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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prayer For COWPENS & CAPT Graf

A great leadership tragedy has gripped the interest and attention of the Navy in general and the Surface community specifically in recent days. There is an enormous amount of stir on naval forums, blogs, and the media over the current relief of the COWPENS' Commanding Officer, CAPT Holly Graf, due to "cruelty and mistreatment" of her Officers and crew. Since this blog is mostly dedicated to (Christian) naval leadership I would be remiss to not add my comments. Clearly, CAPT Graf's conduct, attested to by many who have served/known her, is incompatible with the type of leadership expected and normally practiced in the Surface Navy. I believe this is why the outcry within the community has been so extensive and passionate.

So, my thoughts have been on what should be our response? We would do well to recognize that this type of behavior is rooted in a broken heart. Sin (fear, selfish ambition, pride, control, etc.) drives leaders to abuse their position of authority and consequently those that they have been called to lead/serve. Secondly, we must recognize that each of us have within us the capacity for such actions as well. I know that I am capable of far worse things than those that I have read about occurring under CAPT Graf's command. Realize for the regenerate it is the grace of God that restrains the sin that stems "cruelty and mistreatment" of other people. We too are often cruel toward others and mistreat people as we pursue our own agenda and fight to fulfill our own desires (James 4:1-2). Have you ever acted out in anger? Have you spoken cruelly to another person? Have you belittled those you know? Have you ever struggled to maintain control in the midst of fear and ambition-induced stress? I certainly have (and I am a Christian, supposedly sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit and governed by the principles of the Bible!). OK, maybe not as consistently or publicly as CAPT Graf, but the same source of darkness entrenched in her is resident in you and me. Surely, "but for the grace of God go I" is an appropriate response. Don't you see - Holly Graf is you, Holly Graf is me. We all are deserving of being "fired." What if we were to receive what we deserved? What if we were treated according to our actions, the unseen acts committed when no one is watching, and the secret motives of our hearts? You know what I'm talking about - those things that cause you sleepless nights as you ponder them in the still quiet darkness - laying restlessly in bed in the middle of the night - that you have done, which you wish could be undone. We should be so very thankful that God's grace restrains the effects of the Fall and our sinful flesh. We are not treated according to who we are and what we do.

So, CAPT Graf should serve as a momentary mirror giving pause for self-reflection. Our response should be to recognize that she is not beyond the redemption afforded by the Gospel. God uses times of brokenness to humble people and call them to repent and turn to a real and personal relationship with Him. Surely, CAPT Graf's world has came crashing down around her. Formerly, her identity was found in her career - it has been shattered. May she look to the Lord and be re-created anew as her identity becomes rooted in her relationship with the only Thing that is real and lasting. Finally (or, even better, firstly), let us pray. Pray for Holly Graf. Pray for her to be driven to godly repentance. Pray that this event in her life be the sharp needle that penetrates her hardened heart making way for the silken thread of the Gospel to enter. Pray that this temporary tragedy results in THE relationship that provides the experience of eternal life. Also, Pray for CAPT Marin as he assumes command of COWPENS (remember God has appointed him to this position at such a time as this, Rom. 13:1). He has a great challenge ahead of him and will need divine strength, wisdom, compassion, and discernment as he leads the battered Sailors of the Mighty Moo. Pray for the crew of the ship as they recover; that there would remain no bitterness and their faith and respect for the position of "Commanding Officer" and the Wardroom would be re-established and re-affirmed. Pray for those Surface Warfare Officers and Sailors that read about CAPT Graf that they would reflect on their own leadership style; considering how they can improve their own care for those they sail with. Pray that the culture of the surface community would change. That we would become more transparent and honest in how we lead and by what criteria we evaluate those with the potential for further service as leaders in this great Navy. We have case studies to examine groundings, poor INSURVs, safety mishaps, and tactical mistakes in combat. Yet, rarely do we talk specifically about the multitude of firings and causes for reliefs by senior leaders that inundate the cover of Navy Times. The details are kept secret and the perpetrators never give an account. They are simply and quietly sneaked into a cubicle in the basement of the Pentagon or stashed on a staff until eased into retirement. The next generation of leaders need to know what went wrong, why these CO's were removed, and what specifically made their behavior unacceptable. This kind of conversation must occur if we are ever going to change - to improve for our Sailor's sake. It is my prayer that we will become more transparent and in discussing how to lead and where leaders have failed - emerge as a more healthy community - established in leadership attributes that reflect a heart of service, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control, and ultimately love for our followers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

To Serve w/ An Agenda

The secular world has readily adopted Servant Leadership as viable and effective, yet are we not called to something completely different than mere “value based leadership” by taking care of our people. I would assert that any theory of leadership (Servant or otherwise) is insufficient without Christ as the center. I have been pondering a new model of leadership I describe as “Redemptive Leadership” that is aligned with the premise of being flourish-focused (in the Biblical sense of the word; this will be defined and explored) as leaders. There is much hype in Christian and even secular circles of Servant Leadership based on Robert K. Greenleaf’s work culminating in the popular book of the same name. However, I am proposing that Servant Leadership is limited in scope, not fully representative of Christ-centered leading. The Bible describes the mission focus of the Lord stating, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for the redemption of many” (Matt. 20: 28). Servant Leadership enthusiasts assert that leaders should serve without an intended organizational goal; they are completely determined to simply serve their subordinates without an expected return. Yet, I submit that Christ had an agenda in serving – to redeem His people, restoring them to all that the Father had originally created them for. Redemption is the exchange of one thing for another; Christ traded His life for those that were condemned and helpless to save themselves, and in so doing restored the fallen creation to an intimate relationship with God. I will explore the implications of His redemption on our ability and intent to lead redemptively in the coming days. Questions/comments?

Prime-Mover Maintenance

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring (ultimate cause) of (your) life. Prv. 4:23

Inside most "small boys" (CG/DDG/FFG surface combatants) are gas turbine engines. Deep inside the recesses of the hull, near the keel, in hot engine rooms lie up to seven of these modified aircraft engines. They are the prime movers that make the propellers push the ship through the water and generate all of the required power for the vessel. They are the heart and soul of the ship - without them the ship is but a piece of dormant floating metal - a lifeless barge. Everyday each engine is provided rest and thoroughly washed with fresh water and a specifically designed cleaning solution. They are complex and delicate machines that must be treated with extreme care and constantly maintained if the ship is going to be able to conduct the mission it is designed for.

The heart is the gas turbine engine of the person. It is complex, delicate, and susceptible to wear and the perpetual build-up of dirt and grime (sin) as it is used throughout the day (Jer. 17:9). Daily the heart should be brought down for maintenance and cleansed in the specifically designed cleaning Solution of the Gospel. Daily, let us examine our hearts in light of the Word and confess the sin that stems from it that we may be completely washed, restored as an entirely new thing, improved for the task that the Lord has for us.

This verse is like a bar of soap for the Christian. "If we confess out sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness." (1st Jn. 1: 9)

Generous in love - God, give grace!
Huge in mercy - wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I've been;
my sins are staring me down.
(Ps. 51:1-3 Message Translation)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bad News/Good News

"Gospel" literally means "good news" - and to understand the good news you must understand the bad news. Contrast yields understanding and appreciation. The extent of your understanding of the bad news is directly proportional to your understanding of the Gospel. Read with me Lk. 7: 36-50. These were/are life changing words for me. That woman "who lived a sinful life" deeply understood her personal bad news story. It drove her to brokenness, in tears, giving her greatest possession, brought low in humility before man, in worshipful service of Jesus. She grasped well the gravity of her total depravity. Think hard on the words of our Lord in verse 47, "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Our story ends with this mysterious woman being granted redemption - an exchange: removal of sin, replaced by peace! We have been and are being redeemed so that we are capable and empowered to be redemptive leaders.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Over All Lines!

Our supreme need, our only need, is to know God, the living God, and the power of his might. We need nothing else. It is just that, the power of the living God, to know that the living God is among us and that nothing else matters. . . . I say, forget everything else. Forget everything else. We need to realize the presence of the living God amongst us. Let everything else be silent. This is no time for minor differences. We all need to know the touch of the power of the living God. ~D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

It is interesting to consider the freeing effect when the sins that enchained are broken and the unencumbered self begins to emerge. It's like the ship, doing what a ship is meant to do - which is to say go to sea, as the mooring lines are cast off. Jesus taught, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (Jn. 8:31-32, 34-36) The knowledge of the saving truth, only revealed by the accompanying Holy Spirit, is able to equip one for obedient following of the Lord’s teachings. There is freedom, distinct from salvation freedom, as we progress in the sanctification (Phil. 1:6) and further realization of who we are in Christ and what we have been designed for (i.e. glorify God and enjoy Him forever). Sin seeks to shackle each individual (believers and non-believers alike) to prevent this realization and ultimately to kill the Creator-reflecting humanity in each person. We forget, and so Christ reminds us that we are free indeed and the Spirit that raised Him from the dead has released us from the chains that bind and delivered us unto a transcendent life for His glory and our good. As change occurs it is not personality that is being transformed - for the Christian - but, Jesus emerging through us as His character is revealed. We diminish, He develops.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Groaning In The Mire

“The effort to think like a Christian is . . . an effort to take seriously the sovereignty of God over the world he created, the lordship of Christ over the world he died to redeem, and the power of the Holy Spirit over the world he sustains each and every moment. From this perspective the search for a mind that truly thinks like a Christian takes on ultimate significance, because the search for a Christian mind is not, in the end, a search for the mind but a search for God.” —Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, p. 253 (from JT's Blog)

Have you ever felt angered, saddened, and burdened by the sin that surrounds you? Rather it is the environmental effects of the Fall (i.e. sickness and death) or the unrestrained sin of those in your Wardroom and crew? Read with me in Romans 8: 22-25: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently." What is this groaning that Paul speaks of? Is this not the inward pain resulting from being broken and part of this hurting world while desiring to be home with the Lord. Tripp states that, “This side of eternity, groaning is meant to be the default language of the big kingdom.” We desire more in this life that just this life. The Redemptive Leader will foster within another person the deep longing for something more than self-serving achievement and fulfillment. We are able to assist the unbeliever in breaking free from self as they seek to serve something bigger by creating a Gospel-infected environment counter to the default, sinfully accepted setting of "Sailors being Sailors."

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Sin That Surrounds

So much of the what we read in Scripture is metaphor. Consider the verses provided a couple of days ago (Mt 14:22-36, Mk. 4:35, 41; 6:48, 51). Taken literally these passages would be little more than a "Dummy's Guide to Sailor Survival." We would understand it as simply a prescription for prayer should we ever find ourselves in a small boat being overtaken by the winds and waves of a storm. Of course, it is much more than that - it is a metaphor. What if the storm was the sin that surrounds us? Sin infects every aspect of the environment - bringing disorder, decay, and disrepair to everything we encounter. All is not as it should be. In each of these stories we learn that as the storms of sin descend and dissipate our hope is to remain in Christ. He is our "boat" of security - the vessel that prevents our sinking helplessly in the mire. Note in Mark when Jesus enters the boat peace replaces humanistic struggle at the "oars" (what are your "oars"?). We are made safe from the sin that surrounds in the security of the Savior that surrounds.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Quest For More

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Cor. 9:25


In “A Quest for More” the author, Paul Tripp, does an amazing job at connecting faith with functional living. He states, “You and I were created for more that filling up our schedules with the self-satisfying pursuits of personal pleasure. We were meant to do more than make sure that all of our needs are fulfilled and all our desires are satisfied. We were never meant to be self-focused little kings ruling minuscule little kingdoms with the population of one. Sure, it’s right for you to care about your health, you job, your house, your investments, your family, and your friends. It would be irresponsible to act as if none of those things mattered. Yet it is a functional human tragedy to live only for those things. It is a fundamental denial of your humanity to narrow the size of your life to the size of your own existence, because you were created to be an “above and more” being. You were made to be transcendent.” Viewing life as transcendent will alter our perception of how to live life daily and may eradicate “to do” lists and many of the other helpful hints that we have been discussing in this forum. Should not our thoughts on life be much more significant than they are?