Leaders Look Beyond The Obvious

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.   For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

The bible is filled with stories of leaders looking beyond the obvious. Two such stories illustrated Joshua’s perception of current events (see Deuteronomy 1:22-38; Joshua 5:13-6:20). How about David slaying the Giant or Peter’s visit to Cornelius’s house (Act 10:9-48) or how can we forget how Jesus looked beyond the obvious, with the raising of the little girl that was announced to be dead. “She is not dead; she is sleeping (Mark 5:39).

Let’s us not forget our modern day saints who changed the world, such as, Reverend Troy Perry who made it possible for “queer people” to embrace Christianity and believe in a living God again; or the Reverend John Shelby Spong who helps us to look beyond religion and theism to understand the love of God.

It is not necessary to only look at religious figures who challenge us to look beyond the obvious.  Consider Barack Obama who fought the odds to become our first black President of these United States with the theme, “Yes We Can.” Or Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com which has changed our methods of buying, owning and reading books, or Steve Jobs who brought Apple back from near extinction. Who can refute what the internet and the likes of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have done to our political landscape and to our world.

I am sure you know of people, not so famous, who have made your world a better place because they looked beyond the obvious. Let’s not be like the many birds in the picture looking in the same direction. Find the bird that’s looking in a different direction. That’s the one we often need to follow. So what do you see differently that could be changed to improve your life or those around you?

I know it’s hard when you are struggling. What have you been struggling with? Have you taken the blinders off and looked at things in a different way? You are not alone, I am trying too. As I wrestle with the obvious, I know God is asking me to look at things differently; to look beyond the obvious. I pray that you will do the same when you are faced with life’s challenges.


From Vision to Reality, Part II: Servant Leadership

I am black and beautiful….”Song of Solomon, 1:5, NRSV.

On the eve of celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you will see various articles about his dreams and his leadership. First let’s reflect on his dream.

Who could forget the August, 1963 “I have a Dream” speech given by King at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC? Or the many marches that he and others led to capture such a dream. Can you hear freedom ring? Let’s listen.

“….When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

A recent poll (January 5-10, 2011) conducted by the Associated Press and GFK (AP-GFK) Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications revealed that 77% of Americans feel that as a country we have gone far in realizing King’s dream.

Yes, dreams are needed, but actions are more important. This reminds me of the Japanese proverb that reads: “vision without action is simply a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” That’s what I want to highlight today. King was a leader, but not just any leader. He was a servant leader, a transforming leader. He was the kind of leader that we thirst for today; a leader to transform our minds and hearts; a leader to transform our country and to transform our world. King foresaw his legacy and delivered a message from the heart that was heard by many at his funeral. Here’s a portion of it.

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long…. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize-that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards-that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

“I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like somebody to say that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness….

King is one of my heroes. It was his vision and his leadership that made it possible for me to realize that my potential, my dreams could be a reality. A far cried from the reality that my parents and grandparents realized.

Now I want to leave you with a post that I penned on January 16, 2009, the weekend prior to the inauguration of Barack Obama, our first Black president of these United States.

I am black and beautiful. Not hard to say or believe now, but there was a time when I and many African-Americans wishfully wondered about such a statement: “I am black and beautiful. Yet today we have reason to celebrate; a reason to be proud of our skin color. For if it was not for Martin Luther King and the many civil rights leaders and brave souls of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, January 20, 2009 would not be a reality today.

On Monday, January 19, 2009, the nation will celebrate and honor the work of Martin Luther King—the “Drum Major for Justice.” – “The Dreamer” – whose dream is becoming reality within the same generation, as the world witnesses Barack Obama take oath to be President of these United States. We go from “I have a Dream” to “Yes We Can.”

From Martin Luther King to Barack Obama and to all the community organizers, civil rights leaders and the faithful in between, we salute you. We praise you. We honor you and yes, we thank you. We thank you for your sacrifices; the sacrifices that have given this country an opportunity to live up to its creed; to show the world that America is truly a nation that believes all men and women are created equal.