A year ago during my annual end-of-year reflection, I didn’t hear any specific goals from God. Instead, I heard him tell me to just be available for whatever he had for me in 2015. As it turned out, that included the illness and death of both my mother- and father-in-law.
This year, God has given me clear direction: “I want you to leave leadership.” Since early October, this message has been unmistakable. I do not sense that he is asking me to give up influence per se (after all, that flows from who we are, not just what we do), but definitely to let go of the focus and field of leadership, at least for a time. The corresponding message I’ve heard, from Psalm 46:10: “Cease striving and know that I am God.”
So, that’s what I’m doing. I don’t know if this is a temporary “letting go” or a permanent “leaving,” but I’m OK with either. I am giving up a number of responsibilities and positions and declining new opportunities and invitations. I will stop blogging on leadership, although I’m keeping my old posts available on this site.
I have no idea where God will take me in the months ahead but I look forward to listening, learning and following.
On the Journey,
We are often quick to give God the credit when we are successful and when our projects, ministries and organizations grow. But can God not also prune? Maybe the seasons of challenge and decline are also a part of His work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that growth is from the hand of God and decline or death is a sign of Satanic oppression.
“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” – Job 1:21 (ESV)
We’re a movie family. We love watching, reading, and talking about movies. While the summer is good for popcorn flicks, the fall brings the best movies of the year, in time to generate Oscar buzz. Here is what I’m looking forward to seeing in the next few months:
- Everest. I want to see this on an IMAX screen. The story of two expedition groups during one of the fiercest snowstorms on this fabled mountain.
- The Martian. Matt Damon plays an astronaut that is accidentally marooned on Mars.
- Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks stars as a lawyer who is tapped by the CIA during the Cold War to negotiate the exchange of a Russian spy (played by the brilliant British actor Mark Rylance) for an imprisoned American U-2 pilot. Directed by Steven Spielberg and screenwriters include Joel & Ethan Coen.
- Suffragette. Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan star in this story about women’s fight for equality in 20th-century Britain.
- The Walk. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ben Kingsley star in this true story about Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the World Trade Center buildings.
- Spectre. James Bond (Daniel Craig) is back. This one has been on our calendar for months.
- Trumbo. Story of the 1940s Hollywood blacklist. Stars Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Helen Mirren and John Goodman.
- The 33. The story of the Chilean miners who were trapped in a collapsed mine for 69 days.
- The Good Dinosaur. Pixar’s second release of the year. What if an asteroid missed the earth and dinosaurs never became extinct? (We’ve also blocked out Nov. 2, when we will receive our Blu-Ray copy of Inside Out for repeated viewing.)
- Macbeth. Shakespeare comes to the big screen, with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the lead roles.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This one necessitates a midnight screening.
- Joy. David O. Russell directs, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, and Elisabeth Rohm star. That’s all I need to know.
Anything else I should add to my list?
Just over ten years ago in January 2005, I worked with a business coach who had me write down my dream for what I wanted my life and work to look like in ten years, in the form of a “vision story.” I chose to write from the perspective of January 2015, in the form of a belated Christmas letter.
About a month ago, I took another look at what I wrote. It was very cool (and, honestly, a little freaky) how prescient my vision was ten years ago. Remember, I wrote this when my boys were just 5 and 3 years old. Here are the prognostications, followed by the reality:
- “Taylor is our lanky sophomore and just got his driver’s permit a few months ago….he keeps us busy with his musical and dramatic endeavors….He continues to charm us with his bright smile.”
- He’s 5’11”, got his permit as predicted (and his license last week!) and is a regular performer in various choirs, plays, musicals, and vocal teams. And yes, he still has the same bright smile.
- “Jamison turned 13 in June and is becoming an all-around athlete, even joining Mom & Dad on some of their runs. Fortunately, he’s still not too old to give mom or dad a huge bear hug.
- Jamison ran a 5K with me a few weeks ago, works out with his friends, and still accepts and gives very strong hugs.
- “The majority of my time is spent teaching in a group setting via teleclasses, workshops, seminars, conferences, and college & seminary courses. My teaching has also led to increased writing and vice-versa.”
- I wrote this before I ever taught a class and when I had just written a few columns. Now I’m an official leadership teacher and writer.
- “I travel 6-8 times a year and we usually turn some of those into all-family trips.
- OK, that estimate was on the low end of what has been reality the last few years, but when I wrote the vision I was traveling maybe 1-2 times per year. Dave and the boys have indeed joined me sometimes, as when we combined a teaching trip to Denver with a family vacation to Breckenridge.
- “We have finally been able to realize our dream of starting the Ward Foundation for leadership development, and the boys continue to learn both the joy and the ‘business’ of philanthropy.”
- I am so excited that we are in the process of setting up various charitable vehicles to fulfill these dreams.
- “I work from home and set my own schedule.”
A few things in my vision were off-base — Taylor a nature expert? Family camping trips? — but the majority of the vision has become reality. I am now working on a vision for the next ten years, dreaming and praying about what God might have for me between now and 2025.
What do you want your vision story to look like?
The longer we have something, the more attached we get to it, and the more tightly we want to hold on to it. But a life of stewardship requires that we hold loosely to anything we have been given. This includes money and possessions, people and relationships, positions and titles, power and authority.
One way to not hold too tightly is to let things pass through our hands instead of holding on until our grip increases. Don’t claim it as your own; instead, realize it is just passing through, and your job is to make sure it ends up in the right place. You may hold it for just a few moments, or you may have to cradle it for years. But remember that at any time, you may be called to give up what is in your hands. Hold loosely and be looking for where you can give it away.