Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Month: September 2016 (page 1 of 3)

What a Plant Taught Me Once…


Have you ever stopped to think about what you can learn from a plant?

In my office back in 2008, I had a large plant called a dieffenbachia. Yes, it is as hard to spell as it is to pronounce. My wife believed this plant to be a lady so we called her Adde. Anyway, Adde taught and reinforced some major truths in my life. I know you think I am crazy for saying I have learned truth from a plant, but so was Jesus – if learning truth from nature is crazy. Most of Jesus’ parables were agrarian in nature because that was the norm in Palestine.


But like other plants Adde needs sunlight to survive. Because she is more tree-like than bush- like, she has to grow up and out to get enough sunlight. As she grows, the new leaves spring up at the top of her stalk. They slowly grow out and unfold. It’s actually memorizing to behold. Since it takes a few days for the leaves to grow and totally unfold, the process can be beautiful. There is something about newness that is attractive, provocative, and fresh.


On the other hand something else is going on with Adde. The lowest leaves on her stalk are now shadowed from the sunlight and begin to die. The slowly turn a darker shades of brown until they slough off completely. To produce the new, the fresh, the beautiful; Adde must shed off the old. If my plant didn’t shed off the old then the new would die. In essence, Adde would die completely, old and new, if she did not shed off the old. She can’t support it all and live to her full capacity.


I am sure you are already beginning to relate this to your life…your story. No, I don’t mean that you are a plant. However there are many similarities in Adde’s life as a plant to our lives as Christ-followers. What I do know is that God is always calling us upward toward His sunlight, His glory. As we grow closer and become increasingly more Christ-like in our thinking, living, and doing; we grow new beauty and a new and fresh way to live out our lives. With that in mind, we also have to shed off those things that build up and make up our past. We need to let them die off, maybe not all at once, but they eventually have to go. As with Adde, we cannot support the new and the old at the same time. Somethings has to give.


Jesus said it like this in Mark’s account of his life, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” In other words, trying to keep both only results in losing both. Choices…Choices…life is full of them. If it were easy, would we even enjoy it? There is something great about struggle that reminds us when we make it through, that we are still here, still alive!


The new, fresh and beautiful things God has for your life require you to let go. Let go of the old, even if it is not such a bad thing. Maybe it’s a good thing. But God has great things for you. So why settle for simply good?


Irenaeus (an early church Father in the Christian tradition) put it this way, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” To be fully alive, we need to learn from my past beautiful plant Adde. She was continually growing toward the light and shedding off the old that might hinder her growth. Wisdom from a plant! Who knew.

Strategies, Goals, and Planning

I was flipping through my notes from the Leadership Summit 2007. I found some good stuff from the past hiding there. I wish I did more searching through old notes with the diligence to make them new work habits.  Michael Porter did a talk on Strategy, Goals, and Planning. Here are four questions he said you must ask:
1. How do we define our goals clearly?
2. What set of community services and needs are we going to address?
3. How are we going to address them?
4. How do we create alignment?
Great questions to guide your strategic planning. They speak for their self, so I will leave you to them!

Where is God? A Short Review


Townsend, John. Where is God?: Finding His Presence, Purpose, and Power in Difficult Times. Grand Rapids: Thomas Nelson, 2009. 212 pp.  $15.99.

Dr. John Townsend has written many books, especially with his Dr. Henry Cloud, a longtime coauthor, over the years. As I have enjoyed his other writings, this one peaked my interest the most and has become one of the books I recommend to Christian believers going through hard times or atheist friends who ask the question, “Where is God When __________ Happened?” Typically the question comes to the forefront when a natural disaster hits the mainstream news and fills our television sets for nights on end, picking at our mind like a splinter in the brain. Even the strongest God-fearing person begins to ask the question in particularly hard times.

What Townsend does is takes a meta-narrative approach using the letter P – looking into three main themes – Power of God, Presence of God, and Purpose of God in relationship to suffering, pain, and hard times. This provides the boundaries of how he will address the questions and Scriptures that illuminate ancient wisdom and practical applications to the struggles at hand.  Therefore, the book is both deep in respect to Scripture and study of the topics and yet approachable as modern day applications for the reader can be applies readily. Further, he proves end-notes to the plethora of books and articles referenced and an appendix full of further reading for the seeker of knowledge on this subject. The appendix in and of itself is worth the cost of having this worthy read.

Of particular help to me during a recent season of suffering where chapters seven through ten. Each chapter begins with, “The God Who…

…Suffers with Me.”

…Works Behind the Scenes.”

…Transforms You.”

…Connects You to Others.”

These chapters are best summarized by stating that suffering is truly a grace that allows us to grow in a manner never gained without experience.  Just as God’s grace allows us to move beyond certain painful events, God’s grace on the other side of the coin is when we do not get passed over. When it is our time to suffer, God is leading us into a deeper grace then we can experience otherwise. We can allow this time to be of no growth or use to us, or we can embrace it, learn from it, redeem it, and become all the better for it.

Further, these four chapters also made for excellent sermon material as I have preached on the topic of pain and suffering from my own experience and the wisdom of others, like Dr. Townsend. Where is God? is not the only book on the topic of suffering, pain, and the journey of questioning God’s goodness, but it is one of the most comprehensive on the topic (barring buying a theology tomb used in graduate work in theology). Also of note, Townsend has written an approachable book for those who are not theologically educated explaining terms as needed and often illuminating terminology that could easily get in the way of the reader. His research proves his knowledge, not his frequent use of terms that are not beneficial to the modern reader.

I have given this book 4 stars instead of five, not because it isn’t worthy of five stars, as it surely is, minus one major drawback, it’s length. Although many who suffer are looking for resources to help them through their pain, the comprehensiveness of the book may be it’s only drawback. I love reading books, but in a world of limited time, books such is this may profit from being separated into two or three. Townsend could have done this using his three P approach from the title and found a far greater audience of those who fear picking up a thick book.

All in all, I highly recommend the book to pastors, educators, and counselors as they journey alongside their people who are suffering through pain, loss, and doubt. Where is God? would also be advantageous to those who work alongside or minister to twenty somethings and millennials. The age bracket is ripe with questions, doubts, and new pains as the young person grows into life’s more difficult and troubling situations.

No matter of your life is tracking along well or you are going through one of the toughest situation of your life, this book can be a solid, healthy resource for your journey.

As a pastor I heard once proclaim, “You are more than likely just coming out of a storm, journeying through a storm, or preparing for the next storm in your life. Rarely do the waters stay calm for long.”

Well said and rightly so. Dr. John Townsend Where is God? is a book for all three stages.



*Note: I was proved this book free for review from BookLook Bloggers.   

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