President and Founder
Have you ever had something turn out far better than you had ever anticipated? Maybe it was the remodeling of your home, or a speech you gave in school, or something you had never done before now. If so, you will be able to identify with the incredible experience I and my youngest son recently encountered during a 17-day trip to Zambia, Africa during the month of July, 2013. Thanks to the leadership of my oldest son, Chaplain Nick Braschler, one of three chaplains for Simmons, you perhaps were made aware of this experience and asked to lift us up in prayer.
I witnessed a number of incredible occurrences throughout this journey through Zambia which included:
- Many new friendships with Zambian leaders and pastors.
- A transformation of sorts in my youngest son who accompanied me.
- A light-bulb affect for the pastors and leaders God placed in our path to understand the role of vision in the life of a leader.
- A deeper passion within me to excavate God’s calling and potential in people.
Our task was very specific – connect with pastors and leaders all over the country of Zambia associated with the Nazarene and Wesleyan Churches in (4) venues and invest in them in such a way that they further lead others with tremendous and specific vision. Your prayers and those of many across the country brought about what I would consider a miraculous response, far better than I could have ever anticipated, to this teaching and to our ministry. As I begin this blog, please accept my deep appreciation for taking a moment to whisper a prayer for this experience. It has burned even deeper in me a desire to see God’s vision realized in the lives of those he has gifted and called as leaders of families, businesses and ministries.
What is your understanding of the idea of living with a vision for who you feel led to become? In the next few weeks I’ve been asked, as a guest blogger, to offer a glimpse into the life of a visionary leader. My hope is that it might challenge and aspire you as a leader in your home, your community, this company and perhaps in ministry in some way. My greatest desire through these writings is to see the incredible, life-altering vision God has for you as a person, and as a leader, become more of a reality. However, moving our dreams and visions to a life-giving connection with our reality is, in fact, the great challenge. It’s one thing to dream – it’s an entirely different and challenging journey to see it actually happen.
I once heard a speaker proclaim, “If Satan can’t make you fail as a person, as a leader, he’ll just make you busy.” When my calendar, my schedule, my responsibilities become all that lead me into tomorrow, I find myself so busy that I have no time for some of the most profound elements of my life:
- Discerning a direction for my life, my family, my business, etc..
- Investing in and building a healthy family and marriage
- Investing daily in God’s wisdom and direction
- Investing and caring for people
- Keeping my boundaries strong and secure
- Living intentionally
Instead, the pace of every day becomes all our eyes can see. We begin making decisions based on circumstances rather than wisdom. We often are tempted to only pursue the easiest avenues rather committed to do whatever it takes. Survival becomes the primary motivation rather than risk, faith, and confidence.
Awareness that my schedule is leading my life is the first step toward living in what the dictionary defines as an “eternal reference point.” That word defined by Webster is the term “intentionality" – becoming someone or leading toward some place for an eternal purpose. It requires that each of us, even when found in a difficult situation with seemingly no easy answers, must fight for perspective. Intentionality requires us to decide our destination first, our character first, our direction initially before that purposed ideal is challenged. It requires keeping a perspective that is uncommon in our world today – a reference point that is eternal.
How successful would you say you are at keeping the right perspective when it comes to challenge, to accomplishments, to people and even tragedy?
When my mother’s father passed away in the late 80’s in Minnesota, we traveled to his funeral as a family. My father, a pastor as well, was asked to speak for the service. He began his portion of the observance by holding up a penny. He said, “If you have a penny in your pocket, take it out and hold it at arm’s length with the face of Lincoln facing you.” After a moment of shuffling and the sound of 200 people digging for a coin across the room, he continued.
“Interestingly enough, when holding a penny at arm’s length away from your face, it looks like a penny should look. The face of President Lincoln is visible, as is the date, the insignia around the coin and so forth. However, with an opposite hand covering one eye, begin to draw that penny toward your face. At first it may seem to become clearer, but in a matter of seconds that penny goes back out of focus as it moves closer and closer to your uncovered eye. Finally, when the penny moves close enough to your face to almost touch your eye, it’s then and perhaps only then we realize that we have just blocked out an entire universe with nothing more than 1 cent.”
My father applied this illustration by saying, “In the same way, let’s be reminded that death is just as much a part of grandpa’s life today as was his birth. He was born right on time, and his appointment for death was exactly, to the second, as God had planned. His death was no more significant or surprising than was his birth. It was expected by God, and orchestrated just as God had planned. While this life comes to an end, it serves as a powerful season of your life and mine, but not the definition of our future. In other words, there is a season for joy, a season for sadness, and a season continue with the life you’ve been given, even in light of this loss.”
“Keeping death in this perspective will help us see that it is a part of our life, and not allow the passing or loss of someone to become our entire life, our entire focus. Sorrow does come, loss is experienced, but the death of a loved one cannot replace the life God still has for you to live today.”
That challenge refocused my thinking forever when it came to certain situations, including the loss of a loved one – perspective changes everything. With the right distance, a penny looks like it should within the context of my life. In the same way, focusing my eyes, my mind, and my heart in the right perspective brings incredible vision for tomorrow.
In II Corinthians 4:18, the Apostle Paul writes these words to the people from the community of Corinth in the New Testament:
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
If you’ve ever tried to ride a bicycle staring only at your feet as you pedal, you can understand the importance of the truth of this passage of scripture. Not only is it difficult to keep our balance when staring at the ground while moving forward, we will also most likely find it difficult to reach our destination. The truth is, bicycles are so much fun to ride, but we must keep one aspect of this skill paramount above all others – perspective. Stare too closely at where you are, and you will most certainly hit a tree or miss a turn. Keep your eyes up and forward, searching the horizon for turns and signposts, and suddenly, seemingly with little confusion, you find your way to where you need to go.
In the life of a person following Christ, this lesson, this perspective challenges us as visionary leaders to discipline our eyes, our spirit on the “unseen”, the wisdom of Christ, the vision of Christ, and the direction He is leading. Refrain from losing perspective by staring at your busy feet, at the challenges of today only. Instead, eyes up and hearts in tune with God’s leading keeps the leader carrying a heavy load from stumbling onto the wrong path.
Parents of children, leaders of a department, management and big decision-makers, I challenge you in this first step toward becoming a visionary leader - guard perspective every day. While the circumstances of life come as they will, the visionary leader understands this first aspect for today – lose perspective by allowing situations and challenges to capture our full attention, and we lose the ability to lead. I pray you will refocus today on the “unseen” of Christ – his will and vision for you as a person and as a leader. Focus the activities of today in such a way that they stay in the right perspective, at arm’s length perhaps, and not become more than they should be.
The late speaker and mentor, Pastor Dallas Willard once wrote (paraphrased)– “What happens when vision (eternal reference points) disappear – a quick return to tradition." In the next blog, we will begin a brief journey toward understanding the role vision should play in the life of a leader, and how we move people from the comfortable place of the “known, the previously experienced,” toward the “unseen, the incredible vision God has for each of us.”