Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring Leadership

This past week was pretty great. We were busy, busy, busy all through the week - right up to the very last second before we left for the conference. Then we had a 4-hour drive to Spokane with a stop in Ellensberg.

Ellensberg is an interesting little town. The weather on that side of the mountains is great, by the way. But the town is just this little place, with two exits from I-90, that I didn't even know existed until we took the same trip last year and I was hungry. What we've seen of the town is a lot of rolling hills and farmland with windmills (except, they aren't milling anything so can they really be called that?) and some train tracks and a strip of restaurants and gas stations. I imagine it's a pretty common stop-over for truckers, though I didn't notice any inns or motels or anything. It's a cute, quaint little town with people who smile, and that's more than good enough for a place to grab a bite in.

The scenery on our trip was amazing. I found myself astounded by the mountain and how beautiful almost every angle looked. Then we got into farm country and I fell asleep - as I inevitably do every time we take a trip in the car - so I don't know if I missed any beautiful scenery there. Dearest woke me up in the pitch black of farm country at 11pm to tell me he needed to know which exit would take us to our hotel, and then we got to the hotel and fell asleep.

The conference we went to, Spring Leadership, was great! It was difficult to sit still and pay attention for blocks of 4 to 7 hours at a time, but I got some good pieces of wisdom from the various speakers. I forgot to pack flats, so I have a few blisters and sore foot and leg muscles from all the walking and climbing stairs and whatnot, but it was worth it.

John Maxwell was, as always, brilliant. On Saturday he spoke on the 5 levels of leadership (which happens to be the title of his last book). He was firm with us, and chastized his favorite organization just a bit. But, as he always does, he finished off his criticisms with the loving reassurance: "My name is John, and I'm your friend."

On Sunday morning, John delivered the message. I was hoping he would, since even listening to him is a treat - not to mention the depths of value and wisdom that come in what he says!

He spoke about our value in God's eyes and preached a message that I honestly haven't heard delivered in that way before. He emphasized that people matter, taking experiences from his own life to illustrate that the people who have the most impact on any person's life are the people who cared about us.

"Jesus never established a pecking order! He never said 'Well, you're more valuable than this one and you're just a little bit less valuable than that one.' ... Jesus knew nothing of excluding people!"

He also pointed out that when you're a religious person, someone who follows a precise (and often lengthy) set of rules and practices, you don't need God. That's why Jesus hung out with the 'sinners' instead of the pharasees. As a side note, Dearest and I discuss this pretty frequently and it's usually some really interesting conversation!

John outlined 3 big reasons God values us:
  • Who we are
    • First off, we're made in his image (Gen 1:27). God cared about us so much, that he put pieces of himself in each one of us, and that makes us incredibly valuable to him. It's probably one of the reasons that he finds it so easy to forgive us instead of just striking us down whenever we sin. If we weren't made in his image, John commented, there would be no emotional attachment when we made him angry. God knew we were going to screw up, so he made us to look like him so that when we did screw up, he could look at us and say "They're a part of me, I have to give them another chance."
    • John gave us this affirmation, which I find pretty cool: "God loves me as I am. Not as who I would like to be, nor as who I seem to be, but as who I am today."
    • One of the things that John emphasized over and over again is that God doesn't love you any more or less because you have come to him or not, because you have sinned or not, because you do great things or not. He just loves. His love doesn't change, and so there's nothing we can do to increase or to decrease the amount of love he has for us.
  • What we cost
    • Just think about it: You place more value on the things you paid a lot for, right? An expensive dinner at a ritzy location is just another dinner if it's free.
    • We all know John 3:16. We all know that God loved us so much that he gave us his son to die for our sins so we could be saved. But because we all know it, we might forget the hugeness of it. God gave up his *child* - his *only* child - so we wouldn't have to live under condemnation anymore. Imagine looking at your baby and saying "kiddo, there are a lot of people who just don't have a chance. But if I let your enemies torture and brutally murder you, those people will have a chance. So that's what we're going to do."
    • The fact that God gave up his only son to have a relationship with us demonstrates 2 things:
      • The unconditional, unmatched, undeserved, unfathomable, and maybe even unreasonable love that God has for us.
        • God is God, and so he could have, realistically, just decided that sin didn't matter and we could all come to heaven anyway. But he refused to cheapen the relationship with us. He refused to make us worthless to him by just waving his hand and making things all better. A huge sacrifice had to be made, to demonstrate just how worthwhile we are to him.
      • Just how big a deal our sin is to him
        • Our sin was such a big deal to God, such a big separator, that there was only one thing that could ever atone for it. Only the death of God's own son could ever reconsile us, could ever wash the stain of that sin away. And because he knew that, God made the sacrifice.
  • Who you can become
    • God created you. He put all those things inside you that are going to stir together and make something incredible. He knows just how AMAZING you can be!  He's the only one who fully knows that, who fully understands your potential, and that potential excites him.
    • God is the master. A guitar is just a guitar until someone who has mastered the art of playing it takes it in hand. And when God, the Master Artist, touches your life...amazing things unfold that you could never have dreamed of. And as the only Master Artist of human life, he is the only one who understand what you're capable of - just as a Master pianist knows better than your average Joe just what that Baby Grand can do.
It was an amazing message that touched so many hearts. Literally hundreds of people came forward at John's invitation to "Let me introduce you to my best friend, to this God who loves you more than you could ever imagine and regardless of what you do." It was the most beautiful thing I saw all weekend: hundreds of people of all ages and all backgrounds, coming from all areas of the arena, some of them even going over the barriers between the seats and the floor instead of bothering with going around, all of them coming forward because the knowledge that God loves them that much compels them to know who he is. I cry just from trying to describe it.

If you haven't been to a Worldwide Dreambuilder's function, you need to get to one. Not because of Amway, not because of the business opportunity, though those are both very very good reasons to come. But because of the *people*. Thousands and thousands of positive, happy, loving people who would be more than happy to hug you the moment they meet you. This year we brought a friend with us who is having some marriage struggles and really needed some encouragement and some positive environment to saturate in. I may never know just how much this event did for him, but I do know that he was touched in a way that may not have happened anywhere else. It's really an experience you can't miss out on.

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