“The way of the miracle-worker is to see all human behavior as one of two things: either love or a call for love.”

Marianne Williamson

“I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

Augusten Burroughs

All my best days begin with you in my arms.”

Jesh de Rox

 

Life can be so hard sometimes, but there’s something beautiful and magical about facing those hard moments with honesty. Somewhere in the middle of never ending laundry runs, a mountain of dishes with a life all its own and the tornado of toys left behind when my kids leave any room, I stop taking in moments to breathe. I start to shut down inside to do whatever it takes to get through the day. But if I catch myself, I realize there is something more than meets the eye — there is something extraordinary going on.

These are the best days of my life.

Last night was such a moment. My wife and I took a 10 minute break in between after the kids went to bed and before we tackled the kitchen (for the 5th time that day). We sat snuggling for a moment in each others’ arms, gently swinging on our porch watching the sun go down and let our minds wander. Surprisingly, our thoughts both rested in gratitude. For a moment we looked at each other — past the peanut butter in her hair and the bags under my eyes. The life we’ve always dreamed of is here. We’re doing it. This is it.

Soak it in and let yourself smile. Let yourself enjoy your life just as it is.

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How do you put color into words for someone who has never seen it for themselves? How would you describe red? Or blue? Or burnt amber? How would you experience a sunset without color? Watch as these colorblind folks see all of that for the very first time. It’s an incredible personal and intimate experience most of us take for granted. What a breath-taking gift!

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There is a great deal of talk about leadership lately in my circles. But it’s still a bit elusive. What are we talking about when we talk about leadership?

The Cultural Ideals. What comes to mind when you think about leadership — the charisma of a Fortune 500 CEO, the bold strength of a four-star general, the sacrificial service of Mother Theresa, the fame of celebrity, or the principles made popular by John Maxwell? Millions of books have been written and taught about the virtues of the subject and yet, in practice, the very idea of leadership can trigger a great deal of mistrust. Why is that?

The Rarely Addressed Consequences. When everything in our culture celebrates the spotlight, it’s difficult to separate leadership from the hierarchy we crown it with — it creates the notion leadership is synonymous with an achievement or climbing up the ladder of success. Fierce competition overshadows the importance of how the hierarchy is scaled and confuses leadership with identity. It also causes an unhealthy codependency between leader and follower where one decides the fate of many, at the expense of many, because the many gave permission to the one. Because of this, we’ve all experienced the harmful effects of poor leadership — the proclamation of something good traded for an abuse of power, coercion, deception, manipulation, destructive control and exploitation of authority. The person we celebrate in the spotlight can be someone who wants the position of glory more than the sweat required to actually care and serve, all because somehow we’ve agreed to the premise that power comes from a higher position rather than the character within.

The Character of Leadership. Generally, there are two types of people who want to be leaders… those who want to be somebody and those who want to do something. If we ask ourselves which one we are, it will tell us if we really are leaders or are merely pretending to be something we’re not.

If we take leadership outside of an artificial hierarchal power structure, what might it look like? Maybe something like this:

  • Leadership is about service, not rank or position. It’s caring for your neighbor. It’s cleaning the toilet. It’s being the last one to eat because you want to make sure everyone gets some good food before you can think about rest for yourself. 
  • Leadership takes initiative. It is the willingness to go first, to courageously do the right thing, and to go alone if no one else dares. It’s the internal drive that no one else can decide, create or duplicate for another person. It is a heart thing that cannot be faked.
  • Leadership is not about needing permission from “followers”You don’t need someone else’s permission to care about, serve, or love them. Of course, those you serve have the choice whether to receive it or not. But that cannot be confused with waiting around for someone else to see you as a leader.
  • Leadership knows authority comes from character alone. Authority is the moral center we trust and submit to when power, responsibility, and love collide in perfect harmony. We naturally follow those who serve and care about others, commit to taking responsibility, and have the power to follow through and deliver. Authority without trust is abuse.
  • Leadership functions as power under, not power over someone else. There is a wide gap between influence and service to others vs. exploitation and using others — one empowers an individual while the other forces submission of that individual. When all of these aspects align, there is an unleashing of power that is not threatened with others have that same power.
  • Leadership is not exclusive to men. Women have as much, if not more, of a right to lead because of their proven history of service, commitment, care for others and strength of character. None of these traits are exclusive to men — in fact, many men fail to develop such traits where women excel. Woman are equal in capacity for authority; I think it’s time they are treated with the same automatic dignity and respect we’ve naturally given to men without question.

Who wants to be a leader now?

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“Children are their parents’ guests. They come into the space that has been created for them, stay for a while–fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years–and leave again to create their own space. Although parents speak about ‘our son’ and ‘our daughter,’ their children are not their property. In many ways children are strangers. Parents have come to know them, discover their strengths and their weaknesses, and guide them to maturity, allowing them to make their own decision.

the-gift-of-parenthood

“The greatest gift parents can give their children is their love for each other. Through that love they create an anxiety-free place for their children to grow, encouraging them to develop confidence in themselves and find the freedom to choose their own ways in life.”

Henri Nouwen

Bread for the Journey

“[But] when you have kids is [the] most important [time] to be principled.

“Kids see everything.

“You can’t hide anything from them. When you buy [your child] something, he’s going to see your pride and your shame. He’s gonna to know when you traded your integrity for comfort and safety.”

Emma Pillsbury