Steve Macchia Blog

Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 7

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Chapter 7 of Benedict’s Rule of Life is about “Humility” as introduced in the previous entry. Here we will consider each of the 12 steps of the Ladder of Humility.

 

  1. The first step of humility is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes and never forgets it.
  2. The second step of humility is that a man loves not his own will nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires; rather he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”
  3. The third step of humility is that a man submits to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says, “He became obedient even to death.”
  4. The fourth step of humility is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.
  5. The fifth step of humility is that a man does not conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts entering his heart, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confesses them humbly.
  6. The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment, and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given.
  7. The seventh step of humility is that a man only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value, humbling himself in order to learn God’s commandments.
  8. The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his superiors.
  9. The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, for ‘in a flood of words you will not avoid sinning.’
  10. The tenth step of humility is that he is not given to ready laughter, for it is written, ‘only a fool raises his voice in laughter.’
  11. The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising his voice, as it is written, ‘A wise man is known by his few words.’
  12. The twelfth step of humility is that a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart, so that it is evident at the Work of God, in the oratory, the monastery or the garden, on a journey or in the field, or anywhere else.

 

For Benedict, ascending all these steps of humility is how the person arrives at the doorstep of perfect love of God, which casts out all fear. What may start out being lives of love performed out of dread, will now become more naturally lives filled with the expressions of good habit and delight in virtue – all out of love for Christ. “All this the Lord will by the Holy Spirit graciously manifest in his workman now cleansed of vices and sins.”

 

Imagine for a moment if each of your words, attitudes, actions, and interactions were a reflection of the humility of Christ, expressed through you and for God’s glory. What would be your most dramatic impressions of loving humility shared possibly for the very first time?

 

Consider crafting your own rule of life and join the community of other like hearts and minds at www.RuleOfLife.com

 

 



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Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 6

 

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Of the 73 chapters in Benedict’s Rule of Life, by far the one that’s most important to consider is chapter 7 on “Humility.” His focus of humility is really the apex of the Rule, for to know Benedict is to realize he’s all about this one major theme: humility.

 

He describes humility based on Jesus’ teaching, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11; 18:14).  He writes that every exaltation is a kind of pride, which must always be shunned. In contrast, if we want to “reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw angels descending and ascending” (Gen. 28:12). And then, “Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility.”

 

Benedict’s Ladder of humility is one that is erected as our life on earth, and if we “humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven. We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.”  Therefore, as we hold onto our body and soul with our right and left hands, and discipline them to be our stable front and rear guard in life and vocation, we step up and ascend to heaven one foot at a time.

 

It’s a fascinating concept. The ladder of humility is considered a metaphor for life. Rather than seeing humility as one of descent, which makes more sense to others like Bernard of Clairvaux would write and encourage the downward plunge toward the humus/dirt of humility, Benedict paints the picture of ascent toward heaven. This ascent is only possible through the lens and life of humility. The highest summit is what we’re to live toward, prayerfully, obediently and faithfully…one step and one maturing season of life at a time.

 

Humility is best described in the person of Jesus Christ. He was born humbly in a manger. He lived humbly within the context of his carpentry family. He served humbly after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness. He loved humbly, first with his immediate disciples and then with all who crossed his path. He was arrested humbly as he submitted himself to his betrayers and earthly authorities. He suffered and died humbly on the cross he carried to Golgotha, with whip lashes on his back and a thorn-filled crown on his head. He even rose from the dead humbly, without any fanfare, and then appeared to his disciples humbly after his resurrection.

 

Everything Jesus said and lived was out of a humble context of love. He invites us to live the same way…humbly, gently, lovingly. Will you say yes to his invitation and take one step at a time up the ladder of humble ascent toward your eternal home in heaven?

 

Consider crafting your own rule of life and join the community of other like hearts and minds at www.RuleOfLife.com

 



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Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 5

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Chapter 5 of Benedict’s Rule speaks to the topic of “Obedience” – as a step toward humility and best expressed unhesitatingly. Not the most popular of themes for today. We may speak of the obedience of dogs while being trained by their owner, but among people this gets scant coverage. We live in a world where we’re encouraged to do our own thing and obey what our instincts call us to fulfill, not necessarily obey what others may request of us. This happens in politics, business, education, and even the church and the family.

 

Benedict is pretty straight forward about his convictions about obedience. And, they are based in several Scriptures, such as “No sooner did he hear than he obeyed me” (Psalm 17:45); “Whoever listens to you, listens to me” (Luke 10:16 ); and “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Very specifically, his belief about the priority of obedience comes from the need to listen carefully to the voice and teachings of Christ. Listening is the core discipline that underlies the obedient response. Good listening to God evokes faithful living for God. This translates to the obedience of the voice of authority in disciplined attitudes and actions.

 

And, it is love that impels one to pursue everlasting life. That’s how Benedict promoted obedience and one’s eagerness to take the narrow road that leads to the abundant life.  Here he contrasts a life that “gives in to the whims and appetites” rather than walking according to the judgment of another’s decisions and directions. To choose to obey the leadership of another with a glad heart and without grudge or grumble is what pleases the Lord. To do so in any other way would be to live out of favor with God.  When “grumbling is in his heart” there will be no reward for service of any kind. Benedict promotes the priority of the heart in all matters great and small.

 

It’s interesting to observe that the following chapter in Benedict’s Rule, chapter 6, deals with “Restraint of Speech” and here he reminds his followers to consider the psalmist’s counsel “I have resolved to keep watch over my ways that I may never sin with my tongue. I have put a guard on my mouth. I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good works” (Psalm 38: 2,3).  The strong message here: evil speech must be always be curbed and left unsaid silence is often more powerful than even the best of words. Humility and submission trumps any form of vulgarity and gossip, for the former promotes a life of obedience and the latter is all about an independent spirit.

 

Benedict’s Rule is all about a heart of loving obedience first and foremost to God and then faithfully lived out in community. I wonder what life and ministry would look like if we dealt more specifically with the subject of “obedience” especially in our homes and churches. Would we agree on what obedience means both theoretically and practically?

 

Consider crafting your own rule of life and join the community of other like hearts and minds at www.RuleOfLife.com



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Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 4

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Chapter 4 of Benedict’s Rule of Life speaks to the topic of “The Tools for Good Works” and it’s fascinating what he covers in this chapter…with a “punch line” at the end. In this chapter he begins with the simple reminder to first of all, “Love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Then, all else will follow “You are not to kill, not to commit adultery; you are not to steal nor to covet, you are not to bear false witness. You must honor everyone, and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself.” Five biblical mandates all tied together in the opening paragraph.

 

Then, for the next twelve paragraphs he quotes from an additional eight biblical texts with commentary in between. For Benedict, the tools for good works reside within oneself and how we are to act toward others. In this regard, it’s more about self-discipline than external “tools” to be used in a more utilitarian manner toward others. “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”  This different-from-the-world way of living includes such actions as: You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge; rid your heart of all deceit; never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love; bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.

 

And then, what follows is masterful…instructions for his followers that sticks close to the Scriptures and how best to fulfill what the Lord invites us as believers to be as children of God. “Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ; discipline your body; do not pamper yourself, but love fasting. Go to help the troubled and console the sorrowing.” All of this is outward in focus, but comes from a heart  of loving obedience.

  • Do not repay one bad turn for another
  • Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently
  • Love your enemies; if people curse you, bless them instead
  • Endure perseverance for the sake of justice
  • Do not be proud, nor be given to wine
  • Refrain from laziness; do not grumble or speak ill of others
  • Place your hope in God alone; always give credit to God
  • Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire
  • Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech
  • Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer
  • Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh
  • Live by God’s commandments every day; treasure chastity
  • Do not love quarreling; shun arrogance; pray for your enemies out of love for Christ…

 

And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.  The punchline:  “The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.”  Frankly, this is essential to all such teachings: practice living this way in the safety of the Christian community in which you live – for Benedict it was the monastery, for us today it’s in our homes, our churches, our faith communities where we spend the most time with those we are called to love and serve first and foremost. What grieves my heart today is the strife that exists in those very “workshops” where love is meant to reign supreme.

 

So, the “punchline” for all of us today is to assess the health and vitality of our own marriages, families, churches, and ministries – these are the workshops where we learn how to love the Lord our God with our full selves and then love others as we love ourselves. Practice such “tools for good works” in the security of your most intimate circles of relationships, work out your salvation in these venues, and then show the wider world what love looks, sounds, tastes and feels like.

 

As you ponder Benedict’s Rule of Life consider crafting your own personal rule of life. Join the community of others on this journey at www.RuleOfLife.com and like us on Facebook at Crafting A Rule of Life.

 

 



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Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 3

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At the beginning of the actual “text” of Benedict’s Rule of Life there is a sub-title that reads “It is called a rule because it regulates the lives of those who obey it.” And, if we recall from my previous entry, it’s “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome” but instead is intended to create abundance of life for all.

 

One of the early chapters of the Rule (chapter two) is about the Qualities of the Abbot, with instructions for the leader. In this chapter he spells out what’s to be expected of the person who has the task of governing a monastery, the place where the community resides.  ”The abbot must never teach or decree or command anything that would deviate from the Lord’s instructions. On the contrary, everything he teaches and command should, like the leaven of divine justice, permeate the minds of his disciples…aware that the shepherd will bear the blame wherever the father of the household finds that the sheep have yielded no profit.”

 

Leadership principles that uphold the role of the Abbot were espoused by Benedict in several ways. The following are especially noteworthy, with application to today’s leaders of faith communities:

 

  1. “He must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words, proposing the commandments of the Lord to receptive disciples with words, but demonstrating God’s instructions to the stubborn and the dull by a living example.” I find this fascinating…that the “stubborn and dull” need both the words and the example of the leader in order to make instructions clear.

 

  1. “The abbot should avoid all favoritism in the monastery. He is not to love one more than another unless he finds someone better in good actions and obedience…and is free to change anyone’s rank as justice demands…if found better than others in good works and in humility.” In this regard, the leader is to love all with impartiality, but is to take special note of those who show themselves to be the more humble and willing to serve…great advice.

 

  1. “In his teaching, the abbot should always observe the Apostle’s recommendation, in which he says ‘use argument, appeal, reproof’ (2 Tim. 4:2) This means that he must vary with circumstances, threatening and coaxing by turns, stern as a taskmaster, devoted and tender as only a father can be. With the undisciplined and restless, he will use firm argument; with the obedient and docile and patient, he will appeal for greater virtue; but as for the negligent and disdainful, we charge him to use reproof and rebuke. He should not gloss over the sins of those who err…” Here the leader is charged to be fatherly toward all under his care, with permission to be more firm with the undisciplined; more appealing to greater virtue among the more obedient and patient; and to use rebuke among the negligent and disdainful. In other words, ‘a little strictness in order to safeguard love’ in and among the community.

 

  1. “The abbot must always remember what he is and remember what he is called, aware that more will be expected of a man to whom more has been entrusted.He must know what a difficult and demanding burden he has undertaken: directing souls and serving a variety of temperaments, coaxing, reproving and encouraging them as appropriate…the abbot must know that anyone undertaking the charge of souls must be ready to account for them.”  The overall summary of the role of the leader is to “direct souls” and that anyone with such a charge over them must at all times be ready to execute that responsibility.

Leadership in any faith community is demanding work. It’s not for the faint of heart. I find it interesting that Benedict so early in his Rule speaks to the importance of leadership in the specific role of Abbot. If only all leaders in the Church today were held to similarly high standards in the deportment of their duties, especially in the care of souls. Lord, have mercy on all leaders in the body of Christ today!

 

 

 



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Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 2

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When St. Benedict wrote his famous “Rule of Life” for the community of brothers that would join him in this unique endeavor, he penned a fabulous Preface that’s chock full of invitation. He quotes from the Scriptures and bases his Rule on the Biblical text as the primary guide for this shared life of prayer. In fact, the Rule is basically about two main issues: community (their life together) and contemplation (their commitment to prayer).

 

He writes, “Let us open our eyes to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: ‘If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts.’ And again, ‘You that have ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Over and over again he cites over a dozen such passages, all of which are calling them to a posture of listening and attentiveness to the voice of God as articulated in the Scriptures. His focus on the teachings of Jesus is best summarized in the Matthew 7 analogy, “Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; the floods came and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall: it was founded on the rock.”

 

Benedict’s Rule was and is today founded on the Rock, the Scriptures which guided him to these sentiments about life together in godly community. “Therefore we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned , however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.” These are a few of my favorite sentences in the Preface!

 

Nothing harsh, nothing burdensome…instead, the emphasis was to be always on life! The particulars of Benedict’s Rule were very specific, but not at all with an intention to harm or hurt those who would participate. The intention was that all would flourish, and indeed they did and remain so today.

 

A little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love…this short statement in itself is full of great wisdom. If only churches and communities of faith would have a similar guideline today. A little discipline goes a long way toward reconciliation, which always has the preservation of love as its focal point.

 

What from this portion of the Preface feels invitational to you today? To posture your life around attending to the voice of God, primarily through His Word? To be sure that all expectations within your faith community are focused on living an abundant life together? To consider how best to adhere to a little strictness in order to create an environment of reconciliation and love?  These are just a few ideas to prayerfully consider…let me know how the Lord makes his voice clear to you!



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The Rule of St. Benedict – Part 1

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1500 years ago Benedict left the city of Rome to hear from God. He ended up in a cave some distance outside the city. There he listened to God and crafted a Rule of Life, which has survived to this day for Benedictine communities worldwide. Benedict’s Rule has been an inspiration to many others since then, including yours truly. For the summer I will be offering various parts of the Rule for insight and information, and with a prayer that as you read portions of his community rule you will consider prayerfully the various parts and pieces of your own personal rule of life. Be sure to visit www.RuleOfLife.com for additional information to assist you in this process.

 

From Benedict’s Prologue…

 

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.”

 

Wow, what an opening paragraph! Key words and phrases that pop for me:  Listen – Instructions – Attend – Ear of your heart – Advice from a father who loves you – Welcome it – Faithfully put it into practice – Labor of obedience – Sloth of disobedience – Give up your own will – Do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.

 

A Rule of Life is liberating for all. It’s designed to bring about greater obedience to the King by reordering your loves. In order to attend well to what the Father who loves you is inviting for your life, you must listen with the ears of your heart.

 

Pause today and listen to the voice of the King…what is His invitation for you, in all the major areas of your life?



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LTI Turns 11 Today!

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July 1 is the 11th Anniversary of Leadership Transformations! We give God all the glory, honor and praise for the many ways He has called, gifted, and empowered us to serve His Kingdom!

 

I’m thanking the Lord for the many people He has sent our way over the years and who today form what’s affectionately called the “LTI Family” They are spread across the country and into other parts of the world. They represent all different strata of society and a variety of denominations and cultures. The LTI Family has been called and set apart to serve leaders and teams in their spiritual formation, discernment and renewal.

 

Today’s blog is my Alleluia Applause to God for calling 30 amazing ministry partners who so generously serve the Church through our multiple ministry initiatives. I’m listing their names here as my prayer of praise to the Lord is lifted in their behalf on this special day of joyful celebration. LTI exists today because of the people who serve the people we serve!

 

Ruth Macchia, Co-Founder and Life-Partner

Rick Anderson, Senior Vice President

Joellen Maurer, Executive Assistant

Susan Currie, Director of Selah and Associate in Formation

Diana Bennett, Board Member and Director of Emmaus

Jeremy Stefano, Minister of Spiritual Formation

Sage Paik, Graphic Designer

Liz Whitfield, Accounts Receivable Manager

David McKiel, Accountant

Elinor Beatty, Board Member and Spiritual Formation Associate

Gayle Heaslip, Spiritual Formation Associate

Greg Mahoney, Website and Software Developer

Rich Plass, Spiritual Formation Associate

Warren Schuh, Lead Church Health Coach

Jim Smith, Sabbatical Coach

David Wu, Spiritual Formation Associate, Houston

Tom Griffith, Pierce Center Coordinator, Boston

Shari Adams, Pierce Center Coordinator, Charlotte

Angela Wisdom, Selah Senior Faculty

Adele Calhoun, Selah Faculty

David Vryhof, Selah Faculty

John French, Selah Faculty

Genalin Niere, Selah Faculty

Mike Chuli, Board Chairman

David Beatty, Board of Directors

Jean Kingston, Board of Directors

Joe Krivickas, Board of Directors

Brian Lacey, Clerk of the Board

Mark Holbrook, National Advisor to the Board

Yours Truly, Steve Macchia, Founder and President

 

If you haven’t perused our website recently, I want to invite you to do so today, and as you page through the site please join me in thanking God for the unique ministry of Leadership Transformations!

 

 

 

 



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Work Matters: Satisfaction

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Many in the workplace today have boring or unfulfilling jobs. I hear this from friends and family members, and those I sit with as spiritual director or mentor. When a job is either missing, and one is left unemployed, or work is simply ungratifying, either condition can lead a person into a state of sadness or depression. This is difficult to handle and can often lead to lethargy or despondency about the way forward. And, for those around such a person, it can be strenuous to know how best to encourage or uplift them.

 

Satisfaction in one’s work is the goal for all employers and employees. Thankfully, my own personal track record has been on the plus side of gratification for more than three decades of service in several roles but only in a small handful of organizations. Having a deep sense of satisfaction that one’s work matters to God and to others is life giving and sustaining. When that fulfillment is deeply planted in one’s heart and mind, it’s contagious to all who surround them.

 

What is your level of satisfaction with your work today? If you consider  the number “0” as neutral, and -5 to be deeply dissatisfied, with +5 to be deeply satisfied, where are you on that continuum from -5 to +5?  Be honest with yourself. Be genuine with God. Can you also be authentic toward a friend or family member?

 

Sharing your level of satisfaction with your work can lead you out of a funk of disappointment and into a flurry of delight. Identifying the places where your satisfaction could be enhanced is a starting point to deeper fulfillment and gratification. Looking around at your work and determining places where you can be more focused, effective, creative, and yes, even more satisfied can bring you into setting objectives for yourself that will lead you forward. Sometimes just taking an hour to de-clutter your desk or revisit your to do list or try a new skill is a great step toward that goal.

 

No matter what the external conditions may be, what makes work most satisfying is when you know that God is walking with you, is there beside you and working from within you, and longs to be your constantly noticed companion in all aspects of your work. Can you see how God is coming to your aid in a time of testing or challenge at work? Are you calling upon God’s wisdom and strength to be the center of your decision making? Do you see first hand how God has created you, gifted you, called you and empowered you to serve him in your workplace even today?

 

The greatest, highest and deepest form of satisfaction with our work comes from God, not our employer. Hearing God whisper our name, lavish love upon us, and delight in us is the best of all satisfaction. Listen upward and inward today to the voice of the Master and may you hear with clarity God’s “well done, good and faithful steward.” Sharing in the Master’s happiness is when our work outward toward others matters the most!



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Work Matters: Relationships First

 

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If given the choice, what would be your preference: working in an organization that puts tasks to be accomplished ahead of building quality relationships, or one that places the building of relationships as priority over the fulfillment of responsibilities?  It’s an easy question to answer for me: definitely the one that puts quality relationships over task fulfillment. I’ve been in both settings over the years and have seen both the stark contrast between the two and the benefits of a relationship first approach.

 

The contrast can be summarized in one word: culture. A workplace culture that places task over relationship treats individuals mechanistically, as employees who are hired to accomplish a given task or function. As s/he fulfills their stated job description, their contribution is combined with others on the team to complete the larger mission. Instead of a team, this person is a part of a work force or task group with defined outcomes and specified timetable. In addition, the culture of such an organization stresses achievement of goals as the most important measurement.

 

When a workplace culture stresses the development of quality relationships more than the task at hand, then individuals are cared for and cared about beyond the functional role they play on the team. And, it certainly is a place where team development and health is stressed, where each person matters greatly to the completion of the mission. When team members are listened to beyond their stated job responsibility and treated like human beings rather than human doings, then their allegiance to the various members of the team includes both their shared tasks as well as their community relationships.

 

Every leader has a fundamental choice to make in this regard: what will be our organization’s priority, task or relationship? Both task and relationship can and should be attended to, but the tipping of the scale one direction or another is what makes for greater health and strength, agility and creativity, achievement and sense of fulfilled accomplishment. What is your choice today, both as a member of and/or a leader of a team? Having just returned from a 3-day trip with my closest colleague and friend, I’m remembering first and foremost our informal times together when we shared our personal stories, laughed together during meals, prayed, encouraged, listened and spurred one another on toward greater love and service…the quality of our trusting friendship continues to significantly impact our faithfulness and effectiveness in service to others.

 

What is your choice today? Will task continually trump relationship or will building quality relationships come first?



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