Discipline in the spiritual life means “a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice which desires our attention. It is the voice of the ‘first love.’ St. John writes: ‘We are in love… because God first loved us.” It is this first love which offers us the intimate place where we can dwell in safety. The first love says: ‘You are loved long before other people love you or you can love others. You are accepted long before you can accept others or receive their acceptance. You are safe long before you can offer or receive safety.’ Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us. It requires discipline to come home and listen, especially when our fears are so noisy that they keep driving us outside of ourselves.” Nouwen, Lifesigns, 27.
Our organizations are failing; as leaders we’re struggling. Nothing seems reliable anymore. How do we respond to adaptive challenges? Why do we feel so lost?
The Franklin expedition was a non-adaptive response and contrasts with Jesus’ sending the disciples out on mission – vulnerable and with nothing. How do we get comfortable with vulnerability? Living on the edge is a journey into experimentation and adaptation. It requires new capacities and skills from leaders and teams. I examine the experience of getting lost. Who survives and why? How do our mental maps limit us? How do we get unlost?
Iceland’s Silfra fissure is formed by the pulling apart of tectonic plates. Modernity has fragmented and broken into post-modernity. Rather than manage the crisis, we find a way to withdraw and reflect, opening space. Our paradigms of progress are oppressive. Jesus told us that we would lose our lives to find them. We move down to rise up.
Living on edges creates tension, and tension generates wakefulness. In nature phase transition occurs suddenly, without warning. The old assumptions about growth and leadership no longer apply. Our landscape has gone from solid to liquid. When we can no longer read maps, we train navigators. We work with tools and practices that help us “read” the landscape.
Change is a constant condition, and local knowledge has become paramount. Innovators start before they are ready and develop prototypes to test new conditions. New leadership types are appearing: poets and synergists and boundary-crossers. Listening and observing together we invite a new future. The need for a community of leaders. I describe organizations that experimented into a new future.
Goal-posts have shifted and the field has become fluid. I offer a framework for understanding organizational culture and examine the role of leaders in emergent conditions. In self-organizing systems leaders disrupt existing patterns, encourage novelty and act as sensemakers. Leadership is less about decisive action and more about shaping environments. I consider the importance of wide participation in learning organizations.
Pilgrimage begins when we discover a yearning for something more. The final phase is arrival at the beginning and “knowing the place for the first time.” The metaphor of exile fits the experience of leadership in our time; there is no going home, but God is with us. What feels like a trap might be a womb: a place of transformation and rebirth. The One on the throne says, “Behold! I make all things new!”
“Because the very foundations of American society, including the family, are crumbling, we MUST seek and find strong leaders. But we need a new kind of leader—beyond the celebrity, beyond the pragmatist—to show us the way to the abundant life, the food life that God originally intended for his children and still longs for us to have..
“No medium or method of conveying the Christian gospel can meet people’s basic needs for recognition, involvement, worthiness, growth, and indeed salvation itself without the loving give and take of person-to-person interaction over a long period of time. This is what community really means, and this is exactly where popular religion and its leaders are not successful.
“In a secular society, in a world where homelessness is the norm, the only way religion can really be “successful” is to provide a home for the homeless—a family that includes not must my kind of people, but God’s kind of people, who love him with everything they have, and who love their neighbor as much as they love themselves. The church does need to become God’s ideal family, both in word and indeed. And its leaders will have to be heroic leaders ho really live and exemplify the life they preach and teach, whose authority is recognized in their nobility, in their concrete modeling of the love of God, the only force that can save and transform a world plagued with the consequences of sin.”
Richard Quebedeaux, 1982
Begin the song exactly where you are,
Remain within the world of which you’re made.
Call nothing common in the earth or air,
Accept it all and let it be for good.
Start with the very breath you breathe in now,
This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood
And listen to it, ringing soft and low.
Stay with the music, words will come in time.
Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.
Become an open singing-bowl, whose chime
Is richness rising out of emptiness,
And timelessness resounding into time.
And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.
From Malcolm’s blog
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn. – Luci Shaw
“Into the Darkest Hour,” a poem by Madeleine L’Engle
It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss —
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.
It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight —
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.
And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
— from Winter Song: Christmas Readings by Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw
They sought to soar into the skies
hose classic gods of high renown
For lofty pride aspires to rise
?But you came down.
You dropped down from the mountains sheer
forsook the eagle for the dove
The other Gods demanded fear
But you gave love
Where chiselled marble seemed to freeze
their abstract and perfected form
Compassion brought you to your knees
Your blood was warm
They called for blood in sacrifice
Their victims on an altar bled
When no one else could pay the price
You died instead
They towered above our mortal plain,
Dismissed this restless flesh with scorn,
Aloof from birth and death and pain,
?But you were born.
Born to these burdens, borne by all
born with us all ‘astride the grave’
Weak, to be with us when we fall,
?And strong to save.
A friend of mine has begun to attend a small new church plant, led by a young man who has been ordained through an independent and charismatic revivalist network. This young man, and a few other speakers that have visited the church plant, have talked about God’s divine judgment upon individuals who are not in submission to the Lord’s word or plan. They have shared that they believe the Lord is bringing back divine judgment as a means to discipline the church, as in the NT story of Ananias and Sapphira.
As part of this attempt to establish very clear (and rigid) authority – in the face of, let’s admit – a deep and destructive individualism – they are sharing testimonies of how individuals in the flock have been bitter or angry with the ‘sent one’ or ‘set man.’ And then illness, trouble, even death have fallen upon the individual not in submission. However, when the “apostle” prayed for restoration after repentance, the illness was healed. One example offered was a pastor whose estranged daughter was led into rebellion to his church. The couple began speaking against the father (pastor) and the church. After attempts at discipline (not sure what these were or how it was handled) the Pastor had to ‘turn them over’. Within several weeks his daughter was dead of a mysterious illness.
As you read this I’m sure the alarm bells are ringing!
But what about the Ananias and Saphira story?
How do we establish biblical authority in our day, when the center seems not to hold? And where or in whom does it reside?
Is divine judgment like this to be expected or sought in our day? If so, who administers it and under what conditions?
Interesting, my friend, who has a teaching gift, remarks that he did not like the presentation by the two speakers. Neither were teachers. Both used anecdotal experiences and only shared a few passages from scripture. It was as though the speakers were relying upon the ‘prophetic’ gift, and they did not spend quality time in opening up the scriptures.