Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Sword and the Shield [A Summaview]

The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGBThe Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

Christopher Andrew is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Cambridge University. One of the leading authorities on intelligence history, Andrew is also the official historian of Britain’s Secret Service (MI-5). Vasili Mitrokhin served as an archivist in Russia’s KGB, and having become disillusioned with the Soviet worldview during Krushchev’s rule, began copying sensitive and highly classified documents from the KGB archive. He defected in 1992, and over 25,000 documents were retrieved from the contained them, buried beneath the floor of his dacha.
The Sword and the Shield follows the history of the KGB from Lenin’s Cheka, to Stalin’s OGPU through the establishment of Yeltsin’s presidency. Andrew documents the operations and impact of several hundred spies who operated during that time frame.

The sheer volume of the material is overwhelming. As a result, reading is somewhat tedious with only a few paragraphs dedicated to each operative. Andrew is a historian and has contributed greatly to our understanding of Soviet Intelligence operations. I found myself skimming many sections and reading those which were of special interest, such as operations directed against the United States and those surrounding the Prague Spring in 1968. That would be my recommendation for the amateur historian.

That said, I did enjoy the book. Secret Service, spies, intelligence, counter-intelligence and related stories fascinate me. Andrew focuses on people and what they did. I would have enjoyed a greater discussion of trade craft and operations than he offered. In any case, his work added to my understanding of a secret and until now, hidden world.

Contents and concepts

  1. The Mitrokhin Archive
  2. From Lenin’s Cheka to Stalin’s OGPU
  3. The Great Illegals
  4. The Magnificent Five
  5. Terror
  6. War
  7. The Grand Alliance
  8. Victory
  9. From War to Cold War
  10. The Main Adversary - Part 1: North American Illegals in the 1950’s
  11. The Main Adversary - Part 2: Walk-ins and Legal Residencies in the Early Cold War
  12. The Main Adversary - Part 3: Illegals after “Abel”
  13. The Main Adversary - Part 4: Walk-ins and Legal Residencies int he Later Cold War
  14. Political Warfare: Active Measures and the Main Adversary
  15. PROGRESS Operations - Part 1: Crushing the Prague Spring
  16. PROGRESS Operations - Part 2: Spying on the soviet Bloc
  17. The KGB and Western Communist Parties
  18. Eurocommunism
  19. Ideological Subversion - Part 1: The War Against the dissidents
  20. Ideological Subversion - Part 2: The Victory of the dissidents
  21. SIGINT in the cold War
  22. Special Tasks - Part 1: From Marshal Tito to Rudolf Nureyev
  23. Special Tasks - Part 2: The Andropov Era and Beyond
  24. Cold War Operations Against Britain- Part 1: After the “Magnificent Five”
  25. Cold War Operations Against Britain- Part 2: After Operation FOOT
  26. The Federal Republic of Germany
  27. France and Italy during the Cold War: Agent Penetration and Active Measures
  28. The Penetration and Persecution of the Soviet Churches
  29. The Polish Pope and the Rise of Solidarity
  30. The Polish Crisis and the crumbling of the Soviet Bloc
  31. Conclusion: From the One-Party State to the Yeltsin Presidency
 Andrew, C. M., & Mitrokhin, V. (1999). The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (1st ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service [A Summaview]

The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service by Andrew Meier

Andrew Meier, a former Moscow correspondent for Time magazine is the author of Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall and Chechnya: To the Heart of A Conflict, has compiled a remarkable and unknown history of Isaiah Oggins, an American who was murdered on Stalin’s orders in 1947. His case remained unkown to the world aside from a brief mention in 1992 until Meier began searching for clues to Oggins’ story in 2000.

Oggins, born in 1898, was recruited by Stalin’s secret service in 1928 and travelled extensively through Europe and Asia on behalf of the Soviet state. Meier’s research uncovers a man who moved carefuly in the shadows until his arrest and sentence to the gulag in 1940. So much so, that Oggins was relatively unknown by the United States until the post World War II period. Meier’s discussion how diplomats from both countries found it difficult to handle the situation his emergence from the gulag presented was especially interesting to me.

The Lost Spy is a non-fiction book that reads like a modern day spy thriller (a genre I read often for recreation). Having lived in Europe and traveled in Russia, I enjoy understanding the historical foundations of modern culture. This book provided insight for me into Americans who became enamored with the promises of revolution and communism at the beginning of the last century, much like Tim Tzouliadis did in The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia . I also enjoyed the photos and archival documents which Meier discovered in his research.

If you enjoy historical biographies of forgotten people, Cold War Era espionage, diplomacy or similar genres, you will likely enjoy learning of Oggins’ story in The Lost Spy. As for me, I'll be seeking out Meier's Black Earth: A Journey through Russia After the Fall before long.

Contents
Arrest
     1. “The American Professor”
     2. Thread City
     3. War
The Lubyanka: 1939
     4. Revolution
     5. Into the Night
     6. A Change of Sky
Gulag: 1940
     7. The Red and the White
Butyrka: 1942
     8. Journey to a War
     9. The Stamp Market
     10. Truth Will Win
Execution
     11. The Note to Stalin
     12: Afterlife

Bibliography: Meier, A. (2008). The Lost Spy : An American in Stalin's Secret Service (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership [Summaview]

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures
Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima

Gary L. McIntosh is president of the Church Growth Network and professor of Christian ministry and leadership at Talbot School of Theology. He leads seminars and has written several books, including Biblical Church Growth and Beyond the First Visit. Samuel D. Rima is director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Bethel Seminary, where he is also a faculty member in the Center for Transformational Leadership. He is the author of Leading from the Inside Out and Rethinking the Successful Church.

The stories of leaders who crash and burn are many. It seems that as many leaders fail to finish well as a result of self-destructive habits as those who fail at the hands of others. This book found it’s way onto my reading list because good leaders are self-aware. They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses - especially those that reside behind the public face. This book makes and delivers three promises: 1) help the reader understand what the dark side is; 2) assist in identifying one’s dark side; and, 3) help to overcome the dark side lurking in one’s success before being blindsided by it.

McIntosh and Rima’s work should be mandatory reading for all leaders (in my humble opinion). Drawing from a variety of fields, the lessons learned from leaders who succumbed to the dark side are clearly articulated. It was easy to find the danger I pose to myself and those I would lead. In addition, part 3 of the book has practical steps to redeeming our dark side and I believe it will be helpful to redirect the energy and passion that lead to failure into more productive efforts. Editorially, this book has one of my favorite features in books designed for reflection and improvement. Each chapter closes with a summary of key points and application of insights through open ended questions, assignments and surveys.

The table of contents and key concepts are as follows:
Part 1 Understanding Our Dark Side
  1. Blindsided by the Dark Side - The dark side is the inner urges, compulsions, and dysfunctions of our personality that often go unexamined or remain unknown to us until we experience and emotional explosion… or some other significant problem that causes us to search for a reason why. (28)
  2. Danger on the Dark Side - When we refuse to process in healthy ways feelings of insecurity, unhealthy co-dependence issues, feelings of personal shame, deeply sublimated anger or fear, or some combination of these or other issues, they will wreak havoc in our lives and leadership and eventually endanger ourselves and others. (40)
  3. Company on the Dark Side - The dark side if found across eras in the lives of leaders. Those who accomplish much have confronted their dark side.
  4. Shedding Divine Light on the Dark Side - The raw material for our dark side are pride, selfishness and self-deception. (59)
  5. How the Dark Side Develops - The critical factor in how our dark side will impact our leadership is the extent to which we learn about its development and understand how it influences us… There are definite signs we can become sensitive to that will help us identify the unique ways it has developed over the years as well as the specific shape it has taken in our life. (70) In short, any behavior that seems to overpower us, as well as any urge or motivation that seems to uncontrollably drive us, is a possible sign indicating the presence of our dark side. (71)
  6. Seafood, Pictionary, and the Dark Side - The dark side can provide energy for success.
  7. Paradoxes of the Dark Side - When our drive to achieve, fueled by unmet needs and existential debt, is channeled in the right direction, it can be a power for good. However, when that need-fueled drive becomes misdirected, it can result in disaster… (99)


Part 2 Discovering Our Dark Side
  1. The Compulsive Leader - Example: Moses. Compulsive in a leadership context describes the need to maintain absolute order. (105)
  2. The Narcissistic Leader - Example: Solomon. For the narcissistic leader… the world revolves on the axis of self, and all other people and issues closely orbit them as they get caught in the strong gravitational pull of the narcissist’s self-absorption. (115)
  3. The Paranoid Leader - Example: Saul. …Paranoid leaders are desperately afraid of anything or anyone, whether real or imagined, they perceive to have even the remotest potential of undermining their leadership and stealing away the limelight. (123)
  4. The Codependent Leader - Example: Samson. An emotional, psychological and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to and practice of, a set of oppressive rules that prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems. (133)
  5. The Passive-Aggressive Leader - Example: Jonah. A resistance to demands to adequately perform tasks, often expressed through behaviors such as procrastination, dawdling, stubbornness, forgetfulness and intentional inefficiency. (141)
Part 3 Redeeming Our Dark Side
  1. Overcoming the Dark Side - Leaders are expected to exercise a higher degree of self-management, redeeming their darks side and thus mitigating its potentially negative influences. (149)
  2. Spiritual Composting - While parts of our personality are not particularly useful in their present form, they can be redeemed and transformed for a useful purpose. (161)
  3. Step 1: Acknowledge Your dark Side - If we want to overcome our dark side, we need to start by acknowledging its existence and understanding the shape it has taken over the years… All too often the Christian community… relegates the moral failures and other problems that result from the dark side of our personality to the realm of spiritual warfare and demonic attack. (168) The sooner we stop denying our dark side’s existence, t he sooner we will stop blaming the devil, our parents, bad breaks, and every other possible reason for our struggles. (169)
  4. Step 2: Examine the Past - We are the sum of the experiences of our lives. The most successful and effective leaders recognize this and are able to separate fact from fiction in their childhood memories while understanding the role these memories have played in their personal development. (174)
  5. Step 3: Resist the Poison of Expectations - Because the influence of expectations is so powerful, many leaders often live life at a dangerously frenetic pace in an effort to meet all of them and satisfy all of the people who have made them known. (190)
  6. Step 4: Practice Progressive Self-Knowledge - [Spiritual] disciplines and tools will provide us with a constant stream of information about ourselves that we can use in an effort to understand ourselves and overcome our dark side rather than passively being controlled by it. (199) These include scripture reading, personal retreats, devotional reading, journaling, personality pro0files and tests, professional counseling and therapy, accountability groups and formal performance evaluations.
  7. Step 5: Understand Your Identity in Christ - We must come to the point where we recognize that our value is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or the power that we wield. Rather our worth exists independently of anything we have ever done or will do in the future. Without the grace of God that is found only in his son, Jesus Christ… our best efforts and most altruistic acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight. Everything we might learn about our dark side will be without significant benefit if we fail to find our value in Christ. (213)
I think this is a valuable resource. In fact, it ranks as my #1 book for 2010. Therefore, it will remain on my shelf and referenced during personal planning retreats.

Bibliographical entry: McIntosh, G., & Rima, S. D. (2007). Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures (Rev. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig [a summaview]

Your Money and Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You RichYour Money and Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich by Jason Zweig

This is not my normal genre, aside from the fact that I read widely. I received it as a gift and decided to wade through it.

Jason, editor of the Intelligent Investor newsletter, worked with neuroscientists to examine how the brain processes information related to investing. Zweig subjected himself to several studies and imagery programs illustrate how the brain reacts to experiences such as anticipation, gain, loss and regret. Chapter titles include: greed, prediction, confidence, risk, fear, surprise, regret and happiness.

From the book jacket: “Why do otherwise smart, rational people make irrational, foolish decisions about money? Combining psychology, neuroscience and economics, the new science of neuroeconimics answers that question… Your Money and Your Brain exp=lains why we oveten misunderstand risk and tend to be overconfident aobut our investment decisions. Zweig blends anectodes from experimends in which he participated with stories aobout investing mistakes - some from highly successful people - distilling them to offer practical steps that investors can take to make better decisions and take control of the battlefield between reason and emotion.”

The book has application for leaders as well as investors. In any field in which we take responsibility for our own decisions and actions, help to understand how we process information is valuable.

A few broad takeaways for me.
  1. Anticipation seems to be a stronger motivation than does receiving.
  2. It has been my experience that all history is revisionist, and all revisionist history is nostalgic. Stated simply, we remember only the best of times and upon reflection, our recollections are rarely objective.
  3. If investing, make a log of thoughts, processes, and feelings when you make an investment. It will help you document your path when you are tempted to second guess yourself. Same goes for any decision.
  4. The brain is a wonderful gift. It is fascinating in its ability to adapt, process information and (re)program itself.
  5. We are prone to deception. We may fool ourselves or be fooled by others. We must be aware of that and careful to guard against it.
I’ll be passing this book along to a friend in the investment business, rather than keeping it on the shelf for reference.

Bibliography - Zweig, J. (2007). Your money and your brain: how the new science of neuroeconomics can help make you rich. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

yymmdd - or sorting by date

Ok, this is a weird post, but what can I say. Neal's Notes is about the extraordinary emerging from the ordinary. I "discovered" this trick some time ago and am still amazed that few others use it. So, I'm going to do my part to spread the word.

Do you find your disk directories or folders with scrambled files? Ever have the need to sort them chronologically? Then abandon the old MMDDYYYY format and adopt YYYYMMDD. See, when the month is the first part of the name, it will sort all January, February, March, etc.but if your files bridge years, well, it's a alphanumeric train wreck just waiting to happen. So, move that year up front! YYMMDD will sort chronologically. Amazing, isn't it?

I have newsletters from several years past filed away. How are they named? title_yymmdd. Those rascals just sort right out in order. How about scanned documents with time off requests? empname_yymmdd. Incredible. Excel sheet with a date column. Same thing. List in a Word document? yymmdd and sort those paragraphs!

Yeah, it's weird. But, it's extraordinary!

Monday, November 29, 2010

When a Nation Forgets God [A Summaview]

When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany
When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin W. Lutzer Erwin Lutzer has been the senior pastor of The Moody church in Chicage since 1980. With “the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other” Lutzer offers Biblical insight into the cultural context of our world. When a Nation Forgets God draws parallels between the circumstances leading to the the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany and changes in our contemporary culture, concluding with a challenge to Christians to remain faithful to our calling to live completely dedicated to the call of Christ.

Having lived in Germany and served across Europe, the history of that region fascinates me. I read this book to gain an understanding of how a country in which the Reformation began could give rise to Hitler's Reich. What I discovered is that a number of religious, political and social transitions occurred in that country which bear an amazing similarity to the transitions which I perceive to be happening in our country today. Will be give rise to another reich? Probably not, however, the paths of political correctness and reform can surely lead us to places we would rather not go.

The book outline and summary of key thoughts is as follows:
  1. When God is Separated from Government, Judgement Follows - What is the role of the church in the face of governments that have self-consciously excluded God from their policies? (22) When God is ousted from government, transcendent values are replaced by: the raw use of power; eroticism; arbitrary judicial rulings; and, the morality of personal pragmatism (27)
  2. It’s Always the Economy - An economic crisis is always a gift to a leader who wants to capture a nation. (40) … the economy often trumps matters of liberty and principle because money is so integral to who we are and, of course, we need money to live. Unfortunately, sometimes it also trumps those values that are eternally important, such as one’s honor and witness for the Gospel. (49) As far as I know, no government in history has had a great record in providing expanded benefits without eventually also expecting more control of its citizens. (53)
  3. That Which is Legal Might Also Be Evil - Laws reflect a nation’s priorities, agenda, and values. (58) Look behind the law and there is your god! (59) Without a belief in God, nothing is unconditionally wrong. (61) With the erosion of a theistic base, law would no longer be based on an absolute view of morality; values would become relative and human worth devalued. (65)
  4. Propaganda Can Change a Nation - …the capacity for independent thought must be supressed; thus language must be corrupted to serve sinister ends. Sanitized terms were used to camouflage unspeakable crimes. (79) [A cultural current is] a dominant idea promoted by the media and willingly adopted by a critical mass of people wh want to believe a myth so badly they will close their minds to all contrary evidence. When such a cultural movement gains momentum, people will stare at facts and filter out what they don’t want to believe… Before we know it, we are in a world where facts do not matter. (80)
  5. Parents - Not the State - Are Responsible for a Child’s Training - The fact is that laws making education in public schools compulsory have historically been found in the most totalitarian of governments where state-sponsored indoctrination was a major goal of the educational system. (98) The purpose of school was not independent thought, but rather to transform the attitude and values of children to conform to what the state wanted. (101) The educational system became more focused on setting affective, not cognitive goals (outcomes). (103) Values clarification was invented by Dr. Sidney Simon in order to change the beliefs, convictions, and moral values of a child. It is based on the notion that there are no absolutes - no right or wrong. Such transformation is to come into the life of a child by affirming the following: (1) personal values should be left up to each student, not dictated by parents or the church, and (2) questions are to be used that solicit open-ended answers to teach the child that there are no absolutes… Now that the child has been stripped of his previous values… (3) the teacher is to tell the child that he must make up his own mind as to what values he will accept…, and then (4) the child must publicly declare his “conversion” to the new values systems… [Finally] (5) the child is to regularly act on these values. (107-8)
  6. Ordinary Heroes Can Make a Difference - Today in America we need an army of ordinary heroes to stand against the gathering darkness in our land. We need people who will stand for truth courageously, consistently, and with humility and grace. We need millions of believers who will represent Christ in the various vocations of America. We need to enlist people who know what the believe , why they believe it, and how to live out their convictions in diverse situations. (118) …we need ordinary people living authentically for Christ in their vocations, among their neighbors, and positions of influence. We cannot look to a man or even a movement as musch as to the common person who is committed to Christ and living for Him. (120) It is not how loud we can shout but how well we can suffer that will convince the world of the integrity of our message. (121)
  7. We Must Exalt the Cross in the Gathering Darkness - … for us as Christians, the conflict is really between humanism and Christianity; or alternative religions and Christianity. On one side is a deteriorating culture and on the other side of the divide is the cross of Christ with its message of hope and redemption. (133) Have we forgotten that God’s power is more clearly seen in the message of the cross than in any political or social plan we might devise? (134) In previous eras we have seen the gospel neglected or even mocked by religious liberals and nominal Christians… What is different today is that the message of the cross is being ignored even by those who claim to be saved by it’s message. (136)
When a Nation Forgets God certainly has application to the culture in which we live. While there is no suggestion that we stand on the threshold of the emergence of another Hitler or the horrors of the Holocaust he initiated, there can be no doubt that there is a deep need for Christians to resist the changes which marginalize them and the Gospel which describes their being. Lutzer challenges the reader in closing to consider the following questions: At what point do we have to become lawbreakers rather than betray our faith? At what price are we willing to take the cross into the world and identify with our savior? How do we both love the people of the world and yet oppose the agenda of those who would crush the Gospel? (139)

I’m passing this one along to people who have an interest in reading our culture and responding in the power of the Cross.

  
Bibliography: Lutzer, E. W. (2010). When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn From Nazi Germany. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

It's a... It's a.... What's a Book Summaview?

I am a reader. I love the world of books. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, I love the world of information. I am an info-junkie. The movie character with whom I have most closely identified is the robot in “Short Circuit.” Input. Input. Input.


That said, I’m adding a new “feature” to Neal’s Notes. Each week, I’ll plan to post a “summaview” of a book I’ve read this week.  As you might guess, a “Summaview” is sort of a cross between a book summary and a review. (I have also been described as a “word-nerd,” which follows from being a reader. If I can’t find the word to describe my thought, I’ll create one.) You will be introduced to the author(s), why I read the book, why you might consider reading it and my overall evaluation. The heart of each summaview, however, will be a list of the table of contents along with the key concept of the chapter.

While I most often read non-fiction books which will be of interst to organizational leaders and managers, pastors and leaders, I also read books related to my hobbies and interests. I also read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books as well, especially of the international espionage genre.

Oh, I’ll also include a link for each book on Amazon.com. This is shameless self-promotion, as each book you might purchase through that link will add a few nickels and dimes to my book fund. So, help me keep ‘em coming!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For Tracey on Moving Day

As I write this, we are three hours away from leaving to take you to college. Reflecting on your life, I remember your first cries, first steps, first words, first boo-boos, … plane rides… days at school… laughs… friends… disappointments… first hurts and on and on. As I do, I think that I remember the joys so much more than the hurts. And I am at great peace today.

One reason I have peace is that today is the fulfillment of 18+ years of expectations. For your entire life, your mother and I have tried, to the best of our ability, to influence you for this day: a day in which you will demonstrate your independence of us and a new level of dependence on God and yourself. We have tried to model, teach, admonish and exhort you to make wise choices and depend on God in all things.

In my quiet time today, I read 1st and 2nd Timothy, and have a new understanding of Paul’s letter and the expectations and aspirations he had for Timothy. As you go to college, my daughter, my prayers for you will be:
  • Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim 4:12 (HCSB)
  • ...pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. 1 Tim 6:11 (HCSB)
  • You, therefore, my [daughter], be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful [ones] who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim 2:1-2 (HCSB)
Your mother and I love you and are for you. Know that you can never be more loved than you are right now. God bless you, my daughter.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Night Scribbles

  1. Summertime. A lot of folks are out and about. I look forward to when they come home.
  2. I wonder if God thinks the same thing: a lot of people are out and about. I look forward to when they come home.
  3. Take away from Dr. Bob's morning sermon from Jonah 1: the path of self-will is always downward.
  4. What a wonderful gift we have in the Spirit of God who tells us who God is. 1 Cor 2:10-14.
  5. How can we describe a God that conceived all that there is when there was nothing at all and then created it? How can we describe a God who directs lightning bolts, created a sun & then set it apart from night so that we might rest? How can we describe a God who sees the depths of our hearts and loves us anyway? Indescribable. That's the God I serve. (Hat tip to Chris Tomlin.)
  6. Kudos to @traceyy and @jncordle for their performance in the Gathering Place opening skit. Well done, children.
  7. Grateful for the opportunity to serve Brunswick.

Sewing Sails

I went to the marina on Friday. the wind was really blowing: about 15 knots with gusts over 20. While I really wanted to go out, there were two criteria that had to be weighed. One: do I want to work that hard? Two: Is my boat up to the conditions.

While I would have enjoyed the experience, I had to to conclude there were a couple of issues with the boat that had the potential to create much more of an adventure than I was up for. specifically, I knew that my main sail had a couple of relatively small tears that could easily become quite large if I went out in this wind.

I reluctantly stripped the sails from the boat, folded them and took them home for mending. Saturday morning found me under a shade tree with a needle and thread to effect the repairs. As I mended, I reflected on the leadership lessons I was learning.

1. Steven Covey used the metaphor of "sharpening the saw" to illustrate the need we all have to stop work and renew ourselves. Just as a lumberjack must sharpen the ax or saw if he wants to continue to cut timber, we need to take time out to make sure we are as effective as we can be. In the long-term, the job will go much easier when all our tools are honed and maintained.

Sail repair is not glamorous, but keeping them mended will preserve them. Truth be told, I'd like a new sail. But, I'll nurse this one through another season with care. Rather than stressing them on Friday, I chose to reinforce them.Leaders need renewal. We must regularly take time out for the task to mend, heal, learn, recall and reinforce our abilities. By doing so, we'll be ready for the high winds.

2. I stuck myself with the needle. More than once. Even drew blood. Leader lesson? Mending can be painful. Renewal can be painful.The satisfaction in the end makes the pain fade away. Oh, and try not to bleed on the sail.

3. A good job finished well brings satisfaction. My stitches weren't exactly neat and uniform, or even in line. But they should hold. Knowing that I took time out to mend them gives me satisfaction, for I know, deep down, that it was the most important think I could do on Friday and Saturday morning if I am to enjoy the next afternoon sail.

Saturday afternoon, I bent the sails to the rig again. As we left the dock, the wind filled in at 12-15knots. And we sailed. confident that we and the sails were up to the task.

Leader do you need to take a time out today? To sew the sails? To sharpen the saw? To renew.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Night Scribbles

  1. I don't do hot and humid very well.Thankful for air conditioning and patient people who will (hopefully) put up with me.
  2. Looking forward to VBS this week more than ever before.
  3. There are some fantabulous people at FBC Brunswick. Encouragers. Servants. Disciples.Friends.
  4. I am thankful and grateful for Dr. Mounts. He has passion for the word and an ability to communicate hard truths in an easy way.
  5. I'm feeling the need to spend some time in planning this week. Would like to re-focus on the next 100 days personally and professionally. Hope to carve out some time sometime.
  6. Two weeks into Dixville. Eight to go. Will be praying for Dave, Chandis, Donnie and team this week.
  7. Hmmm. Sailing this week. May have to wait until Sunday. Happy Father's Day to me.
  8. Our housekeeping staff will have to be on their A game this week. Go Jackie, Rayfield and Larry!
  9. Quote I haven't been able to get out of my mind from the morning message: "I am responsible for what I know AND I am responsible for what I could have known." Must redeem the time and use every moment wisely to learn what I am supposed to learn so that I can think the way I am supposed to think and act the way I am supposed to act.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Swinging into the wind

Went to the beach this afternoon. There was a steady east wind blowing off the ocean. Enjoyed watching the sea gulls flying, soaring, hovering, overhead. When flying downwind, they would glide by quickly. Then, with seemingly little effort, they would wheel around into the wind, flare their wings slightly and settle gently on the sand.
Then, facing into the wind, they would run a couple of steps, flick their wing tips and rise swiftly into the air.
Repeat. Over and over again. And I watched, fascinated by how they could use the wind to move across the waves and the beach. They never seemed to fight the wind, but used it to their benefit.
What a life lesson. We can choose to fight the circumstances that come our way. Or, we can swing into them and face them, using them to our advantage. Take a few steps. Leap into the air. Swing into the wind. Settle into a place of rest.
P.S. I've never seen a sea gull in a gale. If the winds are overpowering, hunker down. The storm will pass.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sunday Night Scribbles


1. It's vacation time. Some folks came back to church today. Others have gone. I pray they enjoy and return again.
2. Dr. Bob Mounts will be a real blessing to our church. He's maturing, experienced and committed to the Word for the glory of God.
3.Rumors traveled slowly in New Testament times. So Paul had to deal with a lot of stuff in 1 Corinthians. What if Twitter were possible then? How would correction, doctrine, reproof and admonition be disseminated?
4. I'm thankful for Bible study leaders who cover for one another. I'm thankful for brothers who cover for me as well.
5. I know Dr. Mounts is communicating when my son tweets a thought from his sermon.
6. Hugs from 2- and 3-year olds are fantastic. They can so make my day complete. Love with no strings attached.
7. Flowers have grown to obscure 1/2 of our sign. Should we raise the sign or mow the flowers?

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Last night was staff night in AWANA. Each year, our staff hangs out with the kids in AWANA clubs in an attempt to connect with them. Past years have been challenging, particularly during game time as the competitive nature of our staff members has not always been held in check.

This year, we made a few changes in the format. Our staff divided among the three age groups and we spent the evening with our group. I was with the Cubbies - most of which are about about four-years-old.

During game time, I sat on the line and cheered my team as they participated in the relay races. As our time drew to a close, the leaders invited me and the other two staff members in our group to race one another. Soon, my Cubbies were chanting "Bro-ther-Neal, Bro-ther-Neal!" I was pumped. As they cheered, I was off around the game circle. Yes, I passed both my competitors, careful not to touch them or shove them "in the love of Christ" out of my way! And, yes, as a matter of fact, I did win.

And I owe it to my cheering section. I couldn't let them down, now could I?

You know where I'm going, don't you? " Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us..." Hebrews 12:1 (HCSB)

Just as my Cubbies cheered for me, you are being urged on by the fathers of our faith. RUN!