Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Biggest Loser is Actually The Biggest Winner!

I’ve been working through some random thoughts and so I thought I’d risk sharing them with you before they’re fully incubated. If you don’t get it, it’s okay. I promise I’ll be better tomorrow. Biggest Loser is one of my favorite reality TV shows. To be honest with you, as far as reality TV goes, I only like Extreme Makeover Home Edition better than Biggest Loser. I think the reason I like Biggest Loser is because I can really identify with the contestants. I imagine that being a “gym rat” is the only reason I’m not a contestant on that show. Anyway, I was thinking about yesterdays show and how it was a case study in leadership. In case you missed it, go watch it here. It’s natural to begin to root for some contestants and hope for the downfall of others. Yes I said it! Tell me you weren’t rooting for “Crazy Tracy” to be kicked off last season’s show.

So the Red Team is this year’s team from hell. Figuratively speaking of course! Two weeks in a row “wife” threw the weigh-in and didn’t lose any weight one week and lost only one pound the following week. Conveniently they had won immunity on both weeks. She was game playing big time. Bob and Jillian, the trainers, were so frustrated with her game playing and her weak attempts to deny it, that they called her a liar on national TV. If the truth be told, everyone in America already knew she was lying before Bob and Jillian called her on it, but she and her dutiful husband were irate about being showed up in front of America.

The fact is their egos were more hurt than anything else, but the husband pulled out his secret weapon and unloaded it on Bob and Jillian. His weapon?: “I lost all respect for you for calling my wife a liar on national TV!” Wow! You know that’s what Bob and Jillian feared the most. Losing the respect of an obese man trying to finally make the right decision and change his life for the better. I mean, thousands of lives have been turned around by these trainers and people are clamoring to get on the show for an opportunity to work with them. Respect isn’t something they’re lacking or seeking. At least Jill certainly isn’t. Nevertheless, because Jill wouldn’t rescind her allegation of lying, “husband” determined not to work out with her any longer.

To be fair to the Red Team, they weren’t complete ogres, as they demonstrated remarkably good judgment and thinking, in the way they went about the unwanted task of handing out penalties to three teams after they’d won immunity for the third time in a row. So what’s this got to do with leadership you’re asking? Well I had to set the tenor of the story first (I’ve been reading too much Don Miller). Bob was the first one of the trainers to talk to the Red Team to try and understand why wife had lied about throwing the weigh-in when it was patently obvious that she had. She raised her voice, got teary eyed, and challenged Bob for questioning her integrity and calling her a liar. Bob backed off and explained to the camera audience that the only reason he backed off was because there was a 1% possibility that she hadn’t actually thrown the weigh-in. Huh?

Bob is an experienced trainer who understands nutrition, body metabolism, working-out, and all the other attendant factors that have to do with exercising and weight loss. But Bob obviously hates conflict more than he loves honesty, and clearly wants everyone to like him so he ignored his wealth of experience, his certain knowledge, and accepted the word of a woman whose very presence on the show indicates her inability to make wise decisions where nutrition and health are concerned. A woman who was manipulating him in much the same way she clearly manipulates her husband on the show. As I watched him squirm I realized that Bob is a weak leader who is unwilling to make the difficult choices and stand by them. Jillian on the other hand wouldn’t back down. Confronted by both the husband and the wife, she reaffirmed her conviction that the lady was lying about the weigh in. While Bob claimed a 99% certainty, Jillian claimed 100%. I mean, seriously, what does a 1% chance mean Bob?

How realistic is it to expect that an obese person with a normal metabolism works out for four plus hours a day, eats healthy meals, sleeps well at night, and yet doesn’t lose weight? Jillian’s training posed a mental block to believing such a fallacy and she said as much. Bob the Pacifist however, wanted everybody to just get along so he discounted his training in favor of a 1% doubt. But Jillian’s track record speaks for itself. The early years of the show pitted Jillian’s teams against Bob’s and she always came out tops. Her team always won the overall show and it’s clearly because she’s a straightforward, won’t-back-down trainer.

I’m convinced that most visionary leaders would opt for Jillian as their trainer instead of Bob, and it wouldn’t be just because of her looks. Jillian cuts to the chase and shoots straight. When you’re obese and your life is on the line, that’s the kind of trainer you need as opposed to a kumbaya, hand-holding, let’s-all-just-get-along type of leader. Later on, as the Red Team chilled out in their room, the wife suggested to her husband that they “forgive and forget” (my interpretation) since they were there for a much grander reason than feuding with Jillian. He grudgingly acquiesced, as if he was doing Jillian a favor. It’s obvious who wears the pants on the Red Team, but decency won’t permit me to say who. I’ll just settle for telling you that I’ve watched the husband since the start of the show and it isn’t him.

Someone should inform the Red Team that at the end of the day, the biggest winner is actually the biggest loser, so maybe they should stop game playing and start losing some pounds. There, I’ve said it, now I feel much better.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti's Pact with the Devil?

Following Pat Robertson’s unimaginably insensitive comments yesterday regarding the Haitian disaster, and following the angry diatribes and vitriol that has spewed from many quarters, I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts. I’m saddened by Robertson’s comments and realize that, but for God’s grace that could have been me just a few short years ago. I don’t think he’s a bad man. I don’t for one moment think that his comments were meant to be a scathing attack on Haiti’s “apparent ungodliness.” I don’t even think he realized how insensitive his comments were. I do think though, that that’s the danger of surrounding yourself with only people who think just like you. Charismatic Christianity has evolved a language and culture all its own, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t speak your language or live in your world.

Pat Robertson has probably learned very quickly that not every Christian shares his world view. What earthly good (or heavenly good for that matter) does it do to make such unbelievably irresponsible comments in the aftermath of such a tragic event? When you become so insular so that you don’t even have a pulse on the real world where people live, work, play, and die, you tend to make comments like Pat did. Proof that there’s a major disconnect between his heart and his head is in the fact that, as he made his comments, there was a number on the screen to which people could call in and make donations to CBN’s efforts to help the Haitian disaster victims. Clearly his heart was in the right place, so why make such insensitive comments? I could be redundant and answer that question for you in this blog, but Don Miller has done a better job than I ever could of explaining the answer here, and so I suggest you click on the hyperlink and read it before you continue.

If you’re completely oblivious as to what I’m talking about then go here and read it, but just in case you’re in too much of a hurry, the encapsulated version is that Pat Robertson said,

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French… and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And the devil said, ‘okay, it’s a deal.’ Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.”

Let us say for the sake of argument, that that was true. Would now be the time to declare it? Miller makes a profound observation in his response to Robertson and states:

Can you imagine giving the eulogy at a funeral and starting out by saying “before I tell you about God’s grace, let me make it clear that little Johnny deserved to die because he stole candy from a store.”

Sadly, Robertson’s comments have done nothing but polarize Christians, and further increase the divide between the Church and the secular world. You see, as far as the media (and many other people for that matter) are concerned, Robertson speaks for Christians everywhere. Since neither Robertson, you, nor I are God, I think we might want to be a bit more careful about what we claim is God and what isn’t. Tony Campolo demonstrated that fact quite succinctly when, during a CNN debate in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina one religious leader noted that the New Orleans devastation was a direct judgment from God on the wanton debauchery of that city. Where upon Campolo reminded him that the French Quarter was fine and only the low-income minorities were devastated. He proceeded to ask if his fellow guest thought that God was angry with low-income minorities. So what’s the point I’m making? Simply that we should arm ourselves with “towels and basins” to wash people’s feet, and worry less about declaring God’s judgment over the very people that Jesus died for! Just my two cents.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Listen to Your Heart!

I’m struggling to wrap my mind around the magnitude of the Haitian earthquake disaster! Sadly our focus on the enormity of the disaster can tend to obfuscate the details of the individual stories. This in turn can tend to make us more analytical and less compassionate in our response to the immediate needs. Stentorian voices call out for your heart and your money from every quarter at times like this. What to do? Where do I give? Where will my help be best utilized? While you’re analytical mind is wrestling with these questions and more, thousands of people are dying needlessly. Haiti needs our help, and they need it now!

We’ve heard inhumane stories of the untold horror coming out of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian Capital, and some of them have suggested that the death toll may be in the hundred’s of thousands. That is a gargantuan number under any circumstances, but even more so in a nation ravished by poverty and one that has a population of only nine million people. Our initial response to such reports may be to analyze the enormity of the disaster and rationalize that there’s little difference our tiny contribution would make so we’ll just commit to praying for the people of Haiti and let the Red Cross and other such agencies do the work of restoring broken lives. I categorically declare that that is not true, and so we need to do more than pray!

There may be a little child wondering the rubble-filled streets in bewilderment and fear looking for his or her parents right now, that hasn’t eaten since the earthquake struck. There may be a baby that was ripped from its mother’s breast as it suckled, who’s now lying under a pile of rubble beside its dead mother, too weak to cry anymore. Whatever you may have thought before, you need to know that your help will make a difference in the myriad stories that will make up the texture of this colossal disaster, so you need to do more than just pray. Researchers have theorized that focusing on the statistics and magnitude of such disasters can tend to short-circuit a response borne out of compassion, by shifting people into an analytical mindset. When people think analytically it can hinder their ability to act compassionately as the head gets in the way of the heart. I love how in Primal, Mark Batterson says, “Logical objections get in the way of compassionate actions.”

If you live in the Orlando area, there are numerous places where your compassionate assistance will be greatly appreciated. You can help package supplies that are being airlifted to Haiti, you can give food or clothing, and you can give money. My family and I along with a few of our friends are doing all of the above at a place called Harvest Time International. They could use your help in all the areas I mentioned above, so if you’re so inclined, contact them (just click on the hyperlink) and find out when you can go in and help, or just drop by anytime on Saturday and we’ll see you there. Remember that you're the lambent radiance in the midst of this terrible darknesss. Thanks for responding with your heart and not your head!

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Forever Friend!

As we stand at the threshold of another new year, no, new decade, I can’t help but reflect on my journey and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I daresay some of you that read this may identify with the sentiments expressed a lot more than others, and that’s perfectly alright. The vicissitudes of my life are testimony to the fact that the start of a new year or new decade in some ways reminds me of the NFL football playoffs. No matter what your regular season record is, once you make it into the playoffs you all have an even playing field and a clean slate. To their chagrin, the New England Patriots discovered that fact two years ago when, following a perfect regular season record, they lost the Superbowl to the recalcitrant but intrepid New York Giants. Their regular season record did nothing to deter the New York Giants from believing that they could beat the Patriots in the Superbowl.

The journey of life is fraught with changing circumstances and while we may attempt to level the playing field by adopting and adapting to certain systems, the reality is that systems are static and unchanging yet life and people are dynamic. This means that we must -- while adapting to proven systems that make life work in general -- be willing to adapt even more to our ever changing environment. The start of a new year affords us a clean slate and an opportunity to “win the big game” inspite of how average or mediocre our past year might have been. One of the more profound truths (amongst numerous others) that I’ve learned over the last decade is that many relationships are transient. Recognizing this truth has freed me from the paroxysms of self-inflicted recrimination. Most friendships are in your life for a season and are designed to shape you for that season and that season only. Confused yet? Don’t be, I’m going somewhere with this.

In the last few days of 2009 I watched the Lord of The Rings trilogy (three of my most favorite movies of all time), and there was one particular phrase that stood out to me the most, and I haven’t been able to shake it. Before I tell you what the phrase is let me set the table: Frodo Baggins and Sam Wise Gamgee (his appointed and trusted traveling companion) are on a quest to take the one surviving ring that can destroy the world and the age of men and return it to the fires of Mordor where it was formed, so it can be destroyed once and for all. Their journey is fraught with intrigue, danger, betrayal and incessant twists and turns. Towards the end of the journey, the dolorous assignment leaves Frodo so beaten down by the “weight” of the ring that he collapses and is unable to move a muscle. Then Sam steps in to save the day. The very same Sam whom Frodo had at different points along the journey turned against, declares these haunting words in reference to the weight of the ring, “I can’t carry it for you Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you.”

There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother declares the writer of Proverbs18: 24. Sam Wise, in that season of Frodo’s life, became the living example of that profound truth. I’m truly grateful for the friends that I’ve encountered along my journey. They made the journey worthwhile. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned through watching so many friends that were in my life for a particular season. But most of all I’m grateful for my wife. She has been my “Sam Wise Gamgee” through the arduous journey of planting a church and dealing with all the attendant twists and turns that come with that calling. I know, I know, some of you are a little frustrated because you thought I was going to talk about Jesus being that friend. Well, the truth is that there are moments along my journey when I needed a friend that could physically hold me and reassure me that I wasn’t going insane. My wife Sola was that friend, my forever friend. I’m persuaded that we are nearing our “Mordor” so that we can discard the ring that has threatened to sink us one time too many.

So my prayer for you this year is that you have a friend in your life that stays for all seasons. A friend who loves you because of and inspite of you. A friend that will eat a bowl of salt with you grain by grain. I pray you have a fulfilling and successful 2010.