Issue No. 339 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting suggests you place two large glass jars on your dresser at home or your desk at work—and drop in thousands of ball bearings! And this reminder: click here for my 2015 book-of-the-year pick and my Top-10 list and check out the resources in all 20 management buckets (core competencies) here.
Before you can lead and coach others, says Steve Brown, you must learn how to lead yourself. So what would that look like? Steve enlightens us with eight memorable insights in Leading Me: Eight Practices for a Christian Leader's Most Important Assignment.
It’s packed with the practical—like “The Cycle of Grief” chart on page 51 and its antidote on page 53, “The Cycle of Grace.” It’s original—know anyone who hangs a poster copy of Rembrandt’s The Prodigal by their front door? And—it’s inspirational.
I made a ton of inspirational notes that I planned to share with you, but then I read Chapter 8, and found the big idea for me (and maybe you). Read this excerpt and you’ll be telling this story to family and friends all year!
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Excerpted from Chapter 8:
Stewardship and Shalom
Leading Me: Eight Practices for a Christian Leader's Most Important Assignment
© Copyright 2015, Steve A. Brown. All rights reserved.
Visit Arrow Leadership or Amazon to order this book.
“Teach me to number my days aright so that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
People sometimes do strange things. After my first residential session as a participant in the Arrow Leadership Program, my roommate went home and made a very strange purchase. He bought 25,550 ball bearings.
The natural question is, why? Why would anyone buy 25,550 ball bearings? Well, there is a method to what may seem like my roommate’s madness. The answer is profound. During that first Arrow residential session, my roommate had a transformational experience. He was deeply moved by the needs in the world. He was also awed by God’s particular call on his life to be part of his mission in this chapter of history. Finally, he was convicted that God wants everyone to carefully steward their limited time on this earth.
His prayer was the same as the psalmist’s in Psalm 90:12: “Teach me to number my days aright so that I may gain a heart of wisdom.”
So, when my roommate got back home, he took the psalmist’s prayer literally. He wanted to number his days aright. To do so, he did some basic math.
He estimated his lifespan to be 70 years
and multiplied 70 years x 365 days.
This comes out to 25,550 days of life.
Although my roommate knew that this timeframe wasn’t guaranteed and that his days are ultimately held in God’s hands, he was still moved by this research. He wanted to brainstorm creative ways to tangibly and visually mark this precious and finite amount of time. So, he purchased 25,550 ball bearings. With each ball bearing representing a day of his life, he counted out all the days he had already lived.
Then he put the ball bearings representing days already lived into a large jar. The rest of the ball bearings were put in another jar that represented days not yet lived. Then he began a morning ritual.
Every morning he would go over to the jar of days not yet lived, pick out one ball bearing and place it in his pocket. This one ball bearing was a tangible reminder of his responsibility to steward each day that God gives him on this earth.
At the end of each day, he completed the ritual. He would take the ball bearing out of his pocket and place it in the jar representing completed days. It served as a visual reminder that each day given is a gift and resource to steward for God’s glory. Once a day is gone, it is gone forever.
My Arrow roommate eventually stopped this ritual, but he recently told me that the jars still sit on his shelf as a visual reminder.
This story has had a profound effect on my life. We ultimately don’t know how many days we have in this life. Today could be the last one. Maybe there are thousands left. Whatever the number, this story is a vivid reminder that we are called to be stewards of this special gift of time.
Editor’s Note: In this important book, Steve Brown masterfully connects the dots between the illustrations and the Biblical values. (You’ll remember both.) If you appreciated Great Questions for Leading Well (also by Steve), you’ll love this book.
He continues, “The concept of stewardship is clear in Scripture. God has entrusted everyone and particularly Christian leaders with many resources—time, talent and treasure being just three. Our job is to recognize this trust as well as to seek to care for and invest these resources for God’s glory.
“As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:2, ‘Now, it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.’ In other words, leading yourself well means being a steward of the trust given to you. This trust is magnified for Christian leaders who are given opportunities to leverage not only their own talents but also the talents given to others.
“When I put the ball bearing illustration together with these stewardship verses, I am both convicted and inspired to wisely invest the gift of time entrusted to me. I am overwhelmed by the truth that God invites us to be part of his work and purposes. For these reasons, one of the key elements of leading ourselves is stewarding our time.”
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To order from Amazon, click on the graphic below for Leading Me: Eight Practices for a Christian Leader's Most Important Assignment, by Steve A. Brown.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Steve Brown notes that there is “the temptation for stewardship to become an idol. This usually manifests itself in an insatiable drivenness toward more activity, more busyness and more accomplishment. Ironically, this kind of behavior in a leader is often applauded and encouraged by boards, churches and employers. They are impressed by and thankful for the output that often seems to accompany driven people and leaders.” Discuss!
2) So how many ball bearings are left in your jar—and after you’ve prayed “teach us to number our days,” what are you learning? Brown writes, “Psalm 23 provides a beautiful corrective to the tendency toward drivenness.”
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As we cycle through the 20 buckets, here are two powerful notes from Steve Brown--perfect color commentaries for the Team Bucket, Chapter 9, in Mastering the Management Buckets.
Brown says that “stewardship that is hijacked by drivenness will eventually reap significant costs and casualties.” He quotes from Sabbath, by Wayne Muller, which “counters the drivenness that is often behind the epidemic of busyness in North America.”
WAYNE MULLER: “The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for sunsets (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.”
BROWN/BUCHANAN: “Ouch! Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of sacrifices on the altar of drivenness. We are a society that prides itself on busyness and 24/7/365 activity. In The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan writes that in all this frenetic activity, ‘the worst hallucination busyness conjures up is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying’?”
For more insights from the Team Bucket, visit this webpage.
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