I had no idea what I was getting into with this book. What I found was a fascinatingly detailed story of a man's journey from disgrace and destruction to a beautifully shaped redemption epic all set in 1st Century Israel. I was drawn in immediately.
Here are a few reasons why every worship leader should walk with Ben-Hur for a few weeks.
1. THE LIFE OF CHRIST:
The story intersects the life of Jesus in several key places. Although not a 5th Gospel, it examines the story of the Messiah from a different vantage point. I felt at times, like I was seeing Christ's work and purpose through a new lens.
2. THE SETTING:
Because of Wallace's detailed research, you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of what life was like under Roman rule in Israel during that period. There were moments in the book where I felt transported to New Testament times and could actually feel the rocky ground under my feet.
3. THE BACK STORY: There is a rich back-story with Lew Wallace and this book. He is a Union General in the American Civil War. His actions at the battle of Shiloh are ridiculed. His post war years are spent defending his actions in the field that day. He has a conversation with a leading atheist of the time that propels Him on a journey to either prove or disprove the Gospel. The Gospel wins, and Ben Hur is born.
Embracing epic stories allow our minds to be trained for the most epic story of all. God's redemptive narrative throughout history is not only sacred it is compelling! As worship leaders, connecting with stories like Ben Hur exercise our minds to lead our people to a time and place that might seem a bit out of reach to the modern mind.
So, my challenge to you during this Christmas season is take up Ben Hur and get lost in the 1st Century. You'll thank me later! Would love to hear your reflections on this amazing story.
(Its free on iBooks, ...I hear they even made a movie about it...need to see that too)
I'm busy. I bring it on myself. I know I do it. It is all a part of being a recovering control freak. Sometimes my intentions are good, sometimes they are self serving and strive to satisfy the people pleaser that seems to live just below the surface. In the battle of flesh and spirit, I willingly choose to meet a creative "need" rather than choose to replenish my soul.
Some would argue that meeting a creative needs IS replenishing the soul. I would submit, that your "need" can also contribute to the pile of clutter in your heart. In my attempt to produce, I neglect the essential things that are calling for my immediate attention. That's called procrastination...
This brings us again to to Proverbs 27.7:
"One who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry, everything bitter is sweet"
Massimo and Lella Vignelli are a husband and wife design duo from Italy. Their contributions to to the design world and popular culture throughout the past 4 decades cannot be overstated. Their work includes the iconic way finding design of the NYC subway system an branding for Bloomingdales, American Airlines, and IBM (see more here) I'm a particular fan of their designs, not because of what they INCLUDE, but because of what they EXCLUDE. Their modernest approach seems to breath somehow. The Vignelli's mastered the art of the use of Helvetica font and negative space in their work. For our purposes, we will say that they helped pop culture embrace some much needed "white space."
I often make the mistake of trying to include everything. God is calling me to something deeper. He is calling us to be so full in Him, that we can actually say no to the useless clutter that might fill our days. Notice how Solomon uses this compact phrase about plenty and want as a depiction of our hearts. The last thing we want when we are full is more food. As I have said before, being full allows us to push away from the table, our appetites curbed, and say: "no thanks, I'm good."
The warning for me today is to find space for the thing tat is most important: to be filled by Him! Where is your white space? When is the moment in the day where you deliberately fill your tank? Don't go hungry! Don't clutter your life with useless "add-ons." Aim for time in the margin with him. I promise you, the design and shape of your life will open up and you will more easily be able to keep things clean.
Great leaders are high performance machines. Wise leaders are high performance factories of high performance machines. The best of the best understand the value of purposeful replication of themselves in others. It takes work, patience, vulnerability, trust, and some soul searching.
Most leaders will agree with the idea of reproducing themselves in others. I mean, it’s like world peace...or air...everybody wants it. Everybody knows it’s a good idea, but few actually know how to make it happen. The question then becomes: How do we become so purposeful in our leadership that we are marked not by how many times we’ve taken the lead, but by how many times we’ve given it away?
The movie Top Gun illustrates my point exactly. It not only underscores the importance of a strong wingman, it also reminds us how socially advantageous it can be to have a cool call sign, a sweet bike, and a jet...that’s another story however.
The military describes the function of the wingman like this:
“The wingman's role is to add an element of mutual support to aerial combat. The presence of a wingman makes the flight both offensively and defensively more capable by increasing firepower and situational awareness, permitting the attack of enemies, and increasing the ability to employ more dynamic tactics.”
The summary statement is that you are bigger, badder, and better together. The mental image of the planes working as one helps us move into some practical territory. The crux of the film is Maverick’s struggle to understand that leadership actually means taking a big dose of “followship.” His call sign already lets us know that he has a hard time working and playing well with others. With the introduction of the Iceman,... (clench teeth now), he is forced to trade independence of interdependence. Maverick was great on his own, he was greater on a team. A wise leader embraces this idea of interdependence and uses it to teach.
Author & leader Dave Ferguson gives us a great method for the interaction between a mentor and protégé, or in our case, between you and your wingman. Here are the stages he describes in his book Exponential:
1. I do. You watch. We talk.
2. I do. You help. We talk.
3. You do. I help. We talk.
4. You do. I watch. We talk.
5. You do. Someone else watches.
Although he doesn't claim ownership to this method, until I read it in Exponential, I had never heard it put so concisely. As a team leader, it helps me think practically about something that might have just remained a good intention. Studying this simple process of mentoring, helps leaders at all levels cultivate a wingman who will be challenged to then reproduce the same.
The application is plain for worship leaders. But, whether you are a ministry leader, marketplace leader, parent, (or all of the above) you now have a framework to use with the strategic relationships the Lord has placed in your path. Lastly, notice the amount of evaluation (talking) in the process. Be ready to talk it out and ask great questions. Also, be ready to explain yourself. You'll be amazed at how much you lead from pure, God-given, intuition. Enjoy the journey of explaining why it is you do what you do.
*I have recently come to find out I've been missing a major national holiday! Little did I know that May 13 of every year is TOP GUN DAY? I know, right??? Check it out here: http://www.topgunday.com/
**Also check out the TOP GUN CALL SIGN GENERATOR here: http://www.topgunday.com/call-sign-generator/
***Read more Dave Ferguson here:
Ferguson, Dave, and Jon Ferguson. Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Print.
Lt. Stephen 'Caesar' Smith (my generated top gun call sign)
I look forward to your comments below
The Eagles recorded the song Hotel California in February 1977 and it went on to win the Grammy for album of the year. It’s an unmistakable song like no other in the acoustic-rock anthology. Submitted to the band without lyrics by Eagles guitarist Don Felder under the name “Mexican Reggae”, Glenn Frey and Don Henley went on to add the classic, yet controversial lyrics.
It describes the story of a person checking into a hotel only to discover he is now trapped in a mysterious alternate universe he cannot escape. I can clearly remember where I first heard it as a little kid. I can clearly see my buddy’s house in my mind. In fact, I CANNOT listen to it without thinking about a ranch style with brown shag carpet. After hearing its mysterious intro, vivid lyrics, and euphoric guitar duet , I thought to myself “I... don’t know if I should keep listening to this...it’s freaking me out!” I mean “steely knives” and not being able to “kill the beast.” This church boy wanted to run for cover. So did the Church. By the mid-eighties, some in the evangelical community thought the Eagles were in league with Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan in San Francisco. In its full-length back-masked form, Hotel California, has apparently been written by Satan himself and released by David Geffen under the Asylum label. Who knew?
What the writers succeeded in doing was touching a universal emotion. None of us want to be trapped. None of us want to be held against our will. None of us want to be duped.
Solomon uses this imagery in Proverbs 9 to illustrate what I think is the original Hotel California. He describes two houses. One house is built by “wisdom,” the other by “folly.” The house of wisdom has set the table for humanity to come inside to drink, dine, and walk in the way of insight. Wisdom (she) instructs us to fear God, embrace the knowledge of the Holy One, and enjoy long life. Folly’s house is much the same only situated at the highest point of the city. Folly (she) sits on a throne at the door of her house and invites humanity in. Her invitation, however, is shaded and twisted into another form: enticement. She is calling out to the “simple” to come in and enjoy secret pleasures of stolen water and delicious foods. The punch statement of the allegory appears in verse 18: “But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.”...The house of folly is inescapable.
Glenn and Don got it right. In their attempt to illustrate what Henley called "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles", they have also amplified an eternal truth that God has placed in each human heart. The way of wisdom is also the way of innocence. Someplace deep in our souls, we have knowledge of His house. He has placed eternity in the heart of every person. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we want to understand God more deeply. The fool abides self-deception. The fool marches into folly’s house and trades delicacies for his soul.
Maybe I got it right as a little kid too. The song should frighten everyone of us. Not because of some ulterior bit of song craft, but because it reminds us who we are. There are competing voices that call out against what we know to be wisdom. You can deny it for a lifetime, but it doesn't negate the truth. One turn into the doorway of that house, and sin has you by the throat. Don’t even go there.
NEW song, young guys
old song, old guys
old song, jung guy