girl, it was a reminder to him that even though life doesn’t always go the way we want (his dad lost his battle with cancer), God is good and loving and sustains us. He gives us grace to sustain us.

Life Is __________ is an encouraging book that points people to the love of God and how it has the power to change our lives. This book would be a good resource for personal reading and for small group discussion.

Undone – a Compelling Memoir

undoneI first heard about Undone from my wife. She is a friend of the author, Michele Cushatt, having attended college with her and now being Facebook friends. I wasn’t planning to read the book because I put it in the category of a “chick book.” I know there are movies that guys refer to as “chick flicks” so I kind of put this memoir into that category – a book for women written by a women. My wife started reading it and kept talking about how much she enjoyed it, so I decided to get a copy. I’m glad I did.

The subtitle of the book is “a story of making peace with an unexpected life.” Not only is Cushatt a gifted writer (she has a way with words), but part of her story had similarities to where my wife and I have been. She writes about the pain of divorce, an ongoing battle with cancer and managing a family with a biological child, two step-sons and three foster children. While I have never struggled with cancer, I related to enduring divorce and experiencing blended families and adoption.

Cushatt writes with an honesty that keeps the reader turning the pages. She shares the lessons she’s learned, the struggles she has add and how she handled adversity – including the good, bad and ugly.

I appreciated her humor that is sprinkled throughout her book. In discussing her diagnosis of cancer and the responses she received from people. This example reveals her sense of humor and she related this response from one person – “And my personal favorite: ‘My friend was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer as you. He died a few months ago.’ Thank you. Super helpful.” Now that’s funny!

This is potentially my favorite quote of the book from a powerful chapter. In chapter 16 she tells about going to Christmas Eve service with her three “littles.” You have to read the chapter to appreciate all that is going on, but as she brings the story to an end, she writes these words that she shared with a friend: “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean we’re not called to it. And just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not good.”

Undone was a compelling read and as I read it, I know the Cushatt’s story is not over. If your life has ever taken an unexpected twist, you will appreciate the words this book contains.