Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Grace of Chocolate Milk

I was on the phone this morning with a friend while I was getting Kai's lunch ready. We were talking about life, coffee, and all points in between, when the "chicken alarm" - our code for "oven timer" - started going off. This is Kai's signal that it's time to clean off his desk & sit down to eat. While I was waiting for his lunch to cool down, I poured him a glass of milk &ntook it to him. After taking the first sip, I asked him what kind of milk he was drinking. A huge, goofy grin spread across his face as he said in the most drawn-out voice possible "Chocolate milk!"

My friend, who was on speaker phone and apparently heard the bliss in his voice, remarked "Chocolate milk? Goodness! What did we do to deserve that?"

My gut reaction was to laugh and say in a deadpan voice "Absolutely nothing." Matter of fact, I'd say that based on his attitude as of late, he's more deserving of stale bread and room temperature water, if anything. We've recently entered the full-little-boy-toddler phase of life, including temper tantrums, stomping our feet, and a voice that comes in two volumes: freaking loud, and "Are his parents deaf or do they ignore him all the time?" loud.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was in many ways the ideal time to give him chocolate milk - when he does not "deserve" it.

God knows that I have been gifted with chocolate milk in my life enough times from friends, family, and from God when I utterly, completely, totally did not deserve it. I've been shown grace, forgiveness, love, and acceptance when I would have never given me another chance...or another chance...or another chance...

And what would it say about me as a father if I only give him chocolate milk when he asks for it, or for when he's been "good enough" to "deserve" it? What does that teach him about love, other than it's conditional? And because I hyper-analyze things, I of course have to ask what would this teach him about God?

We put God in the role of Santa Claus enough when we think we have to watch out, not cry, and not pout in order to curry His favor so that He will give us something we ask for. The truth and beauty of grace and forgiveness is that we continually receive a renewal, a second chance, and a glass of chocolate milk out of love and not due to anything we do or don't do.

Funny enough, as I sit next to him typing this out, I hear the sweetest and now calm little voice in the world ask "Daddy, can I have some more choklit milk, please?" as he pushes a now-empty glass towards me.

Yeah. No way this kid's ever getting a scorpion from me.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Gift of Leadership

It's a phrase we toss about far too often and far too freely. We use it to heap praise on someone we admire, while at other times we use it as a self-defeatist attitude towards the perception we have about our own abilities.

Gifted in leadership.

We often focus on leadership through the lens of commenting on someone's skills (or lack thereof). We have all, at times, made this judgement call for good and for ill about someone we have heard speak, present on a topic, spearhead a committee, run a department or division...or even preach. Run a church or ministry.

But instead of looking as leadership as a gift one possesses, what if we saw it for what it truly is: something that is given. Leadership is a gift, and as such, it is one that is offered, not something that is taken (or born into, as far as abilities go). As someone to whom this gifting has been spoken about - as being in the positive, in case you were curious - I have come to view my leadership through a slightly different lens, which helps to keep both my ego and my heart in check as I serve through leading:

Leadership is a gift where I am given trust. What I have to say matters to the audience who hears it. Not only do my listeners trust me to speak and act in truth, but they trust that WHAT I have to say matters - not only to them, but to those down the road who will feel the ramifications of what I say and do.

Leadership is a gift where I am given time. The mind and heart can only absorb as much as the behind can tolerate, so I need to honor the clock of my audience and use the platform I have wisely. This is not the time (pun intended) for ad-libbing and speaking unprepared.

Leadership is a gift where I am given a platform. Note that I did not say I am given a soapbox to promote my own agenda. If you don't get the difference, ask a friend about it.

Leadership is a gift where I am given a voice. Not just "a" voice, but MY voice. My unique and distinct voice, which has been prepared to deliver and speak the words which have been laid upon my heart. Learning to trust that YOUR voice matters is perhaps the most difficult lesson. All humility aside, while the message IS greater than the messenger, the messenger does indeed matter. Your voice matters. YOU matter.

Consider this: those you lead could have chosen to give this gift to anyone. It was you that they chose. Honor this gift by honoring those who gave it to you. 

Serve well. Lead well.

After all, there's no return receipt.