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Category: Life (page 3 of 13)

Killing Us Softly: A Review


Growing up, one of my favorite groups was The Fugees. One of their hit songs is Killing Me Softly. In this song, an unsuspecting lady listens to this master musician as he sings a song that somehow unmasks her hard exterior and speaks deep to her at the soul level. How could this man know her so well? Where was this coming from? Was she dying to one thing only to be born into another? The song is deep on so many levels.

Pastor, nonprofit president, author, and innovative, biblical leader, Efrem Smith is one of my favorite Christian leaders to follow, listen to, and read. His other books have been a huge inspiration, and his 2008 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit talk has been one I’ve yet to forget. In a nutshell, his passion is contagious. Plus, his love for the downtrodden, poor, disenfranchised, imprisoned, and hurting as potential kingdom partners and those who have been radically converted to be the ones who will be those who help bring about radical change in the world is inspiring, to say the least.

In Killing Us Softly, Smith provides a biblical framework for understanding what it means to die to ourselves so that Christ may truly live and move through us to a broken and upside down world. Not only is it full of Scripture, Smith shares stories from his own life and those who have been impacted by the message of bringing hope to an upside down world. The upside down world we live is, according to Efrim, is one full of broken lives, relationships, and systems and institutions. Therefore, self-help, the government, charities, and programming will never bring hope to this world that is turned upside down. The only hope is Jesus and his work to slowly kill that which is not of him and replace it with his mission to turn the world rightside up.

I have read many books in this vein and most tend to be overdone on stories and practically void of Scripture (or Scripture used inappropriately). Smith only uses stories from his life and a few other pointed stories to build on his dialog of being people who bring turn the world right side up through the slow death to self to birth in our new life in Christ. Further, his use of Scripture to allow Scripture to speak for itself is absolutely refreshing. About half way through the book, Smith utilizes the story of John 4 and the women at the well with Jesus (the entire story) interweaving other stories about her journey and the journey we all take to become the right side people who will bring hope to an upside down world.

Overall, the writing was clean and clear. It was an easy read for someone who may be new in Christ to those who are needing to be reminded of why we serve Jesus – for the poor, hurting, imprisoned, and downcast. The pace is rapid and yet at the end of each chapter you can stop to answer the reflection questions. One oddity, the only one really, which popped out at me was the book simply ends. The pace and story was so such a journey that in my opinion could have ended with a more profound criscendo. I would compare it to hearing a wonderful speaker who gets only an hour to share and ends leaving you wanting more, even after an hour! Smith’s ending was one that seems like he simply came to an ending, but not really the ending the book deserves.

I would highly recommend this book to four types of people:

  1. Pastors who desire to see more compassion ministry being done in their church and town.
  2. Nonprofit leaders who need inspiration to keep on doing what they do best.
  3. Youth and/or young adult pastors who speak to the next generation of leaders who need to hear this message.

And the fourth person is the most needed and unique:

4. Those who work with men and women in prisons, homeless shelters, juvenile programs, and inner city ministries because they can benefit in such a special way from the encouraging message of Efrim Smith.

Killing Us Softly is as much a message for Christ followers to die to self as much as it is a call to living a reborn life empowering the least of these. Further, it is a message to help empower the least of these to reach the least of these. Who better to reach those in prisons, shelter, and in poverty than those in the same position. WHo said God can’t empower them to do so? If that thought made you stop and think for a moment, than read this book to take the idea deeper. You won’t regret it!

Smith, Efrem. Killing Us Softly: Reborn in the Upside-Down Image of God. Colorado Springs; Navpress, 2017. 275pp. $14.99.

*I was provided this book at no cost for reviewing purposes. 

The Hardest Word for a Leader


Although I have learned to do this more as time goes on, I need to hear it again from time to time.

Seth Godin, marketing and social media guru, has written:

“Saying no to loud people gives you the resources to say yes to important opportunities.”

One of the pastors I listen to regularly, especially his leadership podcast, Craig Groeschel say that every time you say YES to something you say NO to something else. So we must chose wisely.

With that said, we must protect our NO’s as much as we give out our YES’s which can be hard in a society of “Yes Men/Women.” I get it. I am one of those guys! Or at least used to be. Maybe I am a recovering YES addict.

Nevertheless, moving beyond being mediocre doesn’t mean saying YES to everything. It means saying NO when it matters, so we can say YES when it does!

So here are a few books I recommend on being better at YES and NO:

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKuerst

Saying No to Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence by Dr. David Olsen

Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge by Dr. Henry Cloud

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

So there is a good assortment of different approaches, whether you are a business owner, minister, or stay at home parent. We all have way too many demands on our lives. So let’s commit do more NO’s to gain a better YES!

Dealing with a Micro Manager

Whether you work in a large business, small church, or medium sized nonprofit, no one is safe from working for or alongside of a micro manager.

To make sure we are all on the same page, let me define “micro manager” for our discussion.

“A micro manager is a boss or manager who gives excessive supervision to employees. A micro manager, rather than telling an employee what task needs to be accomplished and by when, will watch the employee’s actions closely and provide rapid criticism if the manager thinks it’s necessary.” (link)

Pause for a moment, because I am not saying that all bosses are micro managers or that all micro managers are evil and out to crush our very souls. Everyone one with deal with at heart is a human, fallible, fearful, and forgetful. Because we all struggle with insecurity, these struggles translate into certain parts of our personality we hate or have to see in others. So let us give the others we work alongside of or with the benefit of the doubt from the start.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on dealing with someone who is a micro manager.

First, reflect on whether you are being too sensitive, before you cast the micro manager label on another.

We are often too quick to throw around the almost over used idea of being micromanaged. Your supervisor could come to you once a month to check on progress of projects and you could head right over to the water cooler and be like, “Man, what a jerk. He never trusts me!”

We all can be highly sensitive at times, especially when we know we are behind or close to failure, so we move that frustration and label others. I am not saying that to shame you or others, I say it because we are all victim to this and we have all done it before.

Therefore, take a breath and reflect for a moment and blame yourself if needed. If you come to find that you are doing well then perhaps you are dealing with a micro manager.

Second, take some time to figure out why your supervisor is micro managing you.

This does not mean go around talking about him or her in the office. Yet, it is healthy to listen to what others are saying. Look behind the words you are hearing from others, from your supervisor, from emails, and texts. Often what is not said is more vital than what is spoken.

You may be surprised what you can discern when you truly listen. For example, you may learn that your supervisor is being micromanaged, thus they have been trained and are regularly micromanaged and so do likewise to you. Another example may come from the knowledge that your supervisor (like you) is dealing with fear and insecurity and this fear translates into your bane.

The simple knowledge of knowing your supervisor isn’t Superman can go along way into having more compassion.

On another note, your boss may be cruel and take out their cruelty on the employees they manage. Although, I do not think this is as common as some suggest, I do believe it happens.

So now what?

Third, ask for a meeting with your supervisor where you can provide some two-way feedback.

Way too often, meetings are a one way street. The supervisor dictates and the employee takes notes and does as directed. Nothing inherently wrong with that unless it is done with little to no tact from the supervisor. Once orders and directives have been sent to the employee, the manager checks up multiple times in a day (say once an hour) on the progress you are making. This is a bit extreme. Add to this, that with the update checks, the manager is also changing directions or adding to what you are doing each hour, thus stymieing your progress and momentum.

This is when you should ask for a meeting with your supervisor to share concerns and to have a two-way dialog. If you are fearful of what a supervisor may say or do when trying to set this meeting, many larger companies have HR departments that can help with this process. If you are in a smaller organization or in a church setting, just be careful not to do this in the wrong manner and offend your boss. Nevertheless, this may happen, and at this point you know for sure you need to move on to other vocational opportunities.

Now, maybe your supervisor accepts the meeting, and the meeting goes well. Know this, one meeting with not fix everything. Make sure to schedule a few other two-way meetings over the next few months to allow your supervisor to discuss progress from their view and then allow you to express progress from your vantage point.

Fourth, once things are moving in a healthy direction, stay positive and proactive.

It may feel good to know things are moving in a healthy direction (and truly it is), but it can also lead to further frustration. Every coin has two sides. When things seem to be going so well, and you have a minor set back in the process, you can feel more hurt because you have been so transparent and open. This can cause you to retreat and keep your feedback to yourself. The same goes for your supervisor.

Both of you must agree to be vigilant. Keep the good two-way communication going. Eventually, it could mean leaving the organization to go to another, but you are now at the point to have a healthy, productive exit. This makes you and your supervisor look like good examples in the eyes of the other employees and the company.

People are entering and exiting employment all of the time, but we tend to only have healthy entry points, not exit points. When a company can boast about their excellence whether you are coming or going as a healthy experience is absolutely unique in our business culture today. This is also highly attractive to millennial workers who tend to change jobs frequently, but have horrible experiences exiting companies.

So focus as much on being authentic in staying or leaving and work through them both with excellence, authenticity, and candor. 

There are my four thoughts on dealing with a micro manager. Obviously there are many more, so what would you add from your experience or from what you have read over the years?

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