Monthly Archives: February 2013

Friends in high placesMaybe you are struggling to discover how all the pieces of your life will fit together and create the masterpiece God desires. Maybe you wish for a friend in high places who could pull a few strings or help open a door. Listen to Psalm 138:8, “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me.” (NIV)  Even though you may not understand it all now, if you will begin to fulfill God’s purposes and worship Him in all you do, God will fulfill His purpose in you, despite your present circumstances.

Over a hundred years ago (in the 1890’s), two young men were working their way through Stanford University. One was an orphan and had spent most of his boyhood in Newberg, Oregon (my hometown) living with relatives. Both were very poor and at one point their money was almost gone, so they decided to engage the great Polish pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski  (1860-1941) for a concert and use the profits for board and tuition.

Paderewski’s manager asked for a guarantee of $2,000, a fortune in those days. The students worked hard to promote the concert, but they came up $400 short. After the performance, they went to the musician, gave him all the money they had raised, and promised to pay the $400 as soon as they could.   It appeared that their college days were over.

“No, boys, that won’t do,” said the pianist. “Take out of this $1,600 all your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work.   Let me have the rest.”

Years passed. At least one of the young men, the orphan, graduated from Stanford with a degree in engineering. His accomplishments in that field earned him both fame and fortune. During World War I he took on the task of getting food, shelter, and clothing to thousands of European civilians, a job for which he accepted no salary. After the United States entered the war, President Woodrow Wilson named him U.S. food administrator. Following the war, he was appointed chairman of the American Relief Administration to assist in the economic restoration of Europe.

Meanwhile, back in Poland the piano playing Paderewski also got involved in public service and was elected premier of Poland following World War I. But times were hard and thousands of his countrymen were starving. Only one man could help, the head of the American Relief Bureau. Paderewski’s appeal to him brought thousands of tons of food. Later he met the American statesman to thank him.[1]

“That’s all right,” replied Herbert Hoover. “Besides, you probably don’t remember, but you helped me once when I was a student in college.”[2]

herbert-hoover-j-paderewskiHerbert Hoover went on to become the 31st President of the United States in 1929. And his friendship with Paderewski continued. During the Great Depression, all the banks failed in Iowa City, Iowa near Hoover’s birthplace. As a favor to him, Paderewski played a benefit concert with Mrs. Hoover as hostess and nearly $12,000 was raised for the benefit of the residents of the small Iowa town. In 1938 Hoover paid a diplomatic visit to Geneva and miffed League of Nations officials by ignoring their new $10 million palace in favor of a private call on his aging friend, Ignace Jan Paderewski.[3]

Your choices to provide simple acts of kindness and courtesy may be part of the larger plan God has in fulfilling His purposes in your life. God may then orchestrate delightful surprises in response to those choices. “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.” (Proverbs 3:27 The Message) Your hand of kindness to a stranger in need might result in a friend for life. And you never know, that friend might someday become the leader a nation and return the favor. It’s good to have friends in high places.

[2]Quote from Encarta® 98 Desk Encyclopedia ©  1996-97 Microsoft Corporation.

[3]Smith, Richard Norton, An Uncommon Man:  The Triumph of Herbert Hoover.  New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1984, pp. 137, 252.

Happy Valentine’s Day to My Gorgeous Girl

Jodi Dunlap Detrick ca 1972 cropped

Jodi Dunlap Detrick ca 1972 – age 15
Photo by Don Detrick – age 17

When I first met the gorgeous girl
She was only fifteen.
Her waist length enchanting brown hair
Falling straight down her back with no curl.

I thought it was quite sensational
That a pretty, intelligent girl
Who was very conversational
Would want to talk to me.
But she did.

If she had said,
“Marry me and your wildest dreams
Will all come true”
I would have believed her.

She didn’t say it,
But I did, and they did.

Life has brought some wild moments,
But the calm within life’s fort
Is the gorgeous girl I married.
Her lovely hair now colored and short.

And together through the years
With laughter’s joy and sorrow’s tears
Our dreams have evolved
Over time more defined.
They became less wild
And more refined.

She made my dreams come true
This gracious woman who said “I do.”
The proof is in our children
Three lives, distinctly set apart.
But each a true reflection
Of their mother’s loving heart.

(c)2010 Don Detrick –  First written for Jodi on Mother’s Day 2010

Teams and Teamwork, Part Four – Energy & Empowerment

teamwork with graphicI’ve worked with some great team leaders who energized and empowered their teams. I’ve also worked with some who seemed to be aloof, seldom scheduled team meetings or gave direction, and knew how to suck the energy out of the room whenever we did have a meeting. I’ve also been a team leader, and although my intentions were always to energize and empower, I am certain I fell short on many occasions as tunnel vision, deadlines, and distractions got in my way.

Today Michael Hyatt posted some excellent observations on, “5 Ways to Energize Your Team.”[1] Michael has a way of succinctly stating the obvious in a fresh manner, so I am listing his five points and will close with a couple of thoughts:

  1. Assume others are smart and working hard.
  2. Listen intently and ask thoughtful questions.
  3. Acknowledge the sacrifices others have made on your behalf.
  4. Express gratitude for their effort and their results.
  5. Remind them why their work is so important and the difference they are making.

Number one above helps us avoid the fundamental attribution error that occurs whenever we assume our own intentions and actions are good even though circumstances may cause us to be a little off our game (we are smart and working hard), but erroneously assume that others are just slacking off.

Number two is essential for a collaborative environment where people are free to share ideas without judgment. Some people never speak because they know no one is listening. The team loses whenever that occurs. We encourage the hearts of our team members when they know they and their ideas are honored, listened to, and respected.

Number three and four seem to go together. Success is seldom a solo accomplishment. Everyone appreciates a little appreciation, and team leaders need the humility and ability to share the wins by shining the spotlight on the team. Leaders also need to acknowledge what is going on behind the scenes, and how some team members may persevere and discover crucial solutions that could be hidden in obscurity if they are not prone to sing their own praises. For a team leader to keep silent or take credit is a sure way to breed resentment and change the dynamic from team to group of rivals.

Number five is all about the mission, and keeping the purpose in view at all times. Jesus encouraged the hearts of his team members (disciples) in each of these ways. It would be a good Bible study to discover the specific references in the Gospels where he modeled these five behaviors. Here’s one example: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50 NIV) Leadership requires discipleship, which requires follower-ship. As we follow Christ, we will learn better ways to equip and empower our teams and in the process make and become better disciples.

Teams and Teamwork, Part Three

teamwork with graphicWe’ve been talking about teamwork, specifically how working as a team makes harvest possible from a spiritual perspective. To a certain extent, the harvest is the bottom line for the farmer, and it is also true in the church. All of our efforts at cultivating, sowing, and tending a crop are in vain if there is no harvest. Jesus made his purpose clear: “to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) In church teams, our ultimate mission and purpose must be in alignment with Jesus’ mission and purpose. And do you remember the importance of prioritizing purpose from the Leadership Network report on church teams mentioned in the last post in this series?

Here is another excerpt from my upcoming book, Growing Disciples Organically: The Jesus Method of Spiritual Formation. In it I discuss these principles and also share more about my neighbors, Granny and Gramps Plake.

A harvest is always anticipated. No one plants a crop and expects it to fail. The investment is too great. The Bible uses the metaphor of fruit to describe intentionality. “Be fruitful, and multiply,” God told Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:32). Jesus called us to “go, and bring forth fruit” (John 15:16). “The fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22) describes the qualities of maturation that result from organic growth.

Blank white book w/pathWhen it comes to spiritual formation, we should expect to become fruitful followers of Jesus. At any given point in time, an organism is either dying, declining, living, growing, or thriving. The same is true for our spiritual growth. Where do you see yourself in that continuum? What would it take to change? How can you engage more fully in your own spiritual formation so you can expect to be a participant in the harvest?

Obedience to Jesus Christ opens the door for growth, and obedience often means working to bring in the harvest. It is understood that proper nourishment, cultivation, and environment are all necessary for sustained growth at every stage of development. Faith, life, and community lead to fruit, the organic result for harvest. When this is not the case, or when growth is stunted, it’s time to get back to basics. The writer of Hebrews spoke to this issue:

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12–14)

Spiritual formation and the resulting harvest have a lot to do with sowing and reaping. If you don’t invest much on the sowing end of things, you won’t reap much of a harvest. But even a small investment can reap great dividends if we invest in the right things.

Granny and Gramps, mentioned earlier, knew the value of investment in things that truly matter. While you’d never have known it by looking at their humble home and surroundings, they were storing up eternal treasures by investing in people. They raised many of their own grandchildren whose parents had died, and their kindness extended beyond their family to neighbors and even strangers who were welcomed to partake of Granny’s meals.

Granny and Gramps were a team during nearly seventy years of marriage, up until the end of their lives. Everyone thought that Gramps would go first, even though he eventually gave up his smoking habit. But somewhat surprisingly, the spry and seemingly healthy Granny ended up in the hospital and then an extended-care facility because of congestive heart failure. I visited and prayed with them often, and was there the day Granny went to heaven. Grief-stricken Gramps went home and the next morning a grandson found him slumped over in a chair with a smile on his face. Their separation had not been long, as both were reunited at the feet of their Savior. At their combined memorial service, hundreds of relatives, friends, and neighbors paid tribute to this humble couple who teamed up to make a difference in the lives of others. (From Chapter 13: Teamwork Makes Harvest Possible, Growing Disciples Organically: The Jesus Method of Spiritual Formation, Deep River Books, ©2013 Don Detrick)

Teams and Teamwork, Part Two

teamwork with graphicIn my last post I mentioned the new report authored by Warren Byrd and Ryan Hartwig from Leadership Network and Azusa Pacific University showing the results of surveying 125 church teams last year. You will find a link in the last post to access the report. I found particularly interesting their number one suggestion for strengthening your team: “Clarify the team’s specific purpose–making sure it is distinct from simply providing general leadership to the church–and increase the challenge of that purpose.”

Why do you exist? What are you doing? These are the two questions every team must consider. The first is the question of purpose, and the second is the question of mission. When you discover the answer to those questions as a team, you have unlocked the power of multiplication exponentially. Two people working together can ultimately accomplish things it would be impossible for one person to achieve alone. This is a biblical principle: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 New Living Translation) Depending upon the task, the team effect is multiplied by the combined efforts of the group.

As a boy growing up on the farm, I often helped elderly neighbors accomplish tasks they could not have accomplished on their own. The following is story from my upcoming book, Growing Disciples Organically:

Members of agricultural communities join together to bring in the harvest. This is a time-honored core value that recognizes the importance of teamwork and synergy, that the combined effort of the whole, working together, is greater than the sum of the parts working individually. Farmers were community organizers long before the term was popularized by politicians.

Blank white book w/pathAs a boy, I have fond memories of helping my elderly neighbor, Grandpa Plake, bring in his hay. I started when I was about ten years old, and continued to work with him until I graduated from high school. Although we were not related, everyone in our neighborhood called these dear folks Grandpa, or “Gramps” and Granny Plake.

“Now Donnie, I’ll tell you what, Mr. Man, we’ve got to get all this hay baled and put up in the barn” he would say as he tried to start his ancient orange Allis Chalmers tractor. “I’ll be needing it to feed the cows come winter.”

Actually, his words were more of a wheeze than anything else, the result of a lifetime of smoking Camel cigarettes. Gramps was a skinny beanpole of a weathered old man, his face as wrinkled as the bark on an ancient oak. He would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it, and I enjoyed helping him (although I sometimes wonder how much help I really was, because the eighty-pound bales weighed almost as much as I did when I began working with him). The sweat poured from our brows as we worked together to get the job done. There is no way I could have done the work by myself, especially at the age of ten. Gramps could never have done it alone either. I think I provided him the moral support and companionship that made it possible. Together, we always brought in the hay. Granny would fix us a big meal at lunch, and we would say grace, honoring the Lord for his provision and another year of harvest. (From Chapter 13: Teamwork Makes Harvest Possible, Growing Disciples Organically: The Jesus Method of Spiritual Formation, Deep River Books, ©2013 Don Detrick)

In my next post I’ll share a bit more about teamwork and the rest of the story about Granny and Gramps Plake.