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November 2007
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January 2008

Slow Down

My friend Bill sent me an article about the need to slow down in order to release and promote creativity. I hope you will take the advice to heart over the holiday season. i know I am. I haven't moved off the couch in Florida for three days. Enjoy the article but then take a break and get some rest. (I think the article is more about slowing down in general, but I'm applying it to this holiday season.)

Also, check out the story on my friend Steve Murray's church outside Seattle. They made the front page of their local paper. Congratulations to all my friends there at Real LIfe Church. Keep up the good work.


Mary Christmas

I preached yesterday at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Pittsburgh and shared my Christmas message, Have a Mary Christmas! I always enjoy preaching during the Christmas season. While I was walking into the church to speak, I had an idea for a new Christmas message entitled Christmas Inconveniences. It will outline all the inconveniences that those involved in the Christmas story endured around the birth of Jesus. That message, however, will have to wait until next year.

If you would like to see my notes for this year's message, you can download the PowerPoint slides below. I do want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Merry and Mary Christmas and a Happy and Purposeful New Year.

Download Mary Christmas: Mary Christmas.ppt


Do Your Own Thing

I returned from northern California the other night where I had a good visit with family and friends. I only have one niece and nephew and I got to see them in San Jose and attended meetings with my associates at Inspiration Cruises and Tours in Fresno. Now I have a few days at home before I go down to Florida to be with family at Christmas.

On my way home, I finished up Leonard Sweet's latest book, The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living With A Grande Passion. If you aren't familiar with Sweet, you should be. He is a Methodist philosopher/author/theologian/ instructor/futurist. He has written a number of books with intriguing titles like Soul Salsa, Soul Tsunami, and Carpe Manana to name a few. I like to read Sweet -- every now and then that is. He is a bit difficult at times and his work is so well-documented with footnotes that it breaks up the flow of the text if you follow his footnoted trail. In this latest book, Sweet has 172 pages of text and 35 pages of endnotes! I met him once and he said he does all his own research and documentation. He must do nothing but read and research!

In this latest work, Sweet analyzes the Starbucks' phenomenon and determines that it is EPIC -- Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich and Connective. He goes on to state that the Church of Jesus should and must also be EPIC if it is going to impact this generation that seeks an EPIC culture wherever it shops, drinks, eats or worships. I find Sweet strong on analysis but weak on practical suggestions as to how the Church or even its members can achieve the worthy things that he describes and prescribes.

I like to read Sweet every now and then because he makes me think. He also challenges me as a writer to be better at what I do, for Sweet can certainly turn a phrase, as the saying goes. This is a book I would recommend for anyone who is interested in making the Church more relevant in today's world.

How does the title of this entry fit with the book? It doesn't except that Sweet referred to a purpose story that caught my attention. I quote from page 116:

Shortly before her death, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked why she spent her life caring for the dying. "Because I like doing my own thing," she replied. In this one response, Mother Teresa had captured the meaning of Augustine's famous dictum, "Love God and do what you will." When we share God's heart of love, our wills will be God's will. Doing our own things will be doing the divine thing.

Augustine had more accurately advised, "Pray and then do what you want [or will]." Augustine had faith that a prayer to do God's will would not be answered with tricks and deception. If you want to know God's will, pray to know and then do what's in your heart to do. Don't be so hung up on whether this or that is the right or perfect way. Trust when you pray and then do something. This is consistent with what James wrote in his epistle:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does (James 1:5-8).

If you are praying to know God's will, why are you so surprised that you do? How do you expect God to answer it? With a personal visitation? If the Spirit comes to give you the mind of Christ, when will you receive it? After 10 years? 20? The truth is that you have it now, today. What are you doing with it? What is that mind directing you to do? Whatever it is, get about the business not of analyzing the will of God but doing it, or as Mother Teresa said, of doing your own thing.

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I Live For Mail Like This

I have said that one of the reasons I write is to get feedback and mail. People sometimes tell me, "I wanted to write you but I figured you get so much mail already." My response is always, "Write!" I love getting mail.

So having said that, let me share with you a most recent email I received from Kenya (used with permission, by the way). This is why I do what I do. Why do you do what you do?

This is probably my third email to you since I've known you & you've impacted my life so greatly. And each time you send a reply even though I know you must be terribly busy and you know you really don't have to.

I was sitting in the congregation at Nairobi Jubilee Christian Church during the convention (the only one who raised her hand when you asked who gets your Monday Memo), and of course I remember the last time I heard you speak / preach. I was in the congregation at NPC three / four years so when you challenged us if we were one of 4 categories of people. I was in the fourth category. (I think it was Barnabas) The one where people are calling you something, God is calling you something but you just need to start calling yourself that thing.. & that thing for me was a manager. You asked people in that fourth category to rise up so you'd pray for them to fulfill their call.

I did accept that God has called me into leadership, (something I really had been running away from for at least 9 years before you preached that message). And needless to say, I was soon appointed supervisor in my department then went on to be manager.

I basically at this point manage the largest department (in terms of people) in the largest (I removed the reference here: JS) in the world, whose presence is very prominent in Kenya, as it is in other countries. I also provide a support function for our East Africa offices (Uganda / Tanzania / Burundi / Rwanda).

Looking at me however you wouldn't know as I usually pass for a teenager over the weekends - and really I like it that way. It just gets a bit tricky though when I have to sit at management meetings because I'm the youngest & the only female manager in my office & I have a face that looks more than ten years younger than my real age :-).

However, just listening to you during the convention helped me to realize an answer to a gnawing frustration I have had for a while now. That I've got to have joy when doing this - I have not had it & that has been slowly killing me. I won't go into just how crazy it's been just fitting into this role but I realized, and settled it during the convention, that I'm coming back & doing this thing with the joy of the Lord .. or not at all. For some reason God wants me here.. (still haven't figured why me - for the life of me).. but you see, I have another passion, which thank God I also realized as I sat listening to you.

While I need to fulfill the call of God to work here for a season, the one thing I completely loved doing when I was younger, is designing my own clothes & wearing them. Each time I wore my own designs people would ask me where I got them & it was so nice just saying that its my own. My only frustration was in not being able to stitch it myself (because you know a tailor can't always get it e-x-a-c-t-l-y as you want it). I had built this up in my mind to the place where I knew I would have my own design house (like Giorgio, Armani, & Versace). It would be called "House of Kristina". I even had the clothing labels designed for each line of clothes that I would do. It's one of those dreams that I discarded when I "grew up" (You gave me the courage to verbalize this when you talked about starting your purpose broadcasting station.) If you can do it at age 57, I will do it as well!

When you opened my eyes I was able to realize that even though I am in debt right now, I can already stat to do something. And the first thing I started to do is to draw. I have been like a loose cannon over this weekend, and I cant tell you how much pleasure I have gotten simply from drawing again. It's not very nice to admit that I was drawing right through the sermons at church yesterday, but I was.

Then I spoke to a friend who 'happens' to have also done fashion design and she looked at my designs. She is willing to share with me more on how to improve my drawings & we have a date set for this week. She also directed me to a very good - and very very cheap college run by nuns, and I was able to check it out today. I am also in the process of getting a sewing machine. Someone just spoke to me today on how I can get one for free & we're going to check it out tomorrow.

I have left out the challenges I have been realizing may be in the way since I began drawing yesterday. But I have left them out because they won't stop me.

John, I'm pretty determined that come February, my wardrobe will consist of at least 60% of my own designs.

I could write whole lot more, but really at the end I just want to say THANK YOU. For allowing God to use you in the way that you have. Each time I interact with you it impact my life greatly. I will make that dream come true.. and I will never forget you. - Kris in Nairobi.

Kris has told us what her goal is for the last few months. What's yours?

Feel free to post your response to this entry on the site where it is posted.


Turbulence

Turbulence. I don’t like turbulence but, as my KLM flight heads to New York from Amsterdam, we encounter a bumpy ride. I’ve flown more than three million miles since 1989 and you would think that I would be used to turbulence, but I’m not. I try to picture riding in a car over a rough road and tell myself it’s no worse than that. Yet, my mind knows that I am bumpy at 39.000 feet and that’s a whole lot different than being bumpy on a road at sea level.

I am heading home to Pittsburgh from yet another trip to Zimbabwe, southern Africa. I counted fourteen different Zimbabwe visa stamps in my passport, which is two and a half years old. I have spent half the year there for the last four years and half the year in America. I try to tell people that this qualifies me to be an African American, but alas, they know that I am lily white.

Why do I keep going back to a place that has the world’s fastest shrinking economy? Why do I go back when I’ve had one computer stolen and another attempted theft? (It was 5 AM and I was driving through the Mbare area of Harare on my way to the airport. When he smashed my window, I had the car in gear and off I went, briefcase intact in the back seat, but kicking myself that I was stupid enough to actually come to a stop at a traffic light turned red at that time of the morning.)

Why do I go back and add another mouth to feed when the citizens are struggling to feed themselves? Why do I go and drive a car when there is barely enough petrol (we call it gas) to go around as it is?

The answer is simple: I love Zimbabwe. No, let me be more precise. I love Zimbabweans. I never go that I don’t have a chance to admire their resilience, their resourcefulness, their creativity, their broad smiles sometimes revealing teeth in various states of disarray. Yet their smiles are always genuine and I regularly hear someone say, “Welcome home!” As strange as it sounds, at times it feels like home.

I love doing business there and a lot of business is being done. Don’t ask me how, but it is. I have friends who started businesses just this year and, in the midst of all the craziness, they are doing well. People earn enough to send their children to private schools, even out of the country to university. I don’t know where they get the money to do that. I don’t know sometimes where they get the money to pay me, but I don’t ask. You never ask where or how. You just accept payment and carry on with business as usual in a land where business is anything but usual.

SOME PAST HISTORY

Zimbabwe was once known as Rhodesia and was home to many white people like me. When Cecil Rhodes (of DeBeers diamonds and Rhodes scholarship fame) moved north from South Africa in the 1880s, he borrowed (all right, he stole) lands from the natives and named the country after the man most worthy of such an honor—himself.

Whites first settled in the western lands where the tribe and language were Ndebele (African words often have two or three consonants at the start of a word. Each one is pronounced, so you say Ndebele, en-de-be-le.). Eventually they worked their way east and settled in that part of the country as well where the language and tribe were Shona.

The white fathers (a funny name for imperialists, don’t you think?) chose a capital city in the eastern section and named it Salisbury and went about building a culture similar to the one they had enjoyed in South Africa. All went well for about 100 years (all right, there were some massacres, resettlements and oppression of the natives, but white supremacy in Africa always came at a high price – for the natives, that is) until the African people decided that enough was enough. Starting in 1956 in what is known today as Ghana, Africans began to take back their land, countries and dignity.

Rhodesia was among the last to gain independence from their British rulers and, when England actually tried to force it a little quicker than the white government desired, England declared sanctions against Ian Smith, the prime minister, and his country. While Smith defied England, the people whom Rhodes had victimized rebelled and a bloody war of independence occurred that ended in independence and the removal of sanctions in 1980.

Robert Mugabe, who had led the war for independence, was selected the first president of the renamed nation of Zimbabwe and he has served as president ever since. Some people don’t like him (I did not want to use the word hate) and others still see him as their liberator and are loyal. I don’t take sides as to who is correct while I am a guest there or I may not be a guest for very long.

SOME CURRENT EVENTS

I started out talking about turbulence and there is plenty of it in Zimbabwe these days. How did things get this bad? Who is to blame? What is the remedy? I wish I were smart enough to figure it all out. I hear all kinds of remedies, solutions, diagnoses and cures. I know that my president, George Bush, isn’t very popular there and our ambassador, Michael Dell was told on state radio to go to, well, you know what rhymes with Dell. I try to hide the fact that I am American, but the people know. I guess it’s because every now and then I drive on the right side of the road for me, but the wrong side of the road for them. Old cultural habits die slowly.

I don’t like the turbulence in Zimbabwe any more than I like it in the air, and I hope and wait for the day when things will turn around. Yet every time I go back, conditions seem worse. Just when you think they can’t get any worse, they do. Now there is a shortage of Zim dollars and a shortage of foreign currency. So people don’t have enough money to buy some money so they can buy some food. Plus, there’s not much food to be had.

Having said that, I went to a restaurant the other night in Harare (one of my favorites is called Coimbra; they serve peri-peri chicken along with chips, or French fries as we Americans call them) and I could not get a table. The place was packed.

There is no heavy traffic, but there are plenty of cars with more than adequate representation from Mercedes Benz and BMW. And this is probably the key to the strength of Zimbabweans and why, at the same time, the current chaos could go on a long time.

You see, Zimbabweans are resourceful, as I said earlier. If their path is blocked, they quickly find another path. Once I was conducting a workshop and introduced an exercise that was to show the futility and frustration of rules and regulations that restrict motivation. It was a list of math problems, yet I changed all the rules with absolutely no explanation. The plus sign represented multiply, division was minus, times was now addition and so on.

No one was supposed to complete the exercise. They were supposed to throw up their hands and complain, demanding to know why I had imposed such foolish rules. Instead, three or four finished the exercise, getting all the “correct” answers and expressing satisfaction in their ability to work things out. Such is the mindset of the typical Zimbabwean. They seem to recover and adapt to almost any, I know I’ve said it before, turbulence.

The turbulence has stopped in the plane, but it continues unabated in Zimbabwe. President Mugabe has declared elections for March, 2008. Things can get violent in Africa around election time so everyone is bracing for more, well, more turbulence. I can fasten my seat belt and ride out the turbulence on this KLM flight, but Zimbabweans have no such luxury as the winds of inflation and fiscal confusion buffet their ship of state. The next three months should prove anything but dull for that crazy, wonderful, confused and colorful land that I have learned to love.

Feel free to add your comments to the site where this entry is posted.

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Buddy, Can You Spare $175,000?

I am in Amsterdam, heading home. I finished my shortest visit to Zimbabwe in quite a while and now it's home for the holidays. I did some different things in Zim this time. After I addressed his bank employees, CEO Nigel Chanakira invited me to serve on the Kingdom Financial Holdings board of directors. I am looking forward to that new assignment. I also spoke to three different groups at the University of Zimbabwe Medical School.

The Medical School desperately wants (and needs) to develop a leadership training program for their students, so on the plane yesterday, I sketched out a plan to put one together. The cost: a mere $175,000. This would enable us to train, profile and equip the students in purpose, management and leadership issues, as well as give them some books for their leadership library (I'm being facetious; they don't have a library). The program would cover 500 students, plus faculty and staff and would lay the groundwork for a leadership "chair" or department at the Medical School.

If you know anyone who has a burden for this type of project of the money to fund it, then I want to talk to them. This is an investment that will pay dividends for decades to come and will impact medical professionals who are on the cutting-edge of HIV research and treatment. I am serious about this. I will find this money somewhere. Can you help with contacts or contributions? We already have the money; we just have to find out where it is. Join us in the faith search!

I am home for two days before Kathryn and I head out to California to be with our friends at Inspiration Cruises and Tours. We will also visit Kathryn's brother while out there and then return home before we head down to Florida for Christmas. It's hard to believe that 2007 is at an end. It's been a great year, however, and I can't wait to see what 2008 has in store.

Take care and in a few hours I will be on American soil and will utter my usual, "God bless America!"

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Thoughts on Leadership

Max DuPree was quoted as saying, "Leaders don't inflict pain; they bear pain." I wish this was true, but too often leaders do inflict pain. When leaders misuse power, they can inflict much pain that can last for generations. That is why leadership training and preparation should be so crucial. Then why is it lacking in so many places? The thinking is that somehow leaders will lead and lead well because, well, they're leaders and smarter than most everyone else. This is a critical flaw in our concept of leadership. Leaders believe they will lead well just because they are leaders and people believe the same. The results of this flawed thinking have been, okay, I'll say it again, painful.

I have been thinking and teaching about leadership for a while and here are some random recent thoughts:

1. Leaders must be willing to go to prison for what they believe. I didn't say that leaders must go to prison, but they must be willing to go to prison for what they believe. Think of the great reformers and leaders and see if that isn't true. Martin Luther, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, the apostle Paul and Martin Luther King all spent time in prison. They went there because they confronted the power brokers of their day and thus had to paid a price for their leadership. What price are you willing to pay for your leadership? Leadership without cost is cheap but it costs much in long-run -- the cost of the pain an untrained or unprepared leader will cause.

2. Leaders must be willing to be criticized. If you lead, you are out front, in the public eye, and people will constantly evaluate what you do and say. Society doesn't build monuments to or name roads after great leaders until after they're gone. While they are here, they are subject to enormous scrutiny. Opponents can emerge from any and every walk of life. In some ways, however, critics can be a leader's friend, for they will force the leader to be clear about what he or she believes and why. Critics can actually sharpen a leader in ways that friends never could. Leaders who stifle or eliminate their critics are eventually going to cause pain because they become enamored with their own voice and power.

3. Leaders must be willing to accept their dark side. Every leader has a dark side. Without facing this dark side, they tend to impose or project that darkness on to others. The greater the strengths of a leader, the greater their weaknesses. I suppose this is another way of saying that leaders must accept that they aren't perfect and they aren't going to live forever. A leader needs to be held accountable for results and behavior as much and perhaps more than anyone else. Yet often, structures around the leader make them supreme and untouchable. This will lead to pain.

I want to be a leader who bears and doesn't inflict pain. This means that I must embrace the ongoing process of leadership training and development. Some of it I can create, but most of it comes with the territory. How about you? What are you doing to make sure you are the kind of leader that bears pain rather than inflicts pain?

Feel free to add your comments to this entry on the site where it is posted.


Kingdom Bank

I had a great time today with my friend Nigel Chanakira, CEO of Kingdom Financial Holdings, and his entire staff from across the country. They had to meet on Sunday since the bank could not close on Saturday or Monday due to the Zimbabwe economic crisis. Nigel has big dreams for his company and it was great to see the progress that he and his team have made. During the meeting, Nigel spelled out his desire to take the company to the London Stock Exchange and to Wall Street, and talked about what it will take to make those things happen.

Then I was called on to make some remarks and release the 700 employees into some team building exercises. I gave a quick overview of what I consider the five critical competencies that every global leader and manager needs to cultivate. Then the employees were divided into four groups (named after four African cats - the lion, cheetah, leopard and jaguar), and sent off on a scavenger hunt of sorts. The fact that the meeting was in a tent on a golf course allowed us to send them off pursuing some fun but almost impossible tasks. Then everyone came back for a wrap-up feedback session and the annual company achiever and performance awards. Then Nigel turned the day-to-day bank operations over to his successor in order to pursue his dreams of London and New York. It was a great but full program.

I must say that I enjoyed today's work with Kingdom and really want to do more of what I did today. I don't know why, but I am more energized working in that business environment more than any other at this point in my life.

Since we went over my material quickly, I promised to include the notes and the PowerPoint presentation for those present to access. They are both below.

Five Competencies Kingdom-2.doc

Five Competencies Kingdom-2.ppt